Saturday, April 1, 2006

Free-market solutions for parentalism

This passage from a Crispin Sartwell article has been cited by several libertarian heavy hitters (TheAgitator, Hammer of Truth, and Reason to name a few), so since I'm a libertarian heavy hitter (ha!), I'll cite it too.
We want the government to guarantee our health, deflect hurricanes, educate our children and license us to drive; we want to be told what to eat, what to smoke and whom to marry. We are justly proud of the fact that no enduring society has ever incarcerated more of its people. Noting that the policeman has a pistol, a club, a stun gun, a can of pepper spray and a database that includes us, we feel happy and secure.

Our submission is absolute: We want to be operated like puppets and provided for like pets.

The terrorists hate our freedom. But we should be comfortable with that. We hate our freedom, too.
Radley Balko (The Agitator) coined this idea of fearing freedom as "parentalism." While frustrating, this realization isn't super surprising. Think of how resistant some people are to move out of their parents' home. Or even how afraid people (myself included) are to try new things. We're fraught with worry when posed with new options...what if I don't like it, what if I can't undo things (like I can on the computer!), what if I lose money?

Clearly, parentalism is not a concept resulting from living in a somewhat free society; it's just basic human nature. Being afraid of new things probably kept our ancestors alive while our would-have-been ancestors perished along with their DNA.

So instead of trying to fight the problem, as Radley implies must be done with his treadmill analogy, why not acknowledge the reality of parentalism and apply some libertarian wisdom to the problem? If people want to have their decisions made for them, why can't private companies do this? They can, and they can [of course] do it better than the government!

In a way, I think this is already occurring, especially through the Internet. A big part of decision making is having information. Google and Wikipedia do this like nobody else. Blogs do it, too. The "main-stream media" does it as well, although with a bit more alarmism than is necessary.

On being controlled, we already get a lot of that from employers (especially if you work for a big company). Dress codes, facial hair codes, speech codes, relationship rules, etc...corporations have it all!

I think there's a market opportunity (which is to say there's currently a defiency) for a business that provides "protection." Not like the mafia or the government, which provide you with coerced protection (we're going to protect you, like it or not!), but a business that provides "peace of mind." That sounds like an insurance company slogan, and I guess insurance companies do this to some degree, but nobody likes insurance companies. There is an opportunity for a business that goes one step beyond advice.

Instead of paying a company for advice (which you're doing indirectly by visiting a website with ads), maybe the next step is to pay a company (voluntarily, remember) to actually make decisions for you. Maybe you'll pay a company to do all your grocery shopping for you but they will decide what's healthy and what's not. Or maybe your favorite internet news site will be customized to report to you the things that make you the most comfortable. Like, if you're paranoid about violent crimes, the site will pepper you with facts about how many people are in prison or how much money is spent on fighting crime. Or maybe it's just the opposite--the site will only inform you of good news and leave you blissfully unaware of the stuff you fear.

I don't know exactly. The market will have to figure this out. But clearly there is a desire for some people to be (or at least feel) more controlled. Let's create free market solutions for this before the government creates its so-called "solutions." As Harry Browne has said, "Whatever the problem in a free market, it will be a profitable opportunity for someone who knows how to fix it." Indeed!

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