My post yesterday on central planning has an important implication, one which I suspect some of you, dear readers, may not like: free markets will not be advanced through the ballot box. Voting is, generally speaking, an exercise in futility. It’s not just because the odds of your vote changing anything is virtually zero, for from a cost-benefit viewpoint voting is irrational. It’s that, without a change in culture, no free market legislation will survive long term.
Take, for example, this article written in EconLog today by Emily Skarbek. She tells us the story of Richard Nixon’s price controls in the 70’s. Nixon knows the costs of price controls. Knowledge of the politician is not in question here. But he goes ahead with the scheme anyway for “pragmatic” reasons (to use his term). Nixon knew if he took a stand and refused price controls, his political career would be in danger, so he submitted to the general culture, despite his principles and knowledge of price controls. If he had refused, he may have lost the following election and the controls implemented anyway.
That is why I, along with so many of my laissez-faire brethren, focus our attention on changing the climate of ideas rather than effect ballot-box changes. Any effort at the ballot-box is doomed to fail until the general culture changes to become more freedom friendly. Liberty cannot be sustained when imposed top-down; it must be grown bottom-up.