Someone for whom I have a decent respect is winding down his reading of Atlas Shrugged. While I haven’t read Ayn Rand, I basically get that her shtick is that “self-centered material greed is good because it maximizes economic efficiency. If you waver from this conclusion you are a Communist.”

A comment I left on Facebook:

“Rewarding people who work hard to build wealth” is a key argument for those who desire to rationalize ever-greater disparity in the material welfare of the wealthy over the poor.

“Rewarding people who work hard” is a core objective of Communism.

“A regulatory system that provides fair governance and an incentive for economic efficiency through competition in order to realize the greatest material benefit for society as a whole” is pretty much the desired end of free market capitalism. That’s got three parts: fair regulation, competition, and social good.

Objectivism, like Communism, is like saying “I hate it when a stool has three legs. Things would be better off if the stool had only one leg.”

I likes me some free market economics but it seems like many in our nation have this religious devotion to the idea that everything would be better if there were minimal governance and if we stopped fretting over social welfare. Fortunately there seems to be a counter-argument being put forth, at last, which explains that “wealthy people don’t create jobs unless they have so much consumer demand that they have no choice but to hire more folks” and that “wealthy people are wealthy in large part because the government has built an economy in which there is sufficient infrastructure and a sufficiently educated work force for economic activity to be conducted profitably, and a legal and enforcement structure which removes uncertainty over what rules there are how whether they will be followed.”

If you want to be a Libertarian, I would argue that Somalia is a Libertarian Paradise. There is no government! Strictly speaking, its Anarchy, and whenever I’ve tried to get a Libertarian to explain what parts of government are absolutely necessary the answer has always come out to “only those parts I need to get what I think I want.”

Anyway, I think that if the government can reasonably afford to do so, it ought to, among other things, provide a floor of basic material welfare for its people. And in the interests of promoting a vigorous market system, the government should make an effort to educate its citizens, provide clear and rational regulations and enforcement of economic activity, and if we can ever figure it out, get to a state of Keynesian regulation where we put more capital into the economy when it is weak, and replenish government coffers in times of abundance. All of that effort is rarely efficient and there are lots of opportunities for unfairness and injustice. The government isn’t perfect but it is what we’ve got. The nice thing about Democracy is that we put a value on transparency and fixing of government problems . . .

. . . I’ll take a modern welfare state over Somalia any day of the week!

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