Among the 330 million people living today in the United States there are a sizable number who fancy themselves to be “Progressives.” They tend to view a statist oriented government, where all decisions of any importance are made by technocrats and Nobel laureates, as being the best possible way for a society to function.
These people tend to describe free-market capitalism with disdain, viewing it as inefficient, and insufficiently willing to sacrifice for the collective good. They hold that they, and they alone, can describe and define exactly what the collective good is. Democracy is “sloppy” and their ideal command-and-control economy is, in their opinion, something that is a much more rational to allocate scarce resources among competing interest groups. They believe that ordinary citizens should be submissive to the decisions of their intellectual superiors, a relatively polite way of saying “You’re stupid, we’re smart, do what we tell you with no back talk.”
With that attitude it’s hard to imagine how anyone could possibly disagree with them, right?
Unfortunately too many of those who are conservatives, libertarians, members of the Tea Parties, Republicans and independents know that this view is wrong, but are at a serious disadvantage in debating the matter. They have no simple, easy to understand illustration of why free-markets are better for most people than the quasi-Socialist command-and-control system that Progressives, such as Barack Obama, want to foist on us.
The anti-Progressive argument is relatively simple. All governments should, even if they actually don’t, follow the Hippocratic Oath taken by all doctors, with special emphasis on the first command of the oath: “First, do no harm.” Even those who are roaring drunk on Progressive kool-aid would have to agree with that.
Now take the situation in a free-market where 330 million people can either choose individually to buy, say a Chevy Volt, or not. Progressives will tell you that allowing people to choose NOT to buy a Volt deprives General Motors of economies of scale that would make the Volt more affordable, and therefore more attractive to potential buyers. And they’re right in the narrow sense of Volts continuing to be unaffordable because so few are sold.
But under a free-market, the 200 or 300 people who buy Volt autos every month have made a decision that they are content with, while the balance of the 330 million people in the country are content with their decision NOT to buy a Volt. So everyone is content. No harm. No foul.
Can people make mistakes in their individual decisions? Of course they can. Every single decision made by every single person on the planet is subject to the “Oops Moment”, that moment when they realize the decision they just made was an error.
In the example of buying a Volt, perhaps 20 or 30 people who buy them suffer that “Oops Moment.” Can they change their decision? Not really. They could sell the Volt, or trade it is for a Hummer, but it would cost them a substantial loss in value. It would also cost them a great deal in terms of their self-esteem. Admitting a mistake is a serious penalty that results from an “Oops Moment.”
But only they, themselves, would suffer from a decision they regret.
Unfortunately, Progressive-statists believe that they should be making all the decisions for everyone, simply because they are the smartest people in the room. They honestly believe that they know better than we do what is good for us. They have deluded themselves into thinking that they have “evolved” as humans and are incapable of selfishness or stupidity. (I wrote a piece for Pajamas Media last year illustrating that the behaviors that we see today haven’t really changed since 600 B.C. Aesop’s fables clearly show that humans haven’t really “evolved.”)
But having convinced themselves that they are not only smarter then the rest of us, but morally superior as well, the cost in self-esteem in recognizing an “Oops Moment” is crushing. They cannot admit to an error, so they could never bring themselves to admit that the Volt is a really, really dumb idea.
This same unwillingness to recognize “Oops Moments” forces Progressive-statists to push forward with failed ideas even in the face of overwhelming evidence that the idea is not only a failure, but is actually harmful to the majority of citizens. Witness Barack Obama lecturing the Big Three auto companies to produce more cars like the Volt, which has shown itself to be pure poison in terms of market penetration.
This same sort of aversion to ego bruising has forced Obama and his band of “evolved” assistants to announce a new plan to aid homeowners that sounds suspiciously like the infamous Community Reinvestment Act that lead to the housing bubble and the national economic train-wreck that we are suffering. So much for that “First, do no harm” rule.
The President made much ado about doctors failing to treat the onset of diabetes, much preferring to amputate a foot, since that was so much more profitable. Obviously the President, and most of the self-proclaimed Progressives that surround him are taken with the idea that government will make much better decisions in similar cases. Instead of removing the minimum amount necessary, in the interests of “efficiency”, such “really, really, smart people” might mandate a full leg amputation – for anything, including ingrown toenails. After all, it would make surgery so much more efficient. Make better use of limited medical resources and reduce the cost of treating that ingrown toenail.
Once again, the statist model of “one-size-fits-all” can be shown to be idiotic, and should be.
Of course, non-Progressives should be warned that when a Progressive’s assumptions are assailed, they tend to come unglued. Before attempting to have such a conversation with a Progressive, you might want to ask if they have had a tetanus shot recently, just in case they start frothing at the mouth or make an attempt to bite you. Just as a precaution you understand. On the other hand, perhaps you’ll get lucky and meet one who actually has “evolved”.