In Part 1, I confessed that I’m not very charitable. In Part 2, I talked about how I don’t get along with would-be/should-be political allies–other LDS libertarians. The impetus for today’s Depressing Discovery came when an overseas-coblogger recently asked for my thoughts on some of the Presidential candidates’ views, and I had to admit that I didn’t know a single thing about any of their views.
To understand why this is the case, it is important to understand that my particular flavor of libertarianism flows not just from a belief in the importance of individual liberty relative to other objectives, but also from a profound cynicism towards government, politicians, and political processes. Put simply, I don’t have a shred of faith in politicians, individually or collectively, to a) properly identify a problem, b) properly identify a solution, or c) properly apply the solution to the problem. The logical outcome of this lack of faith, therefore, is a lack of interest in what politicians are saying. Since I have no confidence that anyone is going to “get it right,” I can’t be bothered to educate myself on what actually would be right, or devote any energy to supporting it.
Deep down in my heart, I know that a good solution to some societal problem could be discovered by a politician, but I’ll never know it, because I’ve pre-concluded that it is politically motivated dreck and, even if it isn’t, the implementation would be so mucked up that it won’t matter.
No person openly or thoroughly considers every single policy proposal, and I certainly won’t argue that I have a monopoly on cynicism toward government. However, even if a staunch partisan ignores 100% of what other parties propose, the he or she will generally at least be informed (albeit in a biased fashion) on issues important to his or her party. It would seem reasonable that I might at least be informed on the issues from the perspective of other libertarians–policy proposals for curtailing government in any way. Alas, my cynicism does me in: Since I know that libertarians have no political pull, nothing they say matters, so why bother?
When I discussed this recently with John C., he tried to convince me that this is not “ignorance” at all, but simply stubbornness. He is correct that I’m stubborn, but that is merely a catalyst, with a direct effect of reducing the time I am willing to spend paying attention to the world of politics–or stated another way, an increase in the amount of time I spend avoiding politics. This latter formulation is the true problem here.
Politics and government and discussions of the issues are not quarantined from other areas of life. Rather, the object of my loathing and disdain is regularly discussed side by side with religion, sports, art, nature, health, technology, crime, and every other aspect of life.
Consequently, Depressing Discovery #3 is that, in my ongoing attempt to ignore the world of politics, I really just avoid “news.”
 For example, consider the use of economic policy by Congress. First, Congress has to identify a specific problem in the economy. Saying “it’s in a recession” is no more helpful than a medical doctor saying “You’re ill.” Suppose, however, that Congress, by some miracle, with no training and despite ridiculously distorted incentives, properly identifies the area of the economy that is “sick.” Now, Congress must determine what drug, and in what dose, that area needs. When highly skilled macroeconomists and financial experts can’t even come close to agreement on either of those decisions, what on Earth qualifies a few hundred politicians with no training and–again–ridiculously distorted incentives to make those decisions? Finally, suppose that, by yet another miracle, someone in Congress does identify the exact right policy and magnitude; Congress still has to get the necessary votes to pass the measure in both chambers, get the President to sign it, and get the bureaucracy in charge of cutting checks/altering tax codes to send/collect the monies. Nearly every policy initiative on Earth dies in one of those stages, and those that don’t can take weeks and months and even years to finally clear all the hurdles. Is it really likely that the fiscal policy will even be relevant anymore, given the constantly changing nature of the economy? Consider President Bush’s and President Obama’s “stimulus” packages–which were passed with relative ease: After several years, no one has the foggiest idea what impact they had, if any.