In the 2008 election, I was stymied by how many people voted for Obama, despite the destructive nature of his stated goals. He wanted to increase union membership, widely known to cause unemployment and business failure. He wanted to reform the health care system with proposals that would increase access to a broken system, without fixing the system. He proposed an economic stimulus plan that wouldn’t even begin paying out in earnest for a couple of years, thereby having no (or harmful) effects in the short-term.
So, why did people vote for him?
I could get all cynical and talk about socialism and power-grabs, etc. I’ve done that and, while it may be applicable to some people, I know many sincere, intelligent people who voted for him. So, cynicism aside, I asked myself, “why did (do) people support Obama or any big government politician?” That includes just about every Republican, by the way.
I believe the answer is two-fold:
- We sincerely want to help other people.
- We’re not as good at knowing what’s best for others as we are what’s best for ourselves.
The question is, how good can we be at knowing what’s best for others and ourselves. I believe an individual, over time, will know what’s best for him more than any other person will know what’s best for him.
For example, let’s say I know what’s best for myself 90% of the time (meaning I’m wrong about what’s best for myself 10% of the time). Further, let’s assume I’m right about what’s best for others 50% of the time and I’m wrong 50% of the time. Here’s a graph that shows what I’m talking about.
Given that, let’s say my decision to act is based 75% on what’s best for me and 25% on what’s best for others.
Combining the two scenarios, we can see how this vote will turn out.
In words, our decision is right for us 68% of the time and wrong about 10% of the time. It’s right for others 13% of the time and wrong 13% of the time. The magnitude of these numbers changes based on the assumptions but the outcomes do not. Unless you make the assumption that you know what’s best for somebody else more than you know what’s best for you. And I think that’s a stretch.
What does this have to do with Obama and government? The fundamental mission of government is to make decisions based on what they think is best for others. As we’ve shown, that’s not likely to turn out in the best interests of the people they’re trying to serve. Which means the government should do less to make decisions for others and more to make sure people have the information they need to make their own choices.
Obama’s policies are clearly about making choices for people, not giving them information to make their own choices. For example, forcing all taxpayers to buy health insurance, requiring community service by high school and college students and removing card check restrictions that make it easier for union organizers to harass people who don’t vote for the unionization of the work force all pave the way for forcing decisions on others.
Let’s get back to government that supports our individual freedoms and decisions. Instead of supporting choice by force, why not support the free exchange of ideas and information? And when a good idea comes across your desk, instead of writing to your senator in hopes they’ll force the rest of us to implement or fund it, why not just make it work for yourself and pass on the information to others.
We’re all adults. Let us choose.