Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Pareto Optimization and the Republican's Gay Agenda

OMG!  Can you BELIEVE it?  Rand Paul is advocating for gay marriage?  He's, like, a REPUBLICAN and stuff!!!  OMG!  Who saw this coming?  OMG!!!  HE'S EVEN FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM!  This is unbelievable!!!

Or, entirely believable.  What was strange was that a Libertarian would not have been in favor of these programs.  And so, the untenable marriage between Fundamentalist Christianity and Libertarian economists has filed for a very public divorce.  The question is now whether someone tries to patch them up for another four years or if they can come to an amicable settlement and go their separate ways.

What is clear is that Sen. Paul is heading towards the 2016 Presidential Race with guns blazing.  Sure, he threw the Christian Right a bone with the "Life Begins At Conception Bill", which I'm sure will be followed by the "Life Begins The Moment Your Car Parks at MakeOut Point Bill".  Not that either would be signed by the president, nor would it get by the Supreme Court with its current make-up.  But, by supporting gay marriage, he can pretty much write-off this vote.

Instead, Paul is showing that commitment to Libertarian principles that made him advocate for the repeal of the Civil Rights Act back in 2010.  If you believe that the best regulator is the free market, then eventually, the market will penalize those who discriminate, leading to a competitive disadvantage where your discriminators will be run out of business due to the efficient operations of the more tolerant competitors.  Cause, in rural Mississippi, this is soooo what happens.  Neoliberal economists even lament the idea that government interference prevents us from proving that we're good human beings.  Extending this to the Civil Rights era, the problem was that we didn't give Alabama enough time to prove that they could be good people before we violated their rights to free trade.  (I'm an oppressive Northerner, I know.)

Extending this logic to immigration, free markets would include the labor market.  Wages are going to remain sticky if labor is not free to move around the world to where the jobs are.  If there is one minimum wage job available in Iowa, and one person applies, we'd normally think that the labor market was fine and dandy.  However, we prevented hundreds of migrant laborers to invade Iowa, increasing the supply of labor, and having them bid down the wages of the job to a level where the owner gets really happy.  Your free flow of labor in the form of immigration reform could have the result be an erosion of minimum wage laws, right at the time that Obama wants to raise the rate to $9/hour.

Coming out in favor of gay marriage by a Libertarian was one of the least-shocking things that happened this week.  Few examples of a truly Pareto-optimizing policy exist, but here's a true gift.  With gay marriage, some are better off - primarily the couples who were denied this right in the past.  None are worse off - I'm not losing rights in my marriage by extending them to others.  Usually, one could find losers in an apparent Pareto-optimizing exchange, but they just do not exist here.  One could argue that employers who offer spousal benefits could be worse off, but their exposure is the same as it had been - after all, a gay man could marry a straight woman for health insurance in the past (also, this sounds like the plot to a romantic comedy.  Is it?) so they are no worse off or better off than before.  Within this context, why HADN'T Rand Paul supported gay marriage before?  That's the real question here.  The only answer I had was that he had to appease the voters of Kentucky.  It no longer seems that this is his concern.