Tag: libertarianism

Palmer and Cowen on the Nature of Liberty

Two leading libertarian thinkers, Tom Palmer and Tyler Cowen, discussed Palmer’s new book, Realizing Freedom: Libertarian Theory, History, and Practice, at a recent Cato Book Forum. You can see the video or download a podcast here.

Two years ago, Cowen and Palmer were among the contributors to a Cato Unbound colloquy on the past and future of libertarianism. Cowen was interviewed for Cato’s Daily Podcast and expressed a more critical view of the concept of “negative liberties” than classical liberals typically do. A few days later, in another Daily Podcast, Palmer took on what he considers the coercive confusions of “positive liberty” and defended the necessity of “negative liberty” to a free society.

Listen to them both and buy the book.

Update: Here’s a portion of Palmer’s talk that focuses on the rule of law:

Palmer and Cowen on Libertarianism

On Tuesday I hosted a Book Forum for Tom Palmer’s new book, Realizing Freedom: Libertarian Theory, History, and Practice. You can see the video here. I thought Tyler Cowen’s comments were very astute, so I reproduce an abridged version here:

The first question is, “What do I, as a reader, see as the essential unity or unities in the book?” And I see really two. The first is I see this as a construction and articulation of a vision of what I call reasonable libertarianism. I think we’re in a world right now that is growing very partisan and very rabid, and a lot of things which are called libertarian in the Libertarian Party, or what you might call the Lew Rockwell / Ron Paul camp, are to my eye not exactly where libertarianism should be, and I think Tom has been a very brave and articulate advocate of a reasonable libertarianism. And if I ask myself, “Does the book succeed in this endeavor?” I would say, “Yes.”

The second unity in the book, I think, has to do with the last thirty years of world history. I know in the United States now there is less liberty. But overall, the world as a whole, over the last thirty years, has seen more movement towards more liberty than perhaps in any other period of human history. And I suspect most of these movements toward liberty will last. So there have been these movements towards liberty, and they have been motivated, in part, by ideas. The question arises, which are the ideas that have been the important ones for this last thirty years? And I view Tom’s book, whether he intended it as such or not, as a kind of guide to which have been the important ideas driving the last thirty years. And a lot of the book goes back into history pretty far – the eighteenth century, the Levellers, debates over natural rights – and I think precisely because it takes this broader perspective it is one of the best guides – maybe the best guide – to what have been the most important ideas driving the last thirty years (as opposed to the misleading ideas or the dead-end ideas). So that’s my take on the essential unities.

Another question you might ask about a collection of essays is, “Which of them did I like best?” I thought about this for a while, and I have two nominations. The first one is “Twenty Myths about Markets,” which is the essay on economics. I don’t know any piece by an economist that does such a good job of poking holes in a lot of economic fallacies and just laying out what you hear so often. You would think an economist would have written this long ago, but to the best of my knowledge, not.

The other favorite little piece of mine is called “Six Facts about Iraq,” which  explains from Tom’s point of view – and Tom has been there a number of times – what’s going on in Iraq and why. It is only a few pages long, but I felt that I got a better sense of Iraq reading this short piece than almost anything else I’ve come across.

I’m not sure exactly what’s the common element between the two I liked best – they both start with a number – but I think the ones I liked best reminded me the most of Tom when he is talking. I had the sense of Tom being locked in a room, and forced to address a question, and not being allowed to leave until he had given his bottom line approach. And I think what he’s very good at through out the book is just getting directly to the point.

There’s more to Tyler’s comments, and lots more from both of them in response to questions, so check out the video.

SandelTV on Libertarianism

An episode of Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel’s fantastic television series Justice takes up libertarian political philosophy.  Now, up front: this series is a minor miracle and, if this were a classical philosophy thought experiment, I’d trade all my cherished original comic pages to see this show supplant Dancing with the Stars in the Zeitgeist. Sandel gives as reasonably sympathetic a summary of the libertarian view of rights as anyone could expect in the time he’s got.  But you also end up watching long stretches and thinking: Yes, great, an A-list Harvard philosopher can smack around undergraduates with inchoate libertarian instincts; good for him. Even this spectacularly thoughtful forum is not really capable of giving the competing ideas under discussion a suitably thorough airing.  This is not—God forbid—another tedious kvetch about either media or academic bias, as Sandel is clearly trying to give a philosophy with which he’s out of sympathy equal time.  But it does suggest a reason to open-source the conversation.  Anyone want to take up particular points on YouTube?  Ping me on Twitter as @normative; at my obnoxious sole discretion, I’ll circulate the strong ones.

Talkin’ Libertarianism

In response to a question today, I found a C-SPAN appearance from 2006 on their website. Host Steve Scully was teaching a class on “Issues in Media and Public Policy” with students at the Cable Center’s Distance Learning Studio in Denver. He asked me to join him for a discussion of libertarianism and public policy. For about an hour and 20 minutes I answered questions posed by both Scully and the students. Video of the event can be found on C-SPAN’s website.

Libertarianism in China

I am delighted to report that Libertarianism: A Primer has been published in Chinese. Let’s hope for sales in the tens of millions! The good folks at the Atlas Global Initiative posted an interview with me about the book, with subtitles in Chinese. (In my experience, it plays more smoothly if you turn the HD button off. But then, there’s nothing really new in the interview for American viewers.)

Thanks to the good folks at www.guominliyi.org and www.ipencil.org for making this book possible. The support of the project by a Chinese entrepreneur shows not only the growth of the Chinese economy, but one of the additional benefits of economic growth: diverse sources of wealth, with different people making different investments and encouraging diverse ideas.

Libertarianism: A Primer has also been published in Russian, Japanese, Spanish, Czech, Polish, Serbian, Bulgarian, Cambodian, Mongolian, Kurdish, and Persian. Translations into Arabic, Portuguese, and Italian are underway. And of course you can get it in audio form. Not Kindle yet, but feel free to tell them you’d like a Kindle edition.

Emergency Aid to Seniors? No Way

Social Security benefits are indexed for inflation, but because inflation has been roughly zero for the past year, the adjustment formula implies no increase in benefits this year. Nevertheless,

President Obama on Wednesday attempted to preempt the announcement that Social Security recipients will not get an increase in their benefit checks for the first time in three decades, encouraging Congress to provide a one-time payment of $250 to help seniors and disabled Americans weather the recession.

Obama endorsed the idea, which is expected to cost at least $13 billion, as the administration gropes for ways to sustain an apparent economic rebound without the kind of massive spending package that critics could label a second stimulus act.

This is outrageous on four levels:

1. If the president thinks the economy needs more stimulus, he should say that explicitly and have an honest debate.

2. This is the wrong kind of stimulus. Any further stimulus should consist of reductions in marginal tax rates, such as a cut in the corporate income tax (or better yet, repeal).

3. All Social Security recipients already have a moderate guaranteed income, and many have significant income beyond their Social Security benefits. This kind of transfer has no plausible justification as redistribution for the needy.

4. Sending checks to seniors is a blatant attempt to buy their support for Obamacare, which promises to cut Medicare spending substantially.

C/P Libertarianism, from A to Z

Libertarianism on TV

I talked with Dennis McCuistion, whose interview program appears on KERA in Dallas and other public television stations, about “libertarianism and the politics of freedom.” It’s an old-fashioned public affairs program, where the host asks intelligent questions for half an hour. No shouting, no four-minute segments, a good solid conversation. Find the video here. Other McCuistion programs with such guests as Dan Mitchell, Steve Moore, and Steve Forbes can be found here.