(Adjective) Libertarianism - Barokong - Teknoiot

8 Jun 2020

(Adjective) Libertarianism - Barokong

Libertarianism consists of many different ideas, and is clearly in need of some adjectives. Tyler Cowen, in an interesting new-Year's reflection, offers "State-Capacity Libertarianism."  The guts of it is, I think, that the State must exist, and do competently and effectively its crucial tasks.

The best bit, I think:

5. Many of the failures of today’s America are failures of excess regulation, but many others are failures of state capacity.  Our governments cannot address climate change, much improve K-12 education, fix traffic congestion, or improve the quality of their discretionary spending.  Much of our physical infrastructure is stagnant or declining in quality.  I favor much more immigration, nonetheless I think our government needs clear standards for who cannot get in, who will be forced to leave, and a workable court system to back all that up and today we do not have that either.
A nice observation on the left:

9. State Capacity Libertarians are more likely to have positive views of infrastructure, science subsidies, nuclear power (requires state support!), and space programs than are mainstream libertarians or modern Democrats.  Modern Democrats often claim to favor those items, and sincerely in my view, but de facto they are very willing to sacrifice them for redistribution, egalitarian and fairness concerns, mood affiliation, and serving traditional Democratic interest groups.  For instance, modern Democrats have run New York for some time now, and they’ve done a terrible job building and fixing things.  Nor are Democrats doing much to boost nuclear power as a partial solution to climate change, if anything the contrary.
I don't see just why nuclear power needs "state support," rather than a clear workable set of safety regulations that are not excuses for anyone to stop any project.  Democrats have also run California for some time now, and are apparently trying to see just how quickly the golden goose can be convinced to pack up and move to Nevada. In a show of bipartisanship Tyler might have added just how quickly small-government, free-market, individual-liberty local-government philosophies evaporate among many Republicans when inconvenient.

Another good but flawed, I think, observation

2. Earlier in history, a strong state was necessary to back the formation of capitalism and also to protect individual rights (do read Koyama and Johnson on state capacity).  Strong states remain necessary to maintain and extend capitalism and markets.  This includes keeping China at bay abroad and keeping elections free from foreign interference, as well as developing effective laws and regulations for intangible capital, intellectual property, and the new world of the internet.  (If you’ve read my other works, you will know this is not a call for massive regulation of Big Tech.)
I agree with the principles, but "keeping China at bay" seems like a poor goal for our foreign policy, "foreign interference" seems to me vastly overblown compared to domestic interference. The decay of rule of law and property rights seems vastly more important.

While I like the basic idea, I think "State Capacity" is a poor adjective because it isn't that self-explanatory. Libertarians have awful marketing skills, as evidenced by the fact that such demonstrably correct ideas have so little traction.

Adjectives I like in front of "libertarian" include constitutional, rule-of-law, practical, empirical, globalist. Too often though adjectives like these just define a set of ideas as antitheses of their opposites.

Update: Like a commenter, I like the adjective "conservative" appended to Libertarian as well, in the sense that we live on ages of legal and social development that should be respected for encoding a lot of wisdom, and "conserved."

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