Political Freedom and Economic Freedom
By Arnold Kling
I have seen some discussion of the issue of the extent to which libertarians would trade off political freedom for economic freedom. I think some of the pieces were written by trolls, so I will not reward them with links.
I want to divide the measure of political freedom into at least two parts.
1. How does the government treat dissenters?
2. How fair are the elections?
I care a great deal about (1) and very little about (2).
On (1), I cannot imagine life in a country where dissidents are imprisoned or shot. The police state apparatus is horrifying. I cannot say enough bad things about governments that create an atmosphere where people fear to speak their mind.
On (2), I have shown a revealed preference not to care. I live in Montgomery County, which might as well be Communist as far as the local elections go. I mean, one party always wins–the Democrats. And within the party, the candidates nominated by the teacher’s union always win, just as the candidates nominated by the Communist Party always won elections under Communism. Anyone who wants to live in a real democracy would not live here. But I have not moved. Ergo, I must not care much about real democracy.
To go on a bit, I don’t care much about (2) because I don’t think that elections are a good way to settle things. I think that competition in markets is a much better way to settle things.
I am not afraid of tyranny of the majority. In fact, I probably would prefer tyranny of the majority to what we have. The majority would have not wanted TARP, or Obamacare. What we have instead is elites who claim the mantle of a democratic mandate, and who then use the power of the state to force me to accept their policies. What I want instead is the ability to choose which elites from whom to take guidance on each issue, just as I can choose what type of cell phone to buy or which gym to join.
Democratic checks and balances are too weak for my taste. I think market checks and balances are more powerful. When the public did not like the Edsel, or New Coke, those products failed. It will be a great day when the public has that kind of power relative to the elites in government.