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The Libertarian Case for Legalized Plunder

9 Dec
The Libertarian Case for Legalized Plunder is Craig Biddle’s fairly accurate characterization of Matt Zwolinki’s argument at Cato’s website for something like a negative income tax or reparations to the victims of past coercion.  This “Bleeding Heart Libertarian” idea has some traction.  In the past one had heard liberaltarians like reason editor Matt Welch (who gets more libertarian I think as each year passes, so you will have to check with him for his current beliefs) on FOX shows profess allegiance to some minimal “social safety net.”  (But then Matt Welch does go bravely preach to the whores and lepers and tax collectors, appearing on MSNBC on the Medusa Hairy Kerry show.)  But I’ve also heard it from interns and associates at the Charles Koch Institute.

I think libertarians have been unsympathetic to the BHL enterprise before, putting up with it because they wanted some place to hangout if they viewed themselves as feminists or socially liberal personally, or because as a practical matter they think engaging and persuading people in free market ideas requires attending to consequentialist arguments, not just moral ones.
I think the idea is that because the public already thinks in terms of a moral/practical dichotomy, and to engage it it is good, one must lead with consequentialist discussions. I know when I read Ayn Rand the summer after my freshman year of high school, even though I was a socialist I immediately identified with Rand’s sense of life and view of how one should live. But I wondered about how society would not even have more poverty, racism and depression, as my previous influencers at NPR and NBC had told me, if we had capitalism. I had to spend the next few years, pre Internet, buying books or using inter library loan to find Capitalism, The Unknown Ideal, and then from there find von Mises, FEE,  Hayek, Rothbard, reason, and other discussions of how economies work.
That said I think Zwolinski, even as he cast this as a Freidmanite plan of making the welfare state more efficient (dangerous since Milton brought us withholding for the same reasons), has gone just far enough to exhaust what patience libertarians, as opposed to liberaltarians, had for him.
Maybe that is why Cato published this; give him enough rope…. Or maybe they like the idea of “enlivening” their blog with a “debate,” which they do need to have, since he claims to be a libertarian.
It will be interesting to see who takes up the Biddle “challenge.”   I’m not going to elaborate an argument for individual rights there, at this time, since my own ideas about that are more or less the same as Rand’s, with a little Straussianism tossed in. It is sad that the libertarians who used to work in that area, like Eric Mack and Tibor Machan, aren’t being followed up by a new crop of people saying something interesting about rights theory.

Guest Blogging – Pete Boettke!

24 Jan
Guest Blogging – Pete Boettke!

Bleeding Heart Libertarians is a good blog edited by academic philosopher Matt Zwolinski, which I recommend.  Washington, D.C. area economist Pete Boettke will be blogging for them this month.

Philosopher/blogger Matt Zwolinski