While I generally have a happy-go-lucky attitude toward life, I’m pessimistic about public policy.
So when I got an email asking me how I would reconcile the supposed superiority of libertarian principles with the absence of libertarian societies, I initially was tempted to assert that our principles are sound and then give reasons why I nonetheless expect freedom to continuously diminish.
- The eroding-social-capital answer: Statism is inevitable because governments lure people into dependency with handouts.
- The tyranny-of-the-majority answer: Statism is inevitable because people thinks it’s okay for 51 percent of the people to rape and pillage 49 percent of the people.
- The public-choice answer: Statism is inevitable because interest groups will manipulate the political process to obtain unearned wealth.
- The crony-capitalism answer: Statism is inevitable because big business can’t resist getting into bed with big government and corrupting the process of free enterprise.
There are probably other reasons, but I think you get the idea. No wonder I’ve been speculating about where people should move when America descends into Greek-style economic chaos.
But I want to be uncharacteristically optimistic and explain why libertarian principles are still very relevant and that the outlook is better than we think.
- First, we have some polling data showing that the American people are quite hostile (at least in theory) to big government.
- Second, global economic liberty has increased in recent decades according to Economic Freedom of the World, notwithstanding recent slippage in the United States and Western Europe.
- Third, non-economic liberties are much stronger today than in past years, as explained by my colleague David Boaz.
- Fourth, whether we’re looking at North Korea vs South Korea, Chile vs. Venezuela, or the U.S. vs. Europe, the world is a laboratory and the evidence gets stronger with each passing year that markets are better than statism.
So while I don’t expect that there will ever be a libertarian Nirvana, I also don’t think it’s time to throw in the towel and meekly accept the yoke of statism.