Big Government

The Continued Appeal of Statism

Ideas, good and bad, have consequences.


Learning from other people's successes and failures can take time. Consider the examples of Argentina and Venezuela. The voters in both countries have recently rejected statist economic policies by voting for a market-friendly presidential candidate (in Argentina) and non-socialist parliamentary majority (in Venezuela). The electoral outcomes in the two Latin American countries were not completely unexpected, considering that Argentina and Venezuela have both suffered serious economic reversals in recent years. 

The continued appeal of statism is undeniable. It keeps on reappearingin different forms, but with similarly disastrous consequences.

Remarkably, the latest bouts of Peronism in Argentina (2001-2015) and socialist policies in Venezuela (1999-2015) came after the success of the Chilean economic model of development became apparent. Beginning in the 1970s, Chile has introduced many market-friendly policies, becoming the economically freest country in Latin America. As a consequence, its per capita income grew. Consider that in 1960, Chilean per capita income was 66 percent that of Argentina and 42 percent that of Venezuela. In 2014, the Chileans were 24 percent richer than the Argentines and 63 percent richer than the Venezuelans. 

Put differently, the Argentine and Venezuelan voters have been, at least for some time, impervious to the obvious example of good economic policy resulting in good economic outcomes in their own region.

A similar story can be told of Botswana, and South Africa and Zimbabwe. For decades, Botswana had been economically freer than other African countries and became relatively wealthy as a consequence. Yet voters in the neighboring South Africa have been growing increasingly supportive of far-left politicians, while in Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe's catastrophic rule continues to enjoy considerable minority support if not an outright democratic legitimacy.

For decades, free market policies have been vilified and statist policies promoted by parts of the media and intelligentsia, and many politicians, in Argentina, Venezuela, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Ideas have consequences. One of the most consequential outcomes of the anti-free market propaganda seems to be the willingness of some people to ignore reality, at least for a time.

NEXT: Take a Bite Out of Crime

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  2. The appeal of statism does not exist in a vacuum; it exists in the context of having coercive governments. People who would otherwise get on with their lives and leave other people alone, no matter how much that might grumble about teh gays or teh hipsters, don’t have any choice when a coercive state exists; either get pushed around by the state, or use the state to push others around. There is no opt-out. The only choice is to turn the other cheek and get pushed around even more, or push back, in which case someone else gets pushed around by the state. All the statism we push on to others is collateral damage in trying to push the state off our backs.

    1. Here is a looter trap published in 1892: “Then why do you say that you have not legislated personal virtue in
      America?” he asked. “You have laws, I believe, against theft and murder, and slander and incest, and perjury and drunkenness?”
      This equivocation of rights-preserving and rights-violating by prohibitionist William Dean Howells in “A Traveller from Altruria” is to this day the mainstay of how anti-logical superstition justifies robbery and murder–so long as you let it happen.

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  3. It is better to be equally poor with no one to envy than to be unequally rich.

  4. To economic illiterates, socialism means having more of a fixed pie transferred to you from the rich. Those people will vote socialist no matter what, for all time. They’re just too stupid to connect the dots when they’re standing in line for toilet paper, and their hospitals are all out of antibiotics.

    1. Looters actually admit that socialism is government ownership of the means of production coupled with government control over trade and production. The fixed pie is an ancillary Revelation of their faith in violence, not production and trade. Making these definitions clear even to morons requires also tackling the problems of superstition and altruism. Evading these things is the same as throwing in the towel.

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  6. Government was given a clear definition in 1914. Its purpose was stated in 1776 and its methodology, as worked out in 1947, resulted in the nonagression principle formulated by Ayn. But to this day I see libertarians blindsided by looters operating on the fallacy of equivocation–and not insisting on clear definitions. When a looter asks me about some grinning face on teevee, I turn the conversation to the meaning of rights and function of government. Once they see they have to face up to their policies requiring that people be gunned down by police, it shifts the paradigm completely. We and the looters both want murderers dissuaded by the prospect of being shot by police–no altruism needed. But they ALSO want the violence of law extended so as to violate rights and coerce peaceful individuals. Integrity gains us converts and puts the totalitarians at an ethical disadvantage. Replacing Mutual Assured Destruction with antimissile defenses collapsed the communist empire, and those were high stakes. Integrity works; integrity wins.

  7. No, comrades, liberty is too scary, too risky. We must have a strong leader in *control* of things so that nothing bad can happen! [/sarc]

    1. Or actually, they’re more likely to say that they need a strong leader in control SO THAT the people can be free. Up is down, black is white, freedom is slavery. Somehow.

  8. There is no doubt a bit of healthy ignorance about all of this. For example if you never lived outside of California you’d never really have an understanding of much cheaper it is to live elsewhere and how much further your money goes. So it never occurs to you to think in terms of what you could do with that money. But you do resent everyone else having it. In Argentina and Venezuela, two profoundly broken countries, when you spend all day scrounging toilet paper it never occurs to you what your society could look like otherwise. When Khrushchev visited the US he went to an average sized supermarket. He quipped, I hope they don’t show this at home there will be riots!

  9. Socialists have always been around and always will be. But we used to have a nice layer of people who actually had to produce and to work and to labor to hold the effects mostly in check (that is enough people who actually knew how equity was made and to whom a truly fair share belonged). Now we have more parasites than producers, and so the pH balance has been upset in the wrong direction. The parasites will gorge until the host is dead. Any notion that there were any electable people within the Republicans to halt or reverse the imbalance is long gone. Unfortunately, the end game is going to be the transformation of our medium grade corpora-fascism into a much harder form (the kind where we move from just cramming concrete and metal cages full of people to the kind where masses of people end up dead). I don’t think I’m a whole bunch of brilliant, but since about 2002 everything I’ve predicted has come to pass (history and doomed to repeat it, and all that jazz).We will have deaths on a pogromatic scale within two decades, and since things have actually gone a little faster than I had predicted, I think it will occur within the next 11-13 years.

    Any further questions why our Masters want guns “controlled”.

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