How Did For a New Liberty Influence MRV?
By Bryan Caplan
My co-author Scott Beaulier blogs a meaty question for me:
…The policy implication often taken from MRV is an elitist
one: the world needs constraints from the mob through franchise
restrictions, etc. While Rothbardhad his elitist moments (and there’s
plenty in the Austrian oral tradition to support the Rothbard as
elitist position, too), I’ve always thought of him as a “people’s
libertarian.” That is, we need a lot of “buy-in” from the mob before
we can enjoy a new liberty.
In MRV, franchise restrictions only get a paragraph. I spend more far time on the need for better economic education – and this probably reflects Rothbard’s influence on me. He certainly lives up to my three rules for improving economic communication: “(1)
Highlight the contrast between the popular view and basic economics in stark
terms; (2) Explain why the latter is true and the former is false; and (3) Make
I completely agree with Rothbard that massive “buy-in” will be required to really get a libertarian society. Unlike Mr. Libertarian, however, I’m willing to bluntly admit that persuading the man-in-the-street is extremely difficult, and explore substitutes – however imperfect – for mass conversion.
The key difference between Rothbard and me, though, is that he refuses to acknowledge the hard fact that American elites, for all their statism, are much more libertarian than the general public. He’s according willing to embrace demagoguery, while I see this as not just morally wrong, but pointless.
Do you think of your major project as one consistent with
Rothbard? Or, is this is a case of the two of you slaying different
dragons (e.g, he’s trying to popularize libertarianism;
you’re addressing a major issue in public choice–voter
ignorance/irrationality)? Given that it was such an influential book
on you, I’m just wondering if Rothbard’s influence is showing up at all
MRV is inspired by my libertarian outlook. It is to a large degree an attempt to rebut what I see as the most intellectually powerful critique of libertarian economics – Donald Wittman’s The Myth of Democratic Failure. Unlike Rothbard, though, I strive to be both scientifically and normatively persuasive to smart people with no libertarian sympathies.