Big Government Libertarianism

by Henry on March 12, 2007

Tyler Cowen has a “pretty interesting essay”:

The more wealth we have, the more government we can afford. Furthermore, the better government operates, the more government people will demand. That is the fundamental paradox of libertarianism. Many initial victories bring later defeats. I am not so worried about this paradox of libertarianism. Overall libertarians should embrace these developments. We should embrace a world with growing wealth, growing positive liberty, and yes, growing government. We don’t have to favor the growth in government per se, but we do need to recognize that sometimes it is a package deal. … We need to recognize that some of the current threats to liberty are outside of the old categories. I worry about pandemics and natural disasters, as well as global warming and climate change more generally (it doesn’t have to be carbon-induced to be a problem). These developments are big threats to the liberty of many people in the world, although not necessarily Americans. The best answers to these problems don’t always lie on the old liberty/power spectrum in a simple way. … Intellectual property … Another major problem – the major problem in my view – is nuclear proliferation … In short, I would like to restructure classical liberalism, or libertarianism — whatever we call it — around these new and very serious threats to liberty. Let’s not fight the last battle or the last war. Let’s not obsess over all the interventions represented by the New Deal, even though I would agree that most of those policies were bad ideas.

The essay seems to me to glom together two, quite different theses – that the demand for government increases along with wealth, and that new, complex global problems require more government intervention than most libertarians would care for. Even so, his call for a pragmatic libertarianism seems on target to me (I’d vastly prefer a political debate in which smart libertarians acknowledged that global warming was a major problem in need of a political solution, and contributed insights from their own perspective, to a debate in which many libertarians either minimize the problem or suggest that no real political solution is possible).


by John Quiggin on March 12, 2007

The World’s Greatest Shave is an annual fundraiser held in Australia to raise money to support people with leukemia and their families. I’ve decided it’s time to put some skin in the game, for the first time in 30 years, I’m going to shave my beard off. In a gesture of family solidarity, my son Daniel (17) is going to shave his newly-grown beard as well.

The big day is going to be Saturday 17 March. You can visit my profile here to sponsor me. Photos of the aftermath will be posted on my blog.

It’ssss my Birthday …

by Kieran Healy on March 12, 2007

And I got this cool present:

Penguin 60s

These are Penguin 60s, the original (orange) series and the Classics, which Penguin brought out in 1995 for their 60th anniversary. (They recently issued a similar series for their 70th, though not in the United States.) When they came out I really wanted the Classics collection, but had no money. I remember there was a certain amount of snotty declensionist commentary on the sort of people who would only spend 60p for excerpts of Civilization rather than reading the originals entire. Well, you can always have The Complete Penguin Classics delivered to your house for a mere $7,989.50 (don’t worry, shipping is free). About 750lbs worth and 77 linear feet of shelving, apparently — according to an Amazon reviewer who actually bought it. If you’re not up to that, just take The American Collection or the 19th Century British Collection instead, which are a bit cheaper.