Arnold Kling  

A Bad Month for Libertarians?

Economics of Nanotechnology... Labor Market Surveys Diverge...

In this essay, I say that libertarians had a bad month in November.

Howard Dean came out in favor of re-regulation of "utilities, large media companies and any business that offers stock options." As Megan McArdle put it, "those of us with libertarian tendencies had better keep looking for a politician who is really interested in making markets work."

We saw the Bush Administration railroad through a prescription drug bill that appears to take the country a little closer to socialized medicine, over the objection of Democratic opponents who wanted it to go further.

Only a flimsy filibuster stood between the Bush Administration and passage of energy legislation, brought to you in part by Archer-Daniels-Midland, the company that produces the gasoline additive ethanol -- energy made from pork...

Thinking along similar lines, Bruce Bartlett wrote,

Perhaps the stupidest proposal of the entire campaign so far is that by Howard Dean, the leading Democratic candidate, to re-regulate the American economy if elected. Not only is this dumb substantively, but he threw away any hope of getting votes from libertarians sympathetic to his views on foreign policy and civil liberties.

For Discussion. Are free market ideals in retreat in this country?

COMMENTS (12 to date)
David Lloyd-Jones writes:

I thought Bruce Bartlett had been medicated up the gazoo and put on a fishing boat off the coast of Florida.

What did I miss?

Lawrance George Lux writes:

Popular sentiment is becoming scared at the excesses expressed by Corporate management. Absolutely Free Market forces in operation insist the most ruthless make the most money, but economically excluding the majority. The answer, though, lies not in re-regulation; which did not operate effectively in the initial phase, and would work even worse now.

I have continually contended the only arena where Government could economically function well, was in Infrastructure construction and Taxation. They fail in the provision of Social services, Defense, Regulation, and even Law Enforcement.

The answer is institution of effective Tax policy, with elimination of excessive Government spending. lgl

Bernard Yomtov writes:

In retreat from where? What strong positions did libertarianism hold that it is losing?

The fact is that neither major party is particularly libertarian in its outlook, though Republicans offer some rhetoric, if little else.

Now in itself this doesn't bother me, since I'm not a libertarian. I am a supporter of market mechanisms as generally the best approach to economic problems, and it does bother me that neither party seems to care much about this.

Steve writes:

Libertarian beliefs had a bad DECADE in the 1930s, and we haven't had a depression since then.

Bob Dobalina writes:


Are you going to make an assertion, or are you just going to spend all day snarking over there?

Because I'd love for you to flesh out that last thought.

Steve writes:

Prior to the Great Depression, we had mini-depressions and sharp recessions on a regular basis. The free market reigned and we had the gold standard. Private enterprise (gold miners) determined how much money was available. Classic economics ruled the day. We had monopolies in everything, and there was NO regulation. It was a libertarian utopia.

Then came the great depression.

Then there was regulation under every blade of grass, the government decided how much money was available, and monopolies were blown up. A
Libertarian nightmare.

...but we haven't had a really sharp recession or mini-depression since...

So you tell me. Is it the unrestrained free market causing the recessions/depressions? Is it that gold miners determined how much monitary stimulus was in the system that caused them? What is it?

No matter what, you'll have to agree that Libertarians had a bad decade in the 30s, and we haven't had a depression since then. Not saying there is a connection, but there could be.

What about those stupid tariffs against Chinese bras/ apparel? Add that to the debit side

Bernard Yomtov writes:

While you're adding items, note that Bush's veto threats made the Senate kill a measure that would have ended the ban on travel to Cuba.

Steve writes:


That WAS pretty dumb. Guess that Harvard MBA didn't teach GW that putting tariffs on stuff your country no longer makes does not do any good.

Jim M. writes:

If you ignore Lincoln, T. Roosevelt, Wilson, etc., you are right that "Prior to the Great Depression . . . . It was a libertarian utopia."

Bruce Bartlett writes:

David Lloyd-Jones has me confused with Rush Limbaugh.

s writes:

I thought Bruce Bartlett just died, medications or not.
Or was that Bruce Bartlett ?

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