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Link Archipelago: Unchecked and Unbalanced Watch

September 8, 2010

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3 Comments
  1. Jayson Virissimo permalink
    September 8, 2010 6:14 pm

    Wolf is simply saying what many liberals (de Tocqueville, Mill, etc…) have suspected since the 18th century. Democracy may not be fully compatible with liberalism.

  2. Jeff Gibson permalink
    September 8, 2010 9:14 pm

    Regarding the Wolf article: His careful choice of the word “hopeless” is apt, and it at times feels that way. Indeed, Classic liberals lament at the nature of humanity, the mob, and what happens to those given power.

    He is right that libertarianism in its “purity principals” that have too great a standard may be untenable, and definitely has a P.R. and communication problem as a result. A priori elimination of policy considerations is fairly excessive perhaps. And, he uses the pourity argument against libertarianism, saying if you use one form of coercion (taxes) then it is allowed.

    This is where he loses ground, though he nods to the “ineffective government” argument, he still states that the other welfare state ideas are on the table as a result.

    I agree that they are on the table, fine, but they don’t work, and are incompatible with reality. Merit, not purity, is the most compelling and frankly should be the best argument in lieu of strict constructionist constitutionality.

    To state the obvious, the fact that 3% growth is considered “good” is a joke, and the state is unsustainable at current pace. The state chokes out the still surprisingly dynamic and productive portion of the economy more and more.

    Can’t wait to see what the acceptable new normal is from folks like Wolf who speak of their “valid” considerations for the role of the stationary bandit.

    • Mike Gibson permalink*
      September 10, 2010 3:27 am

      I find it a touch ironic that Wolf brings up Albert Hirschman’s concepts of exit and voice. He raises the point that people may exit a polity they dislike, but then goes on to blithely assume later in the article that the well off will accept democratic plunder of their wealth to subsidize all the programs he recommends. If they want to exercise their right of exit, will that be permissible? I suppose not, if as Wolf says, “some of these values do not merely allow, but demand, government protection of weak, vulnerable or unfortunate people.”

      Whether these policies achieve these goals is another matter altogether. He also doesn’t address a major trade-off–namely that redistribution today means less wealth tomorrow. Who will protect the future weak and vulnerable?

      Moreover he’s wrong about the redistributive outcomes of democratic governance. He says, “The vote is more evenly distributed than wealth and income. Thus, one would expect the tenor of democratic policymaking to be redistributive and so, indeed, it is.”

      But this claim collapses under the weight of evidence. The truth is that, in representative democracy, the middle-class takes from the rich and the poor. Because navigating political channels requires resources, skills, and organization–skills the poor do not have, for this is why they are poor–most redistributive policies transfer wealth from the poor to the middle. In political economy, this is known as Director’s Law.

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