Thursday, January 14, 2010

Reply to "Anonymous"

In response to what I thought was a relatively anodyne comment on my cohort Karlissimo del Banco's bold if at times overly ambitious financial regulatory scheme, the aptly-named "Anonymous" chimes in thusly:
I suggest that you take a long hard look at the history of economic development as it relates to human culture. I really don't want to go back through 9th grade "Western Civ" again. The experiment which you propose has been tried again and again, across the globe, always with the result of failure. The nature of a sentient being is to profligate. Right or wrong, your moral determination is misguided. So, there.
And so I pick up this gamely-flung-to-the-ground gauntlet:
Dear Anonymous,
The free market is indeed a marvelous thing. One need only saunter down the aisle of a modern American supermarket to see that: the incredible variety of hyper-palatable food, all produced extremely efficiently on the margin. No, I do not want a panel of commissars deciding how many cans of beans and how many pairs of shoes to produce in a given year. In that, we are in agreement.

You write, "The nature of a sentient being is to profligate." I will grant you that. But good God, man! I submit that we do not want to return to a state of "nature," where after all, life was "nasty, brutish, and short."

The entire history of "Western Civ," as you put it, is the history of restraining the natural urges of men to profligate. Remove those constraints, and it is back to "might makes right."

Now perhaps you are reasonably well-preserved and under such a brute-strength regime you may well prosper. But I for one do not yearn for a return to our arboreal home. I rather enjoy the "inefficiencies" of the modern welfare state, including clean food, water, and air, relatively well-regulated markets, a reasonably secure, if small, old-age allowance via Social Security, and so on.

I need not grant that the libertarian tradition is an honorable one — it defends itself. Individual human freedom is obviously a worthy ideal to safeguard; indeed it is the pre-eminent ideal. "Freedom," as hollered by Mel Gibson in "Braveheart," does, legitimately, move men to lay down their lives. But in the real 21st-century world, we must balance competing interests. Make compromises. For me, Canada — with its universal health care and its status as the spawning ground for SCTV, Mike Myers, Rush, Rich Little, and countless other vital cultural touchstones — is a worthy, and most importantly for us in the United States, conceivable, model.

Presumably you have in mind a different ideal society. I welcome your thoughts on what that might look like, and how might we arrive there.
Very truly yours,
M. Rondin de Fromage

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