Thursday, October 12, 2006

Liberalism vs. libertarianism

There's a good discussion of left-liberalism vs. libertarianism on Matthew Yglesias's blog here. I particularly liked the arguments by the commenter who calls himself "StJoe." My thoughts in a nutshell: hands-off governments and free-market approaches are good starting points, but we need to be aware of the limits of these tactics when they meet the real world. And, as StJoe points out, libertarians have a tendency to only see government coercion as a bad thing, and are blind to other forms of social coercion. Completely free markets are largely theoretical constructs when one considers how we're constrained by our access to capital, information, etc.

That said, Milton Friedman's Capitalism and Freedom was a very inspirational book that convinced me on the basic value of a free market over a top-down controlled market. But I still think he has too much trust in the market's ability to fix problems on its own. I also think that libertarians do have too much trust in people's ability to make good decisions on their own, and government regulations are something of a bulwark against that. Some of that is because we're never completely informed of all the variables and possible consequences, but time after time we can see that people do not always make decisions that are in their best rational interest.

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