The Way You Change Things

Yes, I’ve talked about this before.  And I’ll talk about it again because it’s important.

Adam Smith, in “The Wealth of Nations” said:

“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest. We address ourselves not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities, but of their advantages”

Indeed, each of these people, and many others, serving their own self-interest, doing what is economically profitable for them, in competition with others, and in so doing creating wealth (the sum total of goods and services) raising everyone’s standard of living.  It need be no part of the various manufacturer’s, merchant’s, and tradesmen’s intent that I have a nice house that would have been the envy of my parents, let alone my grandparents, a car (two, in fact) that carries me in more comfort and convenience than what my reasonably well off parents had when I was a child, and the time and resources to spend on ice skating and dance lessons for my daughter, skating lessons for me, and even the occasional trip. It’s nice if they do have that intent, but it’s hardly necessary.  That providing those things at prices more and more people can afford is simply profitable to them is all the incentive they need to do so.

The same principle applies in politics.  The late Milton Friedman expressed it well:

I do not believe that the solution to our problem is simply to elect the right people. The important thing is to establish a political climate of opinion which will make it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing. Unless it is politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing, the right people will not do the right thing either, or it they try, they will shortly be out of office.

Politicians, after all, are in business.  They are in the business of “buying” your vote.  They’re in competition with each other to get elected.  The same politician will support and vote for a completely different thing if he or she thinks it is politically profitable to do so.

The politicians in office and the candidates in the major parties are not the problem.  They are a symptom of the problem.  The problem is the political climate of opinion that makes what those candidates espouse politically profitable for them.  It’s that climate of opinion we need to change.

This means we need to get out there and convince individuals that individual Liberty is something to be desired.  That the risks and dangers might be scary, but the rewards are well worth it.  As John Paul Jones said (his less famous quote): “He who will not risk, cannot win.” We need to help more people to understand basic economics and I cannot recommend Sowell’s book by that very title enough so that policies with short term “benefits” yet disastrous longer term effects that are politically profitable now can become less so.

We need, in the words of Samuel Adams: “an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.”

So hide not your light under a basket, but raise it high, to shine on all who can see.

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