Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Tom Palmer has new anthology, "Why Liberty"
Author (editor): Tom G. Palmer
Title: “Why Liberty: Your Life, Choices, Your Future”
Publication: 2013, by Jameson Books, Atlas and Students for Liberty; ISBN 978-0-89803-172-0, 143 pages, paper, indexed, A Preface and twelve essays.
Mr. Palmer is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, and is Executive Vice President for international programs at the Atlas Network.
The book comprises essays by a number or authors : three by Tom Palmer himself, as well as John Stossel (former ABC News producer and reporter), Clark Ruper, James Padilioni, Jr., Alexander McCobin, Sarah Skwire. Aaron Ross Powell, Olumayoma Okediran, Sloane Frost, and Lode Cossaer and Martin Wegge (together).
A few high points need to be stressed. Tom Palmer’s “The History and Structure of Libertarian Thought” talks about the “Libertarian Tripod”: individual rights, spontaneous order, and constitutionally limited government. The idea of spontaneous order occurs with social insects, and Palmer seems to have more confidence than some that it can generate eusociality (see the concern by Charles Murray about social capital in his “Coming Apart”, March 14, 2012 here).
The chapter “The Political Principles of Liberty” by McCobin seems to get at the deepest controversy. McCobin compares these to other political principles, which stress ideas like “fraternalism” (or “fraternity”), the idea that people have an intrinsic responsibility to provide for others outside of the scope of their own personal choices or voluntary “contracts”; and “equal outcomes”. McCobin goes on to discuss the difference between politics and ethics. McCobin writes that the heart of ethical behavior is to act as if “you” respect the other person as an independent moral agent. That sounds pretty much like the “Golden Rule”.
People who are “different” (like me) often report that others expect them to take responsibilities that they did not elect, and that these responsibilities compete with or interfere with their own personal goals, pursuing things that they are good at. This may happen even though they think they are honest and ethical in the narrower sense understood by libertarian. They experience “coercion”, which may be from the state (the military draft, previous anti-gay social policies), from family or sometimes other agents like employers. Libertarians obviously focus on not letting the state apply coercion in personal matters. But libertarians may not want to interfere with the ability of families or employers to implement their own notions, as they trust that a properly functioning free market inhibits irrational discrimination. This often works, but in some areas, “different” people find that they experience resentment or indignation from others who claim that “the special” benefitted in the past from the unseen sacrifices of others, who started farther back in line. Parents, when making wills, may want unmarried or childless adult children to be prepared to help raise the children of siblings or care for other family members, and could stipulate that in wills, and libertarians would not interfere with estates. Libertarians might have an issue when debating “filial responsibility laws” if the result of such coercion is to save the taxpayer from supporting other people’s elders (but you have the same concept with mandatory individual health insurance under Obamacare). I think that the ukase (or lack of ) to be prepared to take care of others when necessary (and not just when you “choose” to have children) is a fundamental moral issue, transcending ethics even as Palmer and McCobin describe it. .
Okediran (“Africa’s Promise of Liberty”) discusses libertarian principles in more rural, primitive communities and maintains that libertarianism can be commensurate with commutarianism, found in intentional communities (with “income sharing”), which is not the same as communism.
Sloane Frost (“The Tangled Dynamics of State Interventionism: The Case of Health Care”) gives the usual conservative arguments against nationalized heath care and traces our current problems to preferential tax treatment in the past to employer-sponsored health care with pre-tax dollars.
Aaron Ross Powell introduces an interesting notion of humility in politics with “The Humble Case for Liberty”.
Amazon does not have this book yet. There is a similarly titled book by Marc Guttman. Students for Liberty has a site for it here. Palmer handed this out at a GLIL gathering Sunday September 8, 2003.
The video above shows Palmer talking about an earlier book, “The Morality of Capitalism:: What Professors Wont Tell You”.
This would be a good place to mention a pair of companion books by David Boaz from the Free Press in the 1990's, "Libertarianism: A Primer" and a companion "Libertarian Reader", a book of essays.