In one line in an editorial today, the Los Angeles Times has summed up everything that is wrong with America today. The editorial is about Trump’s early return to the White House after his hospital stay for treatment for Covid-19. That’s not the issue I wish to address. I wish to focus on this line that the Times uses to criticize Trump:
President Trump returned to the White House Monday …and was raring to go back to the critical work of running the country.
That’s it. Right there in one small phrase the Times sums up everything that is wrong with the country.
The assumption, of course, is that the president — and to a larger extent the government — should be “running the country.”
That is the assumption that has guided the United States for more than 100 years, since at least the time of the presidential regime of Franklin Roosevelt. It’s a mindset that undergirds the philosophies of conservatism, progressivism, and the two major political parties. It is a mindset held by many mainstream Americans.
Most everyone just naturally assumes that the president should be managing the economy, that the Federal Reserve should be managing the money supply, that the immigration service should be managing the number and credentials of immigrants, that the Department of Education and local school boards should be managing education, that the Pentagon and the CIA should be managing the world, and, of course, that the Centers for Disease Control and the FDA should be managing healthcare, including the coronavirus crisis. Why, if the Constitution didn’t forbid it, conservatives and liberals would be having government run the churches.
That’s a core of the problem we in our country — central management and central planning. That is precisely why we have crises in all these areas — the economy, money, healthcare, immigration, education, and so many other areas of our lives. That’s what central planning does — it produces crises or what Ludwig von Mises called “planned chaos.”
There is but one solution to all this chaos and all these crises: no, not “better” people (including libertarians) to run the departments, agencies, or bureaucracies. And no, not a “better” president or better people in Congress or the judiciary.
The only solution is a new paradigm — one that discards the paradigm of central planning and replaces it with one based on liberty and free markets — one in which everyone plans his own life and his own affairs rather than have them planned for him by some politician or bureaucrat.
Yes, that is a radical notion — the notion that people, not public officials, should be running their own lives rather than having the government ordering and directing them on how to live their lives. But it is the only notion that is based on liberty and it is the only notion that works.
In a society in which there are no central planners — that is, one in which the free market handles healthcare, the economy, money, immigration, and so forth — the result is a spontaneous order in which everyone is dovetailing his plans with others. The result is a dynamic, prosperous, harmonious, and exciting way of life.
Consider, for example, grocery stores. The government doesn’t manage them. Every day there are multitudes of fresh vegetables and fruits and countless packaged foods and drinks for people to buy. How do they get there each morning? There certainly isn’t anyone in the government directing them to do so. What happens in countless grocery stores across the land can be called the “miracle of the market.” It is based on the principle of leaving people free to manage their own lives. What we see is grocery stores is the result of human action, not of human design, as Friedrich Hayek put it.
Now, compare grocery stores to the post office, which is based on government running the first-class mail delivery service. Notice any difference? And yet both conservatives and progressives are more convinced than ever that government should be running the first-class mail delivery service.
We libertarians are the only hope America has to break free of the central planning mindset. We must continue challenging the core principle of statism. We must continue adhering strictly to our principles. That’s the only way that enough people will discover the virtues of economic liberty and free markets and help us restore peace, prosperity, and harmony to our land.