When thinking about which political system is best it is necessary to ask what the end goal is. My goal is to: do what causes the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Inverting the question is also helpful: what sort of political system causes the greatest amount of harm?
The scientific method is a very useful tool. The last step which is particularly important: the scientific test in question must be repeatable by other scientists in order for the conclusion to be accepted as valid. It is for this reason social science is not a true science. History can never be repeated. There are various theories on what caused the great depression but we can’t go back and recreate that time and place changing one variable at a time in order to get at the truth. For this reason, it is particularly useful to study societies which are similar in every way but the political system when thinking about politics. To my knowledge there have been three very good examples of populations which have allowed for this sort of examination in the recent past: East Berlin/West Berlin, Taiwan/China, and North Korea/South Korea.
In the case of East Berlin and West Berlin after World War 2 you had a city full of Berliners. All German people. They all spoke the same language. The West was largely a free society and the east was communist where all economic decisions were made by bureaucrats. What happened? The folks in East Berlin became much poorer than West Berlin. So much so that the citizenry of East Berlin started leaving for West Berlin which is why it was the Russian Communists build the Berlin Wall. It is crucially important to realize the Berlin Wall was not built to keep enemies out but to keep it’s own citizens trapped in a system that only benefited those connected to government power. East Berliners who tried to escape to West Berlin were shot. Moral of the story: not only does central economic planning not work but the only way to implement its dictates is for the government to become a repressive one.
The story is the same in Taiwan and China. After the Chinese Civil War the losing side fled to Taiwan while the victorious Communists rose to power on the mainland. Both sides were Chinese people who spoke the same language. Here again, Taiwan grew wealthy under a largely free market while China stayed not only desperately poor under a system of central economic planning but they also caused 20 million people to die as a result of a the “Great Leap Forward”. “The Great Death” would have been a more appropriate name. Here again, a repressive government grew up in order to carry out the wishes of the government all in the name of making things better for the populace. While this repression is still present in China (the Internet is censored – and they lock up political dissidents) 30 years ago the government decided it would be better if folks had the freedom to make many of their own economic decisions. And as a result economic growth has taken off in China and a billion Chineese are lifting themselves out of poverty while they each pursue their own self interest.
The story is the same today in South Korea vs North Korea. They are the same Korean people who speak the same language but after the Korean War they country was divided with two governments. South Korea is free and prosperous. In North Korea only the government bureaucrats are well off. North Korea is one of the most repressive place on Earth. They have concentration camps like Hitler did for political dissidents. They shoot their own people if they try to escape. This all in the name of equality for the common man. Misery and destruction for the masses is what has happened for the past 65 years in North Korea.
As a result of this history I largely favor an economic system where people are free to choose how to live their life. This produces the greatest good for the greatest number.
With that said, opponents of the free market do have some valid points. Although a free market produces good results over the long term it can be absolutely horrific over the short term. And humans live their life over the short term. A blacksmith with a family and a mortgage when cars came in vogue was in for a very rough go until he could learn a new skill set. Although it is ultimately a good thing we have few blacksmiths today I would not have wanted to be one in 1910. For this reason I support a Citizens Dividend whereby every citizen is paid a certain amount every month from tax revenues that are paid to the federal government. Our society would be much better off if the hundreds of government programs: crop subsidies, food stamps, medicare, medicaid, social security, welfare, low income housing initiatives – all of it – were replaced with the citizens dividend. These government programs are usually examples of central economic planning that often produce outcomes exactly opposite of what is intended. At present the federal government could pay every citizen $7,000 a year if current social programs were swapped out for such a system. Even though a Citizen’s Dividend is not a libertarian idea I would support it because it would address the creative destruction problem which is inherent in a free market system.
To sum up: I am first a foremost a pragmatist. I believe in doing the most good for the greatest number and this often – but not always – leads me to libertarian positions. I envision a free society where the government does not get involved in central economic planning but where it does – to a limited extent – redistribute wealth among its citizens to address the creative destruction problem of the free market.
Read other stories of why they became libertarians