Does libertarianism lead to a greater overall level of happiness in a nation’s population?
I’ve often stated that the Philippines, a third-world country by almost any measure, is quite libertarian in nature, and I’ve connected many times that libertarianism to the poverty and poor living conditions of most of the people here. Libertarians would have us believe that the following are a sure path to nationwide prosperity:
- a weak central government
- no social safety net to speak of
- no government-funded medical care
- very loose (and often completely unenforced) regulations on industry and business (no truly effective equivalents to OSHA, EPA, SEC, ATF, DOE, HHS, or a host of other acronyms)
- very weak unionization
- an inadequately funded military
- very little federal involvement in education
- a nationwide system of right-to-work, i.e. a boss never needs a reason to fire an employee
- no comprehensive and well-funded government equivalents to FEMA, the U.S. National Flood Insurance Program, Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac, or (with very few exceptions) any of the other host of federal programs that liberals cherish and libertarians/conservatives consider boondoggles and total wastes of taxpayer monies.
I could go on with more examples, but suffice it to say that the Philippines is a wonderful example of a nation where government is largely out of the way of business and the people. If libertarian theory were right, then the Philippines should have been booming for the past thirty years!
But even though it’s so glaringly obvious to me that the experience of the Philippines (and of most third world nations) proves that libertarianism is not a viable path to national prosperity, there’s one question that’s been bugging me. You see, the Filipinos are a generally happy people. In my opinion, and according to the first hand observations made not only by my family but of many friends who travel back and forth between America and the Philippines the Filipinos are happier than are the American people. I’ve seen studies out there that place the Philippines significantly lower on the happiness scale than America; but I know what I see here on the streets of Manila. People here smile more, laugh more, are more patient with each other, and have much more tightly knit families than we do in America. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a host of problems with life in the Philippines as I documented here.
But the burning question is why are the people here happier than back in the United States? Most of us are quite aware of how angry Americans tend get in our daily commutes on the streets and highways. Yet, road rage is rarely, if ever, seen here, despite the horrendous traffic beyond anything prevalent north of Mexico City. Hate crimes against the LGBT community are virtually unknown here, indeed, LGBT’s are openly accepted everywhere in society here, except for the fact that they can’t get married in this strongly Catholic nation. Abortion and the pill are strictly illegal and divorce is very difficult to obtain here, but can these last few aberrations against libertarianism explain the Philippines’ overall lack of progress given all the other libertarian advantages I listed above?
It should then be obvious to any truly objective observer that the experience not only of third world libertarian nations like the Philippines but also the first world nations which are all to varying degrees quite socialized that libertarianism belongs on a bookshelf gathering dust with all the other failed governmental systems of human history such as communism, fascism, and feudalism. Simply put, libertarianism is not a path to national prosperity.
But again, why are the people here happier than back in the United States? Does libertarianism, and the ubiquitous poverty seen in every libertarian nation, ensure a greater likelihood of happiness in the population? Of course not. If that were true, then the Sudan would be really high on the list of happiest nations, followed closely by Chad, Ethiopia, and Myanmar. And in case you’re wondering, the type of government, whether democracy or dictatorship, doesn’t really matter when the nation as a whole functions (as far as it can function at all) on libertarian principles.
So it should be obvious, then, that it’s quite unlikely that libertarianism and poverty leads to a happier population. I would state, then, that the reason that the average Filipino is happier than the average American is probably because of the culture itself. As I stated above, the people here are generally more tolerant of others, no road rage, no hate crimes, no equivalent to America’s war on drugs. They have some serious problems, such as the bandits who pose as rebels in the southern islands, but this is generally a local matter.
My conclusion would be, then, that the more tolerant the society, the happier that society will likely be.