Sorry I haven’t made the post about minimum wages yet. It’s obviously quite a complicated issue, so I’m still doing some more research on the topic, which is taking time in addition to starting a new summer session at school. However, just the other day I was having a discussion with a liberty-minded friend of mine on the issue of cap and trade. She was opposed to it and pointed to an op-ed Sarah Palin (Alaska’s governor who is soon to resign) wrote on the topic for the Washington Post. Naturally, I pointed out how stupid Governor Palin is. One simply has to go through her beliefs on social issues (among other things) to easily realize this. For (a brief) example, her positions that victims of rape who become pregnant should have to bear those children, that religiously-motivated intelligent design should be taught in science classes, or that abstinence only should be taught. My friend’s response was that now is not the time for a social debate, as the country is a bad recession. Right now, the only thing we should be focused on is the economy is her contention. She puts a precedence of economic rights over social rights.

As I rebutted, that’s pretty rubbish. Social rights issues are important regardless of how well the economy is doing. Outlawing abortions in a recession is no more moral than doing so in the heights of a bubble. It’s no more excusable to teach religion in science classes when stocks tumble than when they’re peaking. I think it would be a non sequitur to argue otherwise. It’s fine to argue for economic freedom, but it’s an entirely different thing to say it trumps all other issues.

I don’t, however, want to create a false dichotomy. Social and economic issues are not mutually exclusive. They are often interrelated. However, if forced with the decision, I would put precedence of social issues of economic issues. For example, I would much rather live in a country that was experiencing hyperinflation but still respected human rights than one where the economy was growing but systematically violated human rights.

I gave her the example of Pinochet’s Chile. Augusto Pinochet was the ruthless dictator of Chile 1974 until 1990. As a student of Latin America history, I was absolutely appalled by the horror stories that came out of Chile under Pinochet’s rule. Here is a guy, with the help of Milton Friedman and the Chicago Boys, who completely reformed the Chilean economy, liberalizing, deregulating, and privatizing at an astonishing rate. If there was a laissez-faire economy, it was Chile. And, you know what, some economic indicators like GDP rose. However, this came at the price of massive repression. Dissents were disappeared, tortured, murdered. Democracy did not exist. The country was ruled with an iron fist by the military and its dictator. If you dare spoke your mind, you would be brutally repressed.

Did the liberalization and expansion of the economy legitimize the loss of social rights? The answer is a resounding “no.”

I don’t want to give the impression that economic repression is not a bad thing. It very well can be. The point I want to stress though is that even if a government decides to command its economy, end trade, tax its citizens, or otherwise check markets, this is a much better alternative of restricting the social freedom of its citizens. So, through reading my blog you may find that I put a priority on social rights, even though I also agree economic freedom is very important.