Life of the Libertarian

From John Hasnas via Matt Welch:

Libertarians spend their lives accurately predicting the future effects of government policy. Their predictions are accurate because they are derived from Hayek's insights into the limitations of human knowledge, from the recognition that the people who comprise the government respond to incentives just like anyone else and are not magically transformed to selfless agents of the good merely by accepting government employment, from the awareness that for government to provide a benefit to some, it must first take it from others, and from the knowledge that politicians cannot repeal the laws of economics. For the same reason, their predictions are usually negative and utterly inconsistent with the utopian wishful-thinking that lies at the heart of virtually all contemporary political advocacy. And because no one likes to hear that he cannot have his cake and eat it too or be told that his good intentions cannot be translated into reality either by waving a magic wand or by passing legislation, these predictions are greeted not merely with disbelief, but with derision. [...]

If you'd like a taste of what it feels like to be a libertarian, try telling people that the incoming Obama Administration is advocating precisely those aspects of FDR's New Deal that prolonged the great depression for a decade; that propping up failed and failing ventures with government money in order to save jobs in the present merely shifts resources from relatively more to relatively less productive uses, impedes the corrective process, undermines the economic growth necessary for recovery, and increases unemployment in the long term; and that any "economic" stimulus package will inexorably be made to serve political rather than economic ends, and see what kind of reaction you get. And trust me, it won't feel any better five or ten years from now when everything you have just said has been proven true and Obama, like FDR, is nonetheless revered as the savior of the country.


  1. Drex Davis:

    That sums it up. This is pretty much how we feel, all the time . . . It's no consolation to be right after the fact, yet see Big Government replace the injustice they created - which you predicted - with a new injustices they've created (the results of which you'll correctly predict, again). And ad infinitum it goes.

    Most days I want to just stick my head in a vice and start turning. At least I'd be able to signal, outwardly, what I'm feeling on the inside!

    How does on deal with it?

    Get a sense of satisfaction out of repeatedly being right? (And yet somehow ignore that that correctness essentially amounts to nothing productive, policy-wise, ever?

    Or does one blow off the steam by at least documenting the predictions and inevitable confirmations on a blog, with the hope of one day pointing to it and saying "scoreboard"?

  2. Link:

    I believe that things are so bad, it's good. Government is going broke. Hooray! This is actually the start of an answer.

    Political fault lines are now forming along the lines of those who get government checks vs. those who don't. The former group has some surprising members ... like General Electric and Goldman Sachs. It also has the elderly, of course. We thought unions were dying, but public employees unions like SEIU -- and the big dinosaurs like the UAW -- have wormed themselves into power. They have an insidious lock on New York State government, for example. Now they have their eyes on the federal government.

    Until now, "those who don't get checks" have been asleep and politically disorganized. The Republican Party has badly failed this group. But things are changing.

    We already have structural federal deficits that are unsustainable. It's the elephant in the room. I'm not a deficit hawk ... we could bear $200 billion to $300 billion per year -- but how do we sustain the official projections of sustained $800 billion deficits. Actual numbers will be worse, as growth stalls. Many of our states are already broke -- but got a 2-year reprieve from Stimulus.

    We have too many shitheads in this country who think that "money is all ours, collectively" -- that the economic pizza pie just gets magically delivered to our door each day. We also have an elite class of shitheads like boy genius employment expert Larry Summers who's surprised that unemployment is already higher than what Okun's law would predict.

    At the deepest, most basic level ... I can't figure Obama out. He's part bubble boy, part an abandoned child. I suspect he thinks that money is something that Scrooge McDuck hoards that just needs to be given to the people to solve all problems.

    Federal tax receipts have been 18-19% of GDP for the last 50 years, no matter the particular tax regime in place at the time. This is a remarkable fact ... almost a law of nature. It's telling us what we have to manage our federal budget to ... unless we want to tear up the Constitution completely and give up on being a free country.

  3. William:

    I sort of enjoy libertarian arrogance. It is, I'll admit a little hard to distinguish from your typical liberal arrogance or the more traditional conservative arrogance. But what the hell, I say whatever label you use to promote your own sense of righteous and certainty, more power to you. God forbid, any of us would ever express the human tendency to make mistakes and be wrong about things, unlike libertarians who apparently have the only Godlike view of the universe and therefore know exactly what is right and wrong about everything. I hope to be as wise as you libertarians someday, or at least possess the same level or arrogance and certainty. Wish me luck.

  4. nom de guerre:

    as arrogant, as smug, as self-satisfied, as impractical and unrealistic and certain and all that as libertarians ARE, william, here's one thing they AREN'T: they aren't looking to build large, expensive shrines to themselves and their political ideology, and expecting you to pay for it.

    whether you're right-wing or left-wing, william, (your snide little "godlike" smears are a pretty good clue, BTW), i can guarantee you that lack of 'grandiosity financed by other people at gunpoint' makes libertarianism a more moral philosophy than whatever icon - elephant, donkey, stylized "O" - it is that you swear allegiance to. you don't need "luck", bubba: you need humility, and to **believe**, not just pay lip service to, the notion that the people should be free. (that freedom also includes the freedom to make mistakes, to be unfair to people not like them, and to choose not to participate in ponzi schemes even though the resultant cash-flow woes will end up hurting the poor and old people.)

    i'll bet you "possess the arrogance and certainty" to KNOW that all the above is "wrong" and "unfair" - just like you were instructed to think back in government-mandated, compulsory attendance, financed at gunpoint by ever-rising taxes "school".