Monday, March 02, 2015

A libertarian data point

We don't have to wonder what life would be like if the Ayn Rand faction of the American TEA party has its way.  They are doing that experiment in Honduras.  The results, unsurprisingly, are not pretty:
[T]he police ride around in pickup trucks with machine guns, but they aren’t there to protect most people. They are scary to locals and travelers alike. For individual protection there’s an army of private, armed security guards who are found in front of not only banks, but also restaurants, ATM machines, grocery stores and at any building that holds anything of value whatsoever. Some guards have uniforms and long guns but just as many are dressed in street clothes with cheap pistols thrust into waistbands. The country has a handful of really rich people, a small group of middle-class, some security guards who seem to be getting by and a massive group of people who are starving to death and living in slums. You can see the evidence of previous decades of infrastructure investment in roads and bridges, but it’s all in slow-motion decay. 
I took a van trip across the country, starting in Copan (where there are must-see Mayan ruins), across to the Caribbean Sea to a ferry that took my family to Roatan Island. The trip from Copan to the coast took a full six hours, and we had two flat tires. The word “treacherous” is inadequate—a better description is “post-apocalyptic.” We did not see one speed limit sign in hundreds of kilometers. Not one. People drive around each other on the right and left and in every manner possible. The road was clogged with horses, scooters and bicycles. People traveled in every conceivable manner along the crumbling arterial. Few cars have license plates, and one taxi driver told me that the private company responsible for making them went bankrupt. Instead of traffic stops, there are military check points every so often. The roads seemed more dangerous to me than the gang violence. 
The greatest examples of libertarianism in action are the hundreds of men, women and children standing alongside the roads all over Honduras. The government won’t fix the roads, so these desperate entrepreneurs fill in potholes with shovels of dirt or debris. They then stand next to the filled-in pothole soliciting tips from grateful motorists. That is the wet dream of libertarian private sector innovation.
 Well worth heading over to Salon to read the whole thing.

4 comments:

Luke said...

You might really like Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer. Among other things, it explores a reality in the future where there are things like personal protection squads, or even nanobots which do the same. It's about much more than this, but that your blog post reminded me of that aspect.

Publius said...

This article on Salon (not Slate) is just a strawman argument - "Hey, look, Honduras is a shithole, and that's what happens to countries that follow Libertarian or the Objectivism of Ayn Rand. Of course, he provides no evidence that Honduras follows those principles, or that the Libertarians or Objectivists would seek to build such a society.

Hmmm ... what is the ethical philosophy of the author? Ah, there it is:

What kind of society maximizes freedom while providing the best outcomes for the greatest number of human beings?

He's a Utilitarian.

Ron said...

> This article on Salon (not Slate)

Doh! Thanks for pointing that out.

Susan McLean said...

Let's send some kittens to Honduras, Michael Hill of Alabama, and crabby commentators. Oh--AT&T, too.