Not long ago when we had friends and family over it came up that I was a political “atheist,” someone who opposed the existence of the state and wished for political power and authority to disappear so that the prosperity of the market can bring us ever higher standards of living. “I don’t agree with his theories” a family member said. Fine. This is to be expected. After all, the radical libertarian anarchist view is an extreme minority opinion. Yet the vast majority of people with whom we interact are clueless and wobbly on their own views.
At first the statist position seems to be coherent: the power of the many to benefit the few, the respect for the government, the love for law and order, the supremacy of democracy–essentially a rehash of the status quo becomes mainstream reply. Still, one must ask: what, then, dear vulgar citizen, is your hopefully coherent theory? It would necessarily have to be one that allows more or less the same things that exist now because the vast majority of folks though they complain about the details of the political establishment they don’t oppose the basics. For example, in my encounter with left-liberals I find it particularly interesting that often the primacy of democracy is seen as a goal but other times it is a means. Or when the same folks complain when people vote “the wrong way.” Over the last few years the issue of homosexual marriage has come up for vote. If the vote fails, does this mean that democracy has failed? Rarely (or, at worst, barely–there is still support for that institution). What if the courts fail to recognize that issue as a right? Should courts be abolished? Nah, they will say–more political action and education is needed, or reform the court. Most of the remedial proposals have to do with changing not the underlying system (the one that nonetheless perpetually frustrates everyone) but to change everyone and everything else.
Legislative matters like gay marriage is just one issue. Going deeper, things become even messier. How does one measure the value of the good that a piece of legislation imparts on society? What if that good is a bad for some? What if the good is not as good for everyone to the same extent? What if people change their minds? What if they change their minds right after an election? Were it subject to quantification, what if one person has 100 units of displeasure and 99 people have one unit of pleasure each? How can we measure the greater good? What is “the” good? These might seem contrived questions, and yet they are the core of it all. Not only is the mainstreamer advocating and justifying the existing system in a vulgar, offhanded, manner but also insisting that the social and economic calculations necessary to bring about general prosperity can be performed. And regardless of whether such a calculation is possible, the fact that the advocate of the existing system so vehemently opposes the libertarian view while barely offering a sensible grounding shows intellectual laziness. It is the equivalent of saying “this is what exists, therefore it is what should exist.” As the saying goes, LOLWUT!?
I am reminded of what Murray Rothbard once said: “It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a ‘dismal science.’ But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance.” In my opinion Rothbard’s sentiment applies to politics as well.
That Barack Obama has handsomely rewarded supporters who bankrolled his presidential campaign is no secret; he’s just the most recent in a very long line of Leaders of the Free World who indulge in political patronage. It’s a tradition in Washington, like spring cherry blossoms and Congressional sex scandals.
But perhaps having run out of political appointments and “green” energy companies to throw money at, now the Obama administration appears to be just making up opportunities for its supporters, according to a detailed story in the Los Angeles Times:
Over the last year, the Obama administration has aggressively pushed a $433-million plan to buy an experimental smallpox drug, despite uncertainty over whether it is needed or will work.
Senior officials have taken unusual steps to secure the contract for New York-based Siga Technologies Inc., whose controlling shareholder is billionaire Ronald O. Perelman, one of the world’s richest men and a longtime Democratic Party donor.
Smallpox was wiped out in the late 1970s, and no evidence has surfaced that any “rogue nations” or terrorist groups have obtained the virus, which is reportedly held only by the U. S. government and a Russian research institute. Even if smallpox should surface again, the Feds have stockpiled a billion dollars’ worth of the vaccine, which has a shelf life of decades – quite unlike the drug being developed by Siga, which barely lasts three years.
And it’s uncertain whether it would even be effective, since testing it would require that someone becomes infected with, you know, smallpox.
None of these concerns seemed to deter Health and Human Services officials from securing the funding for Siga, to the point that they essentially created a no-bid opportunity for the pharmaceutical company:
But the federal contract [for developing the antiviral drug] required that the winning bidder be a small business, with no more than 500 employees. Chimerix Inc., a North Carolina company that had competed for the contract, protested, saying Siga was too big.
Officials at the Small Business Administration investigated and quickly agreed, finding that Siga’s affiliation with MacAndrews & Forbes disqualified it.
The Obama administration could have awarded the contract to Chimerix as the only eligible small-business applicant. Or it could have reopened the competition to companies of any size.
Instead, the administration moved to block all companies — except Siga — from bidding on a second offering of the contract.
Read much more here.
[Not strictly IP-related, but still funny. -- GAP]
This is a syndicated post, which originally appeared at Mimi and Eunice » IP. View original post.
Economist Brad DeLong has come out swinging against Austrian economics again, and once again he’s punched himself in the face. But he’s too numb to realize it. There’s a great response on the Mises Economics Blog by Jonathan Catalán, and I take a stab on my site, Wirkman Netizen.
It’s interesting that neither Catalán nor I attack, in our respective longer efforts, the worst calumny of DeLong’s, his insinuation that the Austrian distrust of fiat money comes down to anti-Semitism: “[I]n its scarier moments this train of thought slides over to: ‘good German engineers (and workers); bad Jewish financiers.’”
Since Mises was a Jew, and was treated badly for anti-Semitic reasons at times — why does DeLong think Mises left Austria? — and that Mises never, ever supported anti-Semitism (nor did Hayek, for that matter), this is especially vile. It’s just another example of those leaning left (which means: technocrats who mislabel themselves as “liberals” and “progressives”) playing the racism/anti-semitism card when they lack a good hand.
DeLong should be ashamed of himself. But, then, one of the perks of being in the managerial class of the technocratic state means never having to say you are sorry.