Don’t Let Perfect be The Enemy of Good

The most common argument I hear against free trade and free immigration by supposed limited-government supporters is something along the lines of “because we have big government policy X, we cannot have liberal* policy Y.”  For example, “we have the welfare state, so we cannot have free immigration,” or “China subsidizes their exports so we cannot have free trade with China.”

The problem with this line of thinking is it lets perfect be the enemy of good. In other words, we avoid taking concrete, albeit small, steps toward a more free world because the steps aren’t 100% ideal. But, as the old saying goes, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Liberty isn’t an end; it’s a journey.  Liberty won’t be accomplished overnight with one great lurch toward freedom.  The State’s encroachment on personal liberties has been slow and deliberate.  The fight for liberty will be similar.

Economists are trained to think on the margin; to explore how little changes can affect things and to see how we can make things even just a little better off.  Marginal steps toward liberty will help us accomplish our goals.  If we wait until things are ideal, to wait for the hypothetical “perfect market” conditions, then we will remain stagnant while the State continues to encroach.

We need to keep advancing liberty on all fronts and for all people, even if the conditions are not perfect.  We cannot afford to be slow.

*I, of course, am using the term “liberal” in its original form.

4 thoughts on “Don’t Let Perfect be The Enemy of Good

  1. Fascinating. When you read, ideas start linking to others all over. I’m almost done with Thomas Sowell’s Dismantling America and he said the same line, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” It took me a few days to mull that one over. Is that true? Now you say it in your post. Amazing. I think that is a great way to think economically and pragmatically.

    Love the site and your posts.

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  2. Party tonight at Jon Murphy’s place. Dibs on the Guinness and the couch after 1 a.m.
    Ask the women of Cologne how they feel about unlimited Muslim immigration.
    Open immigration does not promote freedom. Humans are more than commodities. Imported structural steel beams don’t vote. Some resources do not lend themselves to the system of title and markets (e.g., river water, air, migratory songbirds, the State-constructed legal environment, etc.). These resources belong to citizens of their country. Open borders advocates, in effect, demand that everyone leave their houses unlocked and the car keys in the ignition. Additionally, open immigration does for cultural evolution what panmixia does for biological evolution; it reduces variety.

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  3. Everything for liberty, nothing against liberty. We are the only ones that can do this, no other, no less. Our economics is the only good ones, anything else leads to the road of serfdom and the vile mathematization that is Bolshevist in nature. Anybody else that supports ‘liberty’ are lairs at best who have no bias understanding as we do.

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  4. Science teaches us that there is no such thing as an absolute. A perfect vacuum does not exist, although in theory one could. So to expect life to be perfect, now, all the time is impractical. Life is lived by incremental changes, not sweeping ones. You learn gradually, you eat one mouthful at a time.

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