In Episode 563 of the Tom Woods Show, Woods asks listeners to consider why most political campaigns are based on dumbed-down slogans, instead of the rational deliberation our textbooks taught us was the basis of the system? Why is it that tiny minorities manage to get lucrative subsidies in a system supposedly based on the popular will? Why are voters uninformed — and why do they have an incentive to be? In this excellent and insightful episode (which inspired me to create the above cartoon) Woods noted that Public Choice economics can help us understand these phenomena better, and invited Mr. Ivan Pongracic onto the show to talk about it. Below is just one of the interesting points made in this great discussion. (See Episode 563: Clueless Voters and Self-Interested So-Called Public Servants for full episode!)
Free Markets vs. Politics: What Actually Works? Pongracic, a William E. Hibbs/Ludwig von Mises Professor of Economics at Hillsdale College explained in episode 563 that, “It honestly amazes me that anybody could possibly look at what’s happening in markets and what’s happening in politics, and continue to have any sort of faith that we can achieve political solutions to social problems. Especially when those political solutions require a one-size-fits-all type of an approach. It’s always going to leave a lot of people – usually about half the people in this society – very unhappy, and resisting with everything they’ve got. And I think this is the impoverishment of both the progressive perspective as well as in many ways the conservative perspective, that they continue to pine, to hope that they can use the political process for their own purposes to achieve their own vision of utopia. When in fact it’s the markets that have pulled the poor people out of poverty, that have given them options and given them choices, and given them alternatives that if they were willing to take advantage of them, would improve their lives immeasurably.”
Violence and Coercion, or a A Peaceful, Voluntary Way? Pongracic also noted in the episode that he believed libertarians have the facts and the history on their side. He also stated that, “I think it’s much more powerful to take the teaching of Leonard Read, the founder of the Foundation for Economic Education, and follow his point that the only thing we can actually control is ourselves. And what we have to do if we truly believe in liberty is educate ourselves as much as possible in order to be able to attract others to us. For others to want to talk to us, to ask us questions about the way we see the world. And then have an opportunity to persuade them that in fact the peaceful, voluntary way of interacting with other human beings is always superior to the violent, coercive ways that the government relies on. Leonard Read very much believed in the individualist approach to changing our world, and I think libertarians who ultimately put a lot of faith in political reform are barking up the wrong tree. I don’t think it’s going to happen.”
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