We’ve known for some time now that anyone can win a Nobel Prize, but Paul Krugman seems unfit for a Cable Ace. (The Free Agent has been drafting an intellectual enemies list, and Doktor Krugman is battling the woman he calls “arguably the greatest Speaker ever”, Nancy Pelosi, for the top spot.) This week, he “proved” libertarianism doesn’t work because it requires incorruptible politicians. In that brief flourish of keystrokes, Krugman displays an ignorance (and what’s going on up at MIT, where he got his doctorate, by the way?) of libertarianism that is nothing short of breathtaking.
Krugman’s “failure of capitalism” du jour was a proposal floating around the Senate to raise the liability cap applicable to the gulf oil rig disaster from $75 million to $10 billion. Many comments point out that liability caps and the congressmen and women who love them, are no part of a libertarian world. True that, peeps, but let’s zoom out even more.
First of all, let’s get over this idea that every time something bad happens, every time someone suffers a financial loss, every time someone worries that they might not have enough food ten years from now, it’s a “failure of capitalism”. If that is the standard, then Herr Doktor should be intellectually honest and write a “triumph of capitalism” editorial every time he pulls up to a gas pump and fills his tank. Regardless of what’s happening in the world, how many oil wells Saddam Hussein has torched in Kuwait, what oil spills or hurricanes have disrupted production in the Gulf of Mexico, capitalism delivers product. The last time you saw “No Gas Today” signs was in the 70s when government took responsibility for allocating an uncertain supply.
Secondly, does he think something about capitalism makes it more likely that a disaster like this will occur? Up at MIT, do they think that British Petroleum doesn’t care as much about losing $25 billion in value as some people with no financial stake would? In other words, does Krugman actually believe that capitalists value capital less than, well, whatever the heck he is?
The Free Agent takes a moment here to take a deep breath and a sip of potable, as she was getting a little hot under the collar. And to report a sad but laughable “silver lining” story, that at least the oil spill will “create jobs” to clean it up! Got any broken windows, lady?
Into the home stretch, now—the most fundamental misunderstanding on Krugman’s part—his failure to recognize that libertarianism is the only political structure that does not require the perfection of humanity as a prerequisite. Whether you agree with the Free Agent that politicians are about as smart/dumb, ethical/evil, lazy/diligent as the rest of us, or believe, and she won’t argue with those who do, that power brings out the basest motives in anyone, in a libertarian society it doesn’t matter because we do not accept anyone as our rulers. People will make mistakes, that’s a given. In libertarianism, they pay for them, and even massive mistakes like the Gulf spill are limited in scope. Without government intervention, as, say, in health care or the recession, those mistakes can’t infect the healthy tissues of society.
The Free Agent awaits Doktor Krugman’s reply to her steel cage death match challenge.