Tue, 15 Jul 2003

Where is the Freedom?

A Friend points me to an article in Tikkun by Charles Derber. In this article he basically decries the way that the Bush administration is interfering in the economy. He's right, of course, but he doesn't understand why he's right.

He doesn't understand the problem. If you don't understand the problem, nothing you do is likely to solve it. It's like looking for something if you don't know what it is. You're just as likely to walk right past it as stop on it. The problem is not what Bush does to interfere in the economy. The problem is that Bush is interfering at all.

Charles thinks the problem is that Bush is interfering the wrong way. A lot of people feel the same way. Many people want Bush to interfere in different ways. Of course, other people agree with Bush, and like the way he interferes. They're wrong, all of them.

Religion was forever the cause of warfare between citizens. The citizens thought that the government of a country *had* to choose a religion and force it upon the citizens. When the government changed, so would the religion. We have proven, in the US, that that idea is wrong.

Similarly, people have the idea that a government must control the economic behavior of its citizens. This principle, which Charles clearly supports, is the direct cause of everything he decries. As long as he tries to solve the wrong problem (what the government does) he will never fix the right problem (how much the government does).

I don't want to go into all the details here, but for anything a government does, you can find a combination of private property and free markets which provides the same service at the same level of quality. Sometimes, alas, the service is poor. That's not a condemnation of free markets, but instead a recognition that the problem is hard to solve.

Realistically, free markets will solve some problems better, and some worse, than monopoly economies. Unfortunately, you have the perverse effect of people not noticing the improvement, but only the problems. People are naturally conservative (in the sense of wanting to continue with solutions which have worked before). It's hard to improve society by making changes.

I sometimes get depressed by how many people still think economic intervention is necessary, and not just a power play on the part of the influence-makers. Hopefully, as more people understand economics, they will tell their government "No, don't do that for me -- I can do it better for myself."

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