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Freedom is “trending,” as they say of top topics that emerge spontaneously on Twitter. Products and services have been radically democratized, providing every individual with a say in what happens, what comes to market, and what is ingloriously pitched into the dustbin of history. We search, we compete, and we explore options at Monster.com, looking out for ourselves instead of expecting some mother ship corporation and its underfunded pension system to tend to our family’s needs. We now get the news of the day from multiple, competing sources online through personally constructed RSS feeds. With a few clicks, individuals connect, organize and act with millions of like-minded friends via Facebook.
Everything is rapidly progressing away from top-down hierarchies toward bottom-up decisions driven by individual preferences on a person-by-person basis. Except government. Government is trending toward more centralized control, new spending, and higher taxes. More and more choices are being made for you, but with your money, the money of your neighbor, and “money” that is literally created out of thin air by central banks.
The disastrous price paid for this concentration of money and power in government can be observed in real time. From Athens, Madrid and Rome, to Washington, D.C., sovereign debt burdens, cradle-to-grave entitlements and centralized manipulation of money and banking have brought the world economy buckling to its knees.
At the time its debt crisis began, Greece’s debt load was roughly 137 percent of its national output. With a gross debt load equal to 103 percent of GDP, the U.S. ranks second highest in political prolificacy. Last year, Uncle Sam spent 56 percent more than he took into the Treasury. There are bottom-up solutions that could repair the economic pain imposed, needlessly, by top-down government.
We could move from broken “defined benefit” health and retirement systems. We could scrap social engineering through the tax code. We could replace top-down union control of education with the choices of parents. We could move from secretive, centralized manipulation of money and credit to a sound standard of value. These solutions are proven, and are consistent with the global trend towards personal control and bottom-up accountability.
Yet the current management regime, starting with our chief executive, seems intent on doubling down on lawed business plan, a fanciful stratagem that ignores what made the American enterprise successful in the first place. Rather than creating a transparent approach to health care to be molded by you and your family’s health needs, the Administration advocates a one-size-fits-all approach to which you must conform.
Why won’t government leaders let freedom work? In November 2010, voters in the U.S. made their preferences abundantly clear, executing the biggest shift in political personnel since 1947. These election results, and robust public opposition makes clear where America’s shareholders stand on Obamacare. Instead of responding, senior management has circled the wagons, looking for a fight.
Fortunately, the same online disintermediation that has empowered consumers also levels the playing field between political insiders and the rest of us who pay their bills. The liberating forces of finding out what is really going on behind the cloistered marble walls of the Washington, D.C. board room, at diminishing marginal cost to the end user, has implications for how citizens will redefine politics and impose accountability in the future.
There is no going back to the days when political parties and committee chairmen made these decisions for us behind closed doors. “There are practical explanations for why both party establishments have undergone some version of this same devolution,” writes Matt Bai of the New York Times Magazine “The most important, and most obvious, is the proliferation of broadband Internet and the way it has redefined, within the space of just a few years, the very concept of a political movement.” This more than anything else explains the enduring impact of the Tea Party, which hasn’t ebbed with the natural flow of the political cycle.
Historically, there is a boom and bust in politics. The Democrats who held control of the House of Representatives uninterrupted for forty years were thrown out by Republicans in 1994, who were, in turn, turned out in 2006. Many expected, or at very least hoped, that the Tea Party would fade as well. But it hasn’t. Just ask former Senator-for-life Dick Lugar (R-IN), or the public employees union’s once-unbeatable political machine in Wisconsin.
For all the hype about the grassroots nature of the Obama machine, I don’t think that the contemporary Left has a real grasp of the implications of political disintermediation. The problem for them is that you can’t ever really control, from the top down, spontaneously organizing social movements. You can’t out-adjust markets; you can’t out-price the price system. You can never know as much as can be known through the process of discovery and adjustment to change that produces the greater social intelligence produced by voluntary cooperation. And you can’t out-organize, from the top down, what people might do of their own free will, toward a set of goals based on a set of values determined by individuals, not some political potentate.
One thing is for certain. We will only fix things when America takes over Washington, from the bottom up. In the private sector, takeovers replace failing managers with new leadership and better ideas. Hostile takeovers do the same thing, but are decidedly unwelcome. It’s only “hostile” because the incumbents in charge like things just the way they are. Fortunately, the decentralization of information online has created what cyber-futurist John Perry Barlow once called “a right to know.” But knowledge is a negative right, like “the pursuit of happiness.”
You are free to seek information, to hold elected officials to account, and to fact-check. No one is going to do it for you.
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