Bryan Caplan  

Mission Crisis?

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Libertarianism's Crisis... A Theory of Government...

Arnold writes:

Starting with the Carter Administration, deregulation reigned in transportation, communications, and--eventually--energy. These victories for market-oriented policies stimulated growth and allowed us to have the luxury of an enlarged welfare state without crippling the economy.

"Crippled"? By historical standards, the U.S. economy in the 1970's was fantastically rich. And how much growth can we really attribute to deregulation of a few percent of GDP? The U.S. economy could easily have continued with the policies of the '70's, Nixonian controls and all, and look about as good as the French economy does today.

What I would say (and Tyler seems to be saying) is that libertarians currently lack a rallying point. From the 1930's through the Nixon Administration price controls, the forces of central planning were on the march, and libertarians had an important mission to fight them. But that fight has been won.
I'm puzzled. At least after World War II, opposition to hard-core central planning was standard among not only conservatives, but moderate liberals. Libertarians were unique precisely because they went further by opposing the "Third Way" of the welfare state.

Thus, if libertarians' were right back in the '70's, then they still have an "important mission" - rolling back the welfare state. In fact, this mission is especially important for libertarians to carry on because - unlike stopping central planning - almost no one else wants to work for it.


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COMMENTS (3 to date)
Caliban Darklock writes:

The problem with welfare is that it doesn't work.

In order to "rescue" someone from the welfare state, you need to provide them three things:

1. A sufficiently comfortable lifestyle that Maslow's heirarchy of needs allows them to think about the future in the first place.

2. A clear and plausible opportunity for a future significantly brighter than they would achieve on welfare.

3. Insulation from the naysayers in the welfare community who self-delude with the premise that nobody can ever get off welfare.

This works if, and only if, it is a volunteer program which ruthlessly eliminates underperformers without prejudice - the moment you slip up, you're out, but you can return to the program as many times as you like.

Geoffrey Brand writes:

Sad Sad Sad.....

i totally agree with Bryan...

But I act like Tyler...
I have too many more important things in my life...
Life is good in the U.S. ..
Yes , I think it can be more free ..
But I don't have the time to fight for Liberty until I lose a lot more of it (than I will fight)

Bill Stepp writes:

There is one caveat to your supposition that conservatives and (some) liberals were against hard-core central planning from the '30s to Trixonian controls. That is their resolute support for central monetary planning, perhaps the single worst form of socialismo we had then and still have.
I think a crucial litmus test for libertarianism is the question of free banking vs. central banking. Anyone favoring the latter can't be a libertarian.
(Re: Tom Palmer's post on Radicals for Capitalism, he says making the case for libertarianism is not a good substitute for making the case for liberty. Converting a critcal mass of the masses to the former won't achieve the latter, or so he says if I understand his argument. You also have to make an anti state argument and convert the great unwashed to antistatism. That means arguing for shutting down the Fed, among other projects.)

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