Kos, Part III

Here are parts I and II.

Now comes two entries that are must reads on this topic. The first, by Warren Meyer at Coyote Blog, was actually written in December of 2004. But don't be surprised by that. Principles of individualism haven't changed in the 8,000 years or so of recorded human civilization (or as far back as humans possessed free will, for that matter), so his essay was valid then, today, and a thousand years from now.

Here it is.

Before I continue to support this argument, I must say that on a number of issues, particularly related to civil liberties and social issues, I call progressives my allies.  On social issues, progressives, like I do, generally support an individual's right to make decisions for themselves, as long as those decisions don't harm others. 

However, when we move to fields such as commerce, progressives stop trusting individual decision-making.  Progressives who support the right to a person making unfettered choices in sexual partners don't trust people to make their own choice on seat belt use.  Progressives who support the right of fifteen year old girls to make decisions about abortion without parental notification do not trust these same girls later in life to make their own investment choices with their Social Security funds.  And, Progressives who support the right of third worlders to strap on a backpack of TNT and explode themselves in the public market don't trust these same third worlders to make the right decision in choosing to work in the local Nike shoe plant.

Beyond just the concept of individual decision-making, progressives are hugely uncomfortable with capitalism.  Ironically, though progressives want to posture as being "dynamic", the fact is that capitalism is in fact too dynamic for them.  Industries rise and fall, jobs are won and lost, recessions give way to booms.  Progressives want comfort and certainty.  They want to lock things down the way they are. They want to know that such and such job will be there tomorrow and next decade, and will always pay at least X amount.  That is why, in the end, progressives are all statists, because, to paraphrase Hayek, only a government with totalitarian powers can bring the order and certainty and control of individual decision-making that they crave.

Progressive elements in this country have always tried to freeze commerce, to lock this country's economy down in its then-current patterns.  Progressives in the late 19th century were terrified the American economy was shifting from agriculture to industry.  They wanted to stop this, to cement in place patterns where 80-90% of Americans worked on farms.  I, for one, am glad they failed, since for all of the soft glow we have in this country around our description of the family farmer, farming was and can still be a brutal, dawn to dusk endeavor that never really rewards the work people put into it. 

This story of progressives trying to stop history has continued to repeat itself through the generations.  In the seventies and eighties, progressives tried to maintain the traditional dominance of heavy industry like steel and automotive, and to prevent the shift of these industries overseas in favor of more service-oriented industries.  Just like the passing of agriculture to industry a century ago inflamed progressives, so too does the current passing of heavy industry to services.

Now, absolutely go read the whole thing.

Next up, Bruce McQuain at Q&O, whom I've known for many years. His entry from just a few days ago deals directly with the Kos issue, and he actually dissects the entire Kos essay.

Of course it’s quite easy to call corporations “unaccountable” despoilers of nature and invaders of privacy who hold “undue” control over their own economic fortunes (heaven forbid they should control that) when you need an enemy. They makes a convenient foil for the upcoming "government is good" sales pitch.

We all know they make you buy their products by force and fraud and, well, expand - both in size and power. And, given the line, one has to assume that the stated objection to them holding “undue control over their own economic fortunes” is unacceptable. Conveniently, there's only one entity with the power to confront them and take care of that problem, isn't there?

So we’ve now identified the demon and the champion.  On with the myth.

[...]

Essentially his claim is that had there been no government, none of the “libertarian tendencies” for which he finds Silicon Valley so exceedingly attractive would have had the opportunity to germinate and grow. Without an “infrastructure” such as ‘roads’ and ‘internet’, or ‘research grants’ and ‘education’, none of it happens (btw, I loved his emphasis on government education while touting the success of ‘school dropouts’).

Given that argument, I’m frankly amazed Stephan Jobs and Bill Gates somehow managed to launch Apple and Microsoft.

What spurred the creation of Silicon Valley wasn’t government or research grants or the internet. That all came later. It was Jobs and Gates and countless others in their garages and basements without the “benefit” of any of that. They opened up a whole new technological era with their individual work. They convinced venture capitalists and other risk takers to back them. They changed the world.

To pretend Silicon Valley was a product of government is to truly not understand where it came from or why. To contend it was a result of government is an admission that one doesn’t understand the process of innovation which took place. If ever there was an example of Hayekian principle of “spontaneous order”, Silicon Valley is it. We saw innovation and technology driving markets and marketing cycles while spawning more of the same and repeating itself over and over and over again.

[...]

Forgotten in this appeal for votes is a pretty basic truth which essentially destroys the validity of the argument:

Not a single corporation can coerce you into buying their product. But every single government, no matter how small, can coerce you into doing their will.

The basic concept of government is and always has been contrary to libertarian principles.

Government is force. It is all about force. Force is its very nature. And, make no mistake, what is being offered by Moultisas here is more government. He simply wants libertarians to embrace rather than reject that choice and feel good about it.

If, as Friederich Hayek said, “freedom is the absence of coercion”, then the group that touts more government as the acceptable solution to any problem is selling snake oil. And Moultisas is correct. I’d never, ever mistake a Democrat of “just about any stripe” for any type of a libertarian, doctrinaire or otherwise.

Go read the whole thing.

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