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Libertarianism: Its Merits & Demerits
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Libertas Offline
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Libertarianism: Its Merits & Demerits
Surprisingly, I haven't noticed a general thread to discuss libertarianism as a worldview and philosophy. Since a good number of us are or originated as libertarians, I thought that this thread would be appropriate. If it should be moved to the Knowledge section, feel free to do so.

Like I mentioned before, I've been on both sides of the fence of this philosophy. In my early 20's I was a full-blown AnCap, but then I started to notice a few limitations that perhaps dulled my enthusiasm. I don't like labeling myself but nowadays I would more or less consider myself a sort of nationalist libertarian-leaning guy, even though that might be a bit of a contradiction.

Wanted to respond to zombiejimmorrison's post here because it's going far off topic in the other thread:

(04-21-2015 09:30 AM)zombiejimmorrison Wrote:  If we have a genuinely free society and free association without government repercussions. Why would it matter where you come from, America was built on migrants from all over Europe and China. A nation, state or government, however its called is just a group of individuals at the top with the legal right to initiate force while simultaneously being banned for everyone else. "Natural law of mankind" what does that mean exactly, slavery was considered a natural law of nature at one point and now its considered immoral. Everything a human thinks would come from our human nature.

What libertarianism (taken to its logical end) ignores is that a free society doesn't originate in a vacuum. Some people might like to be self-interested automatons but some other people might have very different ideas. You can't expect everyone to have libertarian values and if their values come to the fore, your libertarian society will be upended.

Even in our own relatively libertarian country, there were strong cultural norms that were very much at odds with libertarian values - Jim Crow being perhaps the foremost and most ugly example. Of course much of this was admittedly done via state action as libertarians rightly note, but I think that mentality went far beyond state mandates and was more esoteric.

Were it not for state action and public accommodations say, could or could not discriminate at their choice, would business owners circa 1900 serve blacks? I suspect a few would, but many more would probably simply not care about the profit motive and be more motivated by cultural norms and values that said blacks were inferior.

Quote:You say libertarians think everything is reduced down to economics and nothing matters but people working like machines without any other hobbies or goals. Sounds no different to the current world, without participating in an economy you'll be living by yourself in the middle of no where, regardless of social system.

Marxists are the one obsessed with class and the proletariat. Libertarians as far I know just don't want to be taxed and have their property stolen by other people.

Of course you can't participate in social life without participating in the economy, but there are more things to social life than an economy. Libertarians ignore those things - culture, demography, all of that matters.

Quote:This sounds a little absurd, libertarianism is against the initiation of force and violation of property right and both are considered immoral.

Marxism is absolute social engineering and stealing from people. The initiation of force is a tenant and private property rights don't exist

It does, but take a look at it this way. Both libertarianism and Marxism have a few basic core assumptions. They both believe fervently in egalitarianism and both have a distinctly materialistic worldview. Both essentially assume that economy is the center of man's journey on Earth and shapes much, or all of his thinking - they just have diametrically opposite prescriptions and values in line with these assumptions.

They also both have a sort of eschatological interpretation of mankind. In libertarianism, history ends with a free market paradise of economic opportunity. In Marxism, where this is obviously far more visible - the end game is a worker's paradise of economic equality.

It's been said by a few that libertarianism is basically just the polar opposite of Marxism on the right.

Anyway, these are just a few of my observations on some of the ideology's shortcomings (in my opinion) and origins/prescriptions. Would be interested in hearing others' views on it.

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04-21-2015 12:58 PM
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Grange Offline
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RE: Libertarianism: Its Merits & Demerits
Your description is better for "internet libertarians" than all libertarians. The theme of David Friedman's book the Machinery of Freedom is how libertarian anarchism could work without everyone becoming libertarians first. I'm sure you know about it.

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04-21-2015 02:58 PM
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RE: Libertarianism: Its Merits & Demerits
(04-21-2015 12:58 PM)Libertas Wrote:  In my early 20's I was a full-blown AnCap, but then I started to notice a few limitations that perhaps dulled my enthusiasm.

Whats the difference between a libertarian and an Ancap? 6 months.

(04-21-2015 12:58 PM)Libertas Wrote:  What libertarianism (taken to its logical end) ignores is that a free society doesn't originate in a vacuum. Some people might like to be self-interested automatons but some other people might have very different ideas. You can't expect everyone to have libertarian values and if their values come to the fore, your libertarian society will be upended.

I think with enough people who like a free society combined with bearing arms means even if other people dont like it, its possible to defend it.

(04-21-2015 12:58 PM)Libertas Wrote:  Were it not for state action and public accommodations say, could or could not discriminate at their choice, would business owners circa 1900 serve blacks? I suspect a few would, but many more would probably simply not care about the profit motive and be more motivated by cultural norms and values that said blacks were inferior.

I dont necessarily think the people, who a large majority wanted the slaves to be freed, actually disliked blacks that much. Even if they did, the whites didnt really owe them anything(perhaps slavery arguments aside) so its really up to the blacks to make their own businesses if they really wanted to be served...

(04-21-2015 12:58 PM)Libertas Wrote:  Of course you can't participate in social life without participating in the economy, but there are more things to social life than an economy. Libertarians ignore those things - culture, demography, all of that matters.

Could be argued that social life is part of the economy. Besides- in a fully anarcho capitalist society you can have your own group of 100-1000 or so and then as a voluntary group, make rules like whites only, limited immigration, preserve important culture etc. Its just not extrapolated to an entire country of millions who dont all agree with you.

As an individual you can work together to get what you want- but obviously you cant enforce your wishes on everyone else as a whole.

(04-21-2015 12:58 PM)Libertas Wrote:  
Quote:This sounds a little absurd, libertarianism is against the initiation of force and violation of property right and both are considered immoral.

Marxism is absolute social engineering and stealing from people. The initiation of force is a tenant and private property rights don't exist

It does, but take a look at it this way. Both libertarianism and Marxism have a few basic core assumptions. They both believe fervently in egalitarianism and both have a distinctly materialistic worldview. Both essentially assume that economy is the center of man's journey on Earth and shapes much, or all of his thinking - they just have diametrically opposite prescriptions and values in line with these assumptions.

I dont think libertarianism believes in egalitarianism at all. Nearly the opposite. Neither do I believe it is materialistic. A strictly materialistic libertarian would be conservative(economically libertarian). Marxism is probably only materialistic through envy. Libertarianism is basically Austrian economics and pretty much all economic styles (Austrian, Marxist, Keynesian etc) believe economics is pretty powerful.

The original quoted statement was far more correct in the morality/immorality difference.

Edit: Also, I dont know if Im reading it wrong or what- but the original post didnt seem to have any limitations/criticisms to libertarianism?
(This post was last modified: 04-21-2015 03:30 PM by Magnesium Chloride.)
04-21-2015 03:28 PM
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Libertas Offline
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RE: Libertarianism: Its Merits & Demerits
(04-21-2015 03:28 PM)Magnesium Chloride Wrote:  Edit: Also, I dont know if Im reading it wrong or what- but the original post didnt seem to have any limitations/criticisms to libertarianism?

That part was primarily a response to zombiejim. I didn't want to do it in the other thread.

I opened the thread primarily though to get some more members' viewpoints on how they view things.

But to address your last point libertarianism is inherently egalitarian in the worth of men essentially. It does assume individual equality, but obviously not in equality of outcome. zombiejim's point was the morality based on some of these core assumptions I outlined.

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04-21-2015 04:51 PM
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RE: Libertarianism: Its Merits & Demerits
Growing up in the USA, at a young age libertarianism made sense to me. I read The Economist and took their lessons to heart. I assumed most of the ills in the world were government created.

After visiting and having lived in the 3rd world, and seeing what it's like when governments don't repair the roads, provide clean water, provide education, pay the cops, etc. I am less in favor of it.

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04-21-2015 06:23 PM
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RE: Libertarianism: Its Merits & Demerits
(04-21-2015 06:23 PM)Sonsowey Wrote:  After visiting and having lived in the 3rd world, and seeing what it's like when governments don't repair the roads, provide clean water, provide education, pay the cops, etc. I am less in favor of it.

You could argue that all those things (outside of education) are within the realm of "proper" government action, since most flavors of libertarianism argue for restraining government action to doing things it's "supposed" to do rather than "could" do. And I don't think many third world countries are libertarian.

But still you have a point, going to really underdeveloped countries makes you want to see the government do more to get their countries out of poverty. Libertarians would argue they need to do more export-led industrialization to get there though, and I'd argue that they're right.
04-21-2015 06:34 PM
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RE: Libertarianism: Its Merits & Demerits
(04-21-2015 06:34 PM)Tex Wrote:  
(04-21-2015 06:23 PM)Sonsowey Wrote:  After visiting and having lived in the 3rd world, and seeing what it's like when governments don't repair the roads, provide clean water, provide education, pay the cops, etc. I am less in favor of it.

You could argue that all those things (outside of education) are within the realm of "proper" government action, since most flavors of libertarianism argue for restraining government action to doing things it's "supposed" to do rather than "could" do. And I don't think many third world countries are libertarian.

But still you have a point, going to really underdeveloped countries makes you want to see the government do more to get their countries out of poverty. Libertarians would argue they need to do more export-led industrialization to get there though, and I'd argue that they're right.

Thinking of Latin America, they export everything. This has been the case with Gold, Silver, and Guano since the first Europeans arrived, and now it's continuing with all sorts of mineral resources. It isn't really working out for anyone but the people on the very top, relatively similar to the last 500+ years.

Peasants are kicked off their land because a valuable mineral lies underneath it, a multinational comes in and blows up a mountain for several years until they have extracted the mineral, then they leave. The country and people are no better off, the people who cut the deal definitely are though. And then the country is left without its resources.

Latin American countries' agricultural sectors are devastated by FTAs with the U.S. because our subsidized food floods the market to the point where millions of peasants abandon their homes and land and move to cities in search of jobs, where they have no skills, and end up working as menial labor and creating sprawling slums.

So they end up exporting people to the USA, where we have over 10 million illegal immigrants working outside of our laws, profiting the criminal businessmen who hire them illegally, which is all winked at by our political establishment.

So yea, I think Latin America is already trying the export led development thing. I must say that I think protectionism, especially in agriculture, helped Latin America a great deal. Helped keep their society intact, helped keep their cities from not being huge slums, helped keep people without education employed in a productive endeavor.

Textiles have suffered from Free Trade as well, as local textile industries in many countries have been wiped out by cheap Asian imports. Latin America on the whole is a region that is on the global "average" in terms of well-being, income level, etc. So it's easy to import clothing made in some place with lower wage costs. Again, with the terrible education there, this leaves many people without any real opportunities.

I suppose if the U.S. had a "libertarian" government that would mean opening the door to anyone and everyone who might wish to come here, allowing free movement of goods and people to maximize efficiency in labor and capital markets, right?

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04-21-2015 06:41 PM
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RE: Libertarianism: Its Merits & Demerits
(04-21-2015 06:41 PM)Sonsowey Wrote:  So yea, I think Latin America is already trying the export led development thing. I must say that I think protectionism, especially in agriculture, helped Latin America a great deal. Helped keep their society intact, helped keep their cities from not being huge slums, helped keep people without education employed in a productive endeavor.

The problem here is that export development doesn't work unless there is domestic industry that are actually given incentives to progress technologically and economically speaking. There is no real comparative advantage if it's mostly resource or service based exports.

I can't think of many international products that are made or created in Latin-America, the industry there is still very backwards. A lot of it is due to corruption of old wealthy families combined with economic liberalist policies which latin america was not prepared for.
04-21-2015 06:54 PM
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RE: Libertarianism: Its Merits & Demerits
@ Sonsowey and Tex

Thats my problem with Liberarians. In my opinion, it would only work if it weren't for the nature of humans, who time and time again have shown that once they reach a certain level of eliteness, they view all other humans as below them and treat them as such. You see this in third world countries and you even see it in communist countries. Both Liberatarians and Communism fail because for either to work, they assume that human nature is better than what it is, and that humans will not go out of their way to ruin other peoples lives for their own personal gain. I believe both viewpoints to be naive.
04-21-2015 06:59 PM
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RE: Libertarianism: Its Merits & Demerits
It's funny because I have a lot of Latin American friends who complain about the problems in their countries.

"Politicians steal all the money!"
"They promise to provide services and they're always awful!"
"They're so corrupt! So many families just keep power for decades or longer!"

I'm always like "Yeah we have those same problems... except... just not quite as bad..."

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RE: Libertarianism: Its Merits & Demerits
(04-21-2015 06:23 PM)Sonsowey Wrote:  Growing up in the USA, at a young age libertarianism made sense to me. I read The Economist and took their lessons to heart. I assumed most of the ills in the world were government created.

After visiting and having lived in the 3rd world, and seeing what it's like when governments don't repair the roads, provide clean water, provide education, pay the cops, etc. I am less in favor of it.

Most libertarians think the government should do those things except maybe education. But more importantly do you think if the US government wasn't responsible for those the US would look like those third world countries? Even though it has a much better developed economy?

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04-21-2015 07:04 PM
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RE: Libertarianism: Its Merits & Demerits
(04-21-2015 07:04 PM)Grange Wrote:  
(04-21-2015 06:23 PM)Sonsowey Wrote:  Growing up in the USA, at a young age libertarianism made sense to me. I read The Economist and took their lessons to heart. I assumed most of the ills in the world were government created.

After visiting and having lived in the 3rd world, and seeing what it's like when governments don't repair the roads, provide clean water, provide education, pay the cops, etc. I am less in favor of it.

Most libertarians think the government should do those things except maybe education. But more importantly do you think if the US government wasn't responsible for those the US would look like those third world countries? Even though it has a much better developed economy?

The problems wouldn't be AS bad, I imagine, but it would trend in that direction.

This coupled with unlimited immigration to the U.S., which would largely be from Latin America, and who would be surprised if the U.S. started looking more like Latin America?

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04-21-2015 07:06 PM
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RE: Libertarianism: Its Merits & Demerits
(04-21-2015 06:41 PM)Sonsowey Wrote:  
(04-21-2015 06:34 PM)Tex Wrote:  
(04-21-2015 06:23 PM)Sonsowey Wrote:  After visiting and having lived in the 3rd world, and seeing what it's like when governments don't repair the roads, provide clean water, provide education, pay the cops, etc. I am less in favor of it.

You could argue that all those things (outside of education) are within the realm of "proper" government action, since most flavors of libertarianism argue for restraining government action to doing things it's "supposed" to do rather than "could" do. And I don't think many third world countries are libertarian.

But still you have a point, going to really underdeveloped countries makes you want to see the government do more to get their countries out of poverty. Libertarians would argue they need to do more export-led industrialization to get there though, and I'd argue that they're right.

Thinking of Latin America, they export everything. This has been the case with Gold, Silver, and Guano since the first Europeans arrived, and now it's continuing with all sorts of mineral resources. It isn't really working out for anyone but the people on the very top, relatively similar to the last 500+ years.

Peasants are kicked off their land because a valuable mineral lies underneath it, a multinational comes in and blows up a mountain for several years until they have extracted the mineral, then they leave. The country and people are no better off, the people who cut the deal definitely are though. And then the country is left without its resources.

Latin American countries' agricultural sectors are devastated by FTAs with the U.S. because our subsidized food floods the market to the point where millions of peasants abandon their homes and land and move to cities in search of jobs, where they have no skills, and end up working as menial labor and creating sprawling slums.

So they end up exporting people to the USA, where we have over 10 million illegal immigrants working outside of our laws, profiting the criminal businessmen who hire them illegally, which is all winked at by our political establishment.

So yea, I think Latin America is already trying the export led development thing. I must say that I think protectionism, especially in agriculture, helped Latin America a great deal. Helped keep their society intact, helped keep their cities from not being huge slums, helped keep people without education employed in a productive endeavor.

Textiles have suffered from Free Trade as well, as local textile industries in many countries have been wiped out by cheap Asian imports. Latin America on the whole is a region that is on the global "average" in terms of well-being, income level, etc. So it's easy to import clothing made in some place with lower wage costs. Again, with the terrible education there, this leaves many people without any real opportunities.

I suppose if the U.S. had a "libertarian" government that would mean opening the door to anyone and everyone who might wish to come here, allowing free movement of goods and people to maximize efficiency in labor and capital markets, right?

Before we get into export-led vs. import-substitution (the later being the most common response to free trade for fear of being exploited by cheaper goods elsewhere in the world, which you point out, and for trying to create economic independence, which is responsible for millions of death, mainly in China), it's important to realize every major idea in economics and politics has some merits, and cons. And what you pointed out about free trade is very legitimate. But eliminating free trade entirely, which it sounds like you imply wouldn't be a bad thing, would lead to devastation for a lot of people. Especially in Latin America.

First, you can easily see the merits of export-led industrialization in the economic development Brazil has had, as well as the Asian tiger economies and Japan's economic success. You can also see the limitations with them too--specifically the Asian financial crisis in '97. But, in the big picture of things, export-led industrialization gave the Asian tigers the tools they needed to become economically secure states.

Talking about Latin America, though, you make it sound like Latin American countries have always been export-oriented. They haven't. In fact, the region is famous for its refusal to use export-oriented trade in the 50's and 60's, and that is still true for the vast majority of Latin American countries that simply pumped more government funding in their import-substitution programs. The fact that, as you've pointed out, Latin American countries are often very backwards lends itself to the idea that export-orientation is a very viable option. Which it absolutely is. It may not work for all countries, but it can be seen as a very viable option for a large chunk of underdeveloped countries.

Second, there's a big distinction between peasants and the country as a whole. The idea of building the poor class up has been tried and tried and tried, and it's pretty much never worked. Some things, like export-orientation, even make the poor classes worse off. However, export-orientation gives rise to a wealthier country that can then spend more on infrastructure, which then encourages foreign investment in its specialized industry, and helps form a self-serving cycle for the developing nation. This can screw over a lot of poorer farmers who are being cut by the agricultural imports, but the increase in exports the country sees enriches the country itself as a whole (unless the treasury is being used as a personal bank account by its highest officials, which is a ruined country from the start).

As far as protectionism and Latin America, it's actually interesting that you bring up slums, because some of the biggest slums in the world are attached to Latin American countries, because the lack of industrialization and exposure to foreign investment has left such a stunted private sector. A lack of specialization in industry also hurts the establishment of a professional middle class, and keeps the poor from having any real chance of upward mobility.

As far as textiles, the reason cheap Asian textiles wipe out Latin American ones is because Asian economies use export-led industrialization to establish a specialized field of economic dominance, which is exactly what Latin American countries should start exploring, especially ones with economies of scale, like Brazil (has already done to great effect). Latin America's biggest threat is probably the exploitation of China--being that China encourages Latin American countries to produce cheap things and use unskilled labor that reverses the development made in those countries.

And yes, if America had a libertarian government that's exactly what it would mean. Personally I don't think that would work because in my opinion America should keep the world down.

Moving away from economics a little, the US should just invade North America and work its way into Brazil so we can put all the big booty bitches in a cage and distribute them to betas, which will in turn cure being beta I guess. Or something. Something will happen.
(This post was last modified: 04-21-2015 07:26 PM by Tex.)
04-21-2015 07:23 PM
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RE: Libertarianism: Its Merits & Demerits
(04-21-2015 07:06 PM)Sonsowey Wrote:  
(04-21-2015 07:04 PM)Grange Wrote:  
(04-21-2015 06:23 PM)Sonsowey Wrote:  Growing up in the USA, at a young age libertarianism made sense to me. I read The Economist and took their lessons to heart. I assumed most of the ills in the world were government created.

After visiting and having lived in the 3rd world, and seeing what it's like when governments don't repair the roads, provide clean water, provide education, pay the cops, etc. I am less in favor of it.

Most libertarians think the government should do those things except maybe education. But more importantly do you think if the US government wasn't responsible for those the US would look like those third world countries? Even though it has a much better developed economy?

The problems wouldn't be AS bad, I imagine, but it would trend in that direction.

This coupled with unlimited immigration to the U.S., which would largely be from Latin America, and who would be surprised if the U.S. started looking more like Latin America?

What I meant was third world governments provide those things on a subpar level because they're poor, not because they're following a libertarian template. You're mixing up cause and effect.

EDIT: Re: immigration, without the welfare state I don't think mass immigration is a big problem. The wouldn't move here if they couldn't afford it right? All of southern Europe didn't move here 100 years ago.

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(This post was last modified: 04-21-2015 07:30 PM by Grange.)
04-21-2015 07:29 PM
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RE: Libertarianism: Its Merits & Demerits
(04-21-2015 07:29 PM)Grange Wrote:  EDIT: Re: immigration, without the welfare state I don't think mass immigration is a big problem. The wouldn't move here if they couldn't afford it right? All of southern Europe didn't move here 100 years ago.

I have worked with illegal immigrants from Latin America, they may use welfare, who wouldn't in that situation? But they're not coming here *for* the welfare, they're coming here to work and make money. Most of these people work like machines at some menial job. Even working some nonsense job they're still able to save money and help out people at home, since a few hundred bucks goes quite a way back in Latin America.

The pay is just abysmal in Latin America, many people working full time jobs might make as little as $300 a month. It just makes no financial sense to do that if you know you could take a plane and be working in a job where you might make $100 a day.

We already have about 45 million Mexicans living here. Millions more from other Latin American countries. I don't see what would stop that flow really.

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(This post was last modified: 04-21-2015 07:46 PM by Sonsowey.)
04-21-2015 07:43 PM
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RE: Libertarianism: Its Merits & Demerits
The diversity of opinions among libertarians (AKA real liberals) is much broader than what you would expect based on a caricature of an anarcho-capitalist or other extreme voices that get most of the news when it comes to libertarianism.

Pretty much all libertarians agree that institutions and incentives matter.

Most libertarians do support some government. Milton Friedman said that government is there to give us the general legal framework within which to build a society. Some of the rules are arbitrary but it's still valuable to have a government creating universal rules that we can all count on e.g. green means go and red means stop. The colors are arbitrary but they provide a very useful function in regulating traffic flow.

Something else that Milton Friedman said and Thomas Sowell has expounded upon is "wills are not deeds". That's where incentives come in. Just because a majority of people want the government to solve some problem does not mean the government will actually solve it. Before giving the government a new mandate, citizens needs to stop and think if they are also giving the government the right incentives to actually solve the problem. If not, they just create a new government agency with an entrenched bureaucracy that has very weak incentives to solve the problem but very strong incentives to keep their jobs. Even if a government agency manages to solve the problem it was originally created for, it still has strong incentives to keep itself alive sucking in your money.

It is very hard to build the right set of incentives into government. That is why I and many other real liberals support smaller government. Politicians are not special magical creatures who exist to serve us, they respond to incentives the same way the rest of us do.

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04-22-2015 03:39 AM
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