Our Tesla Liberals

The epithet “limousine liberal” was apparently first used in 1969 to deride those politicians, celebrities, and other affluent members of society who advocate “feel-good” policies that impose huge costs on other segments of society, but from which they are completely or largely insulated. Although we might consider updating this epithet to “Tesla liberal,”[1] it is clear that nothing else has changed since then. Below I briefly catalog the many programs enacted by our politicians and supported by affluent progressives that harm the poor, while not affecting (or even benefiting), the wealthy. The evidence showing such consequences is provided in my book, Libertarian Philosophy in the Real World (LPRW), as referenced in the citations below.

A classic example is government-run K-12 education. Many well-off Americans support this institution in the name of the “common good,” knowing that their public schools, in (say) Beverly Hills, are excellent, and that they can always afford to enroll their children in private school if they choose. Of course, those parents whose kids are stuck in the failing schools of Compton or the like, don’t have this option (LPRW, 128-30).

Many modern liberals support the use of eminent domain in order to promote economic development, and zoning laws in order to preserve the character of their upscale neighborhoods. Since the former is most often used in the inner city, it doesn’t harm the wealthy, while often destroying viable minority communities (LPRW, 37-40). Zoning statutes only “preserve” affluent suburbs by denying lower-income citizens their right to live in multi-family housing near their employment, and to enroll their children in the public schools favored by wealthy progressives (LPRW, 43-5).

Those on the left signal their solidarity with the working man by enthusiastically supporting the minimum wage and opposing right to work laws. The former provide a “living wage” for those fortunate enough to keep their jobs if their employers remain in business and do not automate them away. However, it directly harms low-skilled, disproportionately minority workers hoping to land their first position, because they are no longer able to compete by offering to work at a rate below the new lawful minimum (LPRW, 84-5).

Similarly, unions raise wages for their members, but eliminate the ability of lower-skilled workers to compete for what are now (contractually) “union jobs” by offering their labor for less (LPRW, 88). Those on the left remain silent regarding occupational licensing laws, which often pose a serious barrier to entry for blue collar workers seeking to self-employ (LPRW, 85-6).

For members of our society who fall on hard times and require public assistance, we fail to provide a reliable path to employment by addressing such obstacles as the lack of marketable skills and substance abuse. Instead, we provide resources without asking much in return, thus promoting multi-generational dependency and alienation (LPRW, 118-20). Yet, those who would tear down this destructive system are derided by progressives as cruel and uncaring.

Only conservatives and libertarians care about regulatory reform, yet our federal edicts alone impose compliance costs of over $1.7 trillion a year. This figure excludes indirect costs, as well as expenses generated by state and local laws.  (LPRW, 83).  Resources spent this way are not available to open new factories and other businesses, which lift people out of poverty.

Finally, if you don’t work for an employer that offers health insurance as a benefit, and can’t afford to purchase an individual policy, our progressive friends have lovingly designed a program for you: Medicaid, which has been dramatically expanded under ObamaCare. Unfortunately, study after study have shown that Medicaid, despite its enormous cost, does little or nothing to improve the health of those covered by it (LPRW, 116).   Surely, vouchers for private insurance and services would provide a higher standard of care.

Although this is not a comprehensive list, perhaps it is enough to convince the reader of the truth of my assertion, made in the course of defending stringent property rights, that:

[O]ur society is not run on free market principles, and it is this failing that wrongs many citizens by denying them a fair opportunity to compete for desirable social goods. As shown in the remainder of this study, our state severely abridges economic liberty, which disproportionately harms those struggling to lift themselves out of poverty. To assist those so affected, we should not weaken ownership rights, but rather neuter the state (LPRW, 35).

So my advice to our Tesla liberals is: (a) moral preening is no substitute for action, and (b) if you wish to assist the needy, don’t outsource this job to our corrupt, inefficient, and worst of all, rights-violating state.


[1] Tesla owners can flaunt their green credentials by tooling around in their sleek sports cars, but they do so by indirectly exploiting a variety of “Robin Hood in reverse” tax subsidies that have kept this firm afloat.


This entry was posted in Blog. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Our Tesla Liberals

  1. avraham says:

    I believe Michael Huemer said close to the same idea in his essay http://www.owl232.net/irrationality.htm. But your essay here provides a new perceptive and a lot of detail. I will (bli neder no oath) try to get back to your essay and read it in more detail.

    • Mark Friedman says:

      Hi Avraham:
      Thanks for bringing Huemer’s essay to my intention. From a quick glance, it appears that he is trying to diagnose the causes of political stalemates, while I am attempting the more modest task of describing how these cognitive biases have manifested themselves with respect to one subgroup of voters.

  2. avraham says:

    He does very briefly mention your point there about bias in what directly effects people. He also is modifying a paper by Bryan Caplan –they are both friends. In any case there is some very good points in your essay which are new.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *