Jasper Smith

Commentary on politics, economics, culture and sports.

I heart Jane Galt

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Well, Megan McCardle finally rolled out her snazzy new blog today on The Atlantic’s website. Shockingly, regular visitors to the site aren’t unanimous in their joy at her arrival. One commenter (rather representative of, oh, about 80% of the reactions, I’d guess) opines:

One is not born a libertarian: one has to chose to dismiss pretty much all the hard lessens learned through generations of struggle by people striving for freedom in order to embrace libertarianism.

Pardon mon français, but the above is just bullshit.

Now, Jasper ain’t no libertarian. I likes me some big government, Nordic-style safety nettage, or at least the smaller scale Canadian/Brit variety. I’ve got a list of things I’d like the government to spend more money on that tallies out to about $500 billion (or 4 points of GDP). I’m utterly confident embracing my vision would increase national utility.

But I’m not arrogant enough to cling to such patronizing notions about people whose values are different from mine. There is a real moral core at the heart of the libertarian argument, and it’s about freedom. At the end of the day, us bigger government fans must acknowledge our proposals rely on taking other people’s property.

Thing is, everybody except the anarchist agrees that sometimes it is indeed necessary to take other people’s property. It’s pretty hard to imagine even the most minimalist government surviving sans mandatory taxation. But libertarians — quixotic though their project might be — at least have the decency to only want to take as little of the other guy’s money as is possible. They value freedom and property rights more than you or I do — let’s be honest with ourselves.

Property rights shouldn’t be absolute of course, but they also shouldn’t count for nothing. The Robust Safety Net Nirvana I would like to see enacted most assuredly does reduce some people’s freedom. I disagree with the libertarians on this issue because I deem the utilitarian calculus is in my favor. But I don’t kid myself I possess sufficient moral insight to know with absolute assurance that the right and wrong part favors me. For all I know it is the libertarians who are right, and that all the filled stomachs and free healthcare in the world doesn’t justify taking somebody else’s nth marginal buck.

Anyway, I welcome Ms. McArdle’s addition to The Atlantic’s Voices. It’s best not to get too comfortable and smug in one’s ideas.


Written by Jasper

August 20, 2007 at 7:04 pm

Posted in Blogs, Economics, Policy

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