I don’t often make the pragmatic argument for freedom as I find it a little vulgar. You just shouldn’t point guns at each other and tell each other what to do because it’s wrong — the utility of being nice to each other shouldn’t have to be factored in. But there also such huge benefits to freedom that it just seems absurd we have to keep making these arguments.
Freedom, essentially, is attempt to see each person to their best potential. With freedom, every person gets to apply their knowledge and their motivations to decision making. This is often the knowledge of millions versus the knowledge of one — a politician or a bureaucrat who just isn’t anywhere near as motivated to see improvements in the lives of each person as they are themselves. So it’s orders of magnitude more knowledge being applied by extremely motivated people (because everyone is motivated about themselves and their family and friends) versus extremely limited knowledge and motivation.
And when you get to free markets, the advantage of it over systems that constrain liberty get absurd. Again, seeing how we’re a world growing in population and yet the number of undernourished people keeps dropping, it’s almost evil we have to make arguments for a system that’s helped so many, but here is why it works. Everyone focuses on the dollars as an end, but they are a means. They are information. Each time a dollar does something, that’s — I want to say a “bit of information” but it carries way more info in it than a 1 or a 0. And the free market is this feedback loop of people constantly reacting to all these trillions of pieces of information. And everyone has power in this, because those dollars are precious — especially when you have less of them. So it means a lot when they move. And you make a lot more money selling mass market to poor people than just to rich people (look how much money Walmart deals with) so it’s a system where people are much more motivated to serve the poor (again, just by reacting the information of dollar exchange) than other systems, such as voting which attempts to take information from a large amount of people (though I should note a vote means much less to people than a dollar and they think nothing of throwing it away) and then does very little with that information, usually just making a binary choice. But in a free market, the information leads to so many things like where people apply labor or where they put their billions of brains towards innovating, and that’s why it leads to everything becoming cheaper and better… unless someone steps in and smashes that information with interference.
That brings us to a system like socialism — and I’m not sure kids these days even know what it is beyond thinking it’s some magic word that causes everyone to get everything they want for free — where what you’re doing is sacrificing all those trillions of pieces of information in your decision making for an illusion of control. You’ve short circuited where those dollars would naturally go and all the information that carries and are trying to make extremely complex decisions while only looking at a tiny sliver of information. It’s saying, “I’m going to figure out how to feed, clothe, and get health care for everyone. First step, I’m going to gouge out my eyes and pierce my eardrums.”
But I understand why people don’t like freedom and free markets. They’re scary. They make no guarantees of anything. Governments make guarantees. Guarantees they can’t keep, but people want some large entity saying it will provide for them, even when it keeps failing to do so. That’s why we seem to be on the path to single-payer in health care. We don’t want to use the system that makes everything cheaper and better by utilizing all the possible information because it seems so wrong when people’s lives are at stake. People could die because greed will keep them from health care — in the same way people could starve all over the world because greed could keep them from food. But it never works out that way in a free market because you only make money by selling things — and making it cheaper so you can sell to more people — not by denying things from people. But we want the guarantee, and thus we’ll get a system where we don’t use all those trillions of pieces of information to figure out where to put resources. And people will die from that decision — people who could have been saved in the better system or through innovations that will take much longer now. But we’ll pat ourselves on the back for caring about the poor while it happens, and I guess that’s what’s important.
Don’t believe me? Go see over at his personal blog and see for yourself. Okay, it’s not quite like I made it out to be. (Or is it?) Anyway, you might want to offer thoughts about that over there. He’d appreciate hearing from you, I’m sure.
Here? Why, it’s time for Thursday Night Open Thread, of course. It’s where you get to choose the topics for discussion, tell jokes, share wisdom, share stupidity, whatever comes to mind. Because it’s YOUR time to shine.
You may have noticed that while Harvey is posting some stuff, he’s also not posting as much stuff. And others, including your humble host, have written some stuff at the times you’d normally expect to see Harvey’s stuff.