11 March 2010

The freedom to reject freedom?

Will Wilkinson | Irving Kristol Quote of the Day

From Two Cheers for Capitalism, 1978:
And what if the 'self' that is 'realized' under the conditions of liberal capitalism is a self that despises liberal capitalism and uses its liberty to subvert and abolish a free society? To this question Hayek — like Friedman — has no answer.

And yet this is the question we now confront, as our society relentlessly breeds more and more such selves, whose private vices no way provide public benefits to a bourgeois order.
There. And now you can say you’ve read every past and future David Brooks column about libertarianism.
Bazinga.

I think Kristol has a real swing-and-miss on his hands because I could ask the same question of democracy generally: What happens when the citizens of a democracy up and vote to subvert democracy?

There's no getting around the quis custodiet ipsos custodes? problem. What happens if the King wants to do bad shit? Establish a parliament to stop him! What happens when parliament wants to do bad shit? Vote them out of office! What happens when the voters want to do bad shit? Ummmmmm...

History tells us what happens then. Shit either spirals out of control (Mugabe, Chavez) or some folks pick up guns and try to set things to rights the hard way (the American Civil War, the European Theater of WWII).

Kristol calls out Milton Friedman for not having an answer to this question, but his grandson Patri sure does: you pack up your bags, and cast off for calmer waters.  It's all about the Right of Exit.

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