A recovering libertarian
December 02, 2018
I used to call myself a libertarian.
10-15 years ago, I realized:
- At $3.8 trillion (21% of GDP), the federal government does way too much; lots of things from food certification to power generation could be done much less wastefully by the private sector
- In business, quality and excellence are driven by competition; government undertaking has neither
- Regulation usually doesn't work and even when it does, writing and enforcing it costs a fortune. Consider taxi medallions: a system whose very reason for existence is questionable, that takes money from drivers and makes it harder to hail a cab, but puts money into the pockets of well-connected insiders who benefit from proximity to government bureaucrats
- The best way to determine what to produce is by looking at prices
- Markets are the only way to set prices correctly
I've become less ideological, after a decade working:
- Self-determination is a natural right; economists can rail all they want against closed borders and minimum wage hikes, but if it's what people want, democratic ideals demand they should get it. Law controls business, not vice versa.
- Capital is tremendously powerful, yet amoral; it will remove every barrier it can to sell more and make more. Sometimes that means going around the crooked taxi medallion system (good), other times it means tripping over scooters, new addictive websites, or a lot of people displaced from their jobs by robots.
- Some things (e.g. clean air, NOT healthcare) are inherently public goods, and the only way to ensure people get them is via government action
- Though we have too much, regulation is a necessary ingredient to well-functioning markets
- A lot of infrastructure spending is wasteful, but "blue states" are growing more quickly than "red" ones, and I believe public investment in education and physical infrastructure has a lot to do with why.
So I've moved a little left—a little more toward collectivism. I guess living on the "Left" (West) Coast has gotten to me after 9 years 😊