Tuesday, June 7, 2011



On a blog I follow called Running Chicken, blog-meister Ari Kohen (2011) implied that he could defend the core libertarian concept of economic liberty. However, he also noted the conceptual difficulties associated with defending requirements for members of society to care for the poor, in light of the stated constraints surrounding economic liberty. Of course, economic liberty, in its truest form, requires that society only care for the poor insofar as individuals might freely choose to charitably give. Conversely, in his seminal work, Capitalism and Freedom, free market theorist and champion of liberty, Milton Friedman (1962/1982) expressed his belief in the existence of a need for government intervention to alleviate poverty by supporting the poor. Furthermore, he specifically stated that cash, rather than any forms of subsidy, represents the form of assistance most useful to the individual (pp. 178-188, 192). Additionally, in his dissertation work, Bob Namvar (1995) found that any solution designed to expand the economy must include shifting money from capitalists to workers, which he said, then results in an overall increased marginal propensity to consume.

Over the past few years, the US Government has (in deficit) spent hundreds of billions of dollars in transfer to capitalists. They did this, ostensibly, to reconcile high unemployment, to stimulate a stagnant economy, and to address resulting poverty. Some money arguably arrived to those who needed it most, but how much now resides in multi-millionaires’ off-shore accounts? Regardless of their motives in answering needs that even the staunchest of libertarians might find necessary, re: the “neighborhood effect” (Friedman, 1962/1982, p. 191); the US Government most surely targeted the wrong recipients for bailout monies. If economic stimulus serves as the desired outcome, then redistributing wealth from the top economic rung to the bottom, in the form of cash, arguably seems the better, a priori answer.

Friedman, M. (1982). Capitalism and freedom. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.

Kohen, A. (2011, May 27). A research agenda for bleeding heart Libertarians [Web log post]. Retrieved from: http://kohenari.net/post/5897394064

Namvar, M. H. S. (1995). The consumption function and the distribution of income. Dissertations Abstract International: Section A. Humanities and Social Sciences, 56(10), 4060.

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Bud. It sounds like we're in agreement here against the standard libertarian position.

    Just to be sure we're on the same page, my argument was a response to John Tomasi on the Bleeding Heart Libertarian blog; my sense is that it's difficult -- perhaps impossible -- to hold the sort of libertarian position that Tomasi and others are trying to sketch out there, namely one that robustly defends private economic liberty and that works toward a societal solution for the problem of poverty. I might be thinking incorrectly about this, of course, but I'm reading the Bleeding Heart Libertarian blog in the hopes that they'll demonstrate some philosophically sophisticated way of thinking through this puzzle. Tomasi suggests that he will, through a series of blog posts, but I think the challenge might be insurmountable.

    In any event, here's what I wrote in the post that you cite:

    "My argument has been that there is certainly a way in which one might defend the core ideas of traditional libertarianism, like private economic liberty, but that such a defense will preclude developing a distinct vision of what free societies owe the poor … unless that vision is one that ultimately concludes that free socieites owe nothing to the poor (but that individuals are free to choose to give charitably)."

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