Defenders of liberty are often challenged to supply exhaustive descriptions of what would happen if some aspect of our increasingly government-dictated lives were returned to people’s free choices. What would happen if government didn’t educate our children? What would happen if Social Security didn’t force people to “save” for retirement or Medicare and Medicaid didn’t provide health care? What would happen if the Fed didn’t control the money supply and the FDIC didn’t insure bank deposits? What would happen if the FDA didn’t ensure that food was safe and the EPA didn’t protect us from pollution? What would happen if the SEC didn’t rein in Wall Street and the FTC and antitrust laws didn’t protect us from monopolies and collusion? These questions, and many more like them, make up an almost unending list.
The initial promises made with such conviction for new government “solutions” have been unrealized pipedreams .. there are no such “success stories” that demonstrate miraculous improvement from the intrusion of government that can match the historical successes of the market ..
One of my professors once said that “I have been an economist long enough to realize ‘I don’t know’ is an intellectually respectable answer.” In fact, when predicting the future, that is virtually always an important part of the answer. But when people are free, the results of their voluntary arrangements will be as good as they can discover, even if they are unknown in advance. In contrast, public policies based on what Friedrich Hayek called the “pretense of knowledge,” backed by coercion, are neither intellectually respectable nor a guarantee of improvement, however frequently or adamantly such promises are made. In fact, if the burden of proving its effectiveness was put on government, rather than liberty, vanishingly little of government would survive, and the shackles binding the miracles that are possible would be loosed.