Economic vs. political crises

On the Mises site, a response to a critique of libertarianism. First, Daniel McCarthy asks:
Does a libertarian even care whether Islam displaces Christianity or China displaces America, as long as there are no tariffs on steel? You might not have freedom of religion or freedom of speech in the post-Western future, and those cheap consumer goods won’t be so cheap any more, but a libertarian will rest content knowing he fought to import as much foreign-subsidized steel as possible. This is why I consider libertarianism to be every bit as much a suicidal ideology as left-liberalism. In some ways it is even more so, as libertarians are more oblivious than left-liberals to the consequences for themselves of hewing to their ideology.
Jeff Deist answers:
Here is a classic mischaracterization of political liberty, captured so well by Frédéric Bastiat in his famous quote: "every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all." Of course libertarianism per se can't answer the civilizational questions of our day; of course economics per se can't make us moral or ethical, much less strategic. Libertarianism is a narrow legal doctrine dealing with the justified use of force in society, a doctrine that makes no exceptions for state actors. Economics is a social science which studies how human actors choose among scarce means to achieve ends.


Tom said...

My own suspicion that libertarianism is a suicidal ideology is right there in the McCarthy paragraph. Many libertarians are open-borders, which only brings in more people who will vote for bigger government. Many libertarians love the idea of labor being free from the political constraints of national boundaries, but can't seem to (or just don't want to) understand that if they got what they wanted, the liberated labor they let in would mostly vote for greater and greater centralized government power.

Deists own answer on immigration, though, also requires government. His answer is "Private sponsorship and vetting of immigrants, with legal and financial liability residing with sponsors for a term." That would have to be enforced by government as well. I kind of like that better than our current system, but it doesn't answer McCarthy's criticism any better, I think. On immigration, they would both support government action.

Anonymous said...

I think part of the problem is that everyone who inclines toward libertarianism or claims to be a libertarian (or Libertarian) has their own definition of what the word means. So one person's "free markets, do as thou wilt, no federal government, no limits on imports or exports," collides with my "smaller government, do what can be done at the lowest level of government, more emphasis on personal responsibility and local solutions." And we'd both say that we are some sort of libertarian.


Roy Lofquist said...

The problem with libertarians is that they are stupid. They suffer from the Dunning-Kruger effect - they think they are way smarter than they are. From Russel Kirk:

"It is old custom that enables people to live together peaceably; the destroyers of custom demolish more than they know or desire. It is through convention—a word much abused in our time—that we contrive to avoid perpetual disputes about rights and duties: law at base is a body of conventions."

"Conservatives sense that modern people are dwarfs on the shoulders of giants, able to see farther than their ancestors only because of the great stature of those who have preceded us in time. Therefore conservatives very often emphasize the importance of prescription—that is, of things established by immemorial usage, so that the mind of man runneth not to the contrary."

Read the whole thing.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

"Libertarianism is a narrow legal doctrine dealing with the justified use of force in society..."

Well, that's what it's supposed to be. In practice it is a lot of different thing. Reverting to the theoretical starts to become a "No strue Scotsman" exercise.