2011-06-23

Put Politicians in Jail

That is my response to Arnold Kling's brilliant post on EconLog. There he writes:
I actually think that the best point at which to engage libertarians is over how, not why. In the real world, how can the potential harms of the institution of government be minimized? It is on the how questions that I see libertarians divided among ourselves, evading difficult issues with hand-waving, and engaging in wishful thinking.
For example, on the issue of financial bailouts, it is easy to say that we oppose bailouts. What is difficult to do, starting from where we are today, is to implement institutional mechanisms to prevent bailouts. Each bailout is like paying ransom for a kidnapping. No matter how much you promise never to pay ransom, in a real case involving someone you love, the incentive is to pay the ransom. Similarly, no matter how strongly we believe that bailouts are wrong, in a real case where a major financial institution is in trouble, politicians have an incentive to undertake a bailout.
So how do we ensure that our institutional mechanisms prevent bailouts and politicians' incentives to "cheat" on the American idea of limited government never become too tempting?

Jail them. Jail them all. Throw any politician in prison at their first attempt at overreach.

I'm serious. They would do the same to you. Hell, they do the same to you, all the time. We live our whole lives afraid of the lawman coming with his big stick to drag us to the clink. Most of us are good, innocent people simply living life the best we can. Lawman (my sister and I call him Gub) wants to take away your right to drink raw milk and use phosphorous in your dishwasher. Gub wants you to carry around a file cabinet of documents if you want to go travelling on vacation, or if you get pulled over by police in Arizona, just so that you can "prove" that you are who you say you are. (However, identity is a non-falsifiable claim, anyway.) Gub will break down your door if you download mp3s or if you play your guitar too loudly on a Sunday afternoon. Gub shakes his finger at you if your kids light firecrackers in a public park.

We live in a police state. The only way to prevent political overreach is to subject our politicians to the same standard they take pleasure in holding us to. Throw them all in jail, and behold how freedom reasserts itself.