Libertarian Lites

Thursday, March 30, 2006
Posted in category Uncategorized
Comments Off

This entry is based on a post at the Mises blog. The post is about Libertarian Lite Charles Murray, who has written a new book exclaiming the glories of a negative income tax. A book promo apparently states:

“This is the Plan, a radical new approach to social policy that defies any partisan label. Murray suggests eliminating all welfare transfer programs at the federal, state, and local levels and substituting an annual $10,000 cash grant to everyone age twenty-one or older. In Our Hands describes the financial feasibility of the Plan and its effects on retirement, health care, poverty, marriage and family, work, neighborhoods and civil society.

“Charles Murray, whose previous books include Losing Ground and The Bell Curve, demonstrates that the Plan is financially feasible and then uses detailed analysis to argue that many goals of the welfare state–elimination of poverty, comfortable retirement for everyone, universal access to health care–would be better served under the Plan than under the current system. Murray also challenges the Left to confront their own rhetoric about the disadvantaged: why not give real resources and responsibility to them?”

First off, Murray, who wrote What It Means to be a Libertarian (a lightweight attempt at libertarianism, by the way), is, as Lew Rockwell points out in his post, a redistributionist libertarian, or as I call them, a Libertarian Lite. The Libertarian Lites are not really libertarian at all, but rather, they appropriate the term libertarian and present their own version of watered-down liberty on top of a base of mostly modern conservatism, and bring forth some half-baked notions of liberty as something that is complete and worthwhile for the future of free men. This we are supposed to applaud. As always, alternative froms of theft (taxes) and school vouchers are always at the top of the cases for liberty presented therein.

This brings to mind Milton Friedman and his oftentimes strange case for liberty. Capitalism and Freedom, published in 1962, was, no doubt, way ahead of its time in regards to many of the ideas presented for greater liberty in modern times. Friedman’s chapter on occupational licensure is heroic, especially the part where he says, “I conclude that licensure should be eliminated as a requirement for the practice of medicine.” (p. 158) He must have been bombarded with name-calling for being so explicitly anarchist in that sense.

However, one must be reminded that this book is also partially a Libertarian Lite tract as well. Friedman, a voucher advocate, assails public schooling early in the book, but later goes on to conclude, “The school system, with all its defects and problems, with all the possibility of improvement through bringing into play the forces of the market, has widened the opportunities available to American youth and contributed to the extension of freedom.” (p. 199) [Emphasis is mine. Friedman does not explicitly say how public schooling--as opposed to a private system--has "contributed to freedom."]

In addition, Friedman talks about the “intended effects” of do-gooder government programs, and how the opposite usually occurs. He notes exceptions to bad outcomes of public policy, however, when he says “There have been some exceptions. The expressways crisscrossing the country, magnificent dams spanning great rivers, orbiting satellites are all great tributes to the capacity of government to command great resources.” (p. 199)

Further, he says “The Sherman Antitrust laws, with all their problems of detailed administration, have by their very existence fostered competition,” and “assistance measures have relieved suffering and distress.” (p. 199) Such anecdotal conclusions are not backed up by susbstance, however. These kind of statements are disappointing, to say the least, coming from a man like Friedman.

Be Sociable, Share!
Both comments and pings are currently closed.