May 24, 2004

Social Shock, Libertarian Style

Clayton Cramer commits a minor libel of libertarians when he blames us heartless libertarian types for not being in favor of social adjustment spending. The problem is that he downplays two issues. First, social adjustment spending, like just about all government spending that libertarians want cut, isn't somehow better or more effective when it is done via the government. The only functional responses he noticed at all were private efforts that were proceeding without government assistance. The government, huge and bloated as it is, is not taking care of the people in the rural community devastated by the closing of the local logging industry.

The second issue is that the local logging industry did not die a natural death. It was knifed in the back by government. This sort of knifing drastically accelerates and makes social change more jarring and less predictable. There is reason to think that a property regime more in line with libertarian principles would have balanced economic and environmental interests better, managing the decline of logging in a way that would have created more replacement jobs on a longer, slower glide path for the accomplishment of the wider social goal of preserving the environment. The majority would not be denied, logging would have slowed down and ceased in the area anyway in a libertarian regime but it would do it in a different, less disruptive way.

Fixing what ails rural america is an important goal, and I'm glad Clayton Cramer is going to focus on this underexamined issue. But government solutions are very unlikely candidates to solve the problem in truth, rather than erect another permanent bureaucracy that is committed to managing the problem, not solving it.

Posted by TMLutas at May 24, 2004 09:40 AM