Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Yes, this really is what it's like ...

John Hasnas, an associate professor in the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, accurately captures what it's like to be a libertarian. Some excerpts below (but read the whole thing):

Political analysts frequently consider what it means to be a libertarian. In fact, in 1997, Charles Murray published a short book entitled "What It Means to Be a Libertarian" that does an excellent job of presenting the core principles of libertarian political philosophy. But almost no one ever discusses what it feels like to be a libertarian. How does it actually feel to be someone who holds the principles described in Murray’s book?

I’ll tell you. It feels bad. Being a libertarian means living with a level of frustration that is nearly beyond human endurance. It means being subject to unending scorn and derision despite being inevitably proven correct by events. How does it feel to be a libertarian? Imagine what the internal life of Cassandra must have been and you will have a pretty good idea.

Imagine spending two decades warning that government policy is leading to a major economic collapse, and then, when the collapse comes, watching the world conclude that markets do not work. ...

I remember attending a lecture at Georgetown in the mid-1990s given by a member of the libertarian Cato Institute in which he predicted that, unless changed, government policy would trigger an economic crisis by 2006. That prediction was obviously ideologically-motivated alarmism. After all, the crisis did not occur until 2008. ...

It is human nature to want to shoot the messenger bearing unwelcome tidings. And so, for the sin of continually pointing out that the emperor has no clothes, libertarians are attacked as heartless bastards devoid of compassion for the less fortunate, despicable flacks for the rich or for business interests, unthinking dogmatists who place blind faith in the free market, or, at best, members of the lunatic fringe.

Cassandra’s curse was to always tell the truth about the future, but never be believed. If you add to that curse that she would be ridiculed, derided, and shunned for making her predictions, you have a pretty fair approximation of what it feels like to be a libertarian. ...

We'll be right about the fatal flaws of current policy, too. And then watch as the world concludes that somehow we're at fault.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

what it feels like to be a libertarian...having to listen to people call limbaugh and hannity conservative...gaaaaa!

February 3, 2009 10:24 AM  
Blogger akaGaGa said...

This sounds a lot like being a Christian. Lucky me, I get a double-dose!

February 3, 2009 11:36 AM  
Blogger Johnny said...

I'm going with the, `Woke up in a PK Dick novel' hypothesis. It seems to make a lot more sense than anything else... in as much as nothing that is being done nowadays by pretty much anybody in a position of authority would appear to be in any way justifiable on a rational basis.

February 3, 2009 12:48 PM  
Anonymous TJP said...

I wish they'd stop using "tax cut" when what they are offering is a tax deferment. If (as in a magical, imaginary event that will never happen) the government decides to reduce taxes by a certain amount, and then decreases spending by that amount, then it can be said that the people enjoyed a "tax cut".

February 3, 2009 7:51 PM  
Anonymous sunni said...

Hasnas is essentially right, as far as he goes—but that's just it: the scope of this essay is quite narrow. Beyond, I couldn't disagree more.

February 5, 2009 9:10 AM  

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