14 January 2008

You Have a Right to Be an Idiot, So Long as It Doesn't Cost Taxpayers Anything . . .

. . . that would seem to sum up Michael Kinsley's argument with regards to one aspect of his critique of libertarianism (brought on, it seems, by his observation of the Ron Paul phenomena), and his support for intrusive government measures that trade 'public good' for limits on personal liberty. The problem with Kinsley's argument is that the government is in charge of defining what becomes an externality, and to what degree they must interfere to prevent an external cost for undesirable behavior. Rarely has the government used this argument to limit or reverse its own power, rather it always seems to ratchet up its interference into markets and the populations daily life. Markets work, governments distort, not everything can be purely commercial, but there's a lot of stuff in our society that would be better if it were more business, and less political.

Ilya Somin, posting at the Volokh Conspiracy, offers a solid counter-argument along the lines, 'if taxpayer costs are your problem with my liberty, then don't pay for my mistakes'.

I'd call it the Patti Smith version of libertarianism, to quote,

"Jesus died for somebody's sins but not mine
meltin' in a pot of thieves
wild card up my sleeve
thick heart of stone
my sins my own
they belong to me, me"

And speaking of Patti Smith singing Gloria, here's a live version from back in the day.

Also, just cause markets are imperfect, doesn't mean that government will do the job better (and vice versa, but the set of things better done by government is much smaller than the set of things best accomplished through free market principles) .

And Ron Paul is still a nut, most of his supporters are loony, and if I knew as much about him as I do now back in 1988 when I voted for him, then I would have held my nose and voted for George Bush (that's right, my first ever presidential ballot was cast in favor of Ron Paul).

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