~ One broad side of political argument today is based on the unshakable belief that, left alone, people will make good choices that benefit themselves and in turn, benefit society as a whole. Does experience support that belief?
There are numerous examples of this magical thinking. For example:
- Taxes should be reduced, especially on the rich, who, as supposed job creators, will spur more economic value by their astute spending and investment habits.
- Regulations should be slashed, because greater freedom from rules allows commonsense decisions that provide wider economic benefits.
- Government should be smaller at every level and decisions should be devolved to more local government, again because the decisions made are supposedly better.
But notice that these are all economic arguments. In areas of true personal decision-making, many who argue for laissez-faire economics sing a very different tune.
- The federal government must vigorously prosecute the so-called war on drugs; people cannot be allowed the choice to smoke pot, for example.
- Gay marriage must be banned, perhaps even by constitutional amendment.
- Decisions about your own body? First the vaginal probe!
People make decisions for all kinds of reasons, or no reason at all. Many decide in a way that is completely irrational and not in the best interest of themselves or others.
So why do we assume that their economic decisions are always rational, or even beneficial? One not look far to find terrible economic decisions either—sub-prime mortgages, payday loans, excessive credit card debt, McMansions, ...
If there are good reasons for endless tax cuts, radical deregulation and the rest of the doctrinaire free-market agenda (which I doubt) the supposed superiority of individual decision-making is not among them.