Libertarians and What Is Seen

2019-02-09T18:36:34.000Z Honest Cash

There is a french economist whose name is Frederic Bastiat and who tends to be known in libertarian circles. Around 1850 Bastiat wrote :

"Between a good and a bad economist this constitutes the whole difference — the one takes account of the visible effect; the other takes account both of the effects which are seen, and also of those which it is necessary to foresee."

That quote comes from a collection of essays titled "That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen" [


Bastiat points out for instance that when an activity is subsidized by the government there are visible benefits (say a particular product gets cheaper) but hidden costs. And it turns out that the hidden costs offset the alleged benefits.

However, the principle doesn't apply only to the flaws in government subsidies. It applies to any situation where the cost of something is hidden or purposedly ignored.

Libertarians like to praise division of labor a lot. They talk about the amazing benefits that division of labor furnishes. And it is true that division of labor allows a group of people to carry out complex tasks and produce goods that individuals acting alone couldn't produce. So what is seen here is that division of labor enables the creation of technically complex goods. The interesting thing is that alleged libertarians completely ignore the costs of division of labor. Despite their constant talk about economics libertarians are bad economists.

The cost and uninteded consequence of the division of labor is that individuals become dependent on it. And this should be an obviously undesirable outcome for libertarians, who claim to value individual freedom.

Division of labor becomes especially toxic when mixed with government, and sadly that's the way it has always existed. In a complex economy individuals are heavily dependant on technical expertise they don't personaly have and that expertise is in the hands of people who closely cooperate with the government, serving the government's ends.

A glaring example of this is the current surveillance state run by "great capitalist heroes" from Silicon Valley. The technical infrastructure is controlled by criminal organizations like google, apple, intel, facebook and the like who in turn are nothing but private facades for the state.

Are libertarians bothered by this? Not as far as I know. If anything the majority of libertarians are corporate apologists who see big corrupt businesses as "poor oppressed victims" of the state.