Why should natural lawyers care about teaching freed-market economics?

Libertarians who believe in non-consequentialist natural rights — that is, in the view that people have certain rights, as free individuals, which everyone is bound to respect regardless of the economic consequences of respecting them, and which they have for reasons that have nothing conceptually to do with economic consequences — still often invest a lot of energy in making a case that freed markets would produce better economic outcomes than markets distorted by government or by other forms of institutionalized coercion. Why is that? After all, if we believe that the right reason to be a libertarian is that other people are not your property (or some other suitable moralism), and not because of the good results that liberty might tend to produce, why spend time talking about those good results, or about the bad results that come from government coercion? If it convinces anybody to become a libertarian, won’t we be convincing them with the wrong reasons? When natural lawyers argue that freed markets produce good results, are they engaging in a form of bad-faith propaganda?

That’s the question that the good ol’ post-ideologist, Jeffrey Friedman, raises in his comments on Mario Rizzo’s recent post defending ideological libertarianism. In response to Rizzo, Friedman argued:

While I agree with everything you say at the abstract level, Mario, if we want to understand why our ideas are so readily dismissed as ideological by the likes of Obama and the intellectual world generally, we have to look beyond the myopic problem-by-problem approach that’s endemic to social democracy (based on the underlying notion that the economy and society are legible enough to reveal clear diagnoses of social problems). We have to look at the specific ideology that they have in mind–which, in Obama’s case, clearly is libertarianism. Some folks, he says again and again, think any government intervention is wrong in principle–and he does not mean the slippery-slope principle. He means the coercion is evil principle (or rather the coercion is evil/taxation is theft principle). . . . This kind of thinking about free-market ideas is commonplace in the intellectual mainstream, and it is not unjustified. The great scholar of ideology, Philip E. Converse (The Nature of Belief Systems in Mass Publics), pointed out that ideologies are packages of beliefs that are usually connected to each other only by pseudo-logic. Libertarians have discredited their good (Austrian) ideas for nearly 50 years by packaging them together with non-consequentialist arguments about natural rights, the virtue of selfishness, the equation of liberty with private property, and so on that make the Austrian empirical-theoretical part of the package eminently dismissable.

— Jeffrey Friedman, comments (2009-03-14) on Mario Rizzo, ThinkMarkets (2009-03-14), In Defense of Reasonable Ideology

To which Sheldon Richman replied:

But government intervention IS wrong in principle.

— Sheldon Richman, comments (2009-03-16) on on Mario Rizzo, ThinkMarkets (2009-03-14), In Defense of Reasonable Ideology

Which elicted this reply from Friedman:

Then tell me, Sheldon, why bother with all the economic arguments made in The Freeman about why government intervention tends to have counterproductive effects? Is that just propaganda to get people to believe in the predetermined moral principle?

Here’s Sheldon:

I reject the consequentialist-nonconsequentialist dichotomy (Rand, for example, doesn’t fit neatly into one camp or the other, though I am no Randian). I will simply take the easy way out here and say your question strikes me as simply ridiculous. Why wouldn’t I want people to understand the damage government does to innocent people? Someone who believes in moral philosophy (at least as I and many other conceive it) is not foreclosed from noticing consequences. Quite the contrary.

Friedman, in reply:

Calling something simply ridiculous is not an argument. Nor is it an answer to my question.

Is free-market economics, or is it not, merely propaganda, however truthful, that you publish in order to get people to support free markets for the wrong reasons–given that it seems that you think that the right reasons lie not in the poverty that capitalism alleviates, etc., but in the nature of man qua man, natural rights to private property, or the intrisic value of freedum-cum-private property?

Sheldon, again:

I didn’t try to answer the question because it answers itself. Your question is based on a premise I reject (see above), but I can say that free-market economics informs people of facts they might appreciate knowing. I don’t know why the word propaganda would occur to you. Unless you take the approach I suggest above (the reintegration of consequentialiam and nonconsequentialism), I don’t know how you can tell a good consequence from bad.

Friedman then accused Sheldon of being disingenuous. (He also, both here and above, wrongly supposes that Sheldon is arguing in favor of capitalism. Actually, Sheldon argued in favor of free markets, which is not necessarily the same thing.) Anyway:

Sheldon, that is disingenuous. The Freeman does not publish articles about nutritional, home repair, automotive-purchase, or an infinite number of other types of facts [people] might appreciate knowing. The only facts about which it informs people are the bad consequences of government and the good consequences of the market.

Nothing wrong with that–but it counts as propaganda if you don’t think that its good consequences don’t provide the real argument for capitalism (which is, you seem to think, inherently good because it embodies freedom, regardless of its consequences), nor that its bad consequences provide the best argument against government (which is, you seem to think, inherently bad because it depends on coercion).

So as I originally said, libertarianism is an ideology that packages together superficially related topics: moral reasoning about the nature of man, coercion, freedom + economic reasoning about the sources of, and barriers to, material prosperity. (NATURALLY someone who has bought into this package will reject the consequentialist/deontological dichotomy! After all, that dichotomy threatens the coherence of the ideological package.)

A young Obama encountering this pseudo-logical libertarian confection will logically conclude that it is an unreasonable ideology. And so young Obama’s own unexamined ideology goes unchallenged, because he dismisses the good elements (Austrian economics) along with the bad (libertarian philosophy) as part of a big incoherent stew. And when he becomes president, he has a nice whipping boy–the dogmatic, unreasonable free-marketeer–as his opponent, an opponent thoughtlessly provided to him by US.

The first problem with all of this is that Jeffrey Friedman seems to have concluded, without giving much reason for why he concluded this, that the primary purpose of The Freeman is to convince people of the truth of libertarian political philosophy. That is a claim which is in need of some defense — actually, I would not find it surprising at all if the crew at The Freeman, the flagship publication of the Foundation for Economic Education, is actually mainly concerned, in that publication at least, to educate people about economics (freed-market economics in particular), not to convince them of the truth of libertarian political or moral principles. Of course, Friedman might then throw out another accusation of disingenuousness, and ask Well, why educate people about freed-market economics, if not to convince them of libertarianism? Well, I don’t know; why educate people about nutrition, home-repair, or buying an automobile? There are lots of things you might learn which have some bearing on libertarianism but which are not learned primarily as a means to convincing people of libertarianism.

Of course, the outcome of the education will probably not be irrelevant to libertarianism, in this case. Presumably becoming convinced of the economic importance of freed markets will make people more likely to support freed markets, and thus more likely to become libertarians. But if so, does it necessarily mean that their reasons for becoming libertarians are consequentialist reasons — and thus, for those of us who believe in natural rights, the wrong reasons, or at least reasons that fall short of the best ones? Only if you confuse the occasion of forming a judgment with the evidence that warrants the judgment; and therein lies the deeper problem with Friedman’s position. Friedman repeatedly asserts, without any particular argument beyond the polemical term pseudo-logic, that ideas about the econmic consequences of government coercion and ideas about the immorality of government coercion, cannot be related to one another in any meaningful way — unless one accepts the consequentialist view that the moral judgments conceptually depend on the economic results. But in fact there’s a much richer set of possible relationships between these two topics than Friedman seems to imagine. The connection is not just so much confectioner’s sugar; there are in fact at least three major reasons that might lead a non-consequentialist say something about the bad consequences of an act that they consider wrong in itself.

  1. Reasons of urgency. Some evils things are evil in themselves; others are neutral or even in themselves, but evil in light of their consequences; and some are both evil in themselves and also produce evil consequences. As an example of the first kind of evil, you might consider laws that force a church to limit the size of big-ass crosses, on its own private property, to not more than 25 feet. I think this is a classic example of chickenshit petty tyranny; but I doubt it has much in the way of dire economic consequences. Other government zoning laws, on the other hand, do have some serious economic consequences — for example, laws that effectively forbid working-class people from living in certain neighborhoods by forbidding multiple unrelated people from living in a single house, or laws which force small businesses to take on huge additional fixed costs for storefront space because they are forbidden from operating outside of their homes. These have profound and destructive economic consequences (in fact, I’d argue that they have much more profound consequences than many conventionally pro-capitalist libertarians seem to realize). Both kinds of zoning laws are wrong, dead wrong, on natural-rights grounds — both are tyrannical invasions of the individual liberty to make any peaceful use you like of your own land. But if one is deciding which one to focus limited time and resources on changing, it’s not disingenuous or covertly consequentialist to think that the latter kind of law is more egregious, and a more urgent object of critique, than the former, in part because of the fact that the consequences are worse. Non-consequentialist libertarians hold that individual rights provide side-constraints on political action, not that they determine absolutely every detail about strategy or priorities in deciding which violations of those side-constraints we should focus on resisting.

  2. Reasons of consequence thickness. If an evil is the sort of evil which is not only evil in itself, but also produces evil consequences, then libertarians are entitled (for reasons of consequence thickness) to complain, not only about the intrinsic evil but also about the destructive consequences that follow from it — even if the destructiveness is in some sense external to the coercion that causes it. Even if consequences are not what make something bad, they may make it worse than other things which are similar in everything except for their consequences, and if someone already has some independent reasons for considering an intervention bad, there’s nothing particularly propagandistic about also taking some time to mention to her the factors that make it even worse.

  3. Dialectical reasons. But suppose that your reader is not a libertarian yet, not even partially; suppose she does not yet have any particular reasons for considering an intervention bad, other than the destructive consequences that you’ve just mentioned. Actually, I think this describes very few readers, even non-libertarian readers; most people already recognize, to some extent, that it’s good for people to have control over their own lives and that it’s wrong to coerce peaceful people. The issue is that they make exceptions to that principle in the case of certain arbitrary claims of political authority; or that they try to rationalize coercion by saying that some kind of collectivity makes it not really coercive — didn’t we agree to that tax increase?, etc. And the best way to undermine those exceptions or those rationalizations may not have anything in particular to do with pointing to some theory about economic consequences. But supposing that our reader just yet sign on for individual liberty on the particular topic under discussion; what then?

    Well, as I said before, some evils are both evil in themselves and also conducive to evil consequences. Among those are some evils that produce evil consequences because they themselves are evil. Here’s an example: getting beaten or tortured over and over again can lead to long-term consequences like depression or debilitating flashbacks. The beatings and the torture aren’t evil because of the long-term effects — they’d be evil anyway, even if the victim had no memory of them at all — but rather the long-term effects for the victim are what they are, in part, because of the wrongness of what’s been done to her. (Of course those memories stir up fear and agony; what happened to her was profoundly wrong.)

    If you are trying to convince someone of the evil of something that falls into this last category — where an evil produces evil consequences because it is evil in itself — it may be an important part of the dialectic for your interlocutor to come to understand how the consequences are evil, in order to understand how the root cause is evil in itself. Not because the evil of the root cause logically depends on the evil of the consequences (as in consequentialist argument), and also not because your interlocutor is being mislead to believe that it does (as in Friedman’s imagined propaganda). Rather, it’s because, once you understand that the consequence is evil, grasping the explanation for the destructiveness of the results may have something to do with grasping the evil of the root cause.

    Why is it that the survivor of abuse feels helpless and afraid sometimes, even in a situation with no obvious immediate threat? Well, it has something to do with the fact that she was abused for so long, and specifically to do with the fact that she’s reacting to the awfulness of how she was treated at the time. (If the way she had been treated weren’t so awful, she wouldn’t react the way that she does.) Now, why is it that statist intervention has such bad economic consequences? Well, the economic consequences have something to do with basic facts about the kind of creatures that people are, and the kind of treatment that statist interventions necessarily entail — the fact that we are rational and creative beings operating with limited resources and with imperfect knowledge, and the fact that statist coercion violently overrides the creative consensual solutions that people adopt in order to make an honest living. The independent wrongness of trampling all over peaceful people’s considered judgments and their individual liberty to dispose as they see fit of their own person the fruits of their own labor has something to do with fully understanding why the trampling so often results in ignorant, irrational, impoverishing, or stultifying distortions to our daily lives. Seeing the evil of the interventions — the wrongness of shoving around or cannibalizing one group of people for the benefit of another — is part and parcel of fully understanding why it produces the bad economic results that it produces (and also of seeing why it is that the results that it produces, whatever those may be, ought to be counted as the bad sort of results).

It’s important to emphasize here the difference between dialectic and propaganda (in Friedman’s sense). Friedman seems to be using the word propaganda to describe a conclusion-driven approach, in which the idea is to get your reader to the conclusion you want by whatever means, even if the argument that leads them to accept that conclusion is (what you’d consider to be) a bad argument. But the idea of this sort of dialectical approach is not that. It will seem like that only if you’ve confused dialectical starting-points which lead to a recognition of first principles, for points of evidence which logically justify those principles. The idea, then, would be to introduce the reader to the consequences partly for the sake of pure economic understanding; and partly also because the reader may, on considering not only the consequences but the explanation of those consequences, be led to understand something else beyond the badness of the consequences, because that something else provides the best explanation for what the economic argument has convinced her of.

Of course, none of this is to say that beginning from freed-market economics, and proceeding through this sort of dialectical process, is the only way, or even the best way, for a convinced natural lawyer to try to advance her ideas about the evils of coercion. Sometimes it is a good way, and sometimes it’s not; in point of fact I think there are many cases in which a simple moral appeal is more likely to make the case to your audience than trying to pull out some graph paper to do some fancy economic kung-fu. (This often goes unrecognized, in intellectual circles, because intellectuals have something of a professional interest in underestimating the importance of simple, non-technical arguments; and because people who would like to consider themselves engagé have often been suckered, by the preferences of a handful of people in the media, government, and academe, into believing that the kind of people who are more likely to be convinced by technical economic arguments than by fire-eating moral arguments are the only kind of people who exist, or at least the only kind of people worth trying to convince of your political views.) But while direct moral arguments may sometimes be preferable, for natural lawyers, to dialectical engagements that begin with arguments about consequences, it doesn’t follow that the latter must be carried on in bad faith. Taking an indirect path to the topic of the natural law is not the same thing as leaving out the topic of the natural law; and leading people down an argumentative path is not necessarily a matter of misleading them about where it’s going.

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8 replies to Why should natural lawyers care about teaching freed-market economics? Use a feed to Follow replies to this article · TrackBack URI

  1. Mike

    Charles,

    Nice summary. Of course, there are simply pragmatic and practical reasons to present the positive consequences of free market economics and the negative consequences of state interference and the state itself - that doing so presents the truth and dispels myths. Bailouts in fact do not “fix the economy” so presenting economic arguments against it is not an exercise in “libertarian propaganda” but an ecercise in presenting facts and truth, against misinformation or outright lies. That would be, in my opinion, a good thing even if I was not a libertarian.

    Pragmatically, it also opens the door. Many people have some strange ideas about libertarians and anarchists or about free markets and laizzer-faire. When economic arguments can be shown to be correct, it allows the moral arguments to be more easily accepted.

    I am a case in point…until 3 years ago, I was a diehard left wing social democrat. I shared some common ground with libertarians socially, but was convinced the free market was a sham. It was not until some convincing economic arguments were made to me, and I investigated further did I realize that free market economics, and Austrian economic theories, were correct. I actually had intended to research to find fodder to destroy the idea of free market economics and become a convert. Most folks already accept most libertarian moral sentiments, but require convincing on economics.

    Moral arguments are good, but practical arguments open the door for those arguments to come in.

  2. william

    Which is all fine and dandy. But if the consequentialist appeals are only the first step on the road to some final deontological structure that your ilk truly intend to leave them with, it begs the question just where is the second stage propaganda?

    Because “dialectical conversation” doesn’t really describe all too accurately just what’s going on in the real world.

    For all the Freemans out there, one would assume there would be some artifacts of at least some similar order of magnitude dedicated to helping people through those propped open doors. Hit them with the consequentialist stuff and then — to prove you aren’t just trying to create zombies committed to the right stuff for the wrong reasons — FOLLOW IT UP aggressively. But everywhere you look the model seems to be mass distribution of consequentialist stuff and then, once the true believers come trickling in of their own accord, convinced by those consequentialist arguments, hit them with the deontological.

    I think Friedman can be forgiven for thinking this a little sketchy. And he’s right that EVEN IF IT’S JUSTIFIED — that is to say even if you’re right that it’s not hypocritical or contradictory on the part of the Deontologists — it still LOOKS hypocritical and contradictory. Much the same way as Zerzan wearing glasses, or Jensen selling his books over the webscapes.

    His point about Obamas stands because you haven’t addressed (at least I don’t see it) just how yall will overcome the fact that all the above perfectly reasonable justifications for using consequentialist arguments aren’t going to immediately recognized by folks familiar with your consequentialist outreach who then awkwardly discover the deontological nuggety core and dismiss the whole thing as ideological hogwash held together with pseudo-logic.

    It’s not a fatal impediment to be sure, but it is an inefficiency, and an unnecessary one from the Friedman perspective, which I’m sure he thinks is damning enough.

  3. Sheldon Richman

    Well done, Rad. I was struck by how shallow Friedman’s responses were and how he avoided the challenges I posed. For example, a narrow consequentialism begs a big question: How does one tell good consequences from bad? Moreover, Friedman did not see fit to respond to the point Roderick Long makes, namely, that rule utilitarianism in theory is deontology in practice.

  4. Marja Erwin

    It seems more reasonable to start with your grounds. If they disagree with your grounds, it’s probably not worth the effort it would take to persuade them. If they agree with your grounds but believe the state and/or capitalism are necessary evils, that prepares the way for consequentialist arguments that they are unnecessary.

    That said, rights-based language can be alienating:

    Alice: You own yourself.

    Barbara: No, I don’t. I am myself. The idea that we own ourselves is a Trojan Horse for the idea that another person can own ourselves.

    Alice: What?

    Barbara: Ownership includes the right to sell or gift the owned object. If people own themselves, they can sell themselves. Given our present economic inequalities, don’t you expect bosses to demand this of employees?

    And so on…

  5. Little Alex

    Excellent, Rad.

    Utilitarians ignore the role of precedence in justice. It’s what leads to progressives [sic] claiming the Bush wars were bad because the ‘money could’ve been spent at home’ — ignoring that killing and theft are wrong. This is far-too present among “consequentialists” and Ron Paulbots: that the hegemonic foreign policy of the US is wrong because ‘it’s bankrupting us’ (as if the State isn’t already).

    Utilitarianism or ‘consequentialism’ always finds a rationale [sic] for taking someone’s life, unjustly. It just always does.

  6. Sheldon Richman

    As my old friend Roy Childs liked to say (quoting Etienne Gilson), “The natural law always buries its undertakers.”

  7. Rad Geek

    William:

    Which is all fine and dandy. But if the consequentialist appeals are only the first step on the road to some final deontological structure that your ilk truly intend to leave them with, it begs the question just where is the second stage propaganda? Because dialectical conversation doesn’t really describe all too accurately just what’s going on in the real world.

    For the record, whether my position is deontological or not depends on what you mean by deontology. If you mean it in a broad sense to mean any view which is not strictly consequentialist, then, sure, I’m not a strict consequentialist. If you use it in some more narrow sense, for example to mean the view that the righteousness of an action is determined entirely by its following from moral duty, and that the requirements of moral duty can be entirely specified prior to and absolutely independently of deliberation about consequences, then that’s not my view. I’m a virtue ethicist, and so my views cut across the traditional consequentialist-deontological debate. Of course, I can speak only for myself on that one, not for my ilk.

    That said, reading non-consequentialist for deontological, I’m not sure what you mean. Also not sure that I expressed myself as clearly as I would like in the original post.

    There are (at least) three ways in which someone might bring a notion of non-consequentialist natural rights into a discussion, each of which might help somebody come to accept natural rights, each in a different way.

    1. By going upstream, to give some kind of argument from prior premises which is intended to show that there are non-consequentialist natural rights (and perhaps indicate something about what non-consequentialist natural rights there might be);

    2. By going downstream, to exhibit the natural rights-claims in use and to show how consistent respect for non-consequentialist natural rights claims plays out in application to specific issues (for example, by giving an argument against the drug war, or border laws, or intellectual protectionism, or whatever, on the basis of natural rights);

    3. By going sideways, to demonstrate that some proposed objection, exception to, or trumping of natural rights claims is not, in fact justified. (This could be a categorical objection to the notion of a natural rights claim; or it could be a specific claim that, for example, requirements of consent don’t apply to established political authority, or whatever you like.)

    I don’t know which, if any, of these three options you have in mind when you talk about the second stage propaganda that you expect to see. I know that I’ve written an awful lot of things that come under heading (2), and some that come under heading (3); I’ve written little that could come under heading (1), but other natural rights theorists certainly have. So if the question is just where is it? just let me know what you’re looking for specifically and I can point you to it.

    For all the Freemans out there, one would assume there would be some artifacts of at least some similar order of magnitude dedicated to helping people through those propped open doors. Hit them with the consequentialist stuff and then — to prove you aren’t just trying to create zombies committed to the right stuff for the wrong reasons — FOLLOW IT UP aggressively. But everywhere you look the model seems to be mass distribution of consequentialist stuff and then, once the true believers come trickling in of their own accord, convinced by those consequentialist arguments, hit them with the deontological.

    Well, as you like, but my comments in this post were not intended to outline any kind of mass propaganda strategy for producing more people who accept libertarianism for non-consequentialist reasons. My comments were intended to explain how it might be logically in order for a reader who begins with consequentialist material on economic freedom to end up adopting non-consequentialist principles on the basis of what they read, regardless of what the publisher’s dialectical stance or outreach strategy may have been. Hence why it makes sense to hope that publishing a magazine like the Freeman, which exists primarily not to discuss libertarian political philosphy but rather to popularize and educate people about freed-market economics, might still have the secondary effect of convincing more people to reject statism, and perhaps even to reject statism for non-consequentialist reasons. I think that is quite enough to show that J. Friedman’s argument is entirely bogus: first, because he depends on the mistaken premise that the primary purpose of the Freeman is to recruit more libertarians; and secondly because, even if we change the topic from the primary purpose of the magazine to the secondary hopes that its editor might have for it, characterizing those secondary hopes as propagandistic (in the derogatory sense) involves a mistakenly narrow understanding of what sorts of paths people might follow to a logical conclusion. Whether or not this is the best sort of approach to take is a separate question; so is the question of whether the Freeman’s purpose ought to be something other than popular economic education. (I don’t see why it should. There are plenty of other journals for political and moral philosophy.) The point is simply that it is not illogical (pseudo-logical, whatever) in the way that Friedman claims it is illogical.

    That said, if you merely mean to argue that non-consequentialist natural law anarchists ought to write more material defending anarchy on non-consequentialistic moral grounds, and ought to be more confident about making direct appeals rather than beating around the bush about consequeneces, well, I agree with you. That’s why I try to write that sort of thing, and why I mentioned it towards the end of this post.

    I think Friedman can be forgiven for thinking this a little sketchy. And he’s right that EVEN IF IT’S JUSTIFIED — that is to say even if you’re right that it’s not hypocritical or contradictory on the part of the Deontologists — it still LOOKS hypocritical and contradictory. Much the same way as Zerzan wearing glasses, or Jensen selling his books over the webscapes.

    Well, whatever; but whether it looks hypocritical or not tells you nothing about who’s to blame for the appearance, which is the conclusion that Friedman was explicitly trying to get to. Either the conclusion of hypocrisy is justified by the evidence or it’s not justified by the evidence. If it’s not justified by the evidence, then the problem is with those who draw the conclusion, not those about whom it is drawn. The only question in that case is whether or not the people who make the irrational inference are really part of your target audience, and if so whether it’s important enough to try to disabuse them of a misunderstanding even though it wasn’t actually your fault; but if that’s at issue, then I surely don’t care what Barack Obama (or his colleagues generally) make of me or my ideas. I’m trying to talk to a different group of people, who are much less likely to be concerned about the things that professional policy wonks and stato-criminals are concerned about.

    His point about Obamas stands because you haven’t addressed (at least I don’t see it) just how yall will overcome the fact that all the above perfectly reasonable justifications for using consequentialist arguments aren’t going to immediately recognized by folks familiar with your consequentialist outreach who then awkwardly discover the deontological nuggety core and dismiss the whole thing as ideological hogwash held together with pseudo-logic.

    If someone comes to a simple moral appeal like Don’t take peaceful people’s shit without getting their permission first, after nodding along with page after page of technical freed-market economic kung-fu, and then, rather than nodding along to that, too, suddenly throws out the book, yelling Dogma! Metaphysik! then, sure, I’ll confess I don’t know what to do with them. Perhaps they would have been better off reading a different book. (Or a different series of blog posts in a different order, or whatever.) In any case, those people aren’t necessarily the kind of people that I’m especially interested in trying to reach. But I do think that Friedman’s attempt to explain the Progressive economic rhetoric about laissez-faire dogma is not really very close to reality for Obama or for any of the other people that he has in mind. Typically with them the issue is not that they generally accept consequentialist arguments for freed markets but then reject non-consequentialist appeals to natural individual liberty rights in some abstruse thought-experiment. Rather, the issue is that they don’t accept very much in the way of consequentialist arguments for freed markets in te first place; they typically are willing to sign on to the notion that Gosplan-style nationalization and central planning is probably a bad idea, but they (wrongly) think that the empirical evidence doesn’t actually justify consequentialist cases for abolishing coercive centralized control over roads, electricity, water, banks, stock markets, security, and about 10,000 other categories of goods and services. The religion involved is not, usually, anything to do with the morality of non-coercion, but rather (what Obama et al.) see as empirically-unjustified faith in the outcomes of freed-market policies.

  8. Sheldon Richman

    I should point out that FEE’s Freeman has never been purely economic/consequentialist. There has always been moral side to the magazine. The nature of the moral case has surely changed (perhaps in subtle ways) during my tenure, but it is still there. After all, I am not an “economist.” We’ve published Roderick Long on equality, for example, and Frank van Dun, and Charles Johnson. These articles were not about economic consequences. I could multiple examples for a long time. Maybe it’s time for an article on the relationship between economics and ethics.

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