Abigail Hall's Case Against Supporting Politicians
By David Henderson
In a blog post yesterday, “Standing with Rand? Maybe Take a Seat,” Independent Institute Research Fellow and recent George Mason University Ph.D. Abigail Hall makes a case against supporting Rand Paul, but then generalizes and makes it a case against supporting any politicians.
Although I once was a fan and supporter of Rand Paul, I am not now, and so I won’t defend him here. But Abby goes further, writing:
Arguing that “more libertarians” or “the right people” in office will bring the changes they desire is like asking the fox to guard the henhouse. It’s placing trust in the broken and backward bureaucratic system they claim to despise and magically expecting it to achieve a different result.
So she seems to be saying that one should put zero resources into supporting politicians who agree with you on some important issues. It’s hard to see how this is an optimal strategy.
Some would argue that one shouldn’t give money even to politicians who share your views because of the free-rider problem. The resources you can give to a politician aren’t important enough to get him elected and, besides, you can free ride on the contributions of others.
But Abby makes clear that that’s not her argument, as the quoted passage shows. Her argument is that supporting politicians is futile.
Now, if she were to argue that there are many ways to work for freedom and she has chosen to be a teacher, a scholar, and a blogger to influence the way the world works, then I get that. And, because I know her a little, I think she will be a first-rate teacher and scholar and is already a good blogger.
She might also argue that she finds politicians repulsive. I get that too. I don’t find them all repulsive, but I understand why many libertarians do. But then that comes down to her preferences. That’s not a good universal argument against supporting politicians.
Here’s the basic economic argument against her view. Think of many of the margins on which one can affect policy: writing op/eds, blogging, teaching, researching, protesting, resisting, writing letters to politicians, and trying to get certain politicians elected, to name a few. Basic production theory says that you use each method up to the point where ratio of the marginal product to marginal cost is the same. It would be a very strange production function which gave the result that the ratio of the marginal product of working for a politician to the marginal cost was everywhere below the ratios of the other MPs to their MCs.
Abby is essentially arguing that it’s a corner solution. But then she needs to say why. She hasn’t.