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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/14047/can-politicians-help-us/

Can Politicians Help Us?

September 29, 2010 by

The only way politicians can really improve the economy — and our lives — is by (1) getting out of the way, and (2) undoing the policies they’ve previously implemented that hamper it. FULL ARTICLE by Kel Kelly


Logan R. September 29, 2010 at 9:06 am

Shouldn’t you libertarians be happy for legislation like the D.R.E.A.M. Act, which is giving illegals a chance to stay?

Smacker September 29, 2010 at 10:17 am

Logan, what’s your beef with immigration? That the illegals will steal your job?

J. Murray September 29, 2010 at 11:00 am

Comes off as someone who confuses libertarian with Republican.

Logan R. September 29, 2010 at 12:36 pm

Uhh, Republicans are against the act. Democrats are in favor of it, letting young illegals to still have a chance here. Shouldn’t you libertarians be supporting it since it’s giving them an opportunity to stay here?

Anthony September 29, 2010 at 1:13 pm

There is some diversity in views on immigration within libertarian circles… Read the following article to get an idea of libertarian thinking on the other side of the debate.

ABR September 29, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Excellent article. I wonder, though, whether the more appropriate analogy is to consider the wishes of hypothetical private owners of roads, harbours, ports and aerodromes. If the owners were to represent a cross-section of society, then yes, SK has a good point. But if an owner is a specialist owner and developer of roads, then he wants as many users as he can. Hence, regarding immigrants: the more the merrier.

The question then becomes: would specialists take over as owners of formerly public roads et al, or would taxpayers — now private owners — refuse to relinquish shares?

kash-money, kash-value September 29, 2010 at 3:39 pm

illegal immigration being a problem is a direct result of State intervention in the market. it is the symptom of a much broader problem.

you can take some pain relievers for headaches associated with a brain tumor for some temporary relief, but unless the cancer is removed it’s still not going to end well.

prettyskin September 29, 2010 at 9:42 am

The whole idea of politicians, especially career politicians, is to serve themselves. They are in business; like every other business person, to make a profit and look out for their interests.

The vulnerable, poor & working people, are being told what they want to hear. Society has taught reliance on politicians if dissatisfied with conditions. It is part of the education systems world wide. Somebody is going to take care of you if you invest powers in that person. What a farce, shrewd and cynical. Most vulnerables have never challenged the established education received.

C. Rakish Spagaletto September 29, 2010 at 10:50 am

Yes, people pursue their own self interest. Greed cannot have negative consequences on any significant scale when the initiation of violence and threats is illegal.

billwald September 29, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Politicians can’t help because the term of service is at least 2 years and the median time to sell out is sex months in office.

billwald September 29, 2010 at 1:08 pm

Freudian slip. Make that six months.

Christopher September 29, 2010 at 11:20 am

I can’t help but wonder what the United States would look like if it weren’t for all the subsidies given to protected industries. For example what would our transportation system look like? Would fuel be more expensive? Would we travel via Car or Train or even Airplane?

How would our industries react to import tariffs levied against their goods by foreign governments?

Bruce Koerber September 29, 2010 at 12:30 pm

The whole culture would be different without forced development.

Wildberry September 29, 2010 at 12:44 pm

“The truth is that the politicians themselves have no earthly idea how to help us; they have no clue as to what they are doing. But it’s of no importance to them, because they are in it for the votes and for the glory of “leading the nation.” In fact, the way they get elected is by selling other people’s wealth — the means of producing prosperity — for votes.”
I was really pulling for you, but you really got out in the ozone. Let me bring you back down to earth.
One of the fundamental principles of libertarian thought, it seems to me, is personal responsibility; we have a duty to ourselves and our society to be personally and directly responsible for what we create, support, and maintain. Therefore there is no escape from the proposition that we created our politicians, the political system in which they operate, continue to support that system through the electoral process.
If you think this is a problem (as do I), then thankfully, we have the power to change it. But unlike what you imply in your conclusions, it is not simply a matter of politicians “getting out of the way”. That is naïve to the point that your entire premise may be easily dismissed; that if they would just stop what they’re doing, all would miraculously be well with the world. This not likely nor reasonable.
I have argued elsewhere against those who claim that Keynesians “just don’t get it”, and continue to make the rebuttals based on Austrian theory. I say they do get it. They are not just uninformed about Austrian economic theory, they are proponents of an economic theory that they and their cohorts benefit from. They are paid good money to spin this vision of how the economy works. Why? Because such a theory is required to justify the policies upon which they rest; aggregate spending is the key, if spending falls, government monetary policy must make up the difference, and presto, you have big government intervention and the Fed. These are not stupid people.
By the same token, politicians are not stupid. They are professionals who are critical to a political system of governance, and skilled at creating, supporting and maintaining the policies that work for them, and those who support them in their endeavors. These are not simpletons who merely need to get out of the way. They are not just “plugged into the system”. They are essential components of a powerful, integrated and “capital” system of interdependent parts, the “body politic” so to speak.
Therefore, the solution is not as simple as you imply. If you believe that the current trend of expanding Statism that we are witnessing in our time should be reversed, as do I, the question is this: how can we make them stop?
Thankfully here in America, the fundamental tools for change are constitutionally guaranteed, at least at the moment, so even the mechanism for change is not the problem. We have the tools we need.
The problem is this, in my humble opinion: How can I join with you and other like minded individuals within the American society to connect the power to vote with a vision that changes the equation of “political consumption”? How can our consumer preferences as voters be modified such that market forces create a social order that does not have the problems that you correctly describe?
It seem inescapable that it must be based on human action. Each time a vote is cast, it is a purchase in the “political marketplace” that supports the productive means that make that choice possible. We, you and I, created that means. We can stop buying, or buy something else. At some point in the future, the sum total of those choices might lead to an American political system that produces a different product. That is a tall mountain indeed, but antigravity shoes don’t yet exist, so I guess we’re going to have to climb it. It is a matter of personal responsibility and human action. It is that simple and that complex.

Kel September 29, 2010 at 4:43 pm

Wildberry, I was not proposing the politicians just walking away as a realistic solution. I’m merely saying that they should stay out of way of individuals voluntarily producing and exchanging. They used to do this to much more of a degree. Yes, our democracy has unfortunately accepted politicians’ offers to intervene in the economy. But that does not mean that have to keep trying to intervene more and more. They can in fact stop doing it and leave the economy alone. We the people are indeed guilty for putting them there and accepting these things they do, but they too are guilty of doing what they’re doing. They do have choices of helping or hurting, even within the realms of what the constitution and citizens have given them permission to do.

Wildberry September 29, 2010 at 7:27 pm

Thank you Kel for your article and your reply.
This is a tricky topic. I don’t intend to get into a discussion as to forms of governance, “pure” libertarianism, anarchocapitalism, etc. Let’s table that part of the discussion for now.
My issue is this: Why should politicians “stay out of the way”? They are no more likely to do that than a free-marketer would voluntarily give up a lucrative product because we think he should. Likewise, no one who is personally benefiting from the status quo is likely to voluntarily act against their continued self-interest in promoting its growth and power.
As with all markets, the key to success or failure rests in the hands of the consumer. The more freedom to seek and enjoy alternatives, the more powerful that freedom becomes. That is the vision we apparently share concerning the effect of Statists “getting out of the way”. But the question is, how or why will political consumer change their preferences? There is no easy answer there because it is a messy reality, but it is the answer none the less.
There is a 5 part series being published this week by the Examiner here in SF about the Iron Triangle of Green and the way environmentalism is tightly integrated into the legal and political system, and how they have formed an effective symbiosis with politicians, lawyers and public policy formation to create opportunities for certain interests to create competitive advantages for business interests that will benefit from carbon regulation, for example.
That is the nature of the beast we are talking about here. Politicians are a component of the whole. With such a system, which has evolved and adapted so successfully over the past 300 years or so, what is it that will successfully compete in the “political market” as I’ve called it?
That is, in my opinion, the real nature of the problem. My only real criticism of your piece is that you imply that a voluntary action by one component of the system will lead to a favorable change elsewhere. But that type of change is not the way things happen. Products emerge because there is demand, and increased demand results in increased production, all else being equal.
So I’ll leave you with this: LVM, and all the other great thinkers represented by on site argue that the market and human action are the key to analyzing and understanding sociology, history, politics etc. Therefore I am asserting that the change you envision will travel that same road. Stating the problem that way creates a more realistic image of what change on this scale actually looks like, at what pace it can be expected to progress, and what forms and strength of resistance will be encountered. Although that can seem daunting, anything else is merely a distraction from reality. I have plenty of that already. I’m looking for pragmatic and realistic. That better serves the goals of evolutionary transformation, which ultimately is what you are envisioning, I believe. I share that vision.

Kel September 29, 2010 at 7:44 pm

Thanks Wildberry. I understand better now what you’re saying, and, I completely agree. Here’s the reconciliation: In my book, I lay out clearly that the only way we’re going to get change is not be hoping that our leaders will do the right thing, but instead by getting the voters to understand what they are doing and to think differently. On this, I quoted Mises:

“What determines the course of a nation’s economic policies is always the economic ideas held by public opinion. No government, whether democratic or dictatorial, can free itself from the sway of the generally accepted ideology.”

But in this particular piece, I am simply looking at one side of the coin and addressing how people believe in politicians instead of markets. So with respect to the point in question, I am merely pointing out to the reader that they can’t rely on politicians to help us, that the only way they can “help” is by stopping the bad things they are doing or undoing what they’ve already done – by getting out of the way. But just because I’m looking only at this particular angle, does not mean that the real answer is not in the hands of the citizens (which is what I believe you’re saying).

Thanks for your comments!

Stephon Smith September 29, 2010 at 11:40 pm

Is it then fair to say that politicians “getting out of the way” is a necessary, but not a sufficient condition for our economy to improve?

Allen Weingarten September 30, 2010 at 12:53 am

Well said, Stephon.

Kel September 30, 2010 at 11:22 am

No. Politicians getting out of the way would be both necessary and sufficient. But since they will not get out of the way on their own, the only other possible way is to have voters move them out of the way.

Wildberry September 30, 2010 at 11:40 am

I am gratified that we see things much the same way, juding from your comments above and to Stephon below.

Thank you for your work.

Very best regards,

Bruce Koerber September 30, 2010 at 8:05 am

This is the difference between statesmen and politicians.

Jeff September 29, 2010 at 1:13 pm

Politics is a bad business all around. The cost to everyone outweighs any perceived benefits. Rationality might suggest the best option is not to play. Same goes for Nuclear Warfare.

Wildberry September 29, 2010 at 2:47 pm

In both instances you cite, not playing is not really an option. Whether you participate or not, elections will happen and you will be affected by the outcomes. I think the same goes for nuclear warfare. It is bad business indeed, but I can’t imagine a scenario where you will remain personally immune, can you?

Jeff September 29, 2010 at 3:27 pm

You um.. missed the point Wildberry

Wildberry September 29, 2010 at 3:35 pm

Which is, um….what?

Jeff September 30, 2010 at 6:54 am

Read the first few chapters of Robert Higgs “Crisis and Leviathan”. Then perhaps you will understand my point.

Jeff September 30, 2010 at 6:59 am

And some Albert Nock wouldn’t hurt either.

Wildberry September 30, 2010 at 11:29 am

I’ll remember in the future that you cannot ben engaged, but would rather refer me to your reading list. Only then might there be a chance that “perhaps” I will understand. It is no certain thing that my intellect woulld grasp those lofty heights you have acheived. Once read, I can come back kneeling before to ask humbly if I’ve perchance grasped your essential point? Which is WHAT???

If you’ve read these books, and you believe you have become enlightened as a result, and your wisdom is relevant to this discusion, then how about putting it out there and advancing the discussion? If you can’t do that, then what is the purpose of your reading, much less of posting here?

You are correct, I don’t get it.

Jeff September 30, 2010 at 11:51 am

That the only smart thing is to not engage in political behavior! Period! That may not be a “practical” concept but politics is nothing more than warfare without the guns. It’s pointless and produces nothing of benefit to anyone. Politics and politicians don’t build cars, grow food or construct houses, people like you or I do. The state with it’s politics and politicians is a pointless and inherently destructive institution.

And sorry if I referred you to some books and authors I found interesting but didn’t paraphrase them for your benefit. I had assumed a prior knowledge of them.

Wildberry September 30, 2010 at 12:42 pm

Take a deep breath and read my initial response. You see, I got it the first time. You think the “only smart thing is not engage in political behavior”. I said, in a nice way, that is stupid. It is like standing on the corner looking at the mushroom cloud and saying you don’t play nuclear war. How do you think that will work out?
To use a sports analogy, the other team is kicking our butts. I resent citizens who feel that dropping out completely is somehow fulfilling their obligiation to the rest of us to take personal responsibility for the conditions that surround us.

I agree that sometimes voting is like trying to find something on cable TV. You hold your nose and waste your time with the least obnoxious choice among bad choices. But not to choose at all, to not play politics as you seem to think of it, and leave it to others, is a cop out. And by the way, you will not be imune to the choices they make for you.
Get it?

Allen Weingarten September 30, 2010 at 6:48 am

Information about Gonorrhea Lectim

The Center for Disease Control has issued a warning about a new virulent strain of this old disease. The disease is called Gonorrhea Lectim. It’s pronounced “Gonna re-elect ‘em,” and it is a terrible obamanation.

The disease is contracted through dangerous and high risk behavior involving putting your cranium up your rectum. Many victims contracted it in 2008…but now most people, after having been infected for the past 1-2 years, are starting to realize how destructive this sickness is.

It’s sad because Gonorrhea Lectim is easily cured with a new drug just coming on the market called Votemout. You take the first dose in 2010 and the second dose in 2012 and simply don’t engage in such behavior again; otherwise, it could become permanent and eventually wipe out all life as we know it.

Several states are already on top of this, like Virginia , New Jersey , and Massachusetts , with many more seeing the writing on the wall.

Please pass this important message on to all those bright folk you really care about.

jspradley September 30, 2010 at 7:23 am

So instead we just get a new disease that’s likely just as bad? lol

Allen Weingarten September 30, 2010 at 9:53 am

Jspradley, for the new disease there is an experimental drug called “Votemallout”.

Wildberry September 30, 2010 at 11:44 am

And then there is the newest: “Keeponvotenemallout” until you begin to recover.

Great posts!! Thanks…

jaime o. perez October 1, 2010 at 8:52 pm

I am close to giving up on most writers on this website. The condescending tone of most writing is irritating to say the least.

It is NOT enough to simply say “get out of the way” and “undue regulation”. How does any reasonable elected official do this. What regulations and in what order.

How marvelous it must be to have all the answers while society is moving inexorably in the opposite direction.

nate-m October 1, 2010 at 9:13 pm

It is NOT enough to simply say “get out of the way” and “undue regulation”. How does any reasonable elected official do this.

They probably can’t. That’s the fundamental problem we face here is that politicians get elected by promising to do something positive for their electoral base, not promising to not do stuff… or even worse: promising to undo stuff.

What regulations and in what order.

Any of them? All of them? There are literally hundreds of thousands regulations and every month there are hundred of new ones.There really is not anything we can do right now. There seems increasingly little we can salvage out of this government and the best we can do is just keep educating the people so they can start seeing the patterns in business and in government that proves how right the Mises economics folks are about that sorts of things. It’s going to take years.

danny October 1, 2010 at 9:50 pm

It will not happen through politics. I don’t believe 50% +1 (not just one time, but sustained for a long period) will want to shrink the size of government when well over 50% gain a net positive from the system.

The promises will be broken – social security, medicare, comfy retirement, subsidized education, etc. All the promised “freebies” from government. When this happens, people will look for something else. This is when there is hope.

The hope for “success” (defining success as a greatly reduced state) is to educate as many as possible. In this, it will not take a majority to succeed, only a committed and dedicated minority – dedicated to the idea that they won’t be fooled again.

I am open to understanding a vision about another way, but I don’t see it via politics.

Robert October 6, 2010 at 9:09 am

I’m wondering why politicians are treated as if they could perform miracles? Is it because of their promises or because of a general belief that power should always result in positive outcome? I think politicians are overrated. They are not different from ordinary people and they often have no idea how to solve overall problems, so asking “can politicians help us?” is rather a rhetorical question.

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