“An association of men who will not quarrel with one another is a thing which has never yet existed, from the greatest confederacy of nations down to a town meeting or a vestry.” ~ Thomas Jefferson

I know I am generalizing, but since many that I know and love subscribe to many of these philosophies maybe I do have a small bit of perspective here.  Let me take a look at the Free Market system and rules.  Many have argued that rules are inherrently anti-market.  That the opposite of capitalism is rule-making by regulators.  Maybe that is right in some areas, but I would argue that it depends on the specific area in mind.

“The big-government crowd is drawn to the compulsory nature of centralized authority. They can’t imagine an undirected social order. Someone needs to be in charge—someone who knows better. Big government is audacious and conceited. By definition, government is the means by which citizens are forced to do that which they would not do voluntarily. Like pay high taxes. Or redistribute tax dollars to bail out the broken, bloated pension systems of state government employees. Or purchase, by federal mandate, a government-defined health-insurance plan that is unaffordable, unnecessary or unwanted. For the left, and for today’s Democratic Party, every solution to every perceived problem involves more government—top-down dictates from bureaucrats presumed to know better what you need. Tea partiers reject this nanny state philosophy of redistribution and control because it is bankrupting our country.” ~Dick Armey & Matt Kibbe @ WSJ.

“Reject Cap & Trade - Stop costly new regulations that would increase unemployment, raise consumer prices, and weaken the nation’s global competitiveness with virtually no impact on global temperatures.” ~ Tea Party Manifesto as defined by the Tea Party Patriots available here.

“Despite universal acknowledgement that Americans enjoy a free, open, and vibrant Internet, the FCC is relentlessly pursuing a massive regulatory regime that would stifle broadband expansion, create congestion, slow Internet speeds, jeopardize job retention and growth, and lead to higher prices for consumers.” ~ Virginia Tea Party Patriot Federation letter to the FCC re: Net Neutrality, excerpted here.

“Tea party members believe in this invisible hand spoken of by Adam Smith. Society is better off because of the free market. A person invents something so that they can make money, but in that self interest benefits society as a whole. Did the government invent the car, the computer, or airplane? Nope, self interested individuals invented these things. Did these inventions enrich society as a whole? Yes. Think about the amount of jobs created by the computer industry alone, everything these days (seemingly) has computer technology in it. Think about the amount of jobs created by the auto industry. When government steps into the free market it creates advantages for those it supports and disadvantages for those who is doesn’t support. The law of supply and demand has been tampered with, and the market is artificially manipulated. Sometimes these manipulations have a positive impact, only to come crashing back down. Most of the time they have a negative impact on the market.” ~ Available here

“Every generation needs a new revolution.” Thomas Jefferson

I actually really like what the Tea Partiers have been able to accomplish, although I am about as far away from them policy-wise as possible, I like the fact that they are shaking things up for the entrenched political interests on both sides of the aisle.  That said, I think they are dead wrong when it comes to their hatred and shunning of rules, so I’d like to take a little moment here and explain things from my side.

Think about sports.  Particularly, think about football.  A lot of rules were made in football between the mid-80′s to mid-90′s which had to do with protecting the quarterback.  Why is this person special?  Likely it was less because of his primacy on the playing field, and more likely because of his primacy in the board room.  Fine, but when those rules were adopted I don’t remember (although maybe it happened) any pundits arguing for the demise of football as we know it.  They were saying, no we need some fair competition, and if I spend Y of my cap money on a quarterback, I should have the opportunity to let that investment play out.  There was still plenty of competition, not the least of which was during the off season for prime players.

Then let’s look at the salary cap & profit sharing mechanism that the owners have set up.  If this was tried in Washington it would have about a 0% chance of surviving a first draft and whoever the unlucky sap was that had the job of writing a first draft would be instantly shunned as a communist.  But when it comes to our beloved sport we say how great it is that small market teams like Pittsburgh still have the same chance of surviving as big market teams like New York.  Indeed big markets haven’t dominated football in ages.

Compare this to baseball.  That is the sport, for those of you who may remember, with the sticks and the balls and the clay in a diamond with a bunch of people basically standing around all the time.  There were two major turnoffs for many I know from my generation about baseball (besides it’s boring which I would argue against).  (1) “In baseball you can just go out and buy your team.  There is no thrill in just zero to winning.” It wasn’t satisfying when the Marlins bought a team and won the World Series in the late nineties.  Not at all satisfying.  (2) “They absolutely turned a blind eye to the steroid situation.”  Well, there you have it folks, rules (football) v. non-rules (baseball).

Let us talk NASCAR.  I grew up watching Dale Earnhartt, Bill Elliot, and those guys.  I was a number 3 guy.  I went to the Dayton 500 and remember the after effects of a fantastic Ricky Rudd accident that is still likely shown on best 100 crashes of all time on late night Spike TV.  What do people like about NASCAR?  What I liked about it is that the competition is based on pure skill.  It is pure skill in driving, and it is pure skill in engineering.  But engineering in the fine-tune sense.  The driver with the fastest car (interpret: has built the most efficient system) who is the best driver on that day (interpret: has great adaptability) most of the time wins.  It is fast and loud and visciously entertaining to go to the races.  But really races boil down to (besides keeping your hipster appeal by “making fun of the white trash people.”) a human struggle to best their machine and their elements.  But if you want to talk about systems with rules, the NASCAR rule book is lots of pages long.

So rules, in and of themselves do not serve to stifle competition.  They often serve, instead, to shift power away from entrenched interests (NY Yankees) towards more of a meritocratic environment.   I’m all for rules if they allow two things: (1) lower barriers to entry (and no, it doesn’t matter to me if that comes at the cost of entrenched interests or people/entities with bigger bankrolls than I) and (2) promotes a meritocratic environment.  Those are the essential parts of the American dream which I hold onto.  I do not begrudge anyone their own perspectives and values that they hold on to, but those are the ones I hold as truisms.

This is also why I work with small businesses here in Somaliland.  If you want to know the effects of zero rule making look here.  When people want to see how a society (which isn’t much different than an American one – a coming post) operates under anarchical situations pick up a book and see what is happening (beyond the terrorism) in the three different major areas of Somalia – each with a progressively more mature rule-making capability.  And then compare those with a more advanced rule making capability of neighboring Ethiopia.  You can draw a distinct and direct correlation between stability, progress, and rule-making authority.  The most anarchical is the least developed.  The least anarchical is the most developed.  And in those sentences I’m conflating anarchy as an antonym of exercised rule-making authority of a government.

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