Life and Liberty

Apparently, the Libertarians are getting attention this election cycle from the Republicans who can’t get behind Trump.  There are a lot of things I like about the Libertarians.  I like the consistency to a principle.  The official party platform is equally about getting the government out of regulating guns and drugs.  They aren’t big on starting wars.  They don’t think the government should have a say in who marries who, or legislating sex, or interfering with a body’s dominion over itself.  This is vastly preferable to people who want to pick and choose: no government in my gun safe, but please go police that lady’s panties.  I don’t think you can have it both ways.  

But there are flaws in the reasoning.  For example, the desire to de-regulate everything and let the market decide about everything.  Laissez Faire capitalism.  Well, the truth is that we tried that and it didn’t work out so well.  Without regulation, we ended up with monopolies that could charge whatever the hell they wanted because there was no market left to check them.  The industrial age was perfectly content with child labor, no safety precautions for workers, and impossibly low living standards for most people.  De-regulation brought us the Great Depression of 1929 and the housing crash of 2008.  Because society can’t trust a few guys behind the curtain pulling levers and belching out smoke not to sacrifice the well-being of millions in favor of adding a few more zeros to the back of their bank accounts.  Every time we’ve trusted corporations to do the right thing without demanding it of them and verifying that they are following the rules, they’ve run amok.  Every. Time.  

Still, the economic libertarians insist that fewer regulations would be better.  Just like you never hear of anyone doing a past life regression finding out that they were a minor peasant who died of influenza after a illiterate life of picking up the leftover straw from some Lord’s field, it seems like everyone advocating for true economic liberty seems to think that they’d somehow end up on the top of the dogpile.  Other people’s suffering is rarely as motivating to us as our own is, so it is fine that the people on the bottom get crushed.  Because in this fantasy, no one ever thinks that they’ll fall to the bottom.  Still, history is pretty clear that, in the absence of government intervention – basically out-bullying the bullies – you have a handful of people on the top for whom life is very good, and everyone else is on the bottom being miserable.  Government basically knocks the top off the highs and the bottom off the lows, bringing the two a little closer together.  Sure, government is still a bit of a bully.  It’s King Kong with clumsy fists and thoughtless, crushing missteps, at least sometimes.  

The thing is, you don’t get to choose between perfect and imperfect.  You get to choose between imperfect systems.  Would you rather have companies monopolizing you with the market as an unreliable counterbalance?  Or would you rather have the Government overseeing things, sometimes clumsily, and at the mercy of people you and your countrymen elect, where no one gets 100% of what they want, and fewer people get left behind entirely?  

Meanwhile, when government knocks off the lowest of the lows and the highest of the highs, society as a whole is better off for it.  So maybe the wine cellars of the rich have ten fewer bottles of priceless Brut.  Infant mortality goes down for everyone.  All these people squawking about abortion should be in favor of policies that bring down infant mortality, no?

Anyway, measuring what is important in terms of dollars amassed isn’t justified in terms of the research.  After about $70k in salary/year, more money doesn’t make for more happiness.  (Interject a little Biggie here: I don’t know what they want from me.  Seems like the more money we come across, the more problems we see.)  Read Daniel Pink’s Drive.  After people can take care of their lives, money doesn’t motivate anymore.  It’s purpose and connection that matters.  

So all of these people who want the rich to pay less taxes because they might win the lottery one day and they don’t want the government to get their hard-won money…  they are prioritizing money they don’t have and may never see over quality of life that is independent of a few million in the bank.  

In short, libertarian economic philosophy reeks of bullshit to me.  It rests on the fantasy that there is a clean answer, an ideal answer, and one that won’t come with its own costs.  The truth is that you have $100 and you’re going to have to pay $50 of that one way or another.  It’s just the price of doing business.  So who are you going to pay that $50 to?  The government, for building and maintaining the roads for everyone?  Or the troll taking a toll at the bridge?

Everything costs something.  Don’t believe anyone who doesn’t openly acknowledge that fact.  

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Life and Liberty

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