24 June 2008


Will Wilkinson informs me that libertarianism ain't (necessarily) what I think it is.
Hayek was actually in favor of a guaranteed minimum income and that Friedman basically invented the idea behind the EITC, .... I am ... a market liberal just like Hayek, Friedman, and Buchanan — the same intellectual role models who make me a rabid libertarian ideologue.
This is a big surprise to me. He goes on to explain why.
The 20th century libertarian-conservative alliance was based on anti-communism/socialism. The reasonable, sophisticated consequentialist pragmatism of the great 20th century market liberals seemed an insufficient bulwark against the slippery slope from the liberal, capitalist welfare state to full-on illiberal, totalitarian socialism. (Indeed, Hayek himself made the slippery slope argument powerfully, though unsoundly.) So there was a good deal of motivation for radical anti-socialists to coordinate around strongly categorical prohibitions against state coercion.

Misean economics, disinfected of the open-minded empirical consequentialism of Mises’ Liberalism, and filtered through Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard’s peculiar views of rights and coercion delivers a powerfully moralized brief for capitalism that calls into question even taxation for the purpose of financing genuine public goods. That Rothbardians and Randians have wasted so much time fighting with each other on the question of the minimal state versus anarcho-capitalism obscures their unity on a rights-based bulwark against the slide from the welfare state to socialism. Sadly, “libertarianism” has become identified rather strongly with this ideology — an ideology some of the thinkers most strongly identified with libertarianism, like Hayek and Friedman, never shared.

The death of socialism as a viable competitor to the liberal-capitalist welfare state makes continued slippery-slope-to-socialism thinking look densely anachronistic.

I should have known better to be blindsided by this. It's amazing what you'll find when you go read libertarians' primary sources.

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