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Problems of Politics: My Ideological Crisis

jat93
Posts: 1,440
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11/7/2012 7:50:31 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
The Problems of Political/Economic Philosophy

This is a lengthy philosophical rant but if you have any insight on these topics, please bare with me to the end or as much you can; I'm having a total ideological crisis in terms of politics, philosophy, and economics, where all the foundations I was operating under in my thought in these areas for months have been seriously threatened or even partially knocked down. In this essay I will delve into what I believe are the fundamental problems of political and economic philosophy. Topics include: free markets, democracy/mob rule/tyranny of the masses, the values of freedom vs coercion, and philosopher kings. It was originally entitled "My Problems With The Free Market/Ancap". Read toward the end before leaping to conclusions as this must be taken as a whole. Without further ado...

Most people are stupid. So for example, take a company like Apple that makes certain not so amazing products that are extremely fragile, overrated, and so immensely overpriced to the point of it being laughable - but the products look cool and are stylish. These companies will thrive in a free market system. Granted, they are thriving because of voluntary choices, whereas government funding is almost necessarily based on force, coercion, and violence. Free markets are based on voluntaryism and personal choices; these are generally far superior in terms of cost effectiveness and product efficiency than government programs, which have no competition - states are legalized, coercive, violent monopolies by definition - and lack incentive to give good products for the best price. Of course in this way the market is superior to getting governments to provide things for people (read/watch Milton Friedman or Murray Rothbard if you doubt this proposition) and very few people would deny this these days. Or else, if government coercion/centralization were superior, why not just try and nationalize as many industries and businesses as possible?

However, again, most people are dumb. Libertarians/anarchists always rail against democracy, and justifiably so, for being nothing more than mob rule, and mob rule by a generally politically/economically illiterate population no less. Doesn't the free market run into similar problems? If stupid people choose to purchase/institute stupid companies and their products, that's what society/the world (yes I am aware that society is nothing but voluntary interactions of many individuals) will be left with. In short, the question boils down to how important granting people personal freedom over their decision making is when compared to actually getting good sh!t for everyone. Then again, the best metric for deciding what is good sh!t is what someone chooses for their own life; we all have differing opinions on what it means to make choices that maximize utility and enhance our own happiness, so creating a monocentric, centralized system of government necessarily runs into this problem, so wonderfully articulated by the French classical liberal economic theorist Frederic Bastiat:

"If the natural tendencies of mankind are so bad that it is not safe to permit people to be free, how is it that the tendencies of these organizers are always good? Do not the legislators and their appointed agents also belong to the human race? Or do they believe that they themselves are made of a finer clay than the rest of mankind?"

Indeed, one could say that allowing people personal freedom would result in bad/stupid policies for society, but who should be the ultimate judge and enforcer of policies? Given the reality of differing subjective preferences on any given issue, it would seem the individual is the optimal choice. But if you pursue this train of thought to its logical conclusion, don't you wind up basically with direct democracy? How can you oppose direct democracy - which it seems to me is basically complete and total freedom of individuals, with the individuals in total control of their representation/choices as opposed to some central authority - on the grounds that allowing people too much freedom over personal/societal choice will lead to crappy and tyrannical results since most people are generally ignorant, and yet go on and tout the virtues of the free market system which leads effectively to the same thing - that is, allowing people total freedom over personal and societal choices? Note: Don't say there's no such thing as society and the term just a useless abstraction as Ayn Rand has done; by definition, personal choices affect others, because in a market system, individuals decide which products/systems will be provided, based on which has more popular support. So by your support or lack thereof of any policy or product, you are effecting the choices everybody else in that society has as options they can or can't choose.

You could argue that in the democratic system, people are voting for things that would affect everyone else's lives, and just because more people favor something doesn't make it moral/the best policy to be instituted. However, in a free market, the things that are most popular WILL be the things that are instituted, and therefore all our consumer choices affect each other's lives and the consumer choices each and every one of us is faced with in turn; in any society where individuals have freedom to make economic choices, and where the product that pleases the most people will be the most successful, and the ones that don't will go out of business, all of our economic choices are therefore intrinsically linked to one another. How is this system fundamentally different at all from the tyranny of the masses? At its base is the deciding factor of popularity for societal choices and options.

So, anyway, doesn't advocacy of the free market logically lead to advocacy of complete and total direct, participatory democracy? And wouldn't both ultimately lead to a generally ignorant populace being in control of society's/culture's direction, which would probably lead to inefficiency and/or tyranny of the masses? Finally, is there any viable, non-tyrannical/coercive alternative to tyranny of the masses, which both the free market and direct democracy seem to be? Is there even a difference between the free market and direct democracy? Should people be allowed full control over their lives even if it might wreak havoc on society as a consequence? And who is the best decision maker when it comes to personal/societal matters, best equipped to decide which policies/products (in a free market system policies are products) should be pursued and which should be discarded?

Honestly, all of this makes me think that freedom is way overrated given the profound ignorance of the masses in general, and philosopher kings would be preferable. But then I think, no, Plato could not have been right in his advocacy of such totalitarianism... Power over huge amounts of people is naturally corrupting and corrupts even the best of men; inefficiency and tyranny would inevitably result. But, what if one group in society ruling over other groups is an unavoidable fact of mankind: that most of us are born to be ruled and oppressed? The inevitable existence of oppressive "government" or the wealthiest/most powerful group(s) that would simply become government due to the amount of wealth, power, and influence over media/public thought they would wield? If this is true, perhaps the institution of philosopher kings would be the lesser of evils, the best option faced with the reality of tyranny and oppression and various degrees of totalitarianism over most people at the hands of government (or some organization(s) which functionally becomes and serves as the same thing as government in terms of coercion and exploitation of the masses). After all, the tiny but mighty "ruling class" has been a near ubiquitous fact of human society, so is this the best solution?
badger
Posts: 11,793
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11/7/2012 8:19:17 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
direct internet world democracy - trial and error until perfect human harmony. capitalist innovation? huh? retarded.
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Ahmed.M
Posts: 616
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11/7/2012 5:49:59 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
Yes people are not qualified enough to vote on such major issues like who will be in power. That's why you should make a hard test for those who want to vote or adopt an autocracy where the leader gets heavy criteria to become the ruler.
MouthWash
Posts: 2,607
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11/7/2012 5:58:04 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
"Help! Everything I believe is wrong!"

Got to stay objective; I was banned from Mises when I after going through an "ideological crisis." I'm even starting to listen to Marxism now (although I doubt I'll ever become one). It's just better not to subscribe to anything unless you're an expert and can debate anyone else on the subject.
"Well, that gives whole new meaning to my assassination. If I was going to die anyway, perhaps I should leave the Bolsheviks' descendants some Christmas cookies instead of breaking their dishes and vodka bottles in their sleep." -Tsar Nicholas II (YYW)