Saturday, October 29, 2011

Should we sometimes be sad when a book is republised?

I see that Randy T. Simmons' 1955 book, BEYOND POLITICS: THE ROOTS OF GOVERNMENT FAILURE has just been republished - sadly!

Don't I love books? If so, why should I be sad when ANY book is republished?

I am sad to see a book republished when the original argument of the book is no longer relevant: the book should be allowed to lie peacefully somewhere on a dusty shelf for historians to do their work on it in future.

But such is the fury with which Right and Left are fighting it out in the USA that this old nag of a book has been pressed back into service.

The book's basic argument is that "public interest goods" (schools, jails, the defense forces, consumer protection, trade...) do not need to be provided by government, and can be provided by the "free market".

Instead, Simmons's "public choice theory" approach attempts to demonstrate that government inevitably produces political myopia, economic stagnation, and public distrust.

Of course, Simmons is no idiot, and acknowledges that there are indeed "market failures" as well as "government failures" - but he prefers "market failures" to "government failures".

The republication (albeit in updated form) is a sign of the inability or unwillingness of some American intellectuals to break free of yesterday's battles.

They are still fighting the Left from the Right, just as many people are still wanting to "protect national interests".

But there is no longer any realistic or meaningful way in the long or even medium term of "protecting national interests" in isolation from global interests.

Similarly, we should all be able to see, if we are at all open minded, that the categories of Left and Right do not make sense in today's globalising economy.

Around the world, we all want to have all the advantages of free markets without the distortions that have transformed free markets into "robber capitalism" or "casino capitalism" in the last 30 years.

Moreover, we all want to see some minimal social and environmental responsibility - organised not through Big Bad Government, but through the implementation of the right kinds of laws in a free market.

Regretfully, books such as Simmons's simply delay the coming of the good day when we can have the right kind of capitalism, globally. Sphere: Related Content

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