Friday, February 15, 2008

The Failure -- and Success -- of Liberal “Solutions”

Maybe this isn’t an original observation but I don’t recall seeing it in my readings. Over the years the Left offers solutions for poverty, unemployment and health care. Generally these solutions fall into three categories: increase government spending (and taxes), add new regulations to “fix” problems with the market or a combination of the two. And yet these problems don’t go away nor do they seem to get significantly better despite pouring billions and billions of dollars into them. So why doesn’t the Left admit that their answers don’t work and try something else? Or to put it another way, what problem has the Left said: “We fixed it! We’re done! Let’s move on to the next challenge.” Nope. We are constantly asked to do more of the same, even if it doesn’t ultimately work.

What is the alternative? Lower taxes? Fewer regulations? Less government involvement? But that would make them Republicans!

Yet the irony is that in each election we see Republicans competing to see who can come up with watered down versions of what the Left proposes while also paying lip service to the free market and limited government. As an example, witness Mitt Romney’s push to provide universal health insurance in Massachusetts that involves penalties if people don’t sign up, an approach similar to Hilary Clinton’s plan which includes garnishing wages of those who don’t comply with her wisdom. (!) A recent study by Cato Institute shows that many people still haven’t signed up for RomneyCare, the estimated cost is going to be much higher than predicted and the bureaucracy involved in health care has increased.

So why does the Right inexorably drift Leftward? Rand would have said that it because the Right shares the same altruist beliefs as the Left so that they don’t have a principled difference to resist the constant demand for the government to do more. While I don’t dispute this it doesn’t explain why voters reward the politicians with their votes. Unfortunately, many people believe it’s OK to receive government largess. I’m sure there are a number of reasons. Perhaps it’s the feeling that the funds are coming from taxing the rich or big business and therefore it’s the common man’s way for getting back at “the man.” Some probably don’t think through the fact that the money they’re receiving had to come from somewhere, like from their own taxes and their neighbors. Or it could be the desire to get “something for nothing.” Some think they’re “entitled” or it's their “right” to receive assistance.

In any case, I believe it’s the shortsighted interest of the electorate to benefit at the expense of others that fuels the engines of politicians to compete with each other to come up with more inventive ways to redistribute income. This shows the need for a better understanding of what rational self-interest and objectivity truly entail. The electorate’s desire for the unearned at the expense of others feeds the politicians desire to appease … and to be elected.

Politicians love to campaign under the banner of “change.” However, we’ll see true change only when both altruism and the desire for the unearned are successfully challenged.

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