Klein, Clark, and the Liberty Maxim
By Bryan Caplan
Dan Klein and Michael Clark have a very thoughtful new working paper. Lead-in:
Again, we embrace Rothbard’s definition of liberty. We reject, however, some of
Rothbard’s major claims for liberty. He tended to frame the liberty principle as an imperative, as 100-percent, as a kind of axiom for politics and ethics. From Rothbard one gets the message that moral and ethical truth always favors liberty over coercion. We disagree. We think that sometimes coercion is our friend. We reject the axiom view, and, instead, with Adam Smith, take a maxim view.
They then inventory the main conflicts between the axiom and the maxim view:
1. Thoreauian Coercion
2. Coercive Hazard
3. Disarming or Defusing Private Coercion
4. Controlling Pollution
5. Restrictions to Prevent Rip-offs
6. Subsidizing Against Coercive Taboos
7. Taxing to Fund Liberal Enlightenment
8. Coercively Tending the Moral Foundations of Liberty
9. Log Rolling for Liberty
10. Stabilizing the Second Best
11. Military Actions, Etc.
Then they weigh the importance of each of these. Their conclusions may surprise you, so read it for yourself.