The argument for a free society …

There are many people on the planet trying hard to improve things; the question is often, for whom?

Recently, a very wealthy, and thus, very loud voice arose “to fight to restore a free society.”  I really worked hard to relax, open my mind and read through the prose.  I was actually impressed at the writing; concise, pointed, very motivating.  In a nutshell, my takeaway was that “the fundamental concepts of dignity, respect, equality before the law and personal freedom” — the principles of a free society — enable people to succeed, to improve their lot in life.  The author cites well respected people (e.g., Thomas Jefferson), and that his company provides employment for so many Americans (directly and indirectly).  As far as I can tell, this is all true.

Well, taken on its own, and IMHO, this is well-intentioned argument for more laissez-faire approaches, minimizing government intervention (interruption?) to encourage people to make their own lives as good as they can be.  But I went to college and studied such things as the Tragedy of the Commons to see that there is a need for some centralized/common authority to maintain shared resources (think an operating system in a computer, managing resources shared among programs and users).  And yes, laissez-faire implies some property protection, but I suspect this would still be too much.

Furthermore, we often do not see the impacts of our good intentions.  The author’s company involves energy, and very important and very profitable industry.  However, there are consequences to the environment that are often minimized, even in the face of overwhelming information.  Sure, the author cites the many awards that his company has earned, and I do sincerely hope these awards continue and that his company improves.  But not all companies do, and many ignore or actively argue against the existing science of climate change at the peril of the entire population.  I do not have the time or resources to find all the evidence, perhaps the author can take some of the money used for lobbying and political action for appropriate due diligence.

So, I also hope for all people to succeed, and get a fair chance.  I am just not persuaded by this particular argument that government is always the cause, and free enterprise is the answer (e.g., don’t get me started on the big bailouts!).  Actually, I just saw an interesting piece about a minimum income supported by both left and right — go figure!