Look On the Bright Side of Strife

This morning on Marketplace, I crib from Casey Mulligan and argue that we shouldn't let the meltdown of the financial sector trick us into thinking that the real economy and the recession is worse than it really is. Also, government shouldn't make it worse.

Author: Will Wilkinson

Vice President for Research at the Niskanen Center

4 thoughts

  1. a philosophy emphasizing the inviolability of property rights has no distinctively libertarian content in the absence of a “thicker” account of the justification and content of these rights.
    If we replace ‘property rights’ with ‘X’ we get a generically true statement about political philosophy. A political philosophy emphasizing ‘X’ has no distinctive libertarian context absent an account of the context of X. Indeed, it has no context at all!
    So what is going on here beyond a definitional disagreement? If I may employ a barbarous lit-crit neologism, I fear that Will is trying to selectively ‘problematize’ bright line concepts. I’m sure there’s some philosophy (let’s call it Q-ism) out there that contents that a military draft doesn’t meaningfully diminish personal liberty because the amount of liberty that can be rightly considered ‘personal’ is the function of the political process. I don’t even find this that implausible. Yet most of us operating in the anglophone liberal tradition would instead say that Q-ism doesn’t always privilege personal liberty. We can push the disagreement one step back if we want, but we should do so only if we *really think* that the meaning or justification of personal liberty is ambiguous in this way.
    Thus the real question is: what does Will think the rights to property (including self-ownership?) are and how are they justified? I feel like Will is always on the verge of endorsing something like a purely consequentialist account of property rights, and then pulling away. But it seems in this case his justification of liberty may also be purely consequentialist.
    Will, how am I doing so far?

  2. We should maintain certain inalienable rights such as the right to own property. Simply because the majority determines a policy should not mean that the policy doesn’t violate inalienable rights. For example, slavery was okay as long as the majority felt it should be so (an old argument, I know).
    The ability of the state to separate us from lawfully gained property violates inalienable rights. Further, it destabilizes the capitalist system because we have no assurance that our investment will not be confiscated by the majority.
    But, then, I suspect certain political factions work daily toward destabilization of the capitalist system in order to further their own agenda.

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