Sometimes, "Not My Problem" Is the Right Answer
Last week, I linked to the LearnLiberty “Why are YOU a Libertarian?” Tumblr. Twitter user @EricPaulDennis posted the following:
— Eric Paul Dennis (@EricPaulDennis) September 7, 2013
However, “Not My Problem” is probably the right response more often than we want to believe. The tradition of what Peter J. Boettke calls “Mainline Economics” connecting scholars like (for example) Adam Smith, Friedrich Hayek, and James Buchanan, emphasizes the fact that we rarely have enough knowledge about what Hayek called “the particular circumstances of time and place” to interfere advantageously in others’ affairs. Too often, the impulse to action clouds our better judgment, and we make an even bigger mess of things.
In his summary of the “Austrian School of Economics” Boettke points out some of the key insights of the “mainline” paradigm. These insights have been applied fruitfully to questions of international political economy, war, reconstruction, and humanitarian adventures by Boettke’s student Christopher J. Coyne in his books After War: The Political Economy of Exporting Democracy and Doing Bad By Doing Good: Why Humanitarian Action Fails. Here’s an EconTalk Podcast with Coyne on the first book. Here’s Coyne on C-SPAN discussing the second.