When the Ontario government delivered its budget it plans deficits for the foreseeable future (at least eight years) and thus offers not even a glimmer of hope. Eight years is two full election cycles and is about the same length as the average economic cycle. We will likely have another recession by the time Ontario proposes to balance its budget, and then the government will say they need to run deficits again to “stimulate” whatever parts of the economy they have left standing. What exactly is wrong with our governments?
The problem is one of philosophy, two branches of which are politics and economics. Philosophy asks the biggest questions about topics like the nature of existence and what is right for man’s life. Politics narrows this down to ask “what is the right way to govern a society?” Economics asks “what is the right way to exchange values between people?” The massive problems we face in these areas are because all our politicians have the wrong answers to these questions and thus demonstrate an improper philosophy.
I have only heard a few elected politicians who do not espouse the fatally conceited view that things can be made better in society if only government can force “correct” political and economic views on enough citizens. They don’t recognize their ideology as such, but their words and actions prove it is so. These power-hungry people honestly believe they know better than you do how you should run your life and so proceed to invent hundreds of thousands of rules to control your behavior. The idea that people left to make their own decisions are capable of cooperation to achieve their goals in life is inconceivable to them. They see the complex interactions of millions of free people as chaotic and lacking structure, so they proceed to force their own vision of structure on the people. Thus we have extreme examples such as near-monopolies in much of the health care and education sectors that eliminate many of the rights of patients, doctors, students and teachers alike. Even a very traditional business such as dairy farming is cornered by myriad rules and regulations.
Running a country and an economy from the top down requires omniscience. How can a politician know how to instruct a bureaucrat to direct a manufacturer to make a certain number of a particular type of widgets or to make them more efficiently or change their features? And when the number of widgets change and the population adapts their preferences slightly, how does the central planner know how to change the production of all other goods and services? Since there is no way to do this, all centrally planned economies fail and their countries go bankrupt to the degree they engage in such ridiculous schemes. The largest examples of central planning failures are Russia and China, with North Korea being the prime example these days. Starvation, deprivation, degradation and misery are the norm, except of course for those few at the top who plunder the country and its people.
What is the right way to govern a society and exchange values among people? Man’s mind it his means of survival and to properly use it he must be free to think, free to act and free to keep the product of his actions. Therefore, in a free country the rights and freedoms of each individual are protected by objective laws enforced by government. No one sacrifices his interests to others and neither does he ask others to sacrifice their interests for his sake. Agreements such as employment, exchange of goods and services and all other sorts are all formed only through voluntary cooperation. All wealth is obtained, retained and exchanged through freely chosen agreements. This system of government based on the primacy of individual rights is known as capitalism.
Examples of the failures of central planning abound in our lives. The Ontario government feeds growing legions of more dissatisfied and disabled civil servants high wages on the back of the part of the economy that remains free. Central plan after central plan to “save health care” (as if more government is the answer) swallows up ever-growing dollars yet the state-run industry remains in a condition of constant pain and strain; this with the baby boom not yet exerting more than a minor push on demand. Centers of excellence exist despite government interference and not because of it. The City of Ottawa is pathologically incapable of deciding if a fiberglass cow should be allowed on the roof of a cheese store, never mind running a massive bus transit business. The current federal government purports to be in favor of individual rights and a free economy yet has expanded the maw of government more than anyone else. All of them - elected parties, MP’s, MPP’s and city councilors - are philosophical collectivists who advocate passionately to preserve and grow their right to control your life.
There is no elected party whose platform is based on the philosophy of individual rights and consequent freedoms. All of them are socialists because they believe in and act upon the principle of state control of the means of production and the removal of individual rights needed to implement such a regime. It is very difficult to change such an entrenched philosophy since our teachers are unionized, work for the government and the principles of a free society are not taught in our schools.
By the end of 2011 we will have seen another civic and provincial election and federal election in one year. Once again we have a chance to vote for representatives who can promise either to continue and increase government interference in our lives or to start the process of dismantling the apparatus of central controls. What is needed is to introduce the principle of a free society into the political debate. While it is but a distant hope, imagine if we saw even one city councilor elected on such a platform - perhaps the word could spread from there.