TCS Daily


Celebrate Diversity

By Arnold Kling - May 19, 2003 12:00 AM

Every so often, someone on the left will fulminate, "Do you realize that the United States is the only major industrial country without national health care?" And I think to myself, "Ahh, diversity! Isn't it something to treasure?"

In fact, I long for more diversity. I would love to live in the only major industrial country that uses vouchers for school funding, private accounts for retirement savings, and catastrophic insurance for subsidized health care.

Break up the United States

We could achieve diversity by breaking the United States into two countries. One country could adopt economic and social policies that follow Milton Friedman. That is where I would want to live. The other country could adopt policies that follow Hillary Clinton, with socialized day care, health care, and so on. That is where most of my neighbors would want to live.

But nobody would have to move! In the age of the Internet, location does not have to be an issue. The regions of Hillaria and Miltonia could co-exist in physical space, but be separate virtual jurisdictions. We could have diversity without segregation.

Just as there are limits to the diversity that is possible between Maryland and Idaho, there would be limits to the diversity between Hillaria and Miltonia. We would have to share the cost of national defense. We would have to adopt a common policy on the environment. I do not see how we could have separate systems for regulating transportation and communications. Hillaria and Miltonia might disagree on all of these policies, but the only solution would appear to be compromise, just as we have today.

By splitting into the virtual regions of Miltonia and Hillaria, we could run a "natural experiment" to see how things work. Perhaps after ten or twenty years, we Miltonians will come around to the point of view that "It takes a village," and we will emigrate to Hillaria. Or perhaps the Hillarians will decide that "There is no free lunch" and move to Miltonia. Or it could turn out there will be self-selection, with each population happy to continue its policies.

Diversity Beyond the United States

As a believer in diversity, it saddens me to see Europe moving toward uniformity. How can Europeans decry the spread of McDonald's but not the spread of bureaucracy and regulation? How can they argue for preserving separate languages but insist on a common currency? Surely, from the standpoint of trade, the language barrier is much more important. In fact, my advice to the Brits is that they should not adopt the euro until the European Union agrees to adopt English.

Of course, Great Britain also might wish to divide into two virtual regions. Perhaps the English free-marketers will join with their brethren in western Canada and the United States, in a sort of transnational Miltonia. The English socialists could merge with eastern Canada and Hillaria. They could adopt the euro. Maybe they'll all speak French.
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