Study their behaviors. Observe their territorial boundaries. Leave their habitat as you found it. Report any signs of intelligence.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Fear Neophobia, Not a "Police State"

I voted for the Michael Badnarik in 2004, but here is why I welcomed Kerry's defeat: Democrats are far better at restricting our economic freedoms than Republicans are at restricting our personal freedoms. I ultimately care more about personal freedoms than economic freedoms -- I just happen to think that our personal freedoms in America are more secure than our economic ones, and in the long run are only getting more so.
If you look at the last 40 years instead of just the last 6, the trend is obvious and undeniable. It's just not tenable to say that we've reached an inflection point and now the default course is a complete reversal of the last half-century's progress regarding racism, civil rights, conscription, divorce rights, sexual freedom, reproductive freedom, gay rights, criminal procedure, free expression, gambling, and even society's attitude towards substance use. It's just historically illiterate to say the sky is falling and we are in -- or even headed toward -- a police state. Making such claims cripples our credibility as serious advocates for liberty.
By contrast, the last seventy years have seen an enormous erosion of our economic freedoms: minimum wage, maximum hours, plant closure notice, family leave, "equal pay for equal work", numeric goals in minority hiring, union exemptions from antitrust, growth controls, urban planning, rent control, monumental intergenerational inequity through a socialized retirement pyramid scheme, massive regulation of healthcare, socialized health insurance, farm subsidies, socialization and federalization of education, environmental regulations based on bureaucratic rules instead of market incentives, etc.
Admittedly, there also been a counter-current in America (and across the Western World) since the late 1970s consisting of deregulation, privatization, sounder currency, free trade, and lower marginal taxes. Still, the long-term trend toward loss of economic freedom has only been slowed, and not reversed. Even worse, the traditional but sputtering tractor of economic deliberalization -- fear and envy stoked by class warriors -- now has what will be a more powerful partner: neophobia. Neophobia manifests itself in so many powerful ways: anti-globalization, growth limits, protectionism, eco-pessimism, opposition to biotechnology, opposition to private (i.e. corporate) data processing of voluntarily-given information, restrictions on media-related technology, opposition to population growth, ham-handed market-dumb regulations on pollution-emitting products, etc.
The trend is clear. The major threat to liberty in twenty-first century America will not be from right-wingers legislating morality or invoking foreign enemies. It will be from left-wingers invoking economic inequality, and even more so from neophobes invoking fear of the changes that progress inevitably requires.
Right-wingers will inevitably fail because Americans are fundamentally decent. Left-wingers will ultimately fail because the verdict of history, and the prosperity all around us, demonstrates that they are obviously wrong. But neophobes will be an indefinite threat, because they can always claim that the End Is Near, and no track record of failed doomsaying can shake their conviction that this time they're right.

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