Political Extremes and Free Market Capitalism

In 1985 Bernie Sanders lauded the fact that the Fidel Casto-led Cuban economy provided its citizens with education and healthcare, providing us a likely vision of a political Left “Utopia”. Likewise, in the political Right’s “Utopia” of 100% free market discipline, the vast majority of US citizens (just under 50%) that are either covered by the Medicaid and Medicare (129.5 million) or uninsured (28.4 million) would likely go uninsured.

Isn’t political ideology inspiring?

The problem with political ideology is that, more often than not, it operationally acts as a hammer in search of a nail: The Left’s hammer is the federal government, the Right’s the free market. This political dilemma is solved if the federal government is used *simply* as a provider of goods and services that do not meet the free market’s “return on investment” hurdle – i.e. public infrastructure, national security, social safety net, environmental protection – and stays out of the way of the free market in all remaining areas of the economy. But unfortunately both sides love their hammers and are increasingly unwilling to use screwdrivers when and where necessary.

Picking on the political Left today (the Right in an upcoming post or public op-ed on the non-group healthcare insurance market), this morning’s column by the NYT editorial board disparaging Uber’s employment practices is a fantastic example of the Left’s failure to put down the federal government “hammer” in favor of a free market “screwdriver” (see here for more). Uber was started in March 2009, and in less than a decade had over 300,000 US drivers as of late 2015: Call it more than 350,000 extremely convenient jobs today that otherwise did not exist 8 years ago.

So not a decade into Uber’s corporate life, the NYT is running sob stories about how Uber coerces its drivers into working longer-than-desired hours…when in fact nobody is forcing Uber’s drivers to work. Left to its own devices, the free market will force Uber to reform its employment practices over time if necessary to retain and/or attract additional drivers. But left to the Left’s federal government “hammer”, Uber more than likely never would have been created in the first place, as Uber’s highly flexible workforce practices would have been deemed “unfair”.

But that is what the political Left does: It takes a free ride on the back of the greatest wealth generating machine in the history of mankind – the US free market economy – then whines, complains, moans and laments the side effects of the system. And it has done it with Climate Change as well. US per-capita CO2 emissions began to fall in earnest around 2007 (see below) just as the use of natural gas “fracking” accelerated; yet the political Left deems “fracking” environmentally unfriendly.

Do not get me wrong, the Right is extraordinarily delusional in the areas where only the federal government can fill the void. Recall, the Right opposed a bailout of the global economy in late 2008/early 2009 – an ideological failure of Biblical proportions. But when it comes to the vast majority of federal government versus free market issues, the Left is an epic failure.

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