How Conservatives and Libertarians Have Been Corrupted

Adam_Smith_wikimedia_tcm4-555375David Brin’s “Libertarians and Conservatives must choose: Competitive Enterprise or Idolatry of Property” is a must read for everyone interested in politics and economics. The points herein might not be new at all to some but this is an excellent explanation of the problem facing the conservative and libertarian movements of today – from a completely conservative perspective.

When Adam Smith gets over-simplified into a religious caricature, what you get is “faith in blind markets” – or FIBM – a dogma that proclaims the state should have no role in guiding economic affairs, in picking winners of losers, or interfering in the maneuvers or behavior of capitalists.  Like many caricatures, it is based on some core wisdom. As Robb points out, the failure of Leninism shows how state meddling can become addictive, excessive, meddlesome and unwise.  There is no way that 100,000 civil servants, no matter how well-educated, trained, experienced, honest and well-intentioned, can have enough information, insight or modeling clarity to replace the market’s hundreds of millions of knowing players.  Guided Allocation of Resources (GAR) has at least four millennia of failures to answer for.

But in rejecting one set of knowledge-limited meddlers — 100,000 civil servants — libertarians and conservatives seem bent on ignoring market manipulation by 5,000 or so aristocratic golf buddies, who appoint each other to company boards in order to vote each other titanic “compensation packages” while trading insider information and conspiring together to eliminate competition. Lords who are not subject to inherent limits, like each bureaucrat must face, or rules of disclosure or accountability. Lords who (whether it is legal or not) collude and share the same delusions.

In other words, the “idolatry of property” which brings out a belief that government has no right to stick its hands into people’s wealth and property, creating an ideological mentality against any and all taxation, is bringing about exactly what Adam Smith and Hayek warned about: economic rule by the few, who are of limited knowledge in a very complex world they cannot fully comprehend or guide wisely. There must be some give to this idolatry – as a matter of fact, no idolatry would be preferred.

Anti-capitalism_colorThis is immensely apropos to the current state of our economy and political debate today – a bunch of strong willed people who idolize private property over the circulation of wealth are willing to choke competitive enterprise in order to be true believers. Consider the intellectual property laws being introduced every day, empowering those with the power and wealth to crush any small competitor (See here and here.). Consider the copyright revitalization in the UK where music from the 60s which would have gone into the public domain are being reverted back to the original owners, possibly costing €1 billion.

Even going beyond the obvious, the more we allow incredible wealth to amass in the few, the more wealth they will have in order to lobby government in order to maintain that wealth – and the more they’re incentivized to do so. In turn, government officials are incentivized to give in to those requests in order to get even more money to get a leg up on the political competition. It’s no wonder that campaigns have reached into the $1 billion level. Obama’s contributions came from individual donors instead of PACs but that’s all about to change now that Citizen’s United changed all the campaign money rules.

Through Jeffrey Rosen and Dave Weigel, ex-Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor speaks about Citizens United, a decision she could have prevented if she had not retired from the court:

“Citizens United was a concern to me because what it did was recognize corporations as fully recognized as persons under the first Amendment,” she said. “I very much doubt that the framers of the Constitution, when they wrote the first Amendment” — she rustled into her purse to get a copy of the document — “I don’t think they had corporations in mind, to tell the truth.”

Ezra Klein wrote: “Thanks to last year’s Citizens United case, they can now fund political broadcasts in elections without limits. True, corporations still aren’t allowed to vote or run for office, but who knows what possibilities future Supreme Courts might imagine?”

Instead of adhering to our founders, the wisdom of Adam Smith and other great philosophers that helped lead the creation of this fine nation, the conservatives in the Supreme Court who sided with Citizens United and opened the flood waters have taken us a step closer to an anti-competitive market ruled by unwise oligarchs.

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