Monday, July 19, 2010

Libertarianism, Conservatism, and Fusionism
Mike Rappaport

Bryan Caplan, a hard core libertarian, has a good post making out the case for conservatism in favor of libertarianism.  As a fusionist -- who believes in a mixture of libertarianism and conservatism -- I found his points in favor conservatism strong, but overstated.   That is, exactly the place where I would expect myself to be.  Here are some excerpts of his post in blue with my comments:

1.  "Liberty and these other values sometimes conflict, and there's no reason why liberty should always prevail."

Yes, that is true, but liberty has a strong presumption, because it has been so successful in the past.  This presumption is strongest in situations when liberty has been tried and worked.   

2. "Laissez-faire in the face of monopoly, imperfect information, irrationality, externalities and other textbook market failures is not [reasonable]."

True again, but experience has shown that these problems are greatly overstated by liberals and other statists, who ignore the same problems that afflict state action.  Thus, there should be a strong presumption in favor of free markets.  

3. "If marijuana legalization proves a resounding success, we can talk about harder drugs in two or three decades."

Once again, overstated.  It is true that legalization should proceed gradually, given the other limitations in our society (such as our inability to address drunk driving or the props to irresponsibility of the welfare state).  But while the costs of legalizing (or decriminalizing with high taxes) harder drugs are higher than with softer drugs, so are the potential benefits.  My view is that these matters should be addressed on a local level, employing federalism. 

4.  "But as long as immigrants are eligible for government benefits, hurt low-skilled native workers, and vote, the only people we should readily admit are the highly-educated and clear-cut humanitarian cases."

Too strong, again.  Legal immigrants should be allowed to a great extent.  The country derives great benefits from immigrants, especially if they are admitted in an orderly way.  By allowing immigrants from the entire world, and not just Mexico, one promotes assimilation.  And by having legal immigration (rather than illegal immigration), one promotes order and legality in the US.

5. "Liberals and libertarians who impede decisive action now are probably paving the way for worse things to come - a downward spiral that makes World War I look benign by comparison."  

This is a good point.  But the decisive actions also have significant costs, and these matters need to be balanced.  One should pick one's interventions carefully and make sure to do the intervention well.

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Mike Rappaport


Politics is the realm of the possible. Fusionism is possible in an atmosphere of mutual deference. We say to the so-caller "libertarians" that they may have their money but they must defer to us in our realm. Where your treasure is, there shall your heart be also. Lk 12:34. Together, we may attain the things which matter to us.

What will not work is trying to arrive at some sort of "fusionist" party line. If either of us begins to say that this party line must be all our way or we are taking our marbles and going home, we are done for.

Posted by: Lou Gots | Jul 19, 2010 9:42:17 AM

I understand the problem with each of "monopoly, imperfect information, irrationality, externalities" but I've never understood why The Left assumes that the only answer is intrusion by a monopoly government. It utterly lacks novel ideas, The Left. It's stuck in the late 19th century. There is, as they say, nothing more conservative than the avant garde.

Posted by: dearieme | Jul 19, 2010 9:48:24 AM

Though the problems constantly scream for attention and the conflicts appear to rage ever stronger,the goodness of life grows stronger still,quietly,peacefully,with more purpose and meaning than ever before. By Jordans 5

Posted by: coach purses | Jul 20, 2010 1:18:22 AM