Image Courtesy: Screenrant
The recently released movie Captain America: Civil War gives some interesting insights about the real world. (If you haven't yet seen it, proceed with caution. There will be spoilers.)
The film is set about one year after the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, and opens with a division of the Avengers -- Captain America, The Falcon, Black Widow, and Wanda Maximoff -- on a mission in Africa to stop a group of terrorists. But it doesn't end well -- or rather, it doesn't end as the Avengers expected.
The debate divides the Avengers into two groups -- one siding with Captain America (who opposes the UN decision) and the other with Iron Man (who supports it).
The Avengers are becoming a private entity to save the people in a manner more effective than the existing government. Yet, their activities are also causing a lot of chaos in society. The UN, therefore, steps in to institute regulations on their functioning, setting up government control and the "Sokovia Accords" (a throwback to the climactic Battle of Sokovia with Ultron, events from which are still haunting Iron Man). The debate divides the Avengers into two groups -- one siding with Captain America (who opposes the UN decision) and the other with Iron Man (who supports it). Various governments and the United Nations demand that the Avengers stop functioning as a privately run paramilitary organization and, instead, answer to the authorities.
As we all know, anything that comes under government control is as good as doomed. The clip below elucidates the discussion between both the teams, with Captain America making the case for why he feels he and the others cannot give up their autonomy:
Captain America: "We may not be perfect, but the safest hands are still our own."
Iron Man: "If we don't do this now [submit to the Sokovia Accords], it will be done to us later."
Now, I don't want to spoil the movie for you if you haven't watched it, but I do want to draw your attention to the libertarian slant of the narrative.
As Captain America said in the above clip, private entities are responsible for their own actions. If they do well they get incentivized; similarly, bad actions result in bad outcomes. Even Iron Man shut his weaponry after learning the destruction that they caused. It is simple -- private entities, unlike the government, have to lure and tempt people to buy whatever they're selling. If goodwill goes down in the market, the company goes down as well.
Captain America has always fought against centralized power, be it when he was fighting in WWII or against SHIELD...
When libertarians ask for less government, this doesn't imply that they stand for no regulation. They believe and advocate for strict law and order. Captain America has always fought against centralized power, be it when he was fighting in WWII or against SHIELD (in the last Avengers movie, his main issue with SHIELD was that there was no transparency of information). Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. If there is competition to government services, there are automatic checks and balances on their use of power. The minute they have monopoly over power, we can bid freedom and choice goodbye.
True that in the above instance, SHIELD was infiltrated by HYDRA, but who's to say that the UN, or an all-powerful government would never be compromised? Monopoly creates opportunity for infiltration, for cronyism and for collaboration between two powerful parties. Competition controls for all of the above. It is always about who watches the watchmen.
If you follow daily news and politics you'll see the corruption and the number of government bodies involved in underhanded activities affecting all of us, be it money laundering, issues related to international relations, or day-to-day work of the economy.
As Milton Friedman said, "If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years there'd be a shortage of sand."
If we come out of this movie and apply the same principles in the real world, we might discern more clearly that the government is taking control over the lives of people gradually. We all know how private entities have come forward to make the world a better place, giving us more choice when it comes to cell phones, laptops, cosmetics, vehicles or anything else. The government, though, isn't always on board. The most recent example from Delhi is banning surge pricing by cab aggregators Ola and Uber. Five-six years ago, expensive cab services (around ₹25/km) were the only option. This monopoly was challenged by the parallel system that we now have before us. Did the government in the past try to meddle in how private players provided to the customer?
There are always a few things which should be left for the market to analyze and to then figure out the best solution for the people. As Milton Friedman said, "If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years there'd be a shortage of sand." I am not saying the government cannot come up with solutions, but one has to understand the true cost of them holding all the cards in their hands.
A version of this article previously appeared on Spontaneous Order.
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