Deirdre McCloskey’s manifesto

Pointer from Donald Boudreaux. The first thing in her manifesto that caught my eye was this:

As [David] Boaz says at the outset of The Libertarian Mind, “In a sense, there have always been but two political philosophies: liberty and power.”

Ah, yes, the liberty-coercion axis.

In specific terms, McCloskey writes,

Cut the multiple levels of corrupt government in Illinois. Kill off, as the much-maligned Liberal 1.0 and billionaire Charles Koch wishes, the vast programs of corporate welfare, federal and state and local. Close the agricultural programs, which allow rich farmers to farm the government instead of the land. Sell off “public” assets such as roads and bridges and street parking, which in an age of electronic transponders can be better priced by private enterprise. Close the American empire. Welcome immigrants. Abandon the War on Drugs. Give up eminent domain and civil forfeiture and military tanks for police departments. Implement the notion of Catholic social teaching of “subsidiarity,” placing modest responsibilities such as trash collection or fire protection down at the lowest level of government that can handle them properly. Then outsource the trash collection and the fire protection. To finance K-12 education—socially desirable but sometimes out of reach of the poor—give families vouchers to cash in at private schools, such as Sweden has done since the 1990s and as Orleans parish has done for poor families since 2008. To achieve universal K-12 education, and a select few of other noble and otherwise privately unfundable purposes, such as a war of survival, by all means tax you and me, not only the man behind the tree. But eliminate the inquisitorial income tax, replacing it with a tax on personal consumption declared on a one-page form, as economists such as Robert Hall and Arthur Laffer propose. Still better, use only an equally simple purchase tax on businesses, to reduce the present depth of personal inquisition. Eliminate the so-called “corporate” income tax, because it is double taxation and because economists have in fact little idea which people actually end up paying it. (The old bumper sticker saying “Tax corporations, not people,” when you think about it, doesn’t make a lot of sense.) Give a poor person cash in emergencies, from those modest taxes on you and me. Quit inquiring into whether she spends it on booze or her children’s clothing. Leave her and her family alone. No pushing around.

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11 Responses to Deirdre McCloskey’s manifesto

  1. Handle says:

    Is there anything new in this manifesto? I skimmed it, but didn’t see anything I haven’t read dozens of times before over many years, but I may have missed something. Maybe that’s what all manifestors seem like at the time.

    I must say, however, that when I see Libertarians relying heavily on the use of the word “humane” (e.g. the Institute for Humane Studies at GMU) or trying to “take back” the use and meaning of the word “liberal”, I get the same impression you do when Conservatives try to use the language of oppression or racism or something like that, especially when they say things like, “progressives are the real racists.” “Nice try, valid point, but it still doesn’t work like that.”

    Progressives see Libertarianism as a particularly cruel, heartless, and callous philosophy of government that only appeals to the privileged and well off, and are always quoting Anatole France, “In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread.”

    Indeed, it is under the pressure of this alternate, progressive conception of “humane” that we’ve been observing the depressing drift of public intellectual libertarians to positions that increasingly accomodate anti-libertarian progressive tenets of social justice, resulting in the recent sorry spectacle of Niskanen Center output.

    Finally, the use of “military tanks” is both inaccurate (where are the large caliber, long barrel tank guns?) and part of a line of thinking that is easily exposed as simple, unreasoned nonsense when placed under any scrutiny, and which is meant, once again, only to ingratiate libertarians with progressives and make it seem the two camps have common enemies and could thus be allies and would they please reserve their ire for others and keep their fire focused elsewhere.

    • Butler T. Reynolds says:

      “Progressives see Libertarianism as a particularly cruel, heartless, and callous philosophy of government that only appeals to the privileged and well off,”

      True, but libertarians see progressives in exactly the same way.

      • Octavian says:

        Not really. Libertarians, imo, view progressives as controlling, wanting to redesign society from the top down in accord with how they think it should be, making no moral distinction between voluntary and involuntary actions.

        To borrow and twist Lakoff’s idea, progressives view libertarians as the absentee father who abandons his kids in poverty while living in luxury; libertarians more view progressives as the Greek stereotype of the ‘Great Mother’ who dominates and controls her children to the point of ruin.

    • Slocum says:

      “Progressives see Libertarianism as a particularly cruel, heartless, and callous”

      They do. They see conservatives the same way, but — as Jonathan Haidt discovered — progressives are very bad at understanding people who don’t share their ideology:

      “The biggest errors in the whole study came when liberals answered the care and fairness questions while pretending to be conservatives. ”

  2. firingline says:


  3. Kauf Buch says:

    I stopped reading the brain-dead libertarian drivel after 3 sentences:

    “Close the American empire. Welcome immigrants. Abandon the War on Drugs.”

    The first I object to the least, but on a basis of national pride.

    The second is suicide and nothing less (forget about Sweden’s educational approach and look at how Sweden is “enjoying” all those barbaric “immigrants”).

    The third I only agree with insofar as it is a waste of money, yet the brain-dead libertarian uses drugs and homo-love issues exclusively as examples of their “tolerance”…a “tolerance” which destroys our society. In these two cases, brain-dead libertarians are the dupes of the radical Left.

    • William O. B'Livion says:

      “The second is suicide and nothing less ”

      No, it’s not.

      The US has “always” welcomed immigrants, it’s just in the past we expected them to become *Americans* over time, to assimilate. Now we do not.

      We also welcomed a limited number. Which we need to get back to.

      Open boarders is death. A welfare state is suicide. Open boarders and a welfare state are a faster suicide.

      But you can welcome immigrants–as the US welcomed all four of my grandparents.

      • Kauf Buch says:

        Please don’t pretend to be so stupid as your comment.
        The libertarian bleating is an ABSOLUTE:
        What part of Close. Welcome. Abandon. do you NOT understand?!?
        (You DO, you just don’t *want* to)

        Right now, it is muslim scum that is the “welcoming” threat.
        Leftists cover for it with their racist Fig Leaf of “who will mow our lawns and make our hotel beds?” about Mexicans (doubt me? see any number of Floridian Democrats)…all while screaming “raaacist!” like Invasion Of The Body Snatchers.

        Your mind-numbing deflection may fool some, but not those who prefer facts and reality to your onanistic, self-flattering ideology.

        • Kauf Buch says:

          p.s. If you prefer the delicate niceties of “radical islamic terrorist” to “muslim scum,” fine. Don’t want to ruffle your precious, sensitive feathers. Point remains the same.

  4. tex says:

    M Friedman once noted you can have open borders or a welfare system, but not both.

    • asdf says:

      The people to come here under open borders inevitably vote themselves a welfare system. Answer is you can’t have open borders under any scenario.

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