Thursday, August 28, 2014

Government as a Unicorn

This is pretty insightful:
When I am discussing the State with my colleagues at Duke, it's not long before I realize that, for them, almost without exception, the State is a unicorn. I come from the Public Choice tradition, which tends to emphasize consequentialist arguments more than natural rights, and so the distinction is particularly important for me. My friends generally dislike politicians, find democracy messy and distasteful, and object to the brutality and coercive excesses of foreign wars, the war on drugs, and the spying of the NSA.
But their solution is, without exception, to expand the power of "the State." That seems literally insane to me—a non sequitur of such monstrous proportions that I had trouble taking it seriously.
Then I realized that they want a kind of unicorn, a State that has the properties, motivations, knowledge, and abilities that they can imagine for it. When I finally realized that we were talking past each other, I felt kind of dumb. Because essentially this very realization—that people who favor expansion of government imagine a State different from the one possible in the physical world—has been a core part of the argument made by classical liberals for at least 300 years.
What I like about this is that it gives a credible framework to have an actual non-shouting discussion with both traditional progressives and traditional conservatives.


Old NFO said...

Excellent point BP...

Arthur said...

If the Unicorns they speak of are Pratchett's Discworld vicious psychopath monster type of creatures I'd agree.

Michael Brahier said...

This is exactly how I felt when I went to the OWS meeting in my hometown.

And, no, I am no leftie liberal. But I did agree with them on some of the problems and I felt engagement was worth a try.

I ran into the same problem as the author.