Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Libertarian Moment?

An excerpt from an optimistic-- dare I say "hopeful"-- essay with the same title (minus the question mark) by Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch in Reason...

They're describing the conflict between increasing government reach and the ability of market participants to get around that reach. What an interesting battle! An example is the fading monopoly power of the USPS. Another interesting example is the currently-slow fade-- but potentially big-time fade-- of the government's immense monopoly power in the provision of elementary and secondary education services.

If Gillespie and Welch are correct, then it will be an enduring future not a mere moment. Anyway, the context for the excerpt: As bad as things were in the early 1970s...

Yet if 1971 contained a few flickers of light in the authoritarian darkness, 2008 is chock full of halogen-bright beacons shouting “This way!” Turn away from the overhyped prize of the Oval Office and all the dreary, government expanding policies and politics that go with it, and the picture is not merely one of plausible happy endings to our current sob stories of mortgage-finance meltdowns and ever-lengthening war, but something far more radical, more game-changing, than all that we’ve grown to expect.

We are in fact living at the cusp of what should be called the Libertarian Moment...a time of increasingly hyper-individualized, hyper-expanded choice over every aspect of our lives....Due to exponential advances in technology, broad-based increases in wealth, the ongoing networking of the world via trade and culture, and the decline of both state and private institutions of repression, never before has it been easier for more individuals to chart their own course and steer their lives by the stars as they see the sky....

This new century of the individual, which makes the Me Decade look positively communitarian in comparison, will have far-reaching implications wherever individuals swarm together in commerce, culture, or politics. Already we have witnessed gale-force effects on nearly every “legacy” industry that had grown accustomed to dictating prices and product and intelligence to their customers, be they airlines, automakers, music companies, or newspapers (it was nice knowing all of you). Education and health care, handicapped by their large streams of public-sector and hence revanchist funding, lag behind, but even [there], practitioners are scrambling desperately to respond to consumer demands and compete for business. Politics, always a crippled, lagging indicator of social change, will be the last entrenched oligopoly to be squashed like a bug on the windshield of history, since the two major parties have effectively rigged the game to their advantage in a way no robber baron ever could. But the Dems and Reps, more bankrupt as brands than Woolworth’s and Sears Roebuck, are already in ideological Chapter 11.

The Libertarian Moment is based on a few hard-won insights that have grown into a fragile but enduring consensus in the ever-expanding free world. First is the notion that, all things being equal, markets are the best way to organize an economy and unleash the means of production (and its increasingly difficult-to-distinguish adjunct, consumption). Second is that at least vaguely representative democracy, and the political freedom it almost always strengthens, is the least worst form of government. Both points seem almost banal now...

[T]here is no going back to the Great Leap Forward. Or the Great Society, for that matter. Try as politicians might, citizens continue their great escape from grand designs. Financially ruinous entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare are going nowhere slow, but all of us are getting better at finding ways to work around such stultifying bureaucracies....Even across old Europe, government spending as a percentage of GDP has fallen over the past several decades. The Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom has charted nothing but global increases since it began in 1995....

Then, to the glories of the Internet...

No single entity in the history of mankind has been so implicitly and explicitly libertarian: a tax-free distributed network and alternative universe where individuals, usually without effective interference from government, can reshape their identities, transcend limitations of family, geography, and culture. It’s a place where freaks and geeks and regular folks can pool their intelligence and compete (even win!) against entities thousands of times their size.

The generation raised on the Internet has essentially been raised libertarian, even if they’ve never even heard of the word.

The counter-argument to this is that most children are also educated in government schools...

1 Comments:

At November 26, 2008 at 10:52 PM , Blogger Bryce Raley said...

Check out what Doug Wead is writing at http://dougwead.wordpress.com/

 

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home