Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Libertarian Quotes

While I agree with all of them, #5 is my favorite:

5) It is not the business of government to make men virtuous or religious, or to preserve the fool from the consequences of his own folly. Government should be repressive no further than is necessary to secure liberty by protecting the equal rights of each from aggression on the part of others, and the moment governmental prohibitions extend beyond this line they are in danger of defeating the very ends they are intended to serve. – Henry George


Fritz J. said...

I like number nine, The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government – lest it come to dominate our lives and interests. – Patrick Henry best, although number ten, There are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by the gradual and silent encroachment of those in power, than by violent and sudden usurpation. – James Madison is a close second. All of the quotes are good, but those two strike me as emblematic of where we have lost track of what the founding fathers tried to do.

michael mazenko said...

Certainly, the most important quality of the American spirit and American culture is a self-reliance and a rugged individuality. However, it is unreasonable to conclude that people always, or even often, make the decision that is in their own best interest. In fact, recent developments have shown that markets are not inherently rationale, and people will vote and act in direct conflict to the own self interest - often for simple reasons of inertia. For this reason, we have laws and regulations - speed limits are a good example.

An excellent analysis of this situation, as well as a practical position on what "government" could and should do, is the new book "Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness" by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein. The government, as well as society, should not seek to force or mandate good behavior, but there is much that can be done to encourage and offer incentives for behavior that benefits the individual as well as society. One of their most basic examples is a hypothetical description of how cafeterias offer food. While not limiting choice and freedom at all, authorities can encourage people to make healthier choices simply based on arrangement of food.

It's an interesting and pragmatic blend of conservative and liberal approaches which they call "libertarian paternalism." I recommend checking it out.