Nearly everyone desires to live in a better world, whatever that means. Here, I will stipulate a “better world” has an abundance of resources, peace, and happiness, and less struggle to achieve them. It has been sold to us that politics is the means to these utopian aspirations. It has been sold to us that, through politics, we must regulate both government and markets to achieve these ends. It has also been sold to us there are two sides to the political spectrum, and that we must climb aboard one of the two warships to survive the political battles that will follow as a result of this pursuit.
To crudely summarize American politics: the Left sees the government as the arbiter of equality, and believes the markets must be restrained in its pursuit. On the Left, democracy is the core value. The Right, however, sees the markets as the arbiter of liberty, and believes the government must be restrained in its pursuit. On the Right, freedom is the core value.
Those four terms – equality, democracy, liberty, and freedom – all mean different things. And they mean different things to different people. But few people would totally discredit any of those terms outright; although, individially, we will certainly be predisposed to some over others. One person may have different ideas than another on what mix of these ideals would work best in pursuing utopia. And that’s fine. It would be weird if we all held the same policy beliefs – or the same ideas of utopia, for that matter. But most would prefer a better future, in the aforemetioned “better world.”
The point is, collectively, we are not very far apart in our utopian pursuits. It is collectively that we devise programs – through politics – that tinker with government and the markets to achieve these ends. And it is collectively that we fail to analyze what human incentives work best to achieve them. This mismanagement results - in real terms - in wasted capital and human pain.
Whereas government can ignore these incentives, markets cannot. Markets must balance supply and demand at a price, monitor these pricing signals, and adjust. Likewise, whereas government can respect human irregularities and protect them as rights, markets cannot. Markets reward merit sans discretion through profits and losses. So neither government nor markets are perfect.
The fact is, neither perfect liberty nor perfect equality can ever be achieved due to basic incentives and human action toward them. We can only hope for equilibrium between the two. But both Left and Right are deluded about human action in both government and markets – and how they differ – because they are stuck on their proverbial warships.
The only way we get to a better – albeit imperfect – future is to annotate our policy goals, adapt to changes, measure the results, and alter them accordingly. We shouldn’t be afraid to overhaul or scrap systems that aren’t working. We also shouldn’t be afraid of expanding on things that work. To continually improve in government and markets – that is, society in general – we cannot live in fear that others might perceive we have jumped ship.
In other words, we don’t need politics to have a better world. Indeed, politics keeps us from a better world.Share on Facebook