Prompted by a parting shot Tyler Cowen made in reference to the Arnold Kling post I linked below, some mainstream left bloggers have taken shots at describing libertarianism. Most, unsurprisingly, decided “how about I describe Objectivism instead? Or just call you all idiots for disagreeing with me?“, followed by their commenters making such claims as “libertarianism is for children”. In contrast, the best one I’ve seen yet came from someone who just started blogging literally yesterday. I only have a few comments about it:
3) Although there are differences in station between members of a liberal order, these are in principle gradations of comfort, not power.
4) Furthermore, most people can attain any station they wish in a liberal order; it’s primarily a function of preferences for consumption goods vs. free time. (There’s nothing, of course, wrong with either preference.)
The accuracy of these REALLY depend on ones definition of liberal order. To put it short, I hope the emphasis is on the first word and not the 2nd.
5) Not all human social evils are specifically statal in nature; sexism, racism, homophobia are of course awful, because they judge individuals by the quality of the group. It is unfortunate that many left attempts to attack these only create another artificial hierarchy of priveliged groups when equality can only mean the treatment of each as an individual, not a possessor of group characteristics. Left to the profit motive, people will discover that these prejudices are irrational and abandon them.
Of course it’s not solely about money, and never is. Failing an embrace of rationality, tolerant society should be able to abandon them. On racism in particular, I’m reminded of what Vache Folle said awhile back:
A libertarian would probably avoid forcing a racist to associate with the object of his revuslion against his will. On the other hand, a libertarian might denounce racism and take voluntary action to discriminate against racists. (emphasis mine)
Yup. There is only one group in any society that deserves to be ostracized — the willfully stupid.
As for points 7 & 8 of his, I’d more emphasize the various measures taken out by governments over time that separated what were traditionally commons, having the effect of limiting the possibilities for upward mobility & creating market externalities where they didn’t exist before. Besides, the concept of growth these days is questionable since it seems to live and die on pushing around large imaginary numbers.
That said, the following point hits a bullseye the likes of which none of the other responses even come close to:
10) In a large state true democratic governance is impossible, because unlike the market, a perfectly functioning democracy would require every voter to have perfect global knowledge. In the absence of such ficticious beings all particular attempts to regulate an industry – whether through tariffs, industrial policy, safety and environmental regulations, antitrust, whatever – will fall most under the influence of those with the most interest in it, the industrialists themselves. Thus, the tendency is for all regulatory frameworks to descend into the protection of market power.
I’ve actually been arguing this exact point — the ever-widening gulf between “representative” and citizen inherently corrupting the system as it grows, leading its power to boomerang on the very people who originally thought it could be to their benefit — for years. Fucking BINGO, we have a winner folks…
BTW: Ron Chusid weighed in on this, and I agree with his distinction between progressivism and liberalism. I give the description I do below to progressivism because, unlike the liberalism of people like Ron or Glenn Greenwald, progressives have a singular focus on the perceived benefit of government power to the point of dismissing any skepticism as having alterior motives. In that respect, progressives and conservatives have a lot in common, both reacting to questioning state intervention as if it’s downright evil, just with different things that they think the State is a priori wonderful at. Progressives are the type of people I refer to with cracks like at the end of this post.