Lost in Libertarianism

Whenever I listen to Rand or Ron Paul, I usually just laugh them off as so outrageous that they are not a threat to the political process.  They are the sum of the remainder of an unbalanced political equation, as The Architect might say.  Whenever you have a government trend towards activist involvement in people’s lives, there has to be an offsetting trend of laissez-faire for a zero sum gain.  It’s as if political forces have their own set of checks and balances that move the average back to the rational mid-point.  The difference is that the farther one side trends, the farther the necessary offset; ergo Rand Paul.

The problem is that these crack pots seem to exist more on the right, and thus taint the Republican Party disproportionately more than the Democrats.  Sure they have Ralph Nader, but even Democrats think he is a nut.  The extreme nature of Rand Paul and his success is necessary because Barack Obama is viewed as mainstream.  When Rand Paul starts polling such that he might actually have a chance, I get scared.  We should acknowledge his points and use them in conjunction with arguments to trim the size of government, but let’s not let him drag the party down a rat-hole of isolationism.

The fundamental principal of Libertarianism is to enable more individual freedom with less government.  The theory is that market forces will push towards altruistic notions of economic and social justice on their own.  It’s one thing to hear Libertarian thought at the macro level, and recognize that it sounds pretty logical, but it’s completely different to hear it actually applied at the micro level.  I was listening to This Week in Startups and Calacanis was interviewing this CEO of a startup.  Asked about hiring more women or minorities, this guy started spouting off that we shouldn’t think about these issues because the market will balance things for us.  If he doesn’t hire the best person for a job who happens to be female, then his competitor will, and that competitor will have a better product and force him out of business.  So the market will push towards equality on its own.  Really?

I have complained about an overly activist government trying to get involved in the market to manufacture equality, but this argument for the complete abolition of government involvement in society just frustrates me as myopic.  For the first time in a while, I had to turn off the episode, vowing to come back to it later for ammo against this guy…Maybe the market is working efficiently here; I will never download his app.

But i decided that what I really need is a macro argument against the philosophical nature of Libertarianism so that it can have a blanket application at the micro level to quiet their rants before they even start.

First off, Libertarianism is right.  The market will correct all imbalances.  It always does.  Long Term Capital Management, Bernie Madoff, Enron, 1980’s S&Ls, 2000’s CDOs and MBSs, they all eventually failed.  South Africa’s apartheid, Soviet Communism, America’s slavery and the Crusades all eventually failed.  The question is this; Is the market efficient enough in our current state of evolved civilization and capitalism, that we want to wait for it to affect change on our behalf?  How many people should bear the injustice while we wait for change?  If we know for the past 70 years that women can perform equal to men in the workplace and we are still just shy of balance, how efficient is the market behaving?  It has been 150 years since the Civil War and even with 50 years of government intervention (Civil Rights Act) trying to balance the potential for people with darker skin to find equality, we still have police profiling and murders in South Carolina and Missouri?

Yes Libertarianism, Social Darwinism, and pure Capitalism work.  But do they work fast enough, efficiently enough for a civilized society with enough capital, resources and intelligence to recognize that sometimes they could work a little better?  Is this The Lord of the Flies?  The point of representative democracy is that we can recognize that at the individual level we want to do more then we see happening in nature.  But each of us may not be interested or have priorities that jell with the desire to go out and make a change that will correct a social ill such that our collective efforts have impact on broad based society.  But that’s ok.  That is why we form governments, electing representatives to go about thought and debate and intellectual analysis of problems to prescribe social policies that nudge us in the right direction faster than the market can deliver.

No I am not a Progressive.  Note that I carefully chose the word “nudge”.  And here is where the Republican Party needs to define itself better.  Saying “no” to everything is just flat out dumb.  We don’t want a Progressive agenda that uses the law to lift up society en-masse and drop it where some civil servants want it to be, which may or may not be the right place.  We need to give society gentle legal nudges so the people appreciate the journey we take in getting there.  That is how a society embraces change and the merits of its result.

The bottom line is that while market forces will correct for the wrongs of society, I for one don’t trust the time that it will take for society as a whole to make those decisions and reach complete consensus on its own.  Too many people get hurt waiting for natural nirvana.  So I advocate for a limited amount of governmental nudging to slowly push us in the right direction.  Slowly.  As society has progressed and become more prosperous, spending treasure on the benefit of all mankind, is both worthwhile and noble.  Gentle nudges that measure impact as they nudge with continuous adjustment based on results.  That way we don’t push too far, too fast and end up completely lost.
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About Josh Rutstein

I am an aspiring entrepreneur and hopeful political candidate. Father of 2 very special girls and passionate American. I snowboard whenever possible and follow a 20x mentality for exercise. I also play golf and ultimate frisbee and am a die hard New England Patriots fan and season ticket holder. Everyday I wake up wanting to make this country a better place, someday I hope to actually succeed.
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