Leverage Points for Social Change
Those who espouse a libertarian philosophy of social organization appear to be faced with an insurmountable task when it comes to implementing a society consistent with their values. The number of people in the United States who can be considered libertarians may be approximated in terms of, say, a few thousand serious students and academicians, ten to 20 thousand current subscribers to more-or-less libertarian publications, and perhaps 100,000 people who have had enough contact with libertarian ideas to have gotten their names on a mailing list somewhere. Whichever of these figures is most meaningful, it is clear that persons of the libertarian persuasion constitute, at best, on the order of 0.05% of the population or roughly one in 2000.
Given such numerical weakness, the chances of convincing a majority of the people to vote to end all forms of coercion seem vanishingly small, at least in the foreseeable future. This prognosis, of course, assumes that the major problems with which libertarians must deal are political and governmental. It can be argued that there are more fundamental problems of a psychological and epistemological nature, i.e., that most people do not know how to function as rationally self-sufficient persons and therefore create or sanction coercive institutions, rights violations, etc. This may well be the case, but it does not follow that only when everyone's psychoepistemology is straightened out can we have a laissez-faire society. (To my knowledge, no one has shown this to be the case.) I would argue, rather, that the existing coercive political and governmental structure, with its control over lives, is itself the primary problem which must be dealt with and that, if coercive restraints began to be removed, the superiority of laissez-faire would become increasingly obvious. If this is the case, then the primary task is to begin making the right kinds of changes in our institutions, leaving the changes in values and attitudes in follow as a result.
Despite the fact that libertarians are a tiny minority, are there any indications that such a group could effect fundamental political changes? Answering this question requires an understanding of how our political system works in fact (as opposed to in theory). In theory, the role of government in America is determined by our elected representatives, who express the view of the majority in deciding upon governmental programs and policies. To effect substantial changes in the role of the State, therefore, requires that one convince a majority of the people of the validity of a certain viewpoint and then see to it that they elect candidates who support that view.
But what actually takes place in our political system? Can anyone really believe that a groundswell of popular opinion led to the government's ill-fated decision to finance the SST? Or what about its decision not to back the SST? Is the "public" now clamoring for farm subsidies, import quotas, or government-supplied medical care (or are they just bitching about high costs)? Did the mass of the populace push Kennedy and Johnson into the Viet Nam War? In every case, I answer No. Despite the democratic rhetoric and window dressing, our political system is very basically elitist in nature. Virtually all of the basic discussion of problems, framing of alternatives, and choices of policy are accomplished not by the general public, nor even by Congress, but by small groups of people with specialized knowledge.
By the time an "issue" (volunteer military, government insurance, import quotas) reaches public awareness, most of the real battle has already been fought. The problem has been defined, often in a way which precludes any sort of nongovernmental solution, and a limited set of alternatives has been drafted. By the time the "representative" body gets around to the subject, all that's left to haggle over is the details of implementation, rather than the substance of the issue. In short, the really crucial questions—those which determine the role of the State in our lives—are decided by specialists, about whom the electorate has little knowledge and over whom they have no control.
Who are these people who pose the questions and frame the alternatives? One group consists of the people who get appointed to presidential task forces and commissions, such as those in recent years dealing with crime, civil disorders, violence, volunteer military, and pornography. Although these people are usually prominent members of the Establishment, it is not impossible for serious libertarians to get appointed (e.g., Milton Friedman and Alan Greenspan on the volunteer military commission). Although the commission members get the bulk of the publicity, it is often the hired staff members who do much of the research and analysis on which the members base their conclusions. These staff members are generally younger people, who are apt to be more idealistic and more open to new ideas than the commission members themselves.
Although presidential commissions get most of the publicity, they are only a minority of the total number of such groups in Washington. Including Congressional advisory groups and interagency committees, there are about 1,500 such bodies at present, of which only 60 are presidential . Among the more important commissions currently at work are the President's Commission on School Finance, the Commission on Financial Regulation, and the National Commission on Population Growth and the American Future. The conclusions reached by these commissions could have important consequences on such matters as the future of education vouchers and/or tax credits, the current quagmire of controls and privileges in banking and finance, and the government's restraints on sexual/marital customs—all issues of far-reaching significance as far as the role of the State is concerned.
The short-term impact of such commission reports can be debated; the volunteer military commission's recommendations were favorably received and are (slowly) being implemented, whereas the pornography commission's findings are being (officially) ignored. Still, the publicity and prestige of such reports transforms them into an integral part of the political/intellectual scene and guarantees wide dissemination of their conclusions.
A second group with significant leverage consists of the members of Congressional staffs. These are the people who read the mail and answer the letters, do the research, prepare the position papers, and draft the speeches for the Senator or Representative who is out making speeches or improving international relations on the Riviera. Again, many of the staffers are young, dedicated people, more amenable to rational ideas and fresh thinking than the politician himself might be. One of the salient features of life as a Congressional staffer is overwork. With the complexity of today's socioeconomic-technical issues (ecology, ABM, SST, etc.) and the vast amount of information produced on every subject, the staffs routinely suffer from information overload. Yet, somehow, they must filter out pertinent parts of this information and prepare definitive position papers. Lobbyists for every major "interest" have long been aware of the staffers' dilemma and are only too happy to save the day by giving them carefully-prepared papers supporting the "right" conclusions. Not all staffers fall for this, but many are themselves only too happy to be saved from the trouble of researching some complex subject. Thus do lobbyists utilize the principle of leverage in supporting their particular causes.
The third group of specialists is less well-known and probably more effective than presidential commissions and Congressional staffs. This group consists of companies and institutes doing research and systems analysis into government functions and operations—in short, the "think tanks" like RAND Corporation, GE TEMPO, Arthur D. Little, etc. Think tanks may be profit-making corporations, nonprofit corporations, or subsidiaries of universities. Whatever their structure, they derive the bulk of their income in the same way: by carrying out research projects under contract, primarily from governments. Many of the think tanks got their start doing exclusively military operations research; today nearly all have greatly expanded the scope of their interests and expertise, employing economists, political scientists, behavioral scientists, etc., as well as engineers, systems analysts, physicists, etc.
Think tanks are being called upon to examine virtually every area of the economy and of government functions, in order to analyze the nature of the status quo and recommend desirable improvements. For example, in the field of aviation, the Department of Transportation and NASA last year let contracts to a number of think tanks for a far-reaching study of the government's involvement in air transportation. Booz, Allen and Hamilton (a consulting firm) studied the historical benefits derived from air transportation, the Office of Policy Studies of George Washington University studied the social impacts of transportation system patterns, Planning Research Corporation evaluated the likely technical and economic characteristics of future transportation systems, and Arthur D. Little, Inc., examined who should finance and manage various aspects of the projected systems. Basic to the entire study was the evaluation of the impact—in terms of specific costs and benefits—of the present federal regulatory structure. After 18 months of study, the project's summary report stressed the following recommendations:
Removal of regulatory and anti-trust legal restraints should be considered as a means of permitting transportation to expand into a door-to-door service rather than gate-to-gate…
Marketing experiments should be considered to determine if there are any regions in the U.S. where market characteristics might justify competing carriers to set rates freely and establish routes .
Small, hesitant steps toward laissez-faire? Certainly, but they are positive, forward steps, being proposed at the highest levels and being listened to.
The preceding example illustrates the more conventional type of think tank study. In the last few years, however, think tanks have been delving deeply into the more basic and emotion-laden areas of government function. A recent listing of RAND Corporation studies in urban problems  includes some provocative abstracts of projects such as a thorough study of bureaus and bureaucrats analyzing "the peculiarities, the conflicting and complex motives of real bureaucrats" and classifying them into five categories based on their motivations and behavior patterns; a study of teacher shortages recommending salary schedules with subject-matter pay differentials as opposed to the status/seniority pay scale used in most public schools; a study of 297 urban renewal projects, documenting the fact that the projects sharply reduced the land area devoted to residential use to make room for industry and government buildings; an analysis of hospitalization insurance, recommending a more market-oriented relationship between premiums and benefits ("variable-cost insurance"); a study of a proposed government-owned rapid transit system for Los Angeles, pointing out the exaggerated claims made for it, documenting that the costs would exceed the benefits, and recommending alternatives such as "substitution of 'free-entry' taxi service for the present franchise type"; and a study of alternative methods of dispensing social services, such as the individualized marketplace approach made possible by such devices as education vouchers.
One of the most important RAND studies is a comprehensive analysis of the rental housing market in New York City. One RAND paper (P-4256) demonstrates that "public construction and rehabilitation have no effect on the long-run equilibrium quantity of housing," i.e., that the subsidizing effect of government construction activities causes a short-run increase in the demand for housing but has no net effect on the total long-run supply, due to the behavior of buyers and sellers in response to the program. Another paper (P-4257) describes the effects of rent control, as follows:
…a simple rent control program results in a decrease in the quantity of housing service consumed in the long run. In the short run, rent control hastens the deterioration of rent-controlled housing, and hence, worsens the housing occupied by the tenants of these dwellings. It is further deduced that rent control subsidizes the consumption of non-housing goods by tenants of rent-controlled units at the expense of the owners of these units.
RAND's studies of rent control weren't simply put on the shelf and forgotten. The housing situation in New York City has gotten so bad that even politicians who had championed rent control for years began to realize that perhaps there was something to the free market after all. The RAND report was presented to the Lindsay administration in the fall of 1969 and the rationality of its arguments and its comprehensive factual data convinced Lindsay's people that rent control would have to go if the housing problem were ever to be solved. The solution was developed early in 1970 and adopted by the City Council at a little-known meeting on 26 June 1970 (reportedly at 4 a.m.). Instead of announcing an end to rent control, the government would continue to back it verbally, while quietly increasing the price ceiling by 7½% every year until the controlled price reached the free-market level, at which point rent control would be irrelevant. This solution saves face for the politicians at the same time that it comes to grips with economic reality. What 25 years of conservative and libertarian rhetoric failed to accomplish, RAND Corporation achieved with a one-year study, stressing facts and logic, not ideology.
RAND is not the only think tank entering into politically sensitive areas. General Research Corporation is among the leaders in applying systems analysis methods to the operations of law-enforcement agencies, the court system, and the corrections system. One of its subsidiaries, Public Safety Systems Inc., is developing a systems analysis of the processing of persons through the criminal justice system, which will make it possible, for the first time, to determine how costly (and how ineffective) it really is to process certain types of cases and which may lead to a reexamination of the aims and methods of operation of the various components of the system. Up to now, no one, certainly not the government, has thought quantitatively about such questions as police effectiveness, the costs involved in processing morals and sumptuary law cases ("crimes without victims"), the effectiveness of prisons, etc.
GE's TEMPO Center for Advanced Studies has applied systems and economic analysis to a variety of governmental activities. In one study (68TMP-64) the concept of property rights as a market mechanism for allocating the electromagnetic frequency spectrum was introduced and explored. Another pioneering study (68TMP-21) considered ways in which airports could be run on a free-market basic, utilizing landing fees both as a means of revenue and to reduce congestion by adjusting the price in accordance with hourly demand. RAND has also analyzed this problem and has proposed essentially the same solution, proportional marginal cost pricing of landing rights (RM-5817—PA).
There is an extremely important lesson for libertarians to learn in the above activities. For years libertarians have been reading economists such as Mises, Rothbard, and Hayek and learning how an unhampered market structure can work, how true economic calculation is impossible in the absence of a price system, that the concept of property can be applied successfully to matters commonly thought of as public goods or free goods, etc. Libertarians have claimed that these concepts are rational and that social and economic structures consistent with them are characterized by maximum efficiency in the use of resources. Yet despite all of these claims, many libertarians (especially among those under 30) treat this knowledge as if it were an occult secret, capable of being understood only by a select few; they consider themselves an underground movement, essentially at odds with every part of the Establishment. Yet as the above think tank examples illustrate, since the ideas are rational and the hypothetical libertarian solutions are the most effective, these ideas can be communicated to persons outside the confines of the "movement." (And many such persons are discovering market ideas without benefit of the movement, thanks to the ideas' inherent validity.) The point is simply this: a libertarian who really thinks Mises is right has no need to skulk about in the underground, writing off the Establishment as lost cause.
Additional light can be thrown on this "underground syndrome" by examining the rhetoric used by its spokesmen. Underground libertarians tend to view the world rather naively in terms of a rigid two-valued logic: people are either "statists" or "libertarians," i.e., bad guys or good, them or us. This is a grossly oversimplified picture, even of federal and state governmental bureaucracies. These two terms are useful as concepts, for delineating fundamental, opposite approaches to social problems, but to apply them haphazardly as black-or-white labels to individual people has the effect of erroneously defining away everyone but a small in-group. This may be emotionally satisfying, but it does not correspond to reality, as the experiences of the think tanks demonstrate. Despite libertarian rhetoric about the "predominant irrationality" of our times (which may be true of limited areas such as ethics and education), logical thinking and rationality are very much in vogue in the fields of engineering, systems analysis, and applied (real-world) social sciences. What is not in vogue in these fields is ideology.
An important difference needs to be drawn between the values (or ideology) underlying one's work and the method of presentation and expression chosen. It is quite acceptable (and unavoidable) for a think tank systems analyst to have a value system which motivates his efforts and affects his choice of problems, emphasis, etc. It is not acceptable to present results in an ideological manner. It is unfortunately true that there is as yet, in the intellectual and scientific community, no recognition of the existence of a rational value structure. (It is interesting to note that while some technical people refuse to consider such a possibility, others are beginning to see a definite need for such a value structure.) For the most part, this is a constraint within which one must work, if one is to be listened to. Thus, analyses and conclusions, although they may have been motivated by what one considers to be a rational (i.e., Objectivist, libertarian) value structure, cannot be justified on that basis alone; they must be justifiable on their own merits as most efficient, cost-effective, etc. As pointed out above, if libertarian economic theory is in fact as rational as its proponents claim, there should be few problems doing this, assuming one is willing to work hard enough formulating problems, gathering and analyzing data, etc. The important point is that people will listen to rationally-presented arguments based on demonstrable economic efficiency.
The need for data gathering and analysis mentioned above should be emphasized. Many social programs promoted by government, in addition to being coercive and otherwise anathema to libertarians, could be demonstrated to be harmful to the persons supposedly being helped, if only the appropriate data were gathered and analyzed (much as Martin Anderson did in THE FEDERAL BULLDOZER). Lyndon Johnson's chief adviser for domestic affairs, Joseph A. Califano, admitted that the government in many cases hasn't the foggiest idea what a vast program is actually doing or whom it is reaching. (It took the Johnson administration nearly two years to find out who the seven million people were who were receiving $4 billion a year in welfare payments.) Mr. Califano candidly told the Senate Labor Committee:
The disturbing truth is that the basis of recommendations by the American Cabinet officer on whether to begin, eliminate, or expand vast social programs more nearly resembles the intuitive judgement of a benevolent tribal chief in remote Africa than the elaborate, sophisticated data with which the Secretary of Defense supports a major new weapons system .
Many people in government are not basically malevolent. True, they want to stay in power and often do so at the expense of others. But once a particular program has been convincingly demonstrated to be worthless or counterproductive, it is difficult for men of (supposedly) good will to continue to support it.
We see, therefore, that there are at least three groups in our society with influence vastly out of proportion to their numbers which are called upon to chart the course of the role of government in America: advisory commissions, Congressional staffs, and think tanks. These groups, in a very real sense, may be termed leverage points in the way that Archimedes meant. As such, they offer libertarians a means of vastly increasing their influence in shaping the future of society. Two questions arise at this point. First, can a small group of people sharing a common value system effectively place themselves in such positions of influence and utilize them in concert? Second, what are the most promising organizations for U.S. libertarians to enter?
The first question can be answered affirmatively by reference to several historical examples. The British Fabian Society, which at its height had only 4,000 members, and for most of its history had under a thousand, between 1884 and 1945 accomplished the complete transformation of England from a liberal, quasi-capitalist nation to a complete welfare state. The Fabians made no secret of their very pragmatic approach to action, based nonetheless on a consistent, non-pragmatic ideology. Their basic method was not political, but it utilized the principle of leverage described above. Historian Max Beer described the Fabian intention to operate not as a political group but as "a group of men and women who are endeavoring to spread practical views on the immediate and pressing social problems and to indicate the way for their embodiment in legislation or administrative measures" . In their methods of operation, the Fabians were technocrats, working within the scientific and intellectual community. Shaw's FABIAN ESSAYS
based socialism not on philosophical speculations, but on the self-evident evolution of society. It accepted accredited economic science…it constructed the edifice of socialism on the firm foundations of existing political and social institutions .
Fabian historian Anne Freemantle describes as the greatest Fabian achievement
training the personnel who, through their knowledge of the new disciplines of the social sciences, could achieve the reforms all parties wanted .
The Fabians' primary tactical method was "permeation"—the placement of Fabians in leverage points—on commissions, in the Civil Service, in newspapers, and in universities. Their detailed research reports on conditions in various segments of the English economy won them widespread recognition. Their concrete proposals, as members of official advisory groups and commissions, were not presented as socialist tracts but were written as reasonable, practical proposals for solving specific problems. Despite their low-keyed, soft-sell approach, the Fabians never forgot their ultimate goal—the construction of socialism. Their opponents, whether Liberals or Tories, were almost never so dedicated, consistent, or well-organized. In the end, the Fabian slogan—"the inevitability of gradualness"—proved correct.
A more recent, but analogous, group is Opus Dei in Spain. Founded in 1928, ostensibly as a lay Catholic religious order, Opus Dei is "a cohesive and successful movement whose members have come to occupy, over the last 12 years, more and more key political, economic, and educational positions in Spanish life" . Although avowedly nonpolitical, Opus Dei's leadership has recognized the value of leverage points as being an extra-political way of exerting a great deal of influence on the course of a nation's development. This is especially important in Spain, where the only legal political group is the fascist Falange. Opus Dei, therefore, provides a legal alternative to the Falange, for those with more liberal and libertarian views. As the NEW YORK TIMES noted:
In the mid-fifties Opus Dei members entered the Government where, clustered around Mr. Lopez Rodo, they and their associates became known as—as the technocrats. They successfully opened the country to free enterprise and to foreign investment, trade, and tourism…At the same time Opus Dei members rose to control or influence a large part of the country's banking, insurance, construction, and communications industries .
In October 1969 Generalissimo Franco decreed a Cabinet reshuffle which ousted many Falangists and gave Opus Dei members virtually complete control of the top government positions. Lopez Rodo is now the Minister of Planning. Although Franco is still in control, and the Falange is still very powerful, the long-term effects of the "nonpolitical" takeover may be dramatic.
A third example is found in Brazil today. There is a group of pragmatic technocrats within the military government having a large measure of success in "encouraging private enterprise and eliminating some of the distortions in the economy resulting from years of wild inflation and haphazard government intervention" . Under the leadership first of Minister of Planning Roberto Campos and now under Finance Minister Antonio Delfim, a "crawling peg" system of flexible exchange rates has been introduced, the federal budget has been nearly balanced, coffee subsidies nearly eliminated, taxes simplified, and public works deficits pared. Inflation has been reduced from an annual rate of 144% in the early 60s to 19% last year, the economy's real growth has averaged 9% for the last two years, and many Brazilians are now investing in Brazil rather than Switzerland for the first time in a decade.
None of this in any way justifies the repressive policies of the Brazilian generals toward dissent. It merely illustrates that a group of dedicated individuals can accomplish much good even under an appalling political system. A government, like a society, is made up of individuals. The technocrats' position in the Brazilian government is much like that of the Opus Dei members in Spain (or of Liberman in the U.S.S.R. or Ota Sik in Czechoslovakia): there is no way they can directly change many of the regime's repressive political policies, but by making non-ideological arguments for the efficiency and effectiveness of steps toward laissez-faire they can accomplish economic changes whose long-run effects will have major significance.
All the above examples illustrate the successful use of the leverage point concept. In each case, the textbook political process has been bypassed by an elitist approach to the political system's points of maximum leverage. In each case, a numerically small group has had a major influence on a country's institutions. Acknowledging that such an effect is possible does not say anything about how it can be done. It is necessary, therefore, to define the existing American leverage points in more detail and to suggest some approaches for libertarians to take in permeating various institutions.
There are several major paths that libertarians can take, in some cases simultaneously. In terms of careers, libertarians should seriously consider working for think tanks (see p. 15). These organizations employ engineers, physical scientists, mathematicians, psychologists, political scientists, sociologists, etc. A good academic background is an asset, but the primary attributes desired are the ability to think—logically, clearly, and creatively—and to express oneself capably in writing. Think tanks tend to pay better than either industry or academia and offer better working conditions (private offices, extensive libraries, large support staffs, etc.). They tend to treat staff members as professional individuals, rather than as employees, and are tolerant of unusual hours, dress, office decor, ideas, etc. so long as one does competent work.
A second avenue of influence is to produce research material and studies for use in influencing Congressional committees and staff. To a considerable extent, material produced in think tanks could be used in this manner, if a concerted effort were made to get it to the right people (e.g., to the staff members of Congressmen on key committees, etc.). In addition there may well be a role for an independent libertarian-oriented research organization, probably set up as a nonprofit foundation, to make grants and support economists, social scientists, etc. in gathering and analyzing the vital data needed to make clear what situations really exist in critical areas of society and what the unintended and counterintuitive effects of various social policies may be. It would then be up to individuals or libertarian political groups to make such studies available to Congressional staffs, professional journals, etc. The Fabian Society performed both roles, doing research and disseminating and publicizing the results at key political leverage points. With today's tax laws it might be more advisable, as suggested above, to keep the two functions separate; this would also help insulate the research from charges of bias and special pleading.
A third avenue of influence can be entered by joining organizations which are likely to influence advisory commissions, either by providing members and staffs with data or by generating ideas and information for them to use. Such organizations fall into several categories. First there are professional societies, such as the Association for Computing Machinery, the American Chemical Society, the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, the Society of Automotive Engineers, etc. Increasingly these societies are becoming involved in socio-technical issues in which the role of government is often central. A relative handful of people in each society is generally given the task of exploring policy alternatives and suggesting to the society's governing body (or, rarely, to the entire membership) what position to take on various issues. It is not exceedingly difficult to get involved in such work (few people volunteer for such activities and society officials are eager for people, especially younger people, to "get involved"). How much can be accomplished varies with the circumstances, but it is certainly worth a try.
A particularly important professional society is the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1515 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20005) which is open to professionals in virtually every field, including all the physical, biological, and social sciences, economics, education, and medicine. AAAS leaders are continually being sought out to serve in advisory capacities at all levels of the federal government, and AAAS study groups are formed for the same purpose. Another significant group is the World Future Society (PO Box 19285, 20th Street Station, Washington, D.C. 20036), a professional society whose membership is drawn primarily from think tanks but which is open to anyone interested in discussing and exploring the shape of the future [see "Publisher's Notes," in this issue—Editor]. The WFS has been in existence only since 1966, but it has already attracted a distinguished group of members, supporters, and advisers. As books like Alvin Toffler's FUTURE SHOCK (New York: Random House, 1970) come to be more widely acknowledged, the role of futurism is likely to become increasingly significant in the years ahead. Libertarians should be in the forefront of such organizations, aggressively (but dispassionately) presenting economic and socio-political analyses in whatever pragmatic manner is acceptable, while working in the background to develop the basis for acceptance of a rational value system. (It is futurists, in particular, who see the need for a rational system of values.)
In short, the intelligent search for and use of points of leverage in the political system—as demonstrated in other countries and particularly by the British Fabians—offers libertarians a significant chance for increasing their effectiveness in promoting desirable political and governmental change. Far from going underground, libertarians should become experts as permeators, developing their particular professional competence and applying it at points of maximum leverage. Given a sufficient place to stand, perhaps we shall move the earth.
The objection may be raised that the analogy between libertarians and the Fabians is misleading. The Fabians were attempting to pass laws and establish government programs, while libertarians are trying to repeal laws and abolish government programs. The nature of one's ends invariably affects the means one can consistently use. Accordingly, although the Fabians could work within a coercive system to promote additional coercion, libertarians should not work within a coercive system even though their goal is to end coercion—or so some critics may say.
I consider this to be a simplistic argument. To get from where we are now to a laissez-faire society is not going to happen by magic. To get from "now" to "then," there are only three fundamental paths: 1) violent overthrow of the government, followed by the construction from scratch of a free society; 2) nonviolent noncooperation and withdrawal of support, leading to collapse of the government, followed by construction from scratch of a free society; or 3) evolutionary change from our present government to a progressively more limited government, culminating in full laissez-faire.
The first path is clearly unacceptable by any sort of criterion of justice toward innocent bystanders (who typically bear the brunt of revolutionary violence). Furthermore, the chances of libertarians being listened to in the chaos following revolution are slim. The second alternative is nearly as bad as the first, in terms of both harming innocent people and providing little likelihood of libertarian ideas holding sway "after." That leaves only the third alternative—working for evolutionary change within the present context.
How, though, do we get from now to then, working within the system, when now consists of a fantastically complex array of interlocking controls, programs, pressure groups, vested interests, etc.? Clearly, only the most careful planning will suffice. Planning methodologies have been and are being developed in universities and think tanks for dealing with complex, many-variable situations characterized by uncertainty. Some of these methods are being applied in government (not necessarily by libertarians) to analyze problems and evaluate alternatives. Some are being applied to the workings of government itself, such as the attempt via "Planning-Programming-Budgeting-Systems" (PBBS) to make some sense, functionally, out of government budgets and to correct instances of government programs working at cross-purposes.
All of these are only minor steps, but they illustrate that in an economy so riddled with controls as ours, it is possible to play many of the usual political games by removing rather than adding controls. Careful, politically-sensitive strategic planning could help define a way of approaching laissez-faire over a period of years by such methods. This is truly a challenging task for those who would permeate in the manner of the (successful) Fabians.
One of the places such planning is being applied is the federal government's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under the direction of Chicago-school economist George Shultz. Shultz is less of a libertarian than Milton Friedman (which may be how he was selected and how he can take the job), but a number of recent OMB actions illustrate some of the ways libertarians in government could use to make substantive changes in the direction of laissez-faire, while ostensibly playing the usual political games:
When Nixon wanted to put pressure on the steel industry to roll back their recent price increase, Shultz suggested that instead of imposing new controls, the Administration should remove an existing control—namely reducing the government's barriers to steel imports. The plan was adopted.
When Nixon wanted to hold down construction costs, instead of slapping on new controls, Shultz proposed suspending the Davis-Bacon Act instead. This law requires that union wage scales be paid on all federal construction projects, regardless of whether the men are unionized. This solution was adopted, but it has since been rescinded due to heavy union pressure.
To help control oil price increases, the Administration has threatened to repeal the Connally "Hot Oil" Act which permits oil companies to collaborate with state regulators to fix prices and limit production.
NOTES AND REFERENCES
1) "Advisory Groups Flourishing Under Nixon Administration," Associated Press, 7 July 1970.
2) "Aviation Policy Report Submitted," AVIATION WEEK, 26 October 1970, p. 16.
3) "A Selected Bibliography of RAND Publications' Urban Problems," The RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, California, December 1970.
4) Quoted in "The Computer and the Job Undone" by Abe Gottlieb, COMPUTERS AND AUTOMATION, November 1970, p. 19.
5) Freemantle, Anne, THIS LITTLE BAND OF PROPHETS: THE BRITISH FABIANS (New York: New American Library, 1960), p. 35.
6) Ibid, p. 83.
7) Ibid, p. 125.
8) "Rise in Opus Dei's Power Stirs Spanish Controversy," NEW YORK TIMES, 27 November 1969.
10) "Booming Brazil Finds a Key to Growth," BUSINESS WEEK, 13 March 1971, p. 91.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Leverage Points for Social Change".