Thursday, November 19, 2015

Why Should We Trust Politicians When it Comes to National Defense?

By Don Boudreaux

Like many libertarians, I reject the notion that national defense is an arena that is somehow exempt from the rule that politicians and bureaucrats are untrustworthy stewards of the general welfare. And like many libertarians, whenever I express opposition to, or even skepticism of, some U.S. military adventure, I get gushers of grief from people who insist that I’m “naive,” “childish,” and (my favorite, from a recent e-mail) “a stupid America hating dip shit hippie disguised as a free market blogger.”

Despite these compelling arguments against non-interventionism, I cannot escape the following realization: Whenever I hear politicians and their deputies discuss the subject that I know best, economics, they typically get it wrong. And they get it wrong not in minor ways; they get it wrong in fundamental ways. They frequently speak and write as if trade-offs don’t exist – as if the titles of statutes determine the outcomes of statutes – as if prices are arbitrary numbers that can be manipulated by government with no undesirable or unintended consequences – as if the benefits of international trade are “our” exports while the costs of such trade are our imports – as if nations “compete” against each other economically – as if the destruction wrought by natural disasters has an economic upside – as if government officials are immune to the knowledge constraints and self-interested motivations that are affect actors in private markets.

So why should I trust that these same politicians and their deputies, when they discuss matters about which I know far less than economics, are any more informed, reasonable, and wise than when they discuss economics? I admit it: I don’t know a great deal about foreign affairs and military matters. But I do know that the same politicians and deputies who consistently act in ways that I am certain are ignorant and dangerous when they intrude into the economy are the same politicians and deputies who I am asked to trust when they intrude into foreign affairs.

That I would like that these politicians and their deputies be adequately knowledgeable and level-headed when they turn their attention to military matters is irrelevant. The fact is, I have zero reason actually to suppose them to be adequately knowledgeable and level-headed about such matters. I must judge their likelihood of being knowledgeable and wise about matters on which I am poorly informed on the basis of my assessment of the knowledge and wisdom that they regularly exhibit when they discuss and act on matters about which I am well-informed. And on that basis, I conclude that they are untrustworthy, unwise, and, hence, much more likely than not to take steps that harmful to the general welfare.

The above originally appeared at Cafe Hayek.


  1. I think that perhaps our terminology needs to change. People argue endlessly about what is or isn't a "free market". Let's make it simple. There's no violence or stealing with private property. There's no lying in contracts. Private property and contracts are straight forward and non-ambiguous and we already live with them just fine in our daily lives. Insist that the statist has the burden of proof to demonstrate where private property and contracts fail and thus require a political solution (lying, theft and violence). Expect a tantrum plus significant whining and obfuscation.

  2. What about 1st Amendment?

    Clinton Goes after Laugh Factory Comedians for Making Fun of Her

    In what appears to be a first for a serious presidential contender, Hillary Clinton’s campaign is going after five comedians who made fun of the former Secretary of State in standup skits at a popular Hollywood comedy club.

    A video of the short performance, which is less than three minutes, is posted on the website of the renowned club, Laugh Factory, and the Clinton campaign has tried to censor it. Besides demanding that the video be taken down, the Clinton campaign has demanded the personal contact information of the performers that appear in the recording. This is no laughing matter for club owner Jamie Masada, a comedy guru who opened Laugh Factory more than three decades ago and has been instrumental in launching the careers of many famous comics. “They threatened me,” Masada told Judicial Watch. “I have received complains before but never a call like this, threatening to put me out of business if I don’t cut the video.”

    Practically all of the country’s most acclaimed comedians have performed at the Laugh Factory and undoubtedly they have offended politicians and other well-known personalities with their standup routines. Tim Allen, Jay Leno, Roseanne Bar, Drew Carey, George Carlin, Jim Carrey, Martin Lawrence, Jerry Seinfeld and George Lopez are among the big names that have headlined at the Laugh Factory. The First Amendment right to free speech is a crucial component of the operation, though Masada drew the line a few years ago banning performers—including African Americans—from using the “n-word” in their acts.

    The five short performances that Clinton wants eliminated include some profanity and portions could be considered crass, but some of the lines are funny and that’s what the Laugh Factory is all about. The video features the individual acts of five comedians, four men and a woman. The skits make fun of Clinton’s wardrobe, her age, sexual orientation, the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the former First Lady’s relationship with her famous husband. The Laugh Factory has appropriately titled it “Hillary vs. The First Amendment.”

    Masada told Judicial Watch that, as soon as the video got posted on the Laugh Factory website, he received a phone call from a “prominent” person inside Clinton’s campaign. “He said the video was disgusting and asked who put me up to this,” Masada said. The Clinton staffer, who Masada did not want to identify, also demanded to know the names and phone numbers of the comedians that appear in the video. Masada refused and hung up. He insists that the comedy stage is a sanctuary for freedom of speech no matter who is offended. “Just last night we had (Emmy-award winner) Dana Carvey doing Donald Trump and it was hilarious,” Masada said.

  3. Our aggressive foreign policy creates almost all of the danger.