Wednesday, May 11, 2011

How Would We Deal with It without the Government?

That is a question often heard in discussions concerning economic policy. There is an assumption that there are a large number of economic goods that must be provided by the state. The list includes things like schooling, police, roads, and disaster relief. This is the first post in an irregular series examining how various problems can be and have been met by voluntary actions characteristic of a free society instead of by the state.

Let me first note, however, that there is no way to know exactly how in detail how a free society would provide services now assumed by the state. An existential fact of life is that the future is uncertain and that providing for future demand in the face of uncertain contingencies is the challenge of entrepreneurship. Because the future is uncertain, there is no way to know in advance the precise optimal response to future demand. One thing we do know, however, is that in a free society, entrepreneurs have the incentive to satisfy people better than anyone else in the most efficient way possible.

A recent example of people responding to a crisis voluntarily without state coercion or organization is the recent tornadoes that struck Tuscaloosa, Alabama. David T. Beito, professor of history at the University of Alabama, recounts how three Tuscaloosa radio stations went on the air with a simulcast from 8:00am to 8:00pm to provide information on relief efforts. People would call in with various needs, listeners would hear of the need and respond. Beito's point he wants to emphasize is that "the outpouring of volunteers and donations is not only inspiring and effective but extremely decentralized." No bureaucrat had to tell the radio stations of their listeners do to this. It happened as people voluntarily acted and organized themselves.  

1 comment:

  1. Nice, that entrepreneurship line seems pretty good to me.