Does Liberty Come from the State?
By Arnold Kling
I believe that President Obama sees himself as the duly appointed officer of the overlord. This overlord is the collectivity called “the people” or “the state.” It is one big voluntary club. Its officers are government officials. Its central apparatus consists of governmental institutions. Its official expression is government law: legislation, regulations, executive orders, and court rulings.
It’s actually a difficult essay to excerpt. One could say that the gist of it is to say, Lose the “we.” One more quote:
My marijuana is my marijuana, and I have not entered any contract with “the people” or any other overlord not to smoke it.
Part of Klein’s goal is to state the philosophy of government that enables progressives to justify their policies. My guess is that modern progressives will not agree with Klein’s formulation. In general, I find that progressives prefer not to define their beliefs as a philosophy. They do not want to start out with a discussion of first principles.
Instead, my impression is that progressives prefer to start talking about what makes their views good and what makes other views bad. I think they would view all this libertarian philosophy stuff as just mumbo-jumbo that papers over an ideology that tramples the poor and justifies privilege.
I myself am not such an ardent philosopher. I am willing to start with a discussion of how to benefit the poor and get rid of unjustified privilege. Where I refuse to give ground is on making the assumption that government technocrats are wise and that we can elect politicians who are benevolent.
Ask the question about how much freedom you would be willing to give up in order to achieve some other social goal. (Of course, at a personal level, I give up a lot of freedoms that I might otherwise wish to exercise because I want to stay out of jail.) For example, how much freedom would you give up in order to have medical research that finds cures for awful diseases?
In theory, I would be willing to trade-off some freedom for some social goals. However, in practice, I see us as being on the far end of a Laffer Curve. That is, given what technocrats really know and how politicians really behave, I think most of the social goals that I would be rooting for would be better achieved if government were dramatically smaller. Given where we are, adding to government power is lose-lose by my reckoning.