Inclined to Liberty
By Arnold Kling
There are those inclined to liberty–freedom of the individual to live his or her life in any peaceful way. And there are those who are inclined to mastery–permitting others to live their lives only as another sees fit.
His short book is Inclined to Liberty. Some more quotes from it follow.From “The False Lure of Democracy” (the book has 34 short chapters):
The very essence of democracy encourages everyone to express opinions about human activities that are none of their business.
The idea that there is a conflict between liberty and democracy is one that requires more development. Most people think of democracy as the opposite of tyranny. Accordingly, they see no conflict at all between liberty and democracy. They would regard any suggestion of such a conflict as absurd. In any case, many would wonder what Carabini might propose as an alternative to democracy.
From “Do We Deserve Our Good Fortune?”:
[Philosopher John] Rawls neglects a key economic principle that when one person earns wealth, another must gain wealth. [Michael] Jordan did not become wealthy by playing basketball; he became wealthy by giving millions of people the pleasure and benefit of watching him play basketball.
I think that most people do not resent the salaries of star athletes, for exactly the reason that Carabini gives. That is, people understand the direct pleasure they get from watching star athletes perform. Similarly, a lot of people don’t have a problem with Steve Jobs getting rich, because they are devoted to Apple products. But I do not think that people feel the same way about wealth in general.
Often, it is hard for people to connect the source of others’ wealth to their own well-being. Try saying, “Finance industry executive X did not become wealthy by securitizing bad mortgages; he became wealthy by giving millions of investors the pleasure and benefit of investing in bad mortgages.”
Going back to the dichotomy between liberty and mastery, I think it has some merit. I believe that most political leaders have a goal of mastery, and restraining this goal is a challenge (in fact, that is why democracy is only the second-worst form of government). In general, though, I think of all people as status-seeking. Ultimately, the business executive and the politician may be after the same thing. Sometimes, the status-seeker in business does harm to others. Sometimes, the status-seeker in politics does good. Overall, I think that the business system works better than the political system at transforming status-seeking behavior into conduct that improves general welfare and preserves liberty. The challenge is to convey that in a persuasive way.