Bryan Caplan  

Hanson: What's Worth Celebrating

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I don't think I've ever quoted an entire post before, but today I'll make an exception for the incomparable Hanson:

Today is Memorial Day. In a park near my home is a plaque that reads:
We honor all those who fought for our community.
There is probably a similar plaque near you. I would be more proud to live in a community with a plaque that read:
We honor those who fought against our community when it was wrong.
Yep. And even if you don't want to see these in the U.S., how about Russia, Germany, Japan, China, Spain, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Mexico, India, Pakistan...?

Umm, just make that every country in human history other than the U.S., the land where the majority is always right. :-)


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COMMENTS (17 to date)
Nathan Smith writes:

To be fair, Americans do honor Martin Luther King. A generation from now they will likely honor those who defied unjust immigration laws.

spencer writes:

Except for those who fought for you community are the ones who paid for your freedom to fight against your community when you think it is wrong.

Do you have a freedom is not free sticker on the back of your car?

jody writes:

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it looks like Robin and Bryan are endorsing political violence, particularly in the context (fighting for the community on Memorial Day refers to physical violence, specifically wars).

Steve Sailer writes:

Are you guys not quite right in the head?

Craig writes:

Probably the most disappointing Memorial Day post I've read. For just one day, there's nothing wrong with honoring those who fought for us.

Brad Hutchings writes:

Chapter 752 in "Why Libertarianism Will Never Catch On". At least this one is a short read!

If we don't start with the very reasonable premise that the United States does offer us the best deal of of all national alternatives in the world, and we don't recognize that (perhaps) people we knew or (likely) our parents knew or (undoubtedly) our grandparents knew died in wars fought by our country... If we don't start there, we're just as screwy and marginal as John Edwards. Quibble with the language of that plaque if you must, but it's not so harmful of a sentiment that it demands that libertarians shoot themselves in the foot taking issue with it. Geez.

Edgardo writes:

Bryan, now you should write about The Myth of the Smart Economists.
At least you should have attempted to explain why the two plaques are not inconsistent--they refer to different threats--and why no community must celebrate internal fights--they are an excuse for the next fight.

Horatio writes:

Brad
You can make a good case for the US offering the best deal of all the large nations, but it certainly doesn't offer the best deal in the world. Monaco, Andorra and the Cayman Islands all offer better deals than the US.

Jody writes:

all offer better deals than the US.

As I once had a discussion with a German friend of mine, it all depends on the metric. And whatever country maximizes your metric, you should live there (assuming solution feasibility of solution, i.e., the country may not let you, and negligible transaction costs).

Randy writes:

I understand the concept of standing against a community if one feels that it is wrong. The problem is that people who don't stand together are no longer a community. I understand why those who do not feel threatened might decide not to stand with me just because I do feel threatened, and perhaps even why they would choose to stand against me if my methods are extreme. But I see no reason for them to then expect me to stand with them when they feel a need for some other community service at some later point in time. What comes around, goes around.

Horatio writes:

Jody
You are quite correct. My metric was what I believe to be the average preferences of American libertarians. The strongest component of that metric is low taxes.

tom writes:

What would it say on the Ayn Rand Memorial Fountain?

Brad Hutchings writes:

It's actually possible for libertarians to avoid stepping on their own, er, feet, when confronted with holidays like Memorial Day. Check out Dave Barry (Link).

tom writes:

Ok, here is something from an old-fashioned American patriot that not all will appreciate:

[S]he was fiercely proud of the United States, and in later years said to the graduating class at West Point, "I can say - not as a patriotic bromide, but with full knowledge of the necessary metaphysical, epistemological, ethical, political and aesthetic roots - that the United States of America is the greatest, the noblest and, in its original founding principles, the only moral country in the history of the world.

(from Wikipedia: Ayn Rand, citing Rand, Ayn. "Philosophy: Who Needs It?". Retrieved on 2006-03-31. Address to the Graduating Class Of The United States Military Academy at West Point, New York - March 6, 1974.)

Barkley Rosser writes:

spencer,

You refer to those who pay the cost, and on Memorial Day we are aware that the "cost" that is being referred to is the giving of one's life.

Did not Martin Luther King, Jr. give his life?

Oeystein writes:

Fighting for a community per se is not the point, fighting what is wrong is.

Randy writes:

That depends, Oeystein, on the value of the community itself. If we destroy a highly valuable community to fight against some point of relatively insignificant value, then we lose much more than we gain.

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