Friday, February 8, 2008

Why the Free Market

There are two choices on how to run a society. Either you try to control other people’s lives or you don’t. Choosing a free market is choosing not to control the economic affairs of others. The free market relies on few rules to control only those behaviors that cause real harm to your body or your property.

The rejoinder to this argument is that sometimes society needs to be planned. The free choices of individuals do not end up creating the society that we want. Therefore, we vote to correct the poor decisions that individuals make.

The glaring problem is who decides the society that we want. In a Democracy, the majority decides for the minority. In Venezuela, they have voted to allow Chavez to take property from the voting minority and shut down news organizations that disagree with him. In Russia, they vote for leaders who routinely take away rights and freedoms.

There have always been people like Hugo Chavez. They have convinced themselves that destiny has chosen them out of the ether to bring heaven down to Earth. They dream of utopia and work to build a Tower of Babel, vainly believing that control is the pathway to paradise.

For every tyrant who darkens the earth, there are a million others casting the shadow of their will over the choices of others around them. It can be a city councilman, a neighborhood association member, even a parent using their position to needlessly control others. It is one of the frailties of humanity to see things we don’t like and to blame everyone but ourselves. It is through hubris, a lack of humility, that we conceive that we are smarter and wiser than others we know. We think we have all the answers when we mostly don’t have a clue.

There are many times I see a vacant lot and think, “They should build a restaurant there, or a bank, or a hotel.” Should they really? I really have no idea whether it would be worthwhile for any of those things to be built. Usually, it is what I want, not what is best. I see a bad movie and think, “I could make a better movie than that!” Could I? I’ve never been to film school. I’ve never published even a short story. Isn’t it arrogant to think that I would be better than someone who has spent a lifetime in the film industry?

The world is a very complicated place, and in our heads, we hold a tiny fraction of the information needed to run it. It is ridiculous for me to think that I could do your job or your life better than you. How much more ridiculous is it then for me to look at a company or even a whole industry and think that I personally have enough information to set them straight. Unfortunately, this truth hasn’t stopped many from trying.

Throughout the centuries, they have worn different labels and excuses to exert control. Kings of Europe claimed divine right, and more ancient rulers claimed that Oracles and astrological events called them.

Amongst today’s most arrogant are the Socialists. They believe that a handful of people can fix every aspect of our economy by taking control. They believe that we as a people are collectively incompetent to run our affairs. Their utopia requires us to yield our feeble minds to their soaring intellects. Most people equate socialism with atheism, but this is not true. The Socialist must believe in a god, because when he wakes in the morning he sees the Almighty staring back in the mirror.

These controllers come in every stripe and color, but inside they are all the same. They have a dream and they want to force the rest of us to be a part of it. They mob around a new idea of utopia, dismissing defenders of individual freedom like me as out of touch. They lob their invective at the mention of consequences to their plans. I am the grinch, the thieving rich, the tree-killer, and the hard-hearted. It is vivid vitriol to silence dissent.

All of the plans of controllers are the same. They start with “Wouldn’t it be great if…” and end with terror or taxes to prod us to toe the line. Not all are so nightmarish as Nazi Germany or the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia. Many are like the annoyance of a hyper PTA president asking for ridiculously elaborate costumes for the annual play. They are all forms of control, and require your submission.

In our economy today, we see them hard at work to firm their grip. They try to run our health care, run our schools, run our retirement, and run the mail. They want to plan every building in our cities, plan every pill we take, and plan the weather 100 years from now. As Robert Burns would say, “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” We observe that they have failed our health, failed or schools, failed our cities, and fail our economy.

Belief in the free market is a rejection of control. The free market does not judge that one man’s dream is more valid than another, as long as you behave peacefully towards each other. It is a belief that no individual or group rises even to the level of tolerable incompetence at planning our society. Regardless of whether your name is followed by PhD or GED there is no difference, no one is smart enough to be in control.

The role of government is to allow your choices to find your dreams, not my control to fund my whims.

As always, tell me what you think.

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