Tuesday, January 22, 2008

That's what I'm talking about...

When I say I've got libertarian leanings, people immediately think I'm a nutbag who wants no government, absolutely no help for anyone, free-market free-for-all, and the devil take the hindmost.

That isn't exactly what I mean. Regardless of whether, in principle, things like police protection and highways could be provided by the market, I still think we have to have government. There are lots of things worth spending money on in our society. It sucks that it has to come out of each of our paychecks, but I'm willing to grant that not every penny of it is wasted by the government.

At the same time, I think that there is a fairly good intellectual case to be made for an observation of Hayek: order does, in fact, emerge out of relatively free markets, and no political hack (or omnibenevolent public servant) could ever take into account the myriad of variables the market does naturally, to solve many problems. The 'invisible hand' may not always tend toward perfection, but it usually gets far closer than any 'best laid' plan ever could. I won't make that point now, if ever. Read Hayek. You may disagree vehemently if you are predisposed towards a centralized, planned economy, but he was prophetic in predicting both the problems and decline of centralized socialism.

Nevertheless, my core reason for even flirting with the label 'libertarian' (which is, in some of my social circles, like 'scientologist' or 'moonie') is my deep belief in the fundamental value of individual rights. I saw something Glenn Reynolds wrote that sums it up for me:

Personally, I'd be delighted to live in a country where happily married gay couples had closets full of assault weapons.

That's exactly what I mean. There are times, no doubt, when the needs of the many have to take precedence, but those times should be few, and far between. People should not harm one another. Past that, leave adults alone, no matter what your personal preferences are. That's what I am talking about.


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