Sunday, February 28, 2010

4Chan for Liberty

4 Chan just amused me... On a political thread on /b/ (typically NSFW) started about Ron Paul drumming up some support for liberty, some subsequent poster says, quote:
"H.L. Mencken once wrote: "There's a simple solution for all human problems: neat, plausible, and wrong."

If anyone does succeed in starting a real revolution to overthrow the government, you're absolutely fucked. Why? Because now you have to lead. Good luck trying to figure that out. It's not easy. Ron Paul and libertarians in general paint this black-and-white picture. It's simple, and plausible, and wrong."
But amusingly enough.... H.L. Mencken was a libertarian and about as anti-government as you can get ;)

In fact, Mencken is responsible for many of my favorite quotes... For instance:
"All government, of course, is against liberty."
"I believe that all government is evil, and that trying to improve it is largely a waste of time."
Me too.  At any rate, Mencken's point was that people, and politicians in particular, oversimplify solutions to problems because they treat people not as individuals, but as demographic groups.  Thus it's easy to whitewash millions of people's issues into a one-size-fits all solution.  THAT is precisely what libertarianism rejects, and it instead embraces the idea that we are all individuals who should be free to set our *own* values, goals and find the solutions to our problems in ways that best reflect those things.  How to provide for millions of people's individual wants & needs is an extremely complex problem.

But when the state is involved, the solution is always "neat, plausible, and wrong".  Want some examples?

Take the financial crisis: Not enough money or credit available?  Hell, that's easy... Print more money!  Take health care: Not enough people can afford insurance?  Just take money from "rich" people to pay for it!  What about college education, home ownership, eco-friendly cars, etc.: Want more people to have those things? Just subsidize all of them!

Problem is, each of these "solutions" is built on two severe flaws.  For one thing, each and everyone ignores the long-term consequences of those actions:  Printing more money results in inflation and the misallocation of resources.  Taxing the so-called "rich" (which anymore means basically upper middle class) at higher and higher levels has diminishing revenue effects (i.e. Laffer Curve) when the rich start leaving the country, shifting assets & income into other, safer, settings and taking the jobs they provide with them.  It also removes the incentives middle class people have from working harder (e.g., if you're taxed at 30% on $100k a year, you take home $70k... If you're taxed at 50% on $140k a year, you take home... $70k.  Given that most people have to work significantly harder for the $140k a year job, what's the point?) and thus the median income continually decreases.  And don't even get me started on the distortions in the market caused by subsidies... I would think that the recent housing crisis should have been enough to disillusion people of the notion that government can produce better outcomes than people interacting freely and voluntarily with each other.

What's worse though, is that every top-down "solution" inherently eliminates individual human beings the freedom to decide for themselves how best to run their lives.


I can't link to 4Chan, cause by the time I do, the thread will have already disappeared given the fleeting, ephemeral nature of the site.

Funny thing is, that poster wasn't entirely wrong - usually when a revolution happens, someone "has to" (by which I mean, does) take charge.  But where the poster falls flat on his face with that aspect of his comment, is that in the libertarian dream-world where government encompasses only a small are of people's lives, there is a very wide berth for every individual person to plan for themselves!  When bureaucrats are in charge of controlling what millions of people do, OF COURSE it's difficult!  But the entire point of the libertarian idea - especially coming from F.A. Hayek and the like is that central planning fails precisely because it's impossible to know what other people's values, hopes & dreams are.

Politicians can't know what your goals in life are any more than they can know how soon you're going to run out of milk this week.  So the assumption that we should be looking to politicians of any kind for that kind of leadership is completely absurd - but it is the underlying assumption for most of the world's population.

The trick with any idea of "revolution", as usual, is making sure people understand all this going in and that we wind up with a repeat of George Washington (who abhorred the notion of becoming a tyrant and passionately stepped down from power when he could have been a permanent king) instead of a repeat of Napoleon.  If the "Ron Paul Revolution" were to ever actually take place the whole point of it would be that afterward, people in America get to run their own lives again, so the type of "leadership" (or more accurately; authoritarian domination) required would actually be rather minimal.

And as an added bonus, the economy and people's ability to engage in peaceful social activities that harm no one would be immensely improved.  It's always worth noting that freedom is not only a value that should be held for its own sake, it's also the source of just about everything that is good and functional within the human condition.

So... MOAR PLZ!!!

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