by Tyler Cowen
on September 22, 2012 at 10:24 am
in Books, Philosophy |
That is the new Jason Brennan book, which has yet to arrive on my doorstep.
For the pointer I thank David Levey.
After Hayek and Nozick, what more is there to say? Really
Especially Hayek, from the Road to Serfdom -
‘Nor is there any reason why the state should not assist individuals in providing for those common hazards of life against which, because of their uncertainty, few individuals can make adequate provision. Where, as in the case of sickness and accident, neither the desire to avoid such calamities nor the efforts to overcome their consequences are as a rule weakened by the provision of assistance, where, in short, we deal with genuinely insurable risks, the case for the state helping to organise a comprehensive system of social insurance is very strong. There are many points of detail where those wishing to preserve the competitive system and those wishing to supersede it by something different will disagree on the details of such schemes; and it is possible under the name of social insurance to introduce measures which tend to make competition more or less ineffective. But there is no incompatibility in principle between the state providing greater security in this way and the preservation of individual freedom.’
Sad so few people read Hayek, really.
And sadder that people only read this passage and probably misconstrue it.
the key passage is “neither the desire to avoid such calamities nor the efforts to overcome their consequences are as a rule weakened by the provision of assistance, where, in short, we deal with genuinely insurable risks,”
So,, he refers to “sickness and accident.” It’s not clear why he doesn’t address that even for genuinely insurable risks of sickness and accident, meaning those not caused by behavior but solely by fate, that private insurers address that risk market and often far better than government whose first goal seems to blur what is meant by genuinely insurable risks in order to affect wealth redistribution schemes masquerading as insurance.
Well, Hayek was Austrian, meaning he actually had the potential to learn about a health insurance system which had its roots almost 2 decades before his birth, in Bismarck’s era. Or it could be this little fact was relevant – Hayek was the son of August von Hayek, a doctor in the municipal health service. Meaning that Hayek quite possibly shared the goals of such a man, wanting to reduce the amount of sickness and suffering which remains an almost inevitable part of being human.
Many people considered ensuring health care for society’s members a sign of the sort of progress which had also led to people no longer starving to death. Strangely, that sort of belief seems quite contrary to the uniquely American style of politics which is likely to repulse a normal person, growing up in another culture (where ‘Gesundheit’ was not meant as a joke when people sneeze, I might add), where it would be considered a perfectly acceptable role for government to help those requiring it – especially the sick and the old, both being groups which have remained a constant throughout human existence.
I find it always a bit sad that people can’t understand why universal health care is considered such a lasting accomplishment in the increasing number of societies which have achieved it, not a single one wishing to abandon it. A perspective that Hayek, son of a public health doctor (just at the time public health was beginning to make its most major contributions to human well being), most certainly understood, as the passage most clearly states.
Hayek would undoubtedly be appalled (though disgusted is equally likely) at those who argue that health care is somehow not a problem for the state to use its resources to ensure is available, even if the way the state used its resources is definitely a matter for discussion.
“not a single one wishing to abandon it.”
Possibly wrong. UK is moving marginally away. Every other country also has costs rising at unsustainable levels, just from lower base than us. One difference being that we can afford it and they might not be able to.
I can’t speak for the dead, and I don’t worship views of dead people I disagree with, but I just explained why what Hayek said in the excerpt YOU PROVIDED is not relevant to government single payer or healthcare. Routine health maintenance is not an insurable risk. It defies the definition that Hayek provided as it can be planned for and certainly invokes a moral hazard.
The states resources are currently being used to make sure healthcare is less available. Most of the government subsidy to healthcare and health insurance goes directly into raising medical prices. Many economists, including non-Hayekians believe this.
‘genuinely insurable risks.”
Al right, let’s get this party started, PA. What does your list of genuinely insurable risks look like?
There are well over a Million new English-language book titles & editions published each year on a vast array of interesting subjects — I might not have time to read them all.
Why exactly should Jason Brennan’s new book even be on my top 100,000 book-reads this year ??
Mr Brennan is no doubt a competent author … but what could he possibly say that has not been said before ?
Every decision to read one book is also a decision NOT to read 10,000+ other books… because personal time is a
very limited resource.
What are the fundamental economic issues of book-reading ?
The value of a book like Brennan’s is as a sophisticated but readable introduction to the topic for those who don’t already know who Hayek and Nozick are, especially college students newly interested in libertarianism because of its higher contemporary political profile, the result of the Ron Paul campaign, Ryan’s candidacy, the Tea Party, etc. In addition, Brennan can take into account the large-scale outpouring of research, critique, and commentary from contemporary scholars “standing on the shoulders” of giants like Hayek, Friedman, and Nozick.
Why not just tell college students to read Nozick and Hayek?
No need for the book, you can read my paper about the self-ownership thesis, one of the foundations of liberalism, at least according to Nozick: http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2011/09/03/the-self-ownership-thesis/
Brennan doesn’t mention self-ownership in the book, even once.
*Libertarianism: What Everyone Needs to Know* That no democracy will ever vote for it, for reasons alluded to by Mr Romney.
The first sentence of this book starts out with a simple lie.
It says: “Libertarianism is a political philosophy.”
Any pretense of unity of libertarianism is a lie. Any pretense that one viewpoint of libertarianism is accurate is also a lie. A simple demonstration of these facts is at: http://critiques.us/wiki/What_Is_Libertarianism%3F
You can say “Libertarianism is a political philosophy” without meaning “Libertarianism is unified”, surely? Socialism or Communism are surely political philosophies, yet they are highly fractious.
Look around what what responsible people do. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy dedicates its first three paragraphs on its brief Libertarianism page to stating that libertarianism is not just one thing. The same is true of the one page at the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: the first few sentences of the introduction makes it clear, and the entire structure of all the sections is premised on the diversity within libertarianism.
The author of this propaganda turd simply is not interested in anything that might distract from the effectiveness of his message: least of all the truth. That is the definition of bullshit: look it up.
“The first sentence of this book starts out with a simple lie.
It says: “Libertarianism is a political philosophy.””
Oh boy. Do you realize what they likely mean by calling it a political philosophy? They mean it doesn’t not attempt to be a unified life philosophy. It barely attempts to be an economic philosophy. It ONLY attempts to be a political philosophy.
Thus, it is a sign of limitation and humility, making the truth the opposite of your accusation.
You have simply revealed more ways in which they are being inaccurate.
Do you object in a similar fashion to statements such as “liberalism,” “conservatism,” “socialism,” “anarchism,” &etc are each “a political philosophy”, even though each is multifarious? I really don’t get the objection, and I’m a fan of neither Brennan nor libertarianism.
Let me introduce you to Mike Huben.
Scholars ought not to be so sloppy in introductory materials, no matter what their political preferences.
This presumes that it is sloppy to call liberalism, anarchism, libertarianism, &etc political philosophies.
Haha, with enemies like Mike Huben…
Ah, another libertarian twit (J D) who mistakes sniggering for an argument. What else should we expect from the Marginal Revolution claque.
I see a pattern in this book. It starts out with appealing lies (such as the unity example above), and later revises them in Orwellian fashion. On page 8, the unity is revised as “different kinds of libertarians”, though of course the one true libertarianism is the authors. One hundred pages of appealing claims about libertarianism pass before the importance of property rights is explained on page 108. Property rights are the elephant in the bedroom of libertarianism: all the preceding claims about libertarianism look much less certain and clear and desirable for all once property enters the equation.
For example, on page 44: “Libertarianism in fact demands unselfish behavior.” Except of course for property: there selfishness is a right and unselfish behavior risks being foolish. But they don’t mention these important exceptions: it would impeded the prole feed.
The authors are also quite lazy: for all their claims, for all their academic expertise, they do not seem to have learned to cite any sources in support of those specific claims. I don’t see any footnotes or endnotes in the excerpts available at Amazon. Personally, I’m starting to do that for my own FAQs.
Another obvious lie is the first sentence of Chapter 2: “Philosophers say there are two kinds of liberty: negative liberty and positive liberty.” Maybe some do, but lots of others don’t. There are many alternatives, but that honesty would distract from the propaganda value of dividing the world into Manichean good and bad categories.
There is one thing I don’t disapprove of in this book, and that is FAQ-structure, which I am overly fond of myself.
If we entitle someone to property, and then someone takes that property, who is being selfish?
It’s funny how you guys think the lesser selfishness is the politicians who give away other people’s money.
Also, that’s rather silly to cay that saying philosophers don’t say there is positive and negative liberty. That’s standard stuff. Even liberals use those terms. You are severely confusing a primer with something it doesn’t intend to be. Are you seriously claiming that if I go do some philosophical searches I’ll find a large group denying the notion of positive and negative liberty?
I seriously doubt it as I seem to remember a recent paper discussing the very distinction, as in “we might question this common conception.” Thus, it can’t really be dethroned had it not been pretty well established.
I seriously doubt the authors are trying to say that “no philosophers ever disagree, particularly about a distinction between positive and negative liberty.” That would very silly.
Now, if you want to claim that this terminology is non-neutral….well, get over it. You guys are the masters of Newspeak.
“The idea of distinguishing between a negative and a positive sense of the term ‘liberty’ goes back at least to Kant,”
Andrew, if you had the common sense to look in wikipedia, you’d see immediately that there has long been more to liberty philosophically than “positive” and “negative”.
Just to make it clear, as soon as you have rights, you are reallocating liberties. If I have a right to land, the liberties of others to use that land are transferred to me. That’s why philosophers such as Proudhon pointed out that property is theft.
Appeal to the authority of Wikipedia is worth a belly laugh in and of itself.
Do you have a positive political philosophy?
None of the books in that series have footnotes.
That’s a good point. On the other hand, even wikipedia is starting to require footnoting sources, which says something about quality issues and “original research” (the polite name for spouting opinions.) Even libertarians will take issue with many of the statements in this book, especially if they are not of the same sect as the author.
Mike, I understand that it’s convenient to imagine that I’m confused about what an argument is, and that I’m a libertarian (same thing right?), but I was only laughing. The legacy of your website, which spent the better part of a year pinned to the top of my browser, is that as you travel the web biting ankles, people like me still take a moment to tell you that we laughed. Here you are, impugning Brennan’s motives after he wrote that “Libertarianism is a political philosophy” – a new low in the unintentional dramedy that is your personal vendetta against ideological opponents.
Shorter JD: “I think you are funny, therefore I have made a reasoned argument and you are wrong.”
Well, if that’s the shortcut way you reason, please accept that Brennan is funny and wrong.
Tyler, looking forward to your review. Is this indeed a good introduction? Thinking this might make a good gift.
I will read it just to see how this sentence from the Amazon book description is fleshed out: “Brennan argues that libertarians are, in fact, animated by benevolence and a deep concern for the poor.” Maybe I have just been thrown off by the expressions of that concern…I didn’t think Caplan was being “mean” in the poverty debates with Bill Dickens, but I would not have used the word “benevolent” either. Of course there’s variation in any ideology.
‘Brennan argues that libertarians are, in fact, animated by benevolence and a deep concern for the poor’
Wow – what a perspective. And I thought that the humor had been lacking here a bit.
All anyone needs to know about libertarianism is that it exist NO WHERE as a organizing form of governments or economies. Apparently its not as efficient or as great as it’s supporters claim. In the evolution of society order it was quickly selected against as feeble and unstable or simply as a leading to some forms of manorialism….been there done that. It’s logically inconsistent and not in anyway pragmatic to the real world. It’s main utility is a as a propaganda creed or ideology to back entrenched wealth and this dysfunctional form of democracy and economy…. ie plutocracy.
TIL that being an extant societal organization is a necessary condition of being an optimal societal organization.
Sure there could be Unicorns and just no one has yet seen them or their fossils. But libertarianism fails even basic logic. It’s so radical from anything that has ever existed and it is incongruent with human nature.
Basic logic? Like it affirms the consequent?
No … like even listing logical fallacies that sound neat but don’t apply do not make it more logical. It’s non-sense and a simple one on one logic based discussion will have its defenders quickly twisting their illogic right back on themselves into a Gordian knot of illogic.
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