Labor & Time-Kevin Williamson At The National Review: ‘Planes, Trains & The Internet’

Full piece here

Williamson suggests we should look to Helsinki, Finland, at least when it comes to technology and transportation:

‘Notably, the Helsinki model would end some transportation monopolies (the rail service would no longer have a monopoly on ticket sales, for instance) and would rely on competition among private providers to match resources with consumer demand.’

The larger principle he uses to get there:

‘American progressives love railroads and hate cars, and that is not without a political dimension: Railroads tell you where to go, which is very appealing if you see society as one big factory to be subjected to (your) expert management. And that’s really the basic question of liberalism in the better, classical sense of that word: Is the state here to tell you where to go, or is it here to help you get where you are going? And how to get there?

If you believe that you have a right to your own labor, and that your time is your labor, then why would you need a large, unresponsive, oft politicized monopoly deciding how much time you spend in transit now that technology is making other options available?

One appeal of the libertarian argument is simple: Don’t you want to pay less for a ride when you can?

Another appeal is also pretty simple if you believe in the above: Free citizens need to put the moral justification back onto the current laws, political players, and monopolies from time to time, forcing them to justify their involvement in our lives and in the markets. After all, beneath lofty ideals gather real interests seeking to bend the laws towards their own ends, and with a lot of self-interest besides.

Incentives matter, and while I’m guessing safety and public safety guide a lot of moral justification by local governments, and which a lot of citizens generally support, it’s necessary to do some house-cleaning now and again.

Airlines are partially de-regulated as Williamson points out (more responsive to consumer demand these days, so flying is much cheaper and more accessible and thus probably more like taking a Greyhound), but not all the way de-regulated.  Yet, where is the money going again exactly?  Who’s doing what and how much are they getting paid? Aren’t these regulations creating dead zones where technological innovation lags?

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On that note, one of the main arguments behind the push to pass Obamacare was the idea that you don’t own a right to your own labor nor time enough to prevent the socialization of that labor when it comes to health-care:  It’s no mere commodity nor economic exchange. You will have a tax/penalty levied and part of your tax dollars will now go to a centralized, redistributionist, oft politicized set of experts and enforcers promising to make sure everyone gets health-care on some level (ignoring many of the structural problems at the VA and various other incentives that prevent responsiveness at other bureaucracies).

Unsurprisingly, this hasn’t exactly worked as advertised so far, with a lot more bumpy road likely to come.

The Scandinavian welfare-state was held-up as a model by many progressives for Obamacare, so Williamson does try and justify his use of Helsinki as a model for deregulation here in the U.S.:

‘Imagine trying to implement such a thing in New York City or California — imagine the union friction alone — and you’ll have a pretty good indicator of why European-style policies are unlikely to produce European-style results in the United States. It is not as though Helsinki is a free-market, limited-government utopia — far from it. But on the liberty–statism spectrum, it matters not only where you are but in which direction you are moving — and why.’

Intentions matter as much as actions?

On the statism/liberty axis, I’m guessing many progressives believe that we need more Statism in order to secure more liberty, but from the libertarian perspective, such a definition of liberty is so utopian and idealistic/ideological that it can never be reached, only promised and over-promised. Many progressives also likely believe their intentions are pure enough for government work and during the last two Presidential elections, it seems a fair number of Americans agreed with them for a time.

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