In an alarming article in the Financial Post, Geoffrey Morgan reports how North American cities are increasingly taking measures to fight climate change—public transit running on wind power, building codes banning the use of natural gas as source of energy in new buildings, and the like—with escalating costs for residents and local businesses. The article is yet another reminder how our freedom is gradually being eroded by governments—also at the municipal level—that decide what’s best for us, or in the “public interest,” and spend our money (through artificially inflated energy costs and carbon taxes, for example) to pursue that end.
To many people, this seems to be just fine. They embrace the idea that it is the role of the government to look after us and to protect the “common good,” such as through fighting the catastrophic man-made climate change that the media regularly reminds them about. (See my other posts about claims of catastrophic man-made climate change here and here). Such people trust government to “protect” us because they view it as a nanny that knows, and wants, what is best for us. And with such an all-knowing nanny, we can conveniently give up the individual responsibility to think for ourselves and go along with her plan.
People who have accepted government as our nanny are advocates of a mixed economy (implicitly or explicitly), the prevalent social system today. Defenders of a mixed economy claim it to be an ideal “third way,” a mixture of free markets and government intervention, or as Ayn Rand put it, “a mixture of capitalism and statism, of freedom and controls.”
But what mixed economy advocates don’t recognize (or want to evade) is that mixed economies are inherently unstable systems, as Rand astutely observes. They gradually move toward more and more state control and decreasing individual freedom—what we are witnessing now in many countries in the world, including in the United States. Controls breed more controls, as various groups lobby for favors (such as caps on carbon emissions and bans on oil and gas pipelines—and import taxes against foreign products, immigration restrictions, etc.) and other groups then want theirs.
Despite its advocates’ claims, the mixed economy is not an ideal “third way” between capitalism and statism but a social system that is on its way to complete statism, gradually sapping our freedom to live the best we see fit.
Why is freedom so important? It is important because government as the all-knowing, benevolent nanny that promotes the “public interest” or the “common good” is a myth.
To determine what the “public interest” or the “common good” is, politicians or government bureaucrats would have to determine what is good for each individual citizen in their jurisdiction and then somehow calculate the sum of it all. That, of course, is an impossible task.
Only each individual is able to determine what is good for himself: what line of work to choose, what kind of home to live in and what source of power to use, what means of transportation to use, as well as choosing a myriad of other values.
The purpose of our lives is to live the best, the happiest life we can—which requires the freedom to choose which values to pursue and how.
Every government intervention—banning some energy sources and subsidizing others, regulating how to build our homes or businesses, dictating which modes of transportation to use—delimits our freedom to pursue our values. Such interventions force us to spend money we earmarked for our values on what government dictates: carbon or other taxes or artificially inflated prices, such as 30% costlier electricity generated by renewable, unreliable wind and solar power, compared to electricity from clean coal.
We should value freedom because life is short. If we want to make the most of it, we should fight for freedom and protest government’s increasing encroachment on it. If we want to preserve our freedom to live our lives and pursue happiness, ultimately we must abolish the nanny state of a mixed economy and get the government to assume its proper role as the protector of our freedom through upholding individual rights to life, liberty, property, and pursuit of happiness.