Saturday, January 23, 2010


If the Mises Institute Did Not Exist, We Would Have to Invent It, part 349

Mario Rizzo laments the size of our government and the difficulty of having discussions about particular governmental measures in the context of Leviathan. He says:
What we need is to create or restore a secular “religion” or dogma. We need a dogma of laissez-faire. As long as John Maynard Keynes’s argument in “The End of Laissez-Faire” is accepted (that is, we should put away the old classical liberal dogmas and decide each issue on its own merits), the special interests will be there to convince a “pragmatic” public that their policies are the ones that, on the merits, warrant support.

I am not arguing for a non-rebuttable dogma, but a strong presumption. Government officials and politicians should feel a sense of trepidation when they propose schemes for our betterment.

Unfortunately, it is not possible simply to construct such a public attitude. Nevertheless, I think that intellectuals can do their part. We should discard the idea that it is more “scientific” or more “objective” to follow an issue-by-issue approach to politics. We ought to recognize the instability of the “on its own merits” policy regime. We need to focus on general rules that inhibit state action. We need to accept the lessons of constitutional political economy, public choice theory and slippery-slope analysis. We need a secular “religion” of laissez-faire.
So of all the people out there discussing economics and politics, which comes closest to the strategy Rizzo recommends...?

You are too clever for your own good. :)
In Robin Hanson's terminology, there may be individual cases in which it is preferable to violate laissez-faire, but taking the "outside view" we see that most cases in which that appears to be the case turn out not to be so. Liberty is the best known heuristic for efficiency.
Mario, you and Arnold Kling (on the Tea-Partarians) wrote what you wrote. I am just the messenger.
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