If this is progress, I’ll pass

Aretae (thanks for the pointer) links to this post, with which I must disagree. The post is essentially mainstream libertarianism patting itself on the back for converting liberals to free markets. Consider me unpersuaded.

I’d say what we’ve seen since the ’70s is an acknowledgment from virtually everyone that continual government ownership of entire industries is a bad thing. However, it does not follow (as the article suggests) that everyone has turned against all forms of government ownership of industries.

The new consensus, even among the mainstream libertarian types, seems to be that "temporary" government ownership of industries is "necessary" during periods of "crisis."

In the current economy, government owns car companies because of a crisis in finance that stopped people from buying cars. Government owns banks because of a banking crisis. Government owns health care because of a health care crisis. Etc.

The form of ownership has changed since the ’70s. Governments no longer sit directly on boards and direct day-to-day operations. Now, even in the most free industries, governments write regulations that control the range of corporate action and often direct profits to approved areas (for example, debt payments are ok while dividends are penalized). If things go poorly, taxpayers take the losses – often above a certain catastrophic threshold.

Perhaps I’m just feeling like a contrarian today, but I think the new status quo is worse than the ’70s status quo. There was something much more honest about socialized gains and losses and overt ownership. The new system which allows governments to directly own corporations in periods of "crisis" (often as defined and as created by government) but to control corporations’ ranges of action during all periods and which socializes only losses seems much more dishonest and shady.

Maybe I’m wrong and this is progress, however I don’t see how any honest libertarian can consider it as such. I actually consider this new status quo a major defeat for libertarians. How could they not have prevailed after the despair of the ’70s? Somehow they managed not to.

One Response to If this is progress, I’ll pass

  1. Andrew says:


    Awesome post.

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