We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

Free-marketeers, even at the more purist end of the spectrum, usually accept imperfect approximations of their ideals. (I have met exceptions to this, but not many.) We are comfortable embracing second-best, even third-best and fourth-best solutions. Browse through the IEA’s publications section, and you will find IEA authors endorsing the Chilean pension system, the Swiss healthcare system, the Icelandic system of tradable fishing quotas, Sweden’s approach to labour migration, and many other such examples. None of these endorsements come without qualifications: the authors are saying “This is not real X. Real X has never been tried”. But unlike socialists, they can identify X-approximations that they consider quite good.

That is because free-marketeers generally believe in a positive dose-response relationship. A little bit of liberalisation does a little bit of good (think of the difference between Mao’s China and Deng Xiaoping’s China), quite a bit of liberalisation does quite a bit of good (think Chile before and after the Chicago Boys), and a lot of liberalisation does a lot of good (think Hong Kong and Singapore). That’s an oversimplification. There are reform bottlenecks: When an economy gets the basics wrong (the rule of law, independent courts, enforceable contracts and property rights etc), measures like trade liberalisations or privatisations count for little. Also, most free-marketeers accept some role for the state, so they do not strive for absolute purity.

Kristian Niemietz

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13 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Paul Marks

    I will always accept little steps forward – less government spending, lower taxes, less regulation, less Credit Bubblism from the Central Banks……

    What throws me is that is that things are getting WORSE – more regulations, more government spending, more Credit Bubblism.

    Not just in Britain – but in most places.

    The world (apart from lunatic places such as Venezuela – and the inside of most universities, and do not laugh about that as academia eventually hits the outside world) seems to have rejected state control of the MEANS of production (industry), but embraced state control of the RESULTS of production (via endless government spending and regulations – and Credit Bubble fiance backed by the government Central Banks).

    F.A. Hayek predicted this in 1960 (“The Constitution of Liberty”) and I think he was correct in his prediction. However, as he also taught that most people are not able to understand the principles of liberty and that liberty can not really be CHOSEN – indeed that nothing is really CHOSEN, so moral agency does not really exist, Hayek would seem to cut off the only action that would logically respond to his prediction – i.e. to explain to people that endless government spending and so on is a bad thing (TM) both economically and culturally.

    We are in the John Wesley versus George Whitfield debate.

    George Whitfield spent his life preaching – yet he was a predestinationist, i.e. he believed that who would be saved was predetermined (at the start of the universe), the position of John Wesley was that presdestination made preaching pointless. Although determinists (such as Johnathan Edwards) had an answer to this – i.e. that their preaching was ALSO predetermined. Just as George Whitfield could argue that his introducing slavery into Georgia was predestined, that he had no real choice in the matter – and that slavery was not morally wrong anyway, as morality was determined by words in the Bible, there being no moral reason to find universal principles of moral right and wrong.

    F.A. Hayek (a non religious determinist) could have replied that his writing of books was also predetermined – that he had no real choice about whether or not he wrote books, such as the “Constitution of Liberty”, and (in David Hume “compatibilist” fashion) that this in no way undermines moral responsibility – even though it obviously exterminates moral responsibility.

    However, we can find common cause with people who are prepared to act “as if” Free Will (moral agency) was true – in that we can all come together to denounce the harmful effects of endless government Welfare State spending, ever higher taxes and ever more regulations – as well as Credit Bubble finance (David Hume was very good at denouncing Credit Bubble finance).

    All we can do is argue our case before the people as best as we can.

    Perhaps civilisation is predestined to collapse into Hell-on-Earth, but we should still go down fighting.

    Even if (which I do NOT believe) only a few humans are actually persons (have Free Will) with the rest of the population being mindless flesh robots – akin to zombies, to whom principles of moral good and evil can not be applied (as they do not choose their actions).

  • Umbriel

    I can accept the internal logic of predestinarianism, but it’s always seemed like a weird philosophy to attach to Christianity, and particularly evangelical Christianity. There’s a convoluted path by which you can explain to someone why they should adopt a new faith even though their fate is predestined, but it seems like it would have competitive disadvantages versus simpler approaches.

    But, returning to topic, I don’t think there’s that big a difference here between libertarians and socialists/communists/collectivists — Most political movements that aren’t actively attempting a violent revolution accept incremental change. The disadvantage that I see libertarianism as having often faced is that it seems more often to be dismissed on the basis of its alleged absolutism — “Oh, so you voted Libertarian. You don’t think we should have public roads, or police?!” Meanwhile the likes of Bernie Sanders can embrace the socialist label, and decry the number of brands of deodorant on the market, while his supporters happily assure everyone that he only supports the “reasonable” parts of the doctrine — like single-payer healthcare and subsidized college for all…

    I think the message here is that libertarians may need to be a little more cautious about taking the bait in discussions — not proceeding right into trying to educate people about how a pure libertarian society would function, but simply emphasizing how throwing more legislation and bureaucracy on the pile is part of the problem rather than the solution, and how a lot of their criticisms of “capitalism” are actually driven by regulatory mechanisms that are anything but free-market. Not advocating radical restructuring of society (however much one might dream about it) so much as taking a step back and recognizing how far the political “center” has drifted to the left over the past century, and the damage that’s caused. And finally, emphasizing how wanting to move away from government-managed economics doesn’t somehow mean that you automatically favor government-managed social conservatism.

  • Johnnydub

    I just wish we would adopt the Chilean counter revolutionary strategy.

    Having watched 5 minutes of Question Time on the BBC tonight I would really like to see the likes of Kerry Anne Mendoza get a free one way helicopter Ride…

  • Myno

    Any socialist experiment is initially reported (by the socialist media) as a success, precisely to the extent that such changes are made on a surviving base of market health. It is easy to track the goodness they claim, while ignoring the deleterious side-effects… until those side-effects eventually collect such mass that the system bends and fails under their collective weight. This provides socialists a wealth of easily digestible false data to tout in the early stages. This appears to go against the author’s claim that libertarianism is alone in having a “positive dose-response” on its side. Both sides have access to such data. Except the socialist data is false, hiding the visibility of its poison in the future.

  • Lee Moore

    Kristian Niemietz is obviously a very wise fellow as he’s saying exactly what I said on a another thread a few days ago. Only he’s saying it a tiny bit better than I did. And it’s just conceivable that he’s cleverer than me. Though certainly not prettier.

    free-marketeers generally believe in a positive dose-response relationship is particularly good.

  • RRS

    Was the “Single Market” ever a “Free Market?’

  • Andrew Douglas

    Paul Marks
    I find the idea of a ‘Credit Bubble fiancé’ amusing.

  • Umbriel

    Mr. Douglas — I’ve known a few “Credit Bubble fiancés” in my time, though fortunately I’ve never been engaged to one.

    Great band name too.

  • Derek Buxton

    RRS, the answer is NO! It was designed to be just the opposite.

  • Paul Marks

    If someone wants to correct my typos – that is fine with me.

    If I seriously thought that my typos made it hard for someone to understand what I am saying I would correct them myself – but I do not.

    Of course Credit Bubble finance (I hope I have corrected whatever typo people are pointing to) is anything but amusing. As we will all discover.

  • Alisa

    No Paul, it’s the typo that’s amusing – and there is nothing wrong with a little amusement on the way to apocalypse 😛

  • Paul Marks

    Thank you Alisa.