Distributed Mind

Half-Formed Thoughts for March 13, 2007

Why is it that in this nation we believe that individual economic choice is a fundamental right, but we don't believe in pure democracy, instead adhering to that questionable substitute of representative democracy? I mean, you're telling me that I don't have to go along with everyone else if they choose to buy compact cars instead of SUVs or vice versa, but if a majority of 425 persons in Washington feels like making transporting kittens across state lines illegal or some guy elected by 51% of voters feels that launching nuclear weapons, say is a good idea, then I'm stuck? (Of course, technically I have to go along with a majority of 425 representatives, but we've conveniently dispensed in large part with even that pretense of democracy.) Not that anyone has actually proposed making the transportation of juvenile felines illegal, or proposed nuking anyone, at least not in the last 5 minutes, but you get the point. Frankly, I'd rather be able to vote on everything my representatives in Congress get to vote on than chose whether to buy at the Gap or Old Navy, but that's just me. And besides, if you have a truly democratic socialist country, isn't that in a lot of ways the same as having "economic freedom?" Probably not in the technical sense. Ah, I don't care, I just want democracy.

Incidentally, I do think people should be able to buy what is most relevant for them within reason, and I think people should have the right to seek employment where they want, or start their own business and work for themselves. I'm much less keen on the idea of corporation as individual entity. The idea of freedom is, you know, to give people freedom, not some soulless entities choice. The idea that people shouldn't be forced to go along with certain economic decisions made by others is distinct from the idea that anything that makes more money is a good thing. Not being intimately familar with the history of economics, I'm not entirely clear how all of this relates to the original economic ideas on which our nation's economy was supposedly built. No, I haven't read anything by Adam Smith. Yes, I know I should. It's on the to-do list somewhere, I think. (Consider it moved farther up the list.) Oh, and I did add "within reason" for a, well, reason. We happen to live in what political scientists call a liberal democracy. That implies, among other things, that you can't vote to kill me, for example, just because you don't like me. Similarly, you shouldn't be able to wipe out all the individuals of some species just because you own the land they live on - you don't have the right to take resources, in this case, biodiversity, from the rest of us. And, yeah, I think you might even be able that argument to extend that to whether you get to own handguns or a 2 mpg vehicle (though the application is not always trivial). I mean, I wish you could do whatever you want, but let's face it, sometimes things have consequences.

On a completely different nore, one of the commenters on the post by Fred Clark I linked to brought up "cognitive dissonance." It might be worth reading more about that, come to think of it...

posted at 01:47:43 on 03/14/07 by ben - Category: General


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