Thursday, March 29, 2007

Looking at this month's Cato Unbound

OK, so I had been working on a post responding to some of the ideas presented in this month's issue of Cato Unbound, but I somehow failed to save the draft. I hate rewriting stuff from scratch, so in lieu of that post I'll just offer some brief thoughts on some of the ideas in this issue:

-Tyler Cowen's essay has almost certainly generated the most discussion in the libertarian blogosphere. I''m sympathetic to his ideas, though I reject most of his conclusions (my now deleted post was a defense of Cowen's defense of positive liberty against Tom Palmer). I think libertarians do need to reconsider the importance of positive liberty. My take is that the increase in positive liberty is the chief reason to support economic freedom (indeed, I think the notion of economic freedom without a positive liberty element doesn't make much sense). It is true, as Palmer points out in a recent Cato podcast, that notions of positive liberty are often used to defend state intervention, but I think a correct understanding of positive liberty generally supports libertarianism. We ought not abandon a valuable idea simply because it has been adopted to some extent by our ideological adversaries.

-Virginia Postrel again shows herself as one of the most lucid and intelligent contemporary libertarian thinkers in her essay. I agree with everthing she writes here. Just go and read it, because she says it better than I ever could.

-I don't think that the welfare state is inevitable. Given the clear unsustainability of many current programs, it seems conceavable that future generations will be increasingly sceptical of massive state-backed income transfers. As Brink Lindsey points out, as people get wealthier, they can afford more government, but they can also afford more of other stuff, including individual insurance and retirement saving which will almost certainly give them a better payoff than the state-provided alternative. Also, given the enourmous strides that free market ideas have made in our society, it strikes me that libertarians can and just might make a good deal more progress in the marketplace of ideas in the coming years.

I hope to go more in depth about some of these ideas soon. Stay tuned.

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