Thursday, September 27, 2007

"Libertarian paternalism"

What an interesting essay this is. It wonderfully describes the conflict between Libertarian purists and those with libertarian leanings. I am in the second group. And according to this piece I really should be ashamed of myself.

But I'm not. I fully understand the writer's point. And I am glad I read his piece because it reminds me never to describe anything I propose to reform welfare as "libertarian." Fair enough. I haven't got enough time to try and convince people that the state should have no role in education, health or welfare. I figure I've got twenty-odd years to try and achieve change and improvement.

I see three options. Status quo, better or best. Best is riskiest. It's possibly utopian. Because it's riskiest very few people are buying it. I'm opting for better.

So if I ever get my reform ideas for welfare into print don't expect purist libertarian solutions.

Having said that I fully sympathise with the purists viewpoint. I admire and respect it. But I made my choice. And I guess that was symbolised by choosing ACT over Libertarianz which I still feel a sense of guilt about. Libz would say, that's because you know we are right. Theoretically you may be. But I choose to operate in what I see as the arena of what's possible and achievable. And even then most people think my ideas are too extreme.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Don't worry about the Libz. No one else does. They are inconsequential. And they aren't libertarian as much as Objectivists and that is a problem.

Sus said...

Whereas anonymous comments hold so much weight ...

Thanks for that essay, Lindsay. Interestingly, I chose Libz over ACT for the very reasons you did otherwise.

But again I state that I'll stand alongside anybody, no matter their political stripe, who seeks to reduce the size of the state.

"And they aren't libertarian as much as Objectivists and that is a problem."

So who do you support politically, Anon?

Anonymous said...

I'm with Lindsay.

In a similar vein, I spent my life striving for perfection. Often I could not even make a start because I could see less than the best result ensuing. Others just got on with it. I look back, with some regret, at the things I could have done but did not because of this obsession.

Libertarianism is talkfest churning. As was the essay.

Lindsay, I admire your practical activism.

Sus said...

"In a similar vein, I spent my life striving for perfection. Often I could not even make a start because I could see less than the best result ensuing. Others just got on with it. I look back, with some regret, at the things I could have done but did not because of this obsession."

With respect Anon, that sounds like a cop-out to me. Even the most diehard purist knows that you don't go from Z-A overnight. But you make a start and keep on plugging, in this case in the face of overwhelming statism, knowing that what you do is philosophically underpinned.

Or you can sit there hamstrung grizzling about the state of things, (or those with whom you largely albeit not totally agree), while doing sweet FA.

I'd rather combat my real enemies. God knows we have enough, yes?

Anonymous said...

sus, you may be right about the cop out bit. I didn't like patching, as the finished article just exposed another weakness somewhere else. I loved cutting edge, new frontiers, but the further ahead you get, the more you need to eliminate the potential of failure. Some are happy with trial and error. I am not. It can screw you up.

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PC said...

"And even then most people think my ideas are too extreme."

Lucky you know people even more insance who can make your 'extremism' look sensible, huh?

:-)

Anonymous said...

I understand your position Lindsay, but I cannot help but take the purist position.

Take the example of school vouchers. It seems self-evident to me that any attempt to implement such a system will meet opposition and in the compromise which is thrashed out, increased demand side choice (vouchers) would be more than canceled out by decreased supply side choice (extra regulation in the name of safety and prevention from profiteering).

It therefore seems to me that promotion of vouchers in the current environment is at best naive and at worst cynical vote gathering.

Ultimately all 'libertarian paternalism' fails in a similar manner because it fails to alter the incentives for all those people who receive their livelihoods directly or indirectly from the state. (ie just rearranging the deck chairs...)

Never-the-less, if you had your way, things would be better than they are.

Dave Christian

Anonymous said...

For the record, the authors of the concept "liberartian paternalism" are not and never have been libertarians. The have always been to the Left and this is their idea to sell their ideas in new packaging. So it was libertarians making this suggestion.

There is also a gulf between mainstream libertarianism and the Libertarianz who are a very specific kind of Objectivist outfit inclined toward unnecesssary hostility toward anyone who doesn't toe the line they establish. And, of course, they are inconsequential. They can hardly muster a handful of candidates. They rely almost exclusive on state funding for their campaigns and they have but a few dozen active members in the entire country.

And when they do espouse libertarian positions (as opposed to Objectivist ones) they frequently do so in as offensive a mannaer as possible making libertarians look as bad as they do.

Anonymous said...

If it matters,Anon in comments 3 and 5 is not the same Anon as in the other comments.

Manolo said...

Excellent reading. Thank you, Lindsay.