Freedom and incentives work. I am a big believer both are important. Not only are they good for individuals, they are also key to producing strong, well-regulated societies. However, on the other hand, Laissez-faire-ism does not work. Laissez-faire-ism is the belief that people should be free to do what they want and to make whatever profit they can, in almost any way they can, short of violence to other people. Laissez-faire-ism is taking the ideas of freedom and incentives to the maximum. Laissez-faire-ism favors those who are powerful to the tremendous disadvantage to those who do not have power, economic or political and sometimes physical.
There’s a contradiction here:
We all want personal freedoms to pursue our own lives and goals. Also, incentives work well to motivate individuals to try harder and be more productive. Freedoms and incentives produces a society whose people are committed to it and want the society to prosper because that helps them.
However, absolute freedom and incentives will allow some to gain control of others. Some people are good at controlling other people. They can even do it without violence. In a society where everyone starts out equally, economically and politically, over time certain individuals will through their leadership abilities and their abilities to create and produce, will grow in power and control over other individuals. Of course leadership is a good thing, but left unchecked this power will become absolute and the political system will become totalitarianism.
And there is the contradiction. Freedom and incentives are good for each person and for society, but too much of those things, freedom and incentives, can lead to a lack of them.
The solution to this problem–the only solution–is an electorate, voters, who understand this problem. They understand that it is not all about achieving maximum personal freedom, incentives and power. That those things must be kept in check to maintain a well-ordered society. Luckily, there are other tools too. In the United States the constitution has set up a system of checks and balances that have served our country well. Also in the United States, we included basic rights that are written explicitly in the first ten amendments to the constitution. All these tools have proved necessary, but they have never been decisive. Those tools did not prevent slavery, did not prevent the unfair treatment of the Native Americans, has not prevented racism in its many different forms.
The solution is us, all of us. We know that as good as it is to be free and pursue our goals, there is a bigger picture that must also be considered. Compromises must be made so we can keep as much of that freedom and as much incentive as possible and assure no one develops the power to dominate our society. A well-ordered society requires compromise between conflicting ideas.
Anyway, no drug, not even alcohol, causes the fundamental ills of society. If we’re looking for the source of our troubles, we shouldn’t test people for drugs, we should test them for stupidity, ignorance, greed and love of power. P. J. O’Rourke