Matthew O’Keeffe warns libertarians to be mindful of the company they keep
Antoine Clarke wrote a piece last week called Against Paranoia which got me thinking. In it he lamented:
“the tendency among Libertarians to worry obsessively about every infringement by the state, to link up instances of state oppression, and to deduce from this either that there is a vast campaign to destroy freedom, or that we’re powerless to combat the tide of enslavement. This makes us seem obsessive, paranoid and miserable company, except to others of a similar emotional condition”.
I had similar misgivings about the attendance of a leading conspiracy theorist at the recent Libertarian Alliance conference. Why do we keep such company?
Consider some of the good things in life: the English language, the Common Law, money, the market economy, etc. As libertarians, we appreciate all too well that none of these things were invented by any one well-meaning academic, lawyer, banker or economist. On the contrary, all of these things have arisen by way of a spontaneous order.
Conversely, consider some of the bad things: poverty, for example. I believe that the welfare state manufactures poverty for a variety of reasons to do with incentives, moral hazard, taxation, misallocation of resources, the general inefficiency of the state machinery etc. etc.. What I do not believe is that there is a group of sinister statists somewhere conspiring on how best to impoverish our inner cities.
The point is that, as libertarians, we should appreciate the law of unintended consequences. Where our enemies see a world full of evil capitalists, Zionists, or whoever, we should have a view of the world which is more adult than is. And, because we appreciate unintended consequences, we should see a world full of irony – leaving us with a world view which is also humorous rather than sour. Let’s leave the paranoia and misery to the statists.