Wednesday, November 16, 2011
The Best Party
If the ideal government is one which is thoroughly prevented
from using its force and coercion to accomplish anything other than protecting
our property rights, what would this look like? Surely this government would look
vastly different from the one we are currently subjected to. Due to a personal
view that anyone in power should not be in power because they want to be in power
and thereby gain the prestige riches and power that go along with it (Plato); I
can’t help but think that a government which countenances libertarian values is
inherently impossible. If I reason correctly, then this is a tragedy, and all
we have left to do is fight the government tooth and nail for every right it
tries to take away from us.
What if I don’t reason correctly? What if it is a possible
to elect the type of government or government official who has identified
problems with the status quo, is capable of stringing together coherent
sentences which relate his views to the masses, has surrounded himself with
loyal friends rather than plundering politicians, and is in no way interested
in the prestige surrounding political office but just wants to get in, fix some
stuff, and get out?
Consider Iceland. The situation which I will eventually claim
is analogous to what a free market government would potentially look like is
not truly analogous. The United States has a population of roughly 300 million
people. Reykjavik, Iceland has a population of about 120,000. The Unites States
no doubt has a wider spread of viewpoints, a larger government, more money,
more power, and more to lose (Iceland declared bankruptcy in 2008). It seems
unlikely that the situation which has occurred there would ever occur here.
Jon Gnarr and his party, The Best Party, won the 2010
election for mayor of Reykjavik. This city is home to more than a third of the
country. Among the issues on his campaign platform included promising polar
bears in the zoo, free towels in public pools, and Disneyland in the airport.
To those watching the campaign progress, it appeared to be a joke; Gnarr is a
well-known comedian and musician in Iceland. Then he won and the joke became a
Under the surface of the comedic campaign videos slogans and
promises which he prefaced with the claim that many would not actually be
fulfilled (as he said, he’s a politician after all) was a disgruntled citizen.
In the aftermath of the 2008 bankruptcy he is quoted as finding himself in a
moral dilemma; it seemed he owed money to Britain and the Dutch that he himself
did not spend so he decided to do something about it. It wasn’t a frantic grope
for power, but a desire to upend the corruption of those who were previously in
power which led him to make his election bid.
What is more is that behind his promises which seem
initially absurd, hid decent rationale. Bring the polar bears to the zoo, he
proclaimed, because many more had been swimming ashore due to ice caps melting
and instead of continuing to shoot them, his plan was to put them to good use. Gnarr
supported free towels in the public baths to draw in tourism; public baths
count as spas under European Union law only if they provide free towels.
Regardless of how good or bad these ideas are I suppose that
my main point is that Iceland had a man running for election who was not doing
it out of political prestige, he simply wanted to make changes. Gnarr was more
than willing to make fun of himself and the political process he was partaking
in. He was honest and effective and was surrounded by people he trusted and
upheld the same values. And Reykjavik voted for him. They realized that the
current system is flawed, and that it takes someone outside the system to
change it. What would happen in America if someone ran for president, or any
office for that matter, in the same honest and delightful manner?
Also, just for viewing pleasure, this is his campaign song