Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Are We Peasants or Drug Addicts?

Yesterday, reacting to the quandary of Republicans as they try to "repeal and replace" the Obamacare entitlement I argued for a strategy that tries to keep a market going in the cracks between the monster brutalist skyscrapers of the welfare state.

That is because I believe in the 100 year old settled science of Ludwig von Mises, that socialism -- and by extension, the administrative state -- could not work because it could not compute prices.

Put another way, socialistic and administrative programs must fail because they have no mechanism, no feedback loop, to adjust to changing conditions.

Mises himself (I think) argued that the Soviet Union survived as long as it did because, while no genuine prices existed in the Soviet Union, there were reference prices in the outside world. So the Soviet bureaucrats and planners could do their sums using western prices.

So the trick is to preserve the market somewhere in the concrete desert of big government administrative programs, so that when the crash comes we have a beam of light in the darkness to tell us what to do.

Dennis Prager argues instead that the entitlement state is a disease, and that entitlements are an addiction worse than sex drugs and rock-and-roll.
All addictions -- whether to drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex or cigarettes -- are very hard to escape.

There is one addiction, however, that may be more difficult than any other to escape, in part because it is not even regarded as an addiction. It is entitlements addiction, the addiction to getting something for nothing.
Of course, Prager has a point. But I think that he misses the larger point. I believe that the pre-bourgeois mindset properly enjoins the workers and peasants to find a strong patron, adhere to him through thick and thin, and expect to receive scraps from the lord's table.

If you were a peasant in northern Europe your biggest fear was invasion by the nomads from the east. They would kill the men, take the food, and enslave the women. Compared to that the indignities of sucking up to a feudal lord and putting up with his droits de seigneur were minor inconveniences.

The great challenge of our modern era is to help people move from their age-old existence as People of the Subordinate Self that bow to a powerful patron, and become instead People of the Responsible Self that bow to the orders of the market and its prices.

The whole point of the left for the last 200 years is that it says: Oh No! to this program.

Instead the left says: You poor workers and peasants should not have to change from subordination to your liege lord and submit instead to the market. Instead, the left says, We will protect you from the rigors of the market and we will step into the place vacated by the feudal lords when they threw you off the land a couple centuries ago only to dump you into the cities to the slavery of the factory and the time clock.

Really, can you blame the workers and the peasants, and now the immigrants from rural Latin America and the tribal Middle East? It is a wrenching change, the biggest ever, to change from the tried-and-true culture of a tribal or feudal retainer to the responsibility culture of the individual in the city that must adjust to the dictates of the market and believe, against all instinct, that things will turn out all right for the man who dares to swim in the riptides of the market.

But still. Do you think that the average Venezuelan blames the leftist government for his miseries? Or do you think that the average person blames the saboteurs and wreckers, the bakers that are withholding bread from the market?

They talk about the necessity of education, but where are the schools teaching that the market is the royal road to prosperity and that the only wreckers and saboteurs are the politicians and activists blaming the private sector for their own mistakes and follies?

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