Thursday, 6 March 2008

My vote in defense of freedom

It has taken me almost a week to recover from the depression brought on by watching the candidates of the two largest Spanish parties debating on TV. A succession of vacuous economic data, accusations, and tirades was matched by an almost complete lack of concrete proposals and illustrations as to what each candidate really represented. My conclusion after the debate was that it didn’t really matter who won- it was going to be the same animal with a different fur. It also reaffirmed my belief that government needs to be small. The smaller it is the less chance these people have of screwing things up.

I would have expected a debate between two candidates defending two radically opposed views of the world. The first, inherited from Marxist beliefs which holds an ideologically appealing but empirically impractical view of the world, and a second, defending freedom of the individual to manage his life in a way he thinks fit, devoid of constraints imposed by a few who claim to interpret the will of the many. I support the latter view, not because I think it is the best political system in the theoretical vacuum of a political sciences faculty, but because my experience has led me to believe that it is the better system in an imperfect world.

My views also stem from a deep desire to avoid being told what to do by an empty, all encompassing entity which needs to constantly limit individual liberty to feed itself, in a perverse vicious circle. I detest the concept of Big Brother depicted in Orwell’s 1984 novel. However, I can understand and respect naiveté and gullibility. This is why so many students are interventionists- they are young and have limited practical experience thus defending ideologies which are appealing in theory but impossible in practice.

But, I abhorr hipocrisy. The sight of an experienced politician defending the collective good when the ultimate aim is to defend his individual well-being is enough to make me choke. I almost collapsed when a succession of so-called artists recently decided to defend the political option which is more likely to maintain a system which consists in taxing the whole of society so that a few bureaucrats with exhibionist leanings can pose on the photo shoots of the yellow press in exchange for generous dollops of public money. Who is this gauche caviar with Swiss bank accounts and mansions in exclusive neighbourhoods to demand my vote? I work hard in a company which sells products in transactions which are uncoerced and unsubsidised. Why use my hard-earned tax euros to give them to the friend of whichever politician happens to be in the Ministry of “Culture” so that they can make films that nobody wants to see? I’ll use my hard-earned money to see films that I want to see- thank you very much.

There is a huge irony in that precisely the people who have benefitted from liberalism are now crying foul and asking for more interventionism. A major part of the reason why they have done so well in the world is that the last few decades have involved a scaleback in intervention and now they want to go back? The collapse of Communism and the resulting positive impact on so many people’s wellbeing should really have demonstrated this. I would suggest that interventionists (be they left or right) spend some time living in countries like Myanmar, Cuba or Venezuela to get a real taste of what the practical execution of utopian ideals leads to.

So; after the above tirade, who am I going to vote for? I will place a forlorn and hesitant ballot with Partido Popular’s name inside the box. Why? Basically because it is the lesser of the available evils. The few people who are truly libertarian and believe in individual rights and freedom can be found in the Partido Popular. Yes, the are completely outnumbered and outmanoeouvred by the conservative interventionists but it is the only party where some of its members have ideas which resemble mine. Hopefully, one day, their voice will be heard.