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comment by wasoxygen

The big idea here is that the current mix of haves and have-nots owes a lot to the ethically objectionable behavior of rulers and the politically connected in generations past. I don't think many would disagree with this.

Given this reality, we now must decide if we should do something about it, or do nothing.

The do-nothing approach is not very appealing at first. But we must be alert to the danger of the Politician's Syllogism:

  Something must be done.
  Here is something.
  Therefore, it must be done.
Indeed, it is a businessman, a certain M. Le Gendre, to whom we owe our term for the Do Nothing philosophy. "When the eager mercantilist minister asked how the French state could be of service to the merchants and help promote their commerce, Le Gendre replied simply 'Laissez-nous faire.'"

My concern is that many commentators (and my fellow armchair commenters) advocate measures to correct the inequality problem using the same tool that Mr. Carson shows us is largely responsible for creating the problem. In order to pursue a political solution to the problem, concentrated political power is needed to effect the change. This power has been the source of the greatest harms ever caused by humans. Empowering an agency with resources and authority and a mission entails risk that the resources will be misused and the mission perverted. A discussion on guaranteed income points out some not-immediately-apparent difficulties in getting a result that is better than doing nothing.

Carson, citing Rothbard, argues for an "appropriate model" of privatization. It's not very clear how it would work, but the endpoint is still attractive: reduce the scope and power of the entity which now wields unprecedented power, claims authority in matters of life and death, and sometimes most worryingly, bumbles fearfully.

What, then, must we do nothing and simply live with the deplorable consequences of past injustices? I think there is a better path, and most of us are already on it. By working hard, producing and consuming, we contribute to the creation of wealth that has brought about the greatest improvement in welfare the world has ever seen. Obviously we who produce more enjoy more benefits, aided as we are by advantages both fair and unfair, compared to those in the lower half who get by on less than $10,000 in annual income. But, contrary to what some manifesto writers would have us believe, things are getting better for almost everybody. "The target of reducing extreme poverty rates by half was met five years ahead of the 2015 deadline."

My advice is that we work hard, produce what we have talent to produce, guard against the ennui that comes with an acquisitive middle-class lifestyle, and participate in charity whenever possible. I believe that if we are allowed to do that, we will see better outcomes than if we install minders to direct our behavior and tell us how to use our resources.

Laissez-nous faire!

b_b  ·  940 days ago  ·  link  ·  

Do you believe there's a role for government regulation in discouraging rent seeking? Or, conversely, do you believe that a lot of regulation is the primary cause of rent seeking? I think either could be true in certain circumstances.

wasoxygen  ·  940 days ago  ·  link  ·  

It seems to me akin to asking if a doctor should take measures to control pain and inhibit infection while amputating a limb to treat a fracture. Well, yes, but is there a better way?

Reasons to question whether we should create Ministry M to advance Goal G might include:

• Ministry M will not have incentive to achieve G, and may even have incentive to not achieve G (thereby renewing or increasing its budget next year)

• Ministry M will not be as careful spending other people's money to achieve G as the people who want G would be if they spent their own money to achieve the goal, leading to waste

• Special interests which are directly affected by G will be highly motivated to influence Ministry M, while the funding for M will be collected so broadly that the unwitting and perhaps unwilling underwriters will not have adequate reason to object or even investigate

• Ministry M will attract a crowd of parasites and hangers-on who game the system and milk it for profit, the rent-seekers

The best way to avoid the rent-seeking is to simply refrain from providing opportunities to rent-seekers. For example, established car makers are fighting Tesla by getting sweetheart laws that require sales through dealers (which they already have and Tesla wants to avoid). And taxi companies are fighting Uber and Lyft by getting regulators to block the newcomers from providing the often-superior services their customers love. Why would you think it helpful to add another layer of regulation to reduce the harm of these harmful regulations? Just let the businesses duke it out and the customers will decide who they like best.