Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Liberal? Conservative? Libertarian?

Mario Rizzo has a provocative essay over at ThinkMarkets about the pitfalls of political taxonomy entitled "What is the Philosophy of Freedom Called?" This follows a series of discussions on the Becker-Posner Blog about the changing nature of Conservatism in America, (read the 4 most recent posts starting from the bottom with "The Serious Conflict in the Modern Conservative Movement") and a rejoinder from Bill Easterly at Aid Watch. It is all worth pondering.

What is lost in most modern political discourse is any discussion of the proper scope of government action. (I am certainly guilty of losing sight of this---read my TARP support essays for a discouraging reminder.) I would encourage you all (Modern Liberals, Classical Liberals, Conservatives, Libertarians, whatevs) to look at your political inclinations and ask the following: Is it proper to use the coercive force of Government to compel everyone to act in accordance with my preferred policy?

I think that the Classical Liberal / Libertarian viewpoint generally limits the proper role of Government to some coercive interventions in human interaction (particularly in the enforcement of valid contracts), while having very little to say about interventions in human action.  Influencing human action is properly left to moral suasion and the utilization of the freedom to associate and contract with others.

This does not mean that you should not think about how you and others ought to act, or about the perfection of the human enterprise, or the nature of "The Good" or any other such things.  It means only that once you have determined what your beliefs in these areas are (lower taxes, green energy, Veganism, social justice, etc.), your goal should be to persuade others to agree with you, not to persuade legislators to enact a law forcing others to be a certain way.

No comments: