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Thursday, January 14, 2010

The blind government-haters are false libertarians

This is an extremely important article in the libertarian Reason magazine ("Five Reasons Why Libertarians Shouldn't Hate Government," William D. Eggers & John O'Leary, Reason.com, January 13, 2010. It argues for an adult form of libertarianism, advocating the end of adolescent Ayn Randism that dominates those who call themselves libertarians today.

Hatred of anything and everything government is not genuine libertarianism. Instead, it should be a process that keeps searching for the best allocation between private action and collective strength. Sure, a bias towards freedom can be part of that decision, but only a central government can conduct foreign policy and mount a national defense. Only the Federal government can launch a coordinated interstate response to a natural catastrophe like Katrina. And what we are realizing finally is that only through government can we pool the health risks that everyone faces and create the assurance that nobody will ever go bankrupt due to a health problem. (Consider this: the United States of America is the only advanced country in the world where bankruptcy is the natural consequence of a major health problem for tens of millions of citizens. Every other civilized country has created a national system designed to prevent such financial disasters from ever happening to anyone.)

True libertarianism is devotion to a process, not to some imaginary utopia that never has and never will exist. Jefferson said (or is said to have said) the “government that governs best governs least.” That means it exercises restraint when it is asked to do something, not that it should not be permitted to govern at all.

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