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Yes, there’s a problem with “Libertarian Wishful Thinking.” But there’s hope, despite Bob Higgs’ clear-sighted glumness.


[cross-posted from my Ludwig von Mises Institute-hosted blog.] 

Robert Higgs, Senior Fellow in Political Economy and Editor at Large, The Independent Review, has a piece up at The Independent Institute (last Tuesday, April 9), “Libertarian Wishful Thinking,” that is worth a “gander”.

I’d like to focus on the paragraphs excerpted below, and then give Bob and other lovers of freedom a little “goose”.

Says Mr. Higgs:

As a rule, libertarians incline toward wishful thinking. They constantly pluck little events, statements, and movies from the flow of life and cry out, “Eureka! Libertarianism is on the march!” With some of my friends, this tendency is so marked that I have become amused by its recurrent expression—well, there he goes again!

Some of this tendency springs, I believe, from their immersion in abstract thought and writing. …

One who maintains, as I do, that the existing system may crumble little by little, having heedlessly sowed thousands of poisonous seeds of its own destruction, but almost certainly will never just roll over and admit defeat, may seem to be a defeatist. But nothing is gained by entertaining an unrealistic view of what liberty lovers are up against. Even if one believes, as I do, that the existing system is not viable in the very long run, it may last in episodically patched-up forms for a long, long time. There are no magic bullets, such as abolishing the Fed. The state can use other means in the highly unlikely event that it should no longer have the Fed in its arsenal. The same can be said about most of the system’s other key elements. …

In truth, the time for liberty lovers to make a stand that had a fighting chance of success was a century ago. But that chance was squandered, if indeed it ever packed much punch. … Wishful thinking about the impending triumph of liberty may be uplifting for libertarians, but it avails neither them nor the world anything of real importance.

But it seems to me that while there is a great deal of truth here, simply acknowledging that vested interests are large and block change is not particularly productive and suffers from a failure to see the weak points in Goliath/Leviathan. Are there really no “magic bullets”? Are there no productive and achievable ways to “patch up” the system?? No leverage to apply to overthrow “this fascistic Rome”?

So I left the following comment; your further thoughts, here or at Bob’s post, are welcome:

While I think Bob is right that libertarians should lose their wishful thinking, I also feel that the real problem is that libertarians aren’t really putting on their thinking caps and thinking creatively.

“There are no magic bullets,” Bob says. But there ARE pressure points on which to focus.

Like attacking the corporate risk socialization that has fuelled upset citizens to act as Baptists in the charade so well played by the Bootleggers in building the Regulatory State.

Like using the states as experiments to create many agents of Creative Destruction against the Federal Govt and the crony capitalists.

Some thoughts here:

I don’t think we need to throw our hands up at all, or to lose our optimism. Rather, we need to start finding ways to rein in risk socialization and the “Other People’s Money” game by requiring economic actors to have MORE personal “Skin In the Game.”



TokyoTom | Apr 15, 2013 | Reply

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