Any fan of the classic 90's sitcom Seinfeld knows the unfortunate conclusion by which the series ends. Jerry Seinfeld, with his friends and the show's three mainstays Elaine Benes, George Costanza, and Cosmo Kramer, are on their way to Paris in NBC's company jet which was loaned to Seinfeld in return for the network keeping the pilot of his sitcom "Jerry" on the shelf for five years. Upon Kramer's erratic jumping and clumsily stumbling into the plane's cockpit (not all that strange of an occurrence in comparison to Kramer's normal behavior), an emergency landing ensues in the fictional town of Latham, Massachusetts. While awaiting takeoff, the foursome witnesses an overweight man being robbed. The following ensues:
The key takeaway from the incident is when the Latham police officer tells the group, "the law requires you to help or assist anyone in danger as long as it's reasonable to do so." This is the essence of what is known as Good Samaritan laws which require the public to act on the behalf of a victim when witnessing a crime taking place.
The coercion of such laws should immediately strike a nerve for austro libertarians. As Walter Block noted:
"Good Samaritan laws mandating that people come to the aid of those in trouble (say, an unconscious person) are incompatible with libertarianism."If the state is capable of mandating that one act in lieu of non-action, there then exists only a very fine line between the liberty, by which some believe the state should protect, and slavery. One could argue that no difference at all exists between Good Samaritan laws and laboring under bondage. The rational behind such laws comes down to the belief that members of the public are obligated to help their fellow citizens. The fact that such obligation comes from the barrel of a government gun goes unacknowledged. Collectivist arguments rarely consider methodological individualism for it would stick a wrench into the social engineering of the few over the masses. After all, it's always individuals who act, not groups.
From the libertarian perspective, the imprisonment of Jerry & friends is unjustified based on the principle of property rights alone. Jerry, nor George, Elaine, or Kramer should not be forced by any state, no matter how small in jurisdiction, to act on the behalf of others. Salvation through coercion is still coercion none the less. The guilty ruling concurred by Judge Art Vandelay (perhaps motivated by George false use of the name in picking up women and lying to potential employers) in spite of the spirited defense by the bombastic lawyer Jackie Chiles demonstrates the inherent contraction with Good Samaritan laws:
"callous indifference and utter disregard for everything that is good and decent rocked the foundation on which society is built."Society is composed of individuals, not the other way around. Equivocating "good and decent" with compulsion through the threat of imprisonment is no better than fruitlessly making a moral case for military conscription. As Chiles, who parodies the late Johnnie Conchran, ironically stated:
"You don't have to help anybody..that's what this country is all about."Chiles' claim, no matter how appealing to libertarians or even objectivists, has been refuted by decades of government mandates including FICA taxes, welfare funding, perpetual warfare under the guise of humanitarianism, and endless private sector bailouts through government loans or central bank liquidity injections.
None of this is to say that acting on the behalf of others shouldn't be done in certain circumstances. If a robbery occurs directly in front of you, an argument can be made for your intervention if you are capable of doing so. That isn't to say you should barrel into a quarrel of armed men without any defensive items of your own. The vagueness of the word "reasonable" shows the true fallacy of Good Samaritan laws imposed by the state. By what criteria is "reasonable" determined? Is it even possible for such a concrete decision to be made? Since individuals are different in thoughts as well as physical ability, how a state official determines such instances shows the true pretense of knowledge.
While Jerry and the Seinfeld crew ended a beloved television series of 9 seasons in jail, the disastrous effects of government enforced Good Samaritan laws presented in the last episode are obvious. Laws based on the subjective values of fallible bureaucrats end up creating more complications rather than strictly enforcing property rights. Thus is the nature of the state: unintended consequences brought about by short term and damaging policies through those who think they know how society operates best.
I gotta work on it a bit but I think that makes a good first draft. I will end by mentioning I have article on the American Thinker today entitled "It's Not Aggregate Demand, Stupid." An excerpt:
Increased production financed through accumulated savings drives sustainable growth. This goes hand in hand with entrepreneurial seeking of unmet demand, not aggregate demand in general. Steve Jobs didn't create the iPod because consumers were spending at Walmart. He speculated that there was a demand for a portable device that could store a massive amount of music, designed the product, determined the marginally profitable price it could be sold at, and decided whether or not to risk his capital and make the whole thing happen. He could have been wrong, but thankfully for all of us, he wasn't.
Keynesian focus on aggregate demand misses the big picture. Taken to its extreme conclusion, overconsumption can ultimately lead to higher prices as supply diminishes and production can't keep up. Inflation only exacerbates the situation as wages and prices eventually adjust after distorting the structure of production.
Meanwhile, the real barriers holding back economic growth are unacknowledged by government apologists acting as economists. The prospect is what Robert Higgs deems "regime uncertainty," where the threat of increased taxes and regulatory enforcement is simply tossed away with academic hand-waving. Artificially low interest rates from the Fed have disincentivized savings and pushed investment toward riskier assets. Capital becomes difficult to accumulate, and the economic pie is prevented from expanding.
Aggregate demand is the last vestige of economists who believe that prosperity is but a simple math formula away. Those who hold it truly believe that government spending on anything creates wealth. As Paul Krugman admitted:
As far as creating aggregate demand is concerned, spending is spending - public spending is as good as but also no better than private spending, spending on bombs is as good as spending on public parks.Such a candid statement reveals the true nature of Keynesianism. Any merit it had as an economic theory has been replaced with providing cover for politicians to do what they do best: fund special interests. When digging ditches became a solution to joblessness, Keynesianism should have been relegated to the dustbin of history. Instead, it litters college textbooks to this day.
Not too bad if I do say so myself.With theories like this passing as conventional wisdom, is it any wonder why our economic affairs are in such disarray?