Friday, October 07, 2011

The Liberalism of Open Markets

Here's a reminder that by moving this country more towards a system of open markets and free enterprise, the effect would be liberalizing and progressive.

Two points to illustrate this:

One, hidden fees mean consumers cannot make informed choices.

If you want to know why so many people hate liberals, this is it. We're annoying! And now, thanks to us, you have to pay a monthly fee to use your debit card.

Unfortunately, it's hard to explain why this is, nonetheless, a good thing. But here's the nickel version: the old fees were largely hidden. The new ones aren't.

(HT to Andrew Sullivan)

It is an inherently liberalizing and progressive system that forces businesses to properly disclose their actual costs. That's part of the role of government in regulating business. It is liberalizing and progressive to make businesses "pass the cost on to the consumer" because that's how a market system works. It is only at that point when consumers can make the appropriate fiscal decisions for themselves - when all the costs are laid out in front of them.

Two, tax incentives inspire regressive, closed markets. When the government chooses the "winners" and the "losers" in any system, it violates the idea of competition for consumer business, and undercuts the ability of workers to develop and invest in their own businesses. It stifles innovation - why take an already considerable risk when the government artificially increases your risk by subsidizing your competitors?

Sometimes, the cost for not incentivizing is higher than the cost of incentivizing (such as agriculture subsidies that normalize food prices), but even those incentives are often taken advantage of. And once you've incentivized an otherwise unsustainable system, removing the subsidies would collapse it, leading to a spreading instability that threatens even healthy markets.

For example, we've subsidized sprawling real estate development, gasoline production, and air travel to such a degree that our entire system is now dependent on those three sectors maintaining artificially low costs. Those are just some of the painful and unpopular choices our nation and our government really have to make to get our fiscal house in order.

Because if we don't address those issues while we can still let ourselves down easily, the hard fall is going to go very, very badly for us.


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