Monday, June 11, 2007

Libertarian reflections on the Sopranos

The final episode really brought home to me how the coercive power of the government is not that far off from the power of the Mafia. Before I get into that, I found it interesting that the HBO franchise saw fit to portray "made" guys as part of the war against terror (in my limited reading, libertarian thought usually comes up silent or isolationist on foreign policy, simply assuming a stablized nation state in which one may focus on the reduction of government meddling).

Anyways, Agent Dwight Harris (played by the versatile and gifted Matt Servitto) is a compelling reflection of Tony Soprano, in all the same basic ways:

+ quid pro quo on inside information to help one's personal interests
+ common fundamentalist muslim enemy (due to similar xenophobia?)
+ maintaining a mistress on the side
+ gambling--the FBI unit seemed to have a pool on which mafia executive would get hit next

I maitain that free and unfettered prediction markets can bring a little more clarity and accountability to government behavior. While I am a big supporter and advocate of democracy, it has its limits. One big noise factor is special interests having too much influence--hard working parents taking care of their kids and elderly parents are too busy to lend their voice to counterbalancing fringe interests' lobbying.

An example from the last decade was government spending on AIDS, cancer and heart disease. AIDS spending equaled cancer + heart spending, even though the latter two killers claimed 36 times the victims of the former. While I think a reasonable case could be made to prioritize AIDS research, since it was an emergent and therefore more uncertain disease, I think it also shows that special interests of a 2% demographic minority are able to hijack a conversation that leads to uneven government behavior.

Now if a prediction market could be set up to predict fatalities of every kind--disease, traffic accidents, war, etc--there would be a much less emotional and biased, and much more logical and objective indicator on the cause of death, to which the government could respond to and from which the press might derive more insight and intelligent questioning of the government.

I continue to maintain that prediction markets will improve democratic capitalism from our current implementation. To quote Tony Soprano's jukebox preference: Don't Stop Believin' (by Journey).

UPDATE: Arnold Kling has an excellent essay on those in the war over capitalism, dating back to the early Greeks.

No comments:

Post a Comment