Sunday, March 28, 2010

On Pelosian Musings

by Michael Labeit

The following is a delightful excerpt from Dr. Gene Callahan's book Economics for Real People:
Lew Rockwell told a wonderful story about Gorbachev’s press secretary. When asked about his dream for mankind, the secretary replied that he hoped to see all of the world embrace socialism, except for New Zealand. "But why not New Zealand?" a reporter wondered. "Well," the secretary responded, "we will need someone to get the prices from."

It was with this quote that an official from the Soviet government inadvertently acknowledged the ironic but inexorable dependence of socialism upon capitalism. This dependence was discovered before Gorbachev was even born by Ludwig von Mises who, through simple deductive reasoning, demonstrated the impossibility of rational economic calculation under socialism, the fact that producers under socialism can neither compare the revenue and costs of any one production plan, nor can they compare the costs of alternative production plans. His hypothetical reasoning was as follows:

If socialism exists, then one economic agent, the government, controls all non-human factors of production in perpetuity. If one economic agent controls all non-human factors of production in perpetuity, then exchanges of any non-human factors of production are impossible. If exchanges of any non-human factors of production are impossible, then market prices for any non-human factors of production cannot exist. If market prices for any non-human factors of production cannot exist, then the exact costs of production for any production plan cannot be discerned. If the exact costs of production for any production plan cannot be discerned, then rational economic calculation is impossible. Therefore, if socialism exists, then rational economic calculation is impossible.
While its possible he intended to be funny, this possibility does not eliminate the fact that the secretary's humour came at the expense of the reputation of the Soviet Union. A similar kind of vocal, self-undermining thoughtlessness can be seen in Speaker Nancy Pelosi who has, among other things, been busy expanding her own personal repertoire of daft remarks. Let's take a look at what she has been up too lately.

Of course her most recent gaffe came at the 2010 Legislative Conference for the National Association of Counties where Pelosi, while speaking before her audience, said the following:

We have to pass the [healthcare] bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversey.
Needless to say, the asinine fatuity - to borrow from C.S. Lewis - of this statement can be understood by imagining what it would be like to apply its prescription to food. Should I take a sip of some anonymous substance someone offers in order to find out what it is? I believe that's what infants do.

Its painfully obvious why the content of a bill should be critically scrutinized by the public before its decided by the legislative and executive branches that arrests should be made of those among the citizenry who fail to comply with the bill's declarations, especially a bill that is as legally esoteric and biblical in length as the one endorsed by Ms. Pelosi. Investigating legislation ex ante allows the public to discover whether it commits the government to protecting individual rights or to violating those rights.

Laws are rules of social conduct to which conformity is coerced. Such rules of social conduct can theoretically sanction or prohibit any behaviour, therefore laws can theoretically sanction or prohibit any behaviour. If the public is a group that remains unaware, regardless if from ambivalence or from covert government scheming, of the essence of legislation, then it runs the risk of having to bear the burden of oppressive laws. All groups that remain unaware in such a way run that same risk. A bill is a set of one or more potential laws. Each potential law is potentially repressive. Ergo, it follows that each bill is potentially repressive. Moreover, if each bill is potentially repressive, then it further follows that each bill ought to be carefully inspected, since its quite evident that potentially repressive things are worth at least a gander. Self-preservation requires, among other things, the obstruction of all attempts by the government to act in ways that contravene individual rights.

However, it seems Ms. Pelosi is under the impression that public awareness of the substance of the healthcare bill ex ante is not a necessary condition for its passage, for if public awareness is desired, then surely it will come ex post, especially when compliance is enforced by the authorities. The illegality of action x will become public knowledge after its illegality is declared. This is jurisprudence in Pelosi's eyes.

On second thought, its quite obvious why Ms. Pelosi may delight in public ignorance ex ante since it aids in the passage of legislation which, upon public investigation, may be contested and eventually prohibited. The legislative process is but one instrument with which governments broaden their own authority; the orderliness, deliberateness, and democratic structure of the process together lend it a resemblence if legitimacy. Public vigilance constrains the ability of the government to grow via the legislative process.

Ironically, the "fog of the controversy" that Ms. Pelosi laments and uses, in vain, to justify the passage of the healthcare bill is caused in part by both the length and incomprehensibility of the bill, two variables which increase the risk of government coercion. A long bill adds to the risk by providing more space for the inclusion of authority-enhancing statutes. An incomprehensible bill adds to the risk by befuddling lay readers and by facilitating authority-enhancing interpretations. This isn't an argument against long bills that use long words; its an argument against suspiciously long bills studded with unnecesary legal verbiage.

No doubt, contemporary liberals would have shitted themselves if they witnessed former President Bush argue that his legislation needed to become law so that its stipulations could be known. Why is it then that when this very dangerous stupidity is exhibited by a contemporary liberal, critical reactions come not from the mainstream media but from the fringes of online and radio conservadom? *Sigh*

It must not be forgetten however that Ms. Pelosi is an elected figure, which means that any polemic against her should include at least a passing nod to her fans in the People's Republic of California who, having never ever read a decent book on economics, decided to exercise their right to vote without exercising their right to think. Appreciate it.

-Callahan, Gene. Economics for Real People: An Introduction to the Austrian School. 2nd ed. Auburn, Alabama: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2004.">p170.

-"Pelosi: 'We Have to Pass the Bill So That You Can Find Out What Is In It'." Youtube. Web. 27 Mar 2010.

-Zoller, Martha. "Nancy Pelosi and the height of hypocrisy." The Daily Caller 11 March 2010: n. pag. Web. 27 Mar 2010.

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