Creative Destruction

August 11, 2006

Quote: The Libertarian Vice

Filed under: Debate,Economics,Politics — Ampersand @ 12:48 pm

From Marginal Revolution:

The libertarian vice is to assume that the quality of government is fixed. […] If the quality of government is fixed, the battle is then “government vs. market.” Not everyone will agree with libertarian views, but libertarians are comfortable on this terrain.

But sometimes governments do a pretty good job, even if you like me are generally skeptical of government. The Finnish government has supported superb architecture. The Swedes have made a good go at a welfare state. The Interstate Highway System in the U.S. was a high-return investment. […]

The libertarian approach treats government vs. market as the central question. Another approach, promoted by many liberals, tries to improve the quality of government. This endeavor does not seem more utopian than most libertarian proposals. The libertarian cannot reject it on the grounds of excess utopianism, even though much government will remain wasteful, stupid, and venal. More parts of government could in fact be much better, and to significant human benefit and yes that includes more human liberty in the libertarian sense of the word. […]

It is possible to agree with the positive claims of libertarians about the virtues of markets but still think that improving the quality of government is the central task before us. One could love markets yet be some version of a modern liberal rather than a classical liberal. This possibility makes libertarians nervous…

Read, as they say, the whole thing.

Also, from another of Tyler’s posts:

The modern liberal vice is to think that everyone can be taken care of, and/or to rule out foreigners from the relevant moral universe. Too many issues are (incorrectly) framed as “taking care” vs. serving the avarice of the wealthy.

In turn, a conservative and libertarian vice is to get too obsessed with “desert.” Another conservative and libertarian vice is come up with some better means of helping people — usually involving markets — and if that doesn’t happen, to be content with doing nothing.

All of that seems very on-target to me, but I’d be curious to know what other folks think.

Curtsy: Crooked Timber.

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