Wednesday, May 28, 2008

There are cults and there are cults
Today’s LRC pick has libertarian common sense on the state, economics and religion from Wilton Alston. Economics simply described, or unintended consequences: things that sound good, like they make equal opportunity (equality of access) possible, really don’t. Equality of outcome of course is impossible in practice and would be unfair anyway.
Interestingly, the cult’s stated highest principles appear to pander to the “equality of men” and other supposedly egalitarian concepts. Simultaneously, those who govern the cult exist in a socio-economic stratum nearly impenetrable by their subjects. In an effort to appease those who might wonder why these trappings are not more generally available, that is, why their best efforts do not result in economic outcome that one might otherwise expect, the cult’s leaders set up laws that supposedly guarantee equality of access and equality of outcome for those far below them in status.

Ironically, these laws — since they fly directly in the face of basic Austrian economic theory — preserve the conditions that the lower echelons hope to escape. Often they further enrich those at the top of the bureaucratic food chain. Worse, they pit factions at the lower ends of the socio-economic spectra against each other while preserving the position of the cult leaders.

Minimum wage legislation — a price floor — guarantees that those employable below that specific wage threshold will not get a job: unemployment must therefore result.

Maximum price control legislation — a price ceiling — guarantees that demand will far exceed supply: shortages must therefore result.

Forget about all the other cults. Don’t worry about them. Just leave them alone. Break free from the vicious grasp of selective logic and decry the most dangerous cult of all. One of the rubrics employed by Austrian economists to determine if an activity is illegal or unethical evaluates the level of choice employed by the participants. Simply put, was the transaction voluntary for all involved. For example, in the case of prostitution as long as there is a willing buyer and a willing seller, ceteris paribus there can be no activity warranting law enforcement or bureaucratic concern.

Similarly, if one voluntarily joins an organization that requires him to wear a chicken suit while baying at the moon on Wednesday nights, that is fine as well. While this activity might not appeal to everyone, anyone is free to partake, or not. However, the instant the participants and their chicken-suit-wearing friends require all in some arbitrary geographical region (country, state, county, city) to pay for buying, cleaning, and repairing the chicken suits, well, that’s a problem.

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