Betting, Liberty, and the Status Quo
By Bryan Caplan
I claim that betting stifles hyperbole, the fuel of Big Government. In this sense, my Betting Norm has an underlying libertarian agenda. One could object, however, that killing hyperbole is a double-edged sword. Sure, it deprives statists of the chance of oversell government. But it also deprives libertarians of the chance to oversell liberty. If hyperbole dies, isn’t the status quo the real winner?
Not really. In the modern world, economic growth is the norm. So as long as government’s absolute size stays fixed, economic growth steadily erodes government’s role in society. And over time, every new industry that the government failed to foresee is at most lightly regulated.
Furthermore, entrepreneurs and scofflaws are constantly looking for clever ways to circumvent existing laws. As long as regulations stay fixed, their practical impact naturally shrinks year after year. Imagine what the United States would look like today if governments stopped passing new laws in 1970. Airline and trucking regulation would still be on the books, but they’d be pretty easy to dodge with the help of the internet. It wouldn’t be Libertopia, but it would be a lot more libertarian than our status quo.
So does the betting norm favor the status quo or liberty? Both. It favors the legal status quo. Over time, however, a stagnant legal status quo naturally decays into de facto laissez-faire.