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Monday, September 15, 2008

Libertarian manifesto

Richard Epstein has a new column in Forbes, and opens with a "Libertarian Manifesto" that sounds pretty good -- and moderate -- to me:

That classical liberalism eschews any affection for anarchy in the name of individual liberty. It recognizes the need for state force not only to prevent aggression and enforce contracts, but also to raise (flat) taxes, supply infrastructure and constrain monopoly. The public sector that emerges from a consistent application of these principles is not small potatoes. It easily encompasses a midsized antitrust law, some (modest) form of regulation over network industries like telecommunications and railroads and control of public nuisances through the targeted application of environmental law.
Ah, but the flip side. This approach also seeks to curtail the active use of government power to disrupt the operation of competitive markets with a dizzying set of subsidies, taxes and regulations that usually lower labor productivity by raising administrative costs--all in a fruitless effort to equalize incomes or create job security. The classical liberal works to design political institutions and legal rules to allow government to preserve social order without taking over decisions better served by private institutions and actors.
No anarchism. No conspiracy theories. No mindless alienation. No cult of Ron Paul. I think Epstein's out of step with a lot of libertarianism today.

1 comment:

Craig J. Bolton said...

I think that he may also be living in a dream world. This is basically the "liberalism" [better named "progressivism"] of the 1880s-1920s. It wasn't a stable form of social organization then, and it won't be today. Once government is cedeed the power to be "supervisor" and "regulator" it very shortly becomes all pervasive and a substitute parent figure for the infantile population.

You can't have it both ways. Either government does no more than set and enforce objective rules that are not "result oriented," or it "does more" so you "don't have anarchy" [aka results that certain people - usually uncompetitive people - don't like]. As more and more people see that there is no particular penalty for being unproductive, the power of leisure groows. So it has been, so it will always be.