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Pick Your Poison

There are many different political and economic positions which various people take. Some emphasise the need to give private companies more power and freedom (such as libertarianism) while others advocate greater government control, possibly with the claim that that is better for the majority (like socialism). The problem with every political philosophy is that they grant power (either explicitly or as an indirect consequence) to particular groups in society which inevitably negatively affects others.

And even extreme libertarians (who are virtually anarchists) indirectly grant power to one group while reducing freedom for the majority. In a state with no laws the rules are imposed by anyone who can force his will on others. It might be someone with a lot of money, or who has military strength, and it will often be far worse than limitations imposed by an actual government.

I’m no great fan of rules, that should be obvious from what I have said in many bog posts in the past, but I don’t think political dogmas which purportedly reduce the official rules are the answer.

Libertarians want to eliminate rules which limit the activities of business but where does this lead? To zero-hour contracts (where employees are guaranteed no work but have to be on notice to work at any time), to the environment we all share being polluted and degraded by the activities of irresponsible businesses, to corporations running private security forces, espionage programs, and worse.

In the end libertarianism doesn’t lead to more freedom – except for a tiny fraction of the population who can take personal advantage of the situation – it leads to a lot less.

On the other hand we all know that socialism taken to the extreme is perhaps even worse where an overbearing government stifles freedom as much or more than the corporate world could.

I do have to say at this point that both of these scenarios are the result of the extreme implementations of these ideologies. I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with the more mild forms of either left or right wong political theories and there are plenty of nations where social democracy and/or laissez faire economics have worked reasonably well. New Zealand would be one example.

So what’s my point? Well first, the phrase “reasonably well” above is one clue. We have done OK but things could be so much better. My second point is that gaining a certain level of success through a moderate form of a policy doesn’t mean that a more extreme form will make things better.

So, pick your poison. Choose whatever political course you think might help but be aware that taking any course to an extreme, and applying it in every situation without any real thought, will probably not achieve what you expect. I just wish our politicians would forget about their built-in biases and make decisions based on the facts of each individual situation as it arises but unfortunately there’s very little sign of that happening.

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