Comparative Advantage for Libertarian Trojans
by Steve Gresh, August 7, 2003
[In the following article, Gresh responds to an article from the Mises Institute. Jeff Wright originally circulated the link and added his comments on the silliness of political pressures to invest only in the U.S. and tax U.S. companies for sales in other countries.]
Comparative advantage, the ability to produce a good or service at a lower opportunity cost, is a fundamental concept in economics.
I like this example from my Economics Today textbook:
"The coaches of sports teams are constantly faced with determining each player's comparative advantage. Babe Ruth was originally one of the best pitchers in professional baseball when he played for the Boston Red Sox. After he was traded to the New York Yankees, the owner and the coach decided to make him an outfielder, even though he was a better pitcher than anyone else on the team roster. They wanted 'The Babe' to concentrate on his hitting. Good pitchers do not bring in as many fans as home-run kings. Babe Ruth's comparative advantage was clearly in hitting homers rather than practicing and developing his pitching game."
As is true of everything that the statists have done to destroy our freedoms, failure to understand such fundamental economic concepts is the root of the problem.
The answer to the question about how the U.S. has come to the idea that it has a right to everybody's wealth, no matter where on the globe it is, has a simple part and a complex part.
The simple part is a stupid populace that votes for populists, i.e., liberals such as Ted Kennedy and neo-conservatives such as Bush & Son, who promise them high-paying jobs, social security, medical care, workers' compensation, job safety, protectionism from foreign competition and laborers, etc. What's not clear to me is whether all the populist elected officials are just as stupid as the voters who elect them. After all, they do get high-paying jobs, benefits, and fat retirements by fulfilling their promises to the electorate.
The complex part is related to the ideas of Keynesian and Marxist economics. For many years, a number of very intelligent albeit wrongheaded economists, i.e., professors, think tanks, and government bureaucrats, have propogated the theories of communism, socialism, central government planning and intervention in the economy, Federal Reserve manipulation of the money supply and interest rates, broad interpretations of the Interstate Commerce Claus, a limitless national debt, etc. Because their theories appear to alleviate problems during times of severe economic depression or high inflation, their bad ideas have become codified as laws and enforced as regulations. Of course, these manipulations only treat symptoms, create market distortions, prop up wasteful and inefficient corporations to survive beyond their natural lives, and result in even worse problems for each successive generation to solve.
I probably haven't written anything to this point that's news to libertarian readers. This does give me an opportunity to explain how my perspective differs from that of other libertarians, though.
Libertarians generally understand and agree with the complex part of my answer to your question. Put simply, there is general agreement that free markets, free trade, ending the corporate and individual welfare state, ending redistribution of wealth schemes, returning to currency that has intrinsic value or is at least backed by precious metals under the control of the U.S. Treasury, elimination of the Federal Reserve System, elimination of the income tax (and its bastard child, social security) for individuals and corporations, elimination of regulatory agencies, and restoration of the traditional English common law tort system as the only means of determining fraud and liability, and other similar actions are necessary to undo the harms caused by the Keynesians and Marxists.
Where I disagree with many libertarians is how to address the simple part of my answer so that the complex part can be implemented. What I have come to realize is that the U.S., from its inception, has always had a very stupid populace. The phenomena of the Founding Fathers being able to do what they did was an anomaly that required a unique set of circumstances. I contend that those circumstances, not a populace which was more intelligent than what we have now, are the reasons why our original libertarians were able to accomplish what they did.
I see infiltration of the R and D parties as the only way that Ls will ever have an opportunity to implement the solutions that are necessary to undo the harms caused by populist elected officials and their intellectual masters, the Keynesians and Marxists. Running as Rs and Ds, they must make the same stupid promises to the stupid electorate that the populists make to get elected. Then, once they're elected, act and vote according to libertarian principles. Yes, lie to the dumb bastards to get elected. Shocking! That's what the voters deserve in response to the force that they have initiated with their votes. They may have used ballots, but they have effectively used bullets. The whole notion that enough of the populace can somehow be educated to understand libertarian principles and then elect Libertarians is a pipe dream. This is our revolution. These are our unique set of circumstances. One example from military history that comes to mind is the Trojan Horse. It's time for libertarians to build our own Trojan Horse, climb inside, and ride through our enemies' gates. I have no doubt that this idea would be repulsive to most Libertarians, especially the pacifists. They would feel cheap and dirty. So what. This is war. And, I'm not about to spend the rest of my life letting a mass of idiots continue to destroy my freedoms via their precious democratic right to vote.
The Libertarian Party, Ari's Colorado Freedom Report, and other libertarian organizations have a vital role to play in this war plan. They serve as the means of communication and connection among those of us who are operating behind enemy lines.
Also, I would discourage Libertarians who aren't prepared to engage in all of the tactics of real warfare from participating in the infiltrations. They should remain comfortably within the confines of their debating club so they can watch and criticize the actions of the combatants in our revolution without risking a loss of their philosophical virginity and purity.
Ari Armstrong Replies
It is unnecessary, imprudent, and immoral to lie to get elected. There's no reason why a libertarian can't promise to support better education, a faster-growing economy, and a more secure retirement system. All these things are best accomplished through libertarian strategies.
in a recent article, Jeffrey Friedman, the political scientist from Columbia University, makes a more detailed (and more diplomatic) case that the electorate is ignorant about politics. However, he is quick to add, though individuals may not have much political knowledge, they do have the best knowledge about how to run their own lives. The trick is to get people to stop subverting their actual knowledge through their political ignorance.
Perhaps Gresh will be successful in helping to achieve that goal.