Classical Liberalism: The purpose of government is to do those things – and only those things – which both must be done and which only it can do.
Democracy: The purpose of government is to do the things the voters ask it to do.
A classically liberal government in a democracy is asked to do something – anything – that it is not currently doing. If it accedes it is no longer a liberal government; if it refuses it is not a democratic government.
(This should cause more sleepless nights than it does.)
Classical Liberalism: Society has no right to compel its members to defend it.
Traditional public goods theory: Society’s members will not voluntarily defend it.
But if a society must be defended then it must compel its members to defend it. But then it is no longer a classically liberal society.
(This, too, should cause more sleepless nights than it does.)
Does Tim Worstall read Libertarian Home? The reason I ask is that, in the fortnight or so since I published Patricians, Paternalism, Free Riders, and The Guillotine Worstall keeps repeating this same “things that must be done and that only government can do” line. It’s doubtless only a coincidence – though I hope it isn’t because I really do like Tim Worstall – but let’s see what he’s been up to recently. Continue reading Democracy, Cognitive Dissonance, and Leviathan
Tim Worstall at the Adam Smith Institute blog is not at all keen on Polly Toynbee’s “very patrician idea” that the government is there to provide “entertainments” and “diversions”.
“And what really grates is that at least the Romans insisted that it was the patricians that paid for the bread and circuses, Polly’s insistent that we must be charged for what she insists we must have“. [My italics]
Continue reading Patricians, Paternalism, Free Riders, and The Guillotine
The other day the hashtag “I’m hard Left” trended on Twitter, and, as you might expect, it attracted some rather ironic, and amusing, responses. One of the sincere tweets (I don’t recall the author) went something like this: “I’m hard left because I dare to demand fairness and equality for everyone in one of the richest countries in the world”. To “dare” to “demand” this, with the full knowledge of all that this “demand” demands – bravery like this is sadly all too rare these days, is it not?
Continue reading In the pursuit of happiness
There is a widely shared belief that the result of the general election was unfair, the clearest example of this unfairness being the contrasting fortunes of the UK Independence Party and the Scottish National Party. UKIP with their almost 4 million votes ended up with just one MP, while the SNP got around half that number and have 56 MP’s. Another method of voting would have produced a fairer result.
Continue reading Unfairness and democracy