Manufacturing Liberty

(Guest Post by Eli Harman: )

[A]sking people to forego parasitism (if they’re weak) or predation (if they’re strong) is asking them to bear a substantial opportunity cost. They will only do so if someone stands ready to impose a higher actual cost for choosing to engage in them.

This is what Curt Doolittle means when he says “liberty must be manufactured by violence.”

Libertarians love to sing liberty’s praises, and there is much to be said in its favor. But it does not follow from this that liberty is always in everyone’s best interests. There are many people who stand to lose more from liberty than they would stand to gain. (And not just because they misperceive the situation.) There are still more people for whom the uncertainty over what they would stand to gain or lose would make desiring liberty irrational.

The incentives that favor liberty do not exist by default, they must be proactively created. And in order for this to happen there must be people likely to benefit from liberty, strong people, capable people, wise people, intelligent people, responsible people, farsighted people; in short, aristocrats. And they must organize to impose liberty on the remainder by force, and in many cases, to their detriment, or to their enduring resentment.

If liberty is thus to be manufactured, the problem of free-riding must also be overcome by institutional forms that deny the benefits of liberty to those unwilling to participate in its manufacture, and that preserves the benefits for the exclusive enjoyment of those so willing.

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