Former Texas Governor and former US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry was quoted the other day as saying this:
“Texans would be without electricity for longer than three days to keep the federal government out of their business.“
This, right here, is a perfect illustration of why I have always rejected libertarianism.
Whenever I ask how social issues and problems will be solved in a libertarian system, the answer always starts with what I call “the Soft Libertarian Formulation”: the market will solve all problems. Freedom will solve all problems. In all cases, the markets in their free wisdom will always be better suited to solving specific social problems than the government.
My reply to this is always, “But what if it doesn’t?”
No, really. Think about it. What if something, some problem, some disaster, comes down the pike that the free markets just can’t fix? And what if that problem just persists, going on and on, getting worse and worse, possibly even to the point where people are dying?
The market will solve all problems better than the government…but what if it doesn’t?
This possibility is never admitted, never considered. There is simply no problem that can’t be fixed through freedom and markets and zero government interference!
But now, look what’s happening in Texas. They wanted to be free of federal interference. They wanted their own power grid, with their own authority to manage their electrical needs in any way they wished. And they got their desire! Only problem is, they did it in the finest capitalist free-market way, taking the cheap way out at every opportunity. Texas does have winter storms now and then, so obviously it would be a good idea to winterize things, right? Only, that would cost money, and what rich capitalist wants to spend money they don’t have to, right?
And now Texas is in a world of hurt.
Here comes Rick Perry, presumably asked if maybe Texas’s weird obsession with energy independence from Washington policy makers has proven a bad idea.
Because here, Mr. Perry, is a bad social problem that the Free Market not only can’t solve, it actually created.
And Mr. Perry says, “Nope, we’re good being without electricity for days on end if it means we stay the way we are.”
This is a version of what I call “the Hard Libertarian Formulation”: It does not matter what problems come along. The Markets and the Freedom are so inherently good, all by themselves, that preserving them is preferable over any alleviation of human suffering by way of government. By way of collective action.
It’s my experience that eventually every libertarian will eventually land on this position. Collective thinking is always bad. No problem can ever be approached in any kind of collective way, and if a problem arrives that can only be solved through collective action, through government, well then: the problem must not be solved. Individuals should simply swallow their emotions and live–or die–with the new facts of life, because nothing, nothing, is more important than avoiding government and collective action.
This is, incidentally, why I think you find climate change denialism so strongly ensconced in the political right: because climate change actually is a problem that has no solutions coming from the free markets, and they know this. Because libertarianism cannot be wrong, there can be no problem that libertarianism can’t solve. And if there is, then the problem must not exist.
This isn’t the first time Perry has said things like this. One time he said (I think he was running for President at the time, maybe in 2012) something along the lines of “No government has ever created a single job.” This will, of course, come as news to anyone living in a city with a major military base. Or in a town with a state-run college. Or…in Washington, DC.
(I wrote this two nights ago and have had it in drafts since then. In the meantime, news is coming out that Texas’s utility companies, in the great and wonderful tradition of unregulated capitalism, are gouging the hell out of their customers by issuing electricity service bills totaling in the THOUSANDS of dollars. People who are without power, heat, water, and easy access to food are getting electric bills for up to $10,000. This is what unfettered, unregulated capitalism will get you, each and every time. It continues to amaze me that people who don’t have a prayer of ever being in the small club of capitalists who get to benefit from its inherent tendency to funnel wealth upward still advocate for its adoption, because of the Hard Libertarian Formulation.)
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