Monday, August 5, 2013

Fed Up With the Political Status Quo? Discover the “Unknown Ideal”

In a recent DETAILS interview with Rob Tannenbaum, actor Woody Harrelson said “I tend to not like politicians, because it's a subtle form of prostitution. Or maybe not so subtle.” When asked, "So you dislike Democrats as much as you dislike the GOP?" Harrelson said:

It's all synchronized swimming to me. They all kneel and kiss the ring. Who's going to take on the oil industry or the medical industry? . . . Corporations like Grumman are so powerful that—I don't know, is this the kind of shit we want to talk about? It's making me depressed.

Later, Harrelson said, "The government may change faces from time to time, but it's not like we fight wars for democracy—we fight wars for capitalism and for oil."

Harrelson seems to believe that we live in a capitalist society. But the corrupt political-economic system he laments is not capitalism. It is actually a mixed economy; a mixture of government controls and freedom, of socialism and capitalism. 

Contrary to widely held belief, in a mixed economy—where politics and economics are merged, rather than separated—it is not business that corrupts politics, but politics that corrupts business, leading to rampant cronyism, including so-called "crony capitalism." Ask yourself this: What would become of the "power" of "corporations like Grumman" if politicians didn't have the coercive power to tax, regulate, and play favorites in the economy?

Harrelson's solution?: In answer to a question about his support for the legalization of marijuana, Harrelson said, "The deeper issue is, what does it mean to live in a free country?" He later answered his own question: "I'm an anarchist, I guess you could say. I think people could be just fine looking after themselves."

Harrelson is thoroughly confused about how to achieve "a free country," though. Anarchy means no government. But, you do need a government—precisely to protect people's right to "look after themselves"; i.e., to protect individual rights. A proper government protects its citizens from the initiation of force by domestic criminals and foreign enemies, prosecutes fraud, protects the sanctity of contracts and property rights, and mediates civil disputes through the courts. A social system with a government that protects individual rights but otherwise leaves everyone free to produce, trade, and live their lives is precisely "what . . . it mean[s] to live in a free country."

When Harrelson endorsed the idea of people “looking after themselves," he unwittingly endorsed the essence of the very system he apparently denigrates.  When people are free to look after themselves—or, to be more precise, to enjoy the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—that is capitalism; which, sadly, exists nowhere around us in anything approaching an authentic form.

In his disgust with the mixed economy status quo, Harrelson has a lot of company. But anarchy, which is essentially mob warfare leading to dictatorship, is not the answer.

The alternative Harrelson  appears to be groping for is what Ayn Rand called "the unknown ideal," laissez-faire capitalism. The basic principle of social organization embodied by capitalism, and encompassing the political realm, is the banishment of the initiation of physical force from human relationships. It's truly the system of peaceful coexistence, because the government is forbidden to act as an instrument of legalized criminality. It’s time for Harrelson and the many others like him who are disgusted with the direction America is going—but who have grown cynical about the possibility of an ideal alternative—to discover laissez-faire capitalism.

Related Reading:

On Capitalism's "Conflict of Interest"

Why Capitalism Needs a Moral Sanction

Related Viewing:

What is Capitalism and Why Do You Say Its Moral by Yaron Brook

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