Monday, May 19, 2003

Supply and Demand Remains, Even in Utopian Societies

A lot of my friends, especially the non-libertarian ones, like to ask me if I'll be moving to Idaho, Wyoming, or New Hampshire soon. At first, the question vexed me. After living in the Cleveland area since the age of three, I relocated with Ame to Indianapolis some nine months ago. It's not like I'll need to be here for 31 more years before considering the next move, but nor will it be happening next year.

Next year, some 20,000 libertarians may be faced with moving to one of those three states mentioned before as part of the Free State Project.

With my first complete reading of Atlas Shrugged, I began to occasionally indulge in the delicious daydream of a Galt's Gulch- a utopia devoid of compulsion, loaded with choices and freedom, and sole responsibilty for the exercise thereof. To be the builder of a city was a particularly fond daydream. Jason Sorens shares my reading list, and apparently, my daydreams, though not my taste in music.

The idea is that 20,000 libertarians will move en masse to one of the aforementioned states and rapidly transform the selected state's policies to libertarian policies.

On the surface, it's rather a tempting proposition... except that the chosen states all *suck*. These are underpopulated states for a reason. Remember reason? This all smacks of a Galt's Gulch Lite, without the oath that unlocks the door to the power plant, and yet with all the rest of the residents that resent you for being a carpetbagger.

Going to a population that is just sitting there, minding its own business, and imposing your political will over it en mass is the kind of thing I expect of US foreign policy in, well, name your country. Just like so many of our foreign adventures, I expect some current residents to wave the Free State flag and throw flowers, and others to hold up signs saying, 'libertarian go home', and rolling hand grenades under their tents.

I expect believers in utopia to gloss over that. Utopians don't want to hear about being outnumbered 20 to 1 as a negative. Those are odds they'll take! What I do not expect libertarian utopians to get glassy-eyed about is the consideration of supply and demand. That, after all, is the kind of hard-boiled reality that they do like to know about.

Remember that? Supply and demand? It is the stark fist of reality in the same was as gravity is to other dreamers. Oh, gravity can be overcome- in the same way as supply and demand: at great cost.

Take land that is cheap by virtue of the lack of a population. Now add 20,000 people that must have land now. We call the sum a boom town. Everywhere in this country's history, we have seen boom towns spring up, with land prices going from pennies per acre to Park Place and Boardwalk overnight... and often back to nothing, from Dodge City to Carson City to Silver City, Idaho. Better buy up that land now, while the getting's good.

While you're at it, set up a grocery store before the Sons of Sam Walton can. All commodities will be exorbitantly priced until real competition can move in. In the meantime, the naturally occurring monopoly stores will have a field day seperating utopians from greenbacks, long before the laws imposing taxes on food can be vanquished. After all, 20,000 of you will arrive on Monday, and by Thursday, there will be six cans of creamed corn and a bottle of Diet Vernors to go around.

I know libertarians know supply and demand. You can't read as much Adam Smith, Ludwig von Mises, Milton Friedman, Thomas Sowell, and Walter Williams as the average lib does and not pick up at least a little of it. And yet, I hear astonishingly little about provisions like, 'take all the provisions you can haul, including a whole lot of cash 'coz we're going to make the cost of living double or triple for a while'.

I wish these believers in the destinational approach well. I hope they prove me wrong. If they do, they will have to clear out a lot of space in their bookshelves.

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