Body hijacker and controller capture

I sometimes find myself wondering how libertarians agree and disagree with non-libertarians. How much of the disagreement is due to deep divisions in values, and how much is due to different ideas about how to pursue the same values? Of course, there is no single answer to this question, but broad trends can be observed.

I’ve noticed one area where liberals and leftists (broadly) agree on the nature of a problem, but come to very different conclusions about the best way to respond to that problem. I wonder how the state favors powerful and entrenched interests over the interests of less powerful ones. Leftists typically describe it with phrases like “we live in a corporatist state, and corporations control the government,” while liberals are more likely to use phrases like “regulatory capture makes the state serve the interests of regulated industry rather than the public interest.” But both sides are describing the same story here.

As an aside, I think the left underestimates the extent to which libertarians share their concerns on this front. Those on the left who would suggest libertarians support free markets and oppose economic regulation out of loyalty or affection for large corporations, but this is far from the truth. For one, big companies don’t want an unregulated free market – they want the market regulated in their favor. Second, the more regulatory power the state possesses, the greater the incentive firms have to ensure that power is used in their favor. And third, the nature of politics ensures that it is almost certain how the rules will be used in practice. Milton Friedman expressed it well in his first episode Free to choose TV Series:

I don’t think it is right to put the situation in terms of industrialists versus the government. Conversely, one of the reasons I favor less government is when you have more government industrialists take it over and both combine to form a coalition against ordinary workers and ordinary consumers.

Where libertarians and leftists disagree is how to deal with this alliance between states and corporations. Libertarians see this alliance as a powerful factor in reducing the regulatory power of the state – the left disagrees. Obviously, I think the libertarian view makes more sense – and to explain why, let’s indulge in a nerdy sci-fi thought experiment.

Imagine Earth slowly being invaded by body-robbing aliens, who replaced humans with identical-looking alien agents who worked behind the scenes to further the aliens’ sinister agenda. Let’s say the government has tasked the NSA with dealing with this alien threat. Unsurprisingly, the aliens begin to hack their way into the NSA’s control.

What is the best way to respond to this? One approach we must no Tech means “Body-snugglers have taken over the NSA, so we need to increase the NSA’s capabilities so they can better protect us from body-snugglers.” That would be a terrible idea – if the body-snugglers already have the NSA in check, expanding the NSA’s powers will only play into the body-snugglers’ hands. QED.

Leftists who believe we live in a corporatist state and advocate greater state control of the economy as a counter to these concerns are making the same mistake. Their position is that “Corporations control government, so we need to increase the power of government to protect us from corporations controlling government.”


Kevin Corcoran is a Marine Corps veteran and a consultant in healthcare economics and analytics and holds a Bachelor of Science in Economics from George Mason University.

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