The NYT posted an article today titled The Economics of Libertarianism, Revealed. And the usual NYT crowd followed with critical comments. Which is useful. Because we get to see what the proletariat think of a subject about which they know little to nothing.
This is a very odd set of comments. Heresay on one end and incompetence and error on the other.
Desipte that libertarianism is the most fully articulated political philosophy we currently possess, it is both incomplete, its authors mix semi-charismatic language with reason, and they start from a convenient and erroneous premise: non-violence. And thereby simplify the problem of political economy dramatically enough that they overstate the ease of attaining their goals.
As a theorist in this field, I’ll try to correct some statements made here:
1) there are a numberer of libertarian sects. They share a preference forindividual freedom and property rights. But they vary greatly from a branch of articulated classical liberalism (cato – english sentiments) to articulated conservatism (hayekians – german sentiments) to articulated radical anarchists (rothbardians – jewish sentiments). You cannot take ‘libertariansim’ as a coherent body of work. Or better stated, you cannot take the words of any thinker at face value: most if not all human debate is an attempt to find a rational explanation for sentiments. And sentiments are residues of our cognitive biases. (Pareto)
2) Libertarianism is NOT anti-government it is anti-bureaucracy. This is the issue that confuses everyone by incorrectly framimg the debate. The terms Government and Bureaucracy are not synonyms. And libertarians are both right, rational, and supported by data when they argue against bureaucracy. It says that humans in bureaucracies (whether private or public) once they become insulated from the market and prices, live by self interest without the market function that puts their self interest to good use in the service of others. It is possible to live a life outside of the market by the homeless or hippie lifestyle, by making enough money to live on your wealth alone, or by joining the bureaucracy and simply living off the efforts of others, and ignoring their signals – prices.
The underlying theory of libertarianism is a) economic calculation is competitively impossible without prices and the market. b) market incentives are necessary to create a prosperous advanced society. c) our cultural institutions are economic strategies that, much like our sentiments, we do not yet fully understand and they should be treated cautiously. Most importantly, our most cherished values are often false: people are unequal, cultures are not equal in value, diversity breeds discontent not happiness, people are racist, classist and culturist, and it’s in their interest to be so, even if it is not in their interest for legislation to be so. (Really.) d) Leglislation as we understand it is infereior to credit as a means by which we can change the behavior of people in a society. We must move from the law-society to the credit society, and our government is not organized to make that change, while the private sector is. Therefore we must push our ‘bureaucracy’ into the private secctor where the market will kill off organizations once they are no longer useful. e) insurance companies taht are highly regulated will do a better job than the governmetn of regulating most market activity. But we have over-corporialized both banking, insurance and management. In simple terms, your banker should personally back your loan, and not be able to resell it. Same for insurance. This is a complex topic but we cannot abstract all accountabilty without losing the knowledge to be accountable with in the process. f) All bureaucracies are anti-market, anti-prosperity, self-serving, eventually corrupt, and stagnate the culture and prey upon the citizenry. The market puts our selfishness to better use than the bureaucracy does. It’s that simple.
The libertarian strategy is to push as much of the FUNCTON of government into the private sector where iti is subject to competitive market functions so that we can prevent the bureaucracy from forming. Because it is the bureaucracy, or, the market-exiting of people within the bureaucracy that is the problem, not government.
None of the libertarians is right, word for word. They are attemtping to find a solution to a perrenial problem: coordinatoin and ocoperatin in a dynamic dividsion of knowledge and labor. They intuit solutoins based upon their cultural heritage then try to articulate solutions in a long term, vast attempt, to explain what it is that we do, and why it works. We’ve had markets for a long time. Economits don’t invent anything. They just try to explain it the best they can.
Libertairnism is the best, most fully articulated political philosophy we have. But that does not mean it can be implemented without an ‘event’. Because our government is not structured to replace itself. And the citizenry will always favor democratically imposed tyrrany, commonly called Bonapartism, and teh certainty of it, over freedom.