Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Always Libertarians

I'm not totally sure why, but anyway I often read the writings of libertarians.  Partly I like to think it's because I'm always keen to challenge the way I think about things, and so reading those who believe very different things to yourself can be challenging.

I guess possibly annoying for those that post long libertarian blog posts (and apparently libertarians are particularly inclined to blogs), I usually pick up on one tiny point.  I think it's because I don't devote as much of my time to blogging as they do.

Anyhow, there's been a little discussion about just how much libertarians, and GMU faculty in particular, blog.  The linked post ends by commenting on just how great life is because the blogger can post while on a flight, at the trifling cost of $12.50.  The Christianity part of this blog title rails at this, but that's another blog post entirely.

I think though my being a Christian drives why I don't like what libertarians argue. I'm going to caricature them grossly here, but essentially their point is "free market good, government bad".  Or maybe, "free market always better".  

Now why do I rail against this?  Well because of the underlying assumption.  It is that without the profit motive, none of us get out of bed in the morning, basically.  It's that because of this absence of the profit motive in government activity, it is all therefore wasteful and corrupt, with a seeming obsession with the latter.  The way they talk, you would imagine that only evil people congregate to work in governments, and only virtuous people work in the private sector.  I've had libertarians tell me exactly why I'm motivated to teach my students, and it isn't because I want to teach them and do a good job.

I'm sorry, but it's not quite as simple as this.  Free markets will not always produce the best outcomes, and they won't even liberate the most people.  You don't have to dig too far into a microeconomics to find reasons why, and they range from lack of information symmetry for all market participants to missing markets and externalities.  Now this isn't a free ticket for government intervention, but it does suggest something can be done to improve matters for many people deprived of choices in market situations, and hence deprived of their liberty.  However, at this point the trite libertarian usually chips in with some quote by Hayek about economist thinking they can design things.  A pretty luddite stance if you ask me, it says "it's the way it is, deal with it".  Of course, usually the way it is benefits libertarians, who funnily enough often seem to be wealthier and own businesses.  Not that I'm a conspiracy theorist at all...


Post a Comment

<< Home