Why Economics and Liberty?
By Art Carden
I’m honored to join the EconLog team as a guest blogger for the next few months. The original bloggers here–Bryan Caplan, David Henderson, and Arnold Kling–have played very important roles in my intellectual development. I’ve learned much from what they have written in this space and elsewhere over the years. I first met Garett Jones at the Public Choice Society conference in 2008 (see the link below for some of Bryan’s and my participation), and I’ve learned a lot from reading him, as well.
So I’m happy to be here. That said, I thought I’d write a few quick words about economics and liberty.
Why economics? Economics continues to rock my world day in and day out because it offers a set of very simple but very general principles that can help us analyze almost any situation. Supply and demand analysis, for example, offers big-picture principles that help us make sense of seemingly-disparate phenomena like airline tickets, slave redemption, drugs, and gun buy-backs–examples you might recognize from Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok’s economics textbook. The world makes a lot more sense when you look at it through the lenses of the economic way of thinking.
Why liberty? To borrow from Thomas Sowell, I don’t have faith in free markets. I have evidence. By virtually any standard, liberty works: the combination of free markets and Bourgeois Dignity has created a world in which liberty and prosperity are the rule rather than the exception in at least some places. Widespread prosperity is a relatively recent phenomenon, and we should be careful to guard its institutional foundations.
A few weeks ago Garett tweeted:
One upside of the minimum-wage debate: it’s thrilling to watch progressives reject the precautionary principle so thoroughly.
In this context, we have enough evidence to suggest that minimum wages are bad for low-wage workers that a prudent, cautious approach counsels much more caution than progressives are displaying in their enthusiasm for higher minimum wages. In light of the mountains of evidence that liberal market economies work to the benefit of the poor, I think the burden of proof should be be borne not by the person who seeks liberty, but by the person who seeks power.
The requirements of brevity and the constraints of space prevent a more detailed discussion, but I look forward to the conversation we’re going to have over the next few months. To whet your appetite, here is a 2008 Public Choice Society plenary panel in which I, Michael Munger, and Geoffrey Brennan offered comments on Bryan’s The Myth of the Rational Voter in 2008. Here is my most recent LearnLiberty video. And here is Steve Horwitz’s and my new article on market failure, government failure, and intervention. Here’s where you can find what I’ve written for Forbes.com.