Sunday, December 17, 2006

The market: The solution

Listserve response to a gentleman who likes to make the following statement:

Was Churchill off base when he declared that the best argument AGAINST democracy is a 3-minute "conversation" with the average voter? [1]

You have a tendency to include this quote in your emails. Exactly what are you implying by it?

The Public Choice school of thought has explained why it is not an economizing behavior for voters to understand all that is debated and decided in DC, state capitals, county seats, townhalls, school boardrooms, etc., since the time spent understanding issues completely is never rewarded by having the deciding vote on the issue(s) at hand.

Don't ever expect the average voter to grasp every issue, just as I don't expect you to understand the finer points of the current trade negotiations between the US and China. Frankly, you'd be wasting your scarce time delving into this and most other issues.

So, the rational choice for individual action is to ignore most of what is debated and decided by governing authorities. But, as you imply, that solution is unsatisfying to you, and, as I would argue, ill advised. The better solution is always the same: Reduced government and the free market.

Moving the decision-making from a centralized body back to the individual will satisfy the concern about the unknowledgeable voter, and put the power in the hands of those who truly benefit from the decisions; the consumer. Why have bureaucrats decide trade rules with China when it is the individual consumers who benefit from such trade?

We tend to believe that a government official can create an agreement that will satisfy all 300 million Americans involved in some form of trade with China. Let those agreements be resolved by the individual, not the official who serves his own purpose.

The same with education, let the consumer choose the product and either benefit or suffer from the result. The present structure of government-run schools leads to decisions being made by those who never quite seem to suffer the consequences - other than when their decisions are outside of the current political fashion.

We have a habit of falling on the sword of collectivism, even when we cheer the latest pronouncements of the successful businessman or businesswoman. Every CEO and manager has grand ideas, ideas that are not so different from those of the life-long bureaucrat, or you and me for that matter. The difference is that those in business are forced to listen to the consumer and the financial market.

Produce products that no one wants and your days are numbered. Conceive of plans that have cannot garner financial backing and retirement and days golfing are your future.

Yet, once freed of such realities, the CEO-turned-government-official has no problem advocating for the products and plans that the market wouldn't allow.

In addition, why trust the captains of industry to use government for benign purposes? They are simply looking out for their own interests. Does that make them evil? No, but it shows the inherent evil of a system of blue-ribbon commissions leading to government mandates. Once again, advocate for the free market, and the requisite reduction in government interventions.

Erich asks, "What is a good vocational educational model?" The answer: Whatever suite of models the market produces. Looking for the correct approach is similar to looking for correct way to run a business. Each business runs on a different model, some only slightly different than others, yet different nonetheless. An imposed model would sink the US economy to something equivalent to that of the Soviet Union.

An aside: My local Career Center spends over $30,000 per pupil per year. $30,000! That's certainly one model worth ignoring.

So John, what does Churchill's statement mean to you? To me it says that we need to reduce government to its intended role: The protector of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness; in education, and in everything. Otherwise you will be fighting against the rational voter who, if we are true to ourselves, does not need to be able to recite the names of US Supreme Court justices and cabinet officials, or to quote NAFTA, chapter and verse.

Though along with a reduced level of interventions, citizens would need to understand the Declaration, Constitution, and Bill of Rights - solely to understand when government has exceeded its constitutionally-imposed limits. With a reduced government, there would be so much less to memorize, as citizens would only have to remember the names of the heads of the four original cabinet departments. The added benefit is that the talking-heads would be back on AM radio discussing the latest baseball scores and UFO sightings.

There exists a lifecycle of thought regarding government adoption of activities previously supported by the market. First there is disbelief that government can produce the same quality outcome. This disbelief is replaced over time with the belief that only government can provide the activity, as the past is forgotten by subsequent generations.

Education is such an activity. The market can produce education as easily as it can produce peanut butter. Alternatively, we spiral downward as each blue-ribbon commission imposes the next supposed solution; a solution that is, of course, doomed to fail.

Finally: There was a time when being a Patriot meant risking everything to fight against government intrusions into Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Through generations of government-run schools, the term Patriot has been perverted to mean someone who advocates for a government solution. Times certainly have changed.


[1]The actual quote attributed to Winston Churchill is: The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We may not always individually agree with the ultimate market decisions of the masses, but time generally seems to reveal the wisdom of the people. The free market--through supply and demand--determines truth. When power interferes with the market, the result is usually negative.