Monday, October 7, 2013

My views on libertarianism

There was a stage in my life I identified with being a libertarian. I loved the ideal. It was utopian. A world with little or no government where we were governed by ourselves and not by a government. I grew up in the 80`s, where governments around the worlds were committing terrible human right abuses against their peoples.

We had the communists and socialist governments wrecking havoc with bad centralized planning. We had the capitalist governments profiteering off the industrial war complex. We had Apartheid government in South Africa oppressing the majority of its citizens and we had the Chinese driving tanks over citizens in Tienanmen Square.

It was very easy to spin an anti-government argument then. Most governments were working against the will of the people.

Believe it or not, in the last couple of decades a lot has changed and it has changed for the better. The people are more in control of their governments. It is still  not ideal and we still need to learn to control and manage our governments better, but around the world... in a million tiny little steps. People are fixing their governments for the better.

But why do we need a government my libertarian friends ask me.

Its simple. Back when I was a libertarian my history knowledge was still pretty terrible. I used to think things like the Gold Standard was a good idea, I later changed my perception when I  learnt the Gold Standard was a major contributor to the Great Depression.  I also used to think governments were bad... until I learnt why we invented governments.

Many life forms have learnt that working together is a powerful survival mechanism, and we have probably been social creatures for longer than we have been primates. Nature has shown us, that species that work together as a team are better at survival than if they were just isolated individuals.

So humans have throughout the ages always grouped up and formed centres of power. We would have been gangs of early primates with alphas. We then moved onto clans and villages with chiefs. Not too long ago we had Kings of Fiefdoms, city states and then eventually kingdoms. Up until this point the wealthy and their armies could get away with just about anything and everything.

For 99.9% of humanity this was a pretty terrible deal. You would had no rights and the wealthy could abuse you any way they wish. You were the property of the ultra wealthy.

So of course, most of humanity deciding this was a bad deal went to war to fight for the rights of the majority. We have had events like the writing of the Magna Carta and the French Revolution as civilization  curtailed the power of the ultra wealthy.

From Kings and their Kingdoms we evolved to Presidents and countries. You must remember, we had just evolved from the time period of  kings and kingdoms (at the time of writing this there are still monarchies around the world) so we as yet had to learn which government model works the best. 

Of course many people had many different ideas on how a government should work. Every one went with what they thought worked best. Communists, Capitalists, Socialists, Fascists, Nationalists.... just about every ist you could think of.

Some of these we obviously got very wrong and others seems to be working better than the rest. Some of the biggest differences between government models was between which economic ideology was the most ideal: Communist vs Capitalist & Libertarian vs Socialist.

In reality we learnt none of these supposed utopian ideals were perfect for humanity. People were too diverse. There was no, “one size fits all. What we found out through trial and error is that mixed market economies worked the best. 

If we went too Capitalist we found out that society regressed. With no government to regulate the whims of the ultra wealthy, humanity suffered. Societies become unstable as wealth is accumulated by a few. The bigger the gap between the rich and the poor the more unstable your society becomes.

We also found out that if we went too Socialist, corruption got centralized and and there was no incentive for anyone to do anything but the least amount of work possible.

To return to a period of a government not run by the people means that we would return to the age of Kings and their armies. It would become the wild west all over again, where those with power would have it absolutely and have no accountability. This is what we spent centuries fighting against.

I believe one of the fathers of economics said it best:

"Capitalism is the extraordinary belief that the nastiest of men for the nastiest of motives will somehow work for the benefit of all". Keynes



When people ask me today, which are you? A Capitalist or a Socialist. I say I am neither. I believe in a Mixed Market Economy. One where we have the capitalistic incentive of earning more for working harder, but also a model that adds to social stability and has the humanity to include social welfare. 

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