Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The road ahead

While there has been a recent spotlight on Republican introspection about what they stand for and the path back to relevance libertarians have been holding some conversations of their own about the philosophy's future and how best to advance its ideals. Will Wilkinson makes a good point here:
Libertarianism does have public relations problems, and it’s not because most people are stupid or immoral. It’s because libertarians have done a terrible job countering the widespread suspicion that it’s a uselessly abstract ahistorical ideology for socially retarded adolescent white guys.

...If libertarians are going to shift the politics of the countries we live in, we’ve got to get it through our thick skulls that many people have considered libertarian ideas and have rejected them for all sorts of decent reasons. We’ve got to take those reasons, and those people, fully seriously and adequately address them. Otherwise, we should probably just accept that libertarianism is a niche creed for weird people and reconcile ourselves to impotent, self-righteous grousing. Or get serious about life on the sea. For my part, I’m going to continue to try to convince people that free markets and limited government are better than they might have thought.
Indeed, I think that a lot of people who come across libertarian ideals tend to dismiss them as naive and unrealistic at best and likely to foster a society resembling Somalia at worst.

The problem with advocating for limited government and the free market is that it requires a lot of abstract thought. For example in the health care debate libertarians advocate the introduction of market forces to drive down costs and increase choices while the statists simply advocate government provision of health services that would be "free." The free market offers up a theory while the left offers a tangible good.

What frustrates me, however, is that this doesn't have to be a debate of abstract ideas. Concrete examples abound of free market solutions working. School choice works in Sweden and Washington DC. Flat taxes have been introduced in many European countries. Air traffic control privatization has improved service in Canada. Airline deregulation in the U.S. has resulted in lower costs and more choices. Social security privatization in Sweden has been a success. Portugal has decriminalized drugs while experiencing lower drug usage than the U.S. The free market in cosmetic surgery has seen cost declines while overall health care costs continue to explode.

We have the arguments. We have the evidence. Let's use them.

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