Declaration of Independents

George Will Review: "America is moving in the libertarians' direction"

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Writing in his nationally syndicated column, the Washington Post's George Will recommends The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong with America as suitable beach reading for a debt-ceiling summer. Excerpt:

Autodidacts […] should spill sand on the pages of "The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong With America" by Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch. These incurably upbeat journalists with Reason magazine believe that not even government, try as it will, can prevent onrushing social improvement.

"Confirmation bias" is the propensity to believe news that confirms our beliefs. Gillespie and Welch say "existence bias" disposes us to believe that things that exist always will. The authors say that the most ossified, sclerotic sectors of American life — politics and government — are about to be blown up by new capabilities, especially the Internet, and the public's wholesome impatience that is encouraged by them.

"Think of any customer experience that has made you wince or kick the cat. What jumps to mind? Waiting in multiple lines at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Observing the bureaucratic sloth and lowest-common-denominator performance of public schools, especially in big cities. Getting ritually humiliated going through airport security. Trying desperately to understand your doctor bills. Navigating the permitting process at your local city hall. Wasting a day at home while the gas man fails to show up. Whatever you come up with, chances are good that the culprit is either a direct government monopoly (as in the providers of K-12 education) or a heavily regulated industry or utility where the government is the largest player (as in health care)."

Since 1970, per pupil real, inflation-adjusted spending has doubled and the teacher-pupil ratio has declined substantially. But math and reading scores are essentially unchanged, so we are spending much more to achieve the same results. America has the shortest school year in the industrial world, an academic calendar — speaking of nostalgia — suited to an America when children were needed on the farms and ranches in the late spring and early autumn. "No other industry," Gillespie and Welch write, "still adheres to a calendar based on 19th-century agricultural cycles — even agriculture has given up that schedule." […]

A generation that has grown up with the Internet "has essentially been raised libertarian," swimming in markets, which are choices among competing alternatives. […]

"Declaration of Independents" is suitable reading for this summer of debt-ceiling debate, which has been a proxy for a bigger debate, which is about nothing less than this: What should be the nature of the American regime? America is moving in the libertarians' direction not because they have won an argument but because government and the sectors it dominates have made themselves ludicrous. This has, however, opened minds to the libertarians' argument.

The essence of which is the commonsensical principle that before government interferes with the freedom of the individual, and of individuals making consensual transactions in markets, it ought to have a defensible reason for doing so. It usually does not.

Read the whole thing here.