Minds Opening to Libertarian Ideas

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON

August is upon us, beaches beckon, and Michele Bachmann has set the self-improvement bar high. She recently told The Wall Street Journal, "When I go on vacation and I lay on the beach, I bring von Mises." The congresswoman may be the first person ever to dribble sun lotion on the section of Ludwig von Mises' "Human Action" wherein the Austrian economist (1881-1973) discussed "the formal and aprioristic character of praxeology."

Autodidacts less exacting than Bachmann should spill sand on the pages of "The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong with America" by Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch. These incurably upbeat journalists with Reason magazine believe that not even government, try as it will, can prevent onrushing social improvement.

"Confirmation bias" is the propensity to believe news that confirms our beliefs. Gillespie and Welch say "existence bias" disposes us to believe that things that exist always will. The authors say that the most ossified, sclerotic sectors of American life -- politics and government -- are about to be blown up by new capabilities, especially the Internet, and the public's wholesome impatience that is encouraged by them.

"Think of any customer experience that has made you wince or kick the cat. What jumps to mind? Waiting in multiple lines at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Observing the bureaucratic sloth and lowest-common-denominator performance of public schools, especially in big cities. Getting ritually humiliated going through airport security. Trying desperately to understand your doctor bills. Navigating the permitting process at your local city hall. Wasting a day at home while the gas man fails to show up. Whatever you come up with, chances are good that the culprit is either a direct government monopoly (as in the providers of K-12 education) or a heavily regulated industry or utility where the government is the largest player (as in health care)."

Since 1970, per-pupil real, inflation-adjusted spending has doubled and the teacher-pupil ratio has declined substantially. But math and reading scores are essentially unchanged, so we are spending much more to achieve the same results. America has the shortest school year in the industrial world, an academic calendar - - speaking of nostalgia -- suited to an America when children were needed on the farms and ranches in the late spring and early autumn. …