Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Problem with Leaking From Libertarian Principle

The real interventionists will always bring it up in the form of, "Well so and so was in favor of such and intervention."

Andrew Sullivan did this last week using Hayek's comments on healthcare as a defense of Obamacare. Sullivan writes:
[I]nsurance is an inherently collective endeavor. That’s how it works. It’s one area where going it alone makes very little sense. And, of course, the bigger the insurance pool, the lower the premiums. This is not socialism. It’s a simple insurance principle, used by free countries for centuries. It certainly passed muster with Friedrich Hayek, a man you would think would be an influence on the Tea Party’s political program. I’ve cited this before but it’s worth citing again:

Nor is there any reason why the state should not assist the individuals in providing for those common hazards of life against which, because of their uncertainty, few individuals can make adequate provision. Where, as in the case of sickness and accident, neither the desire to avoid such calamities nor the efforts to overcome their consequences are as a rule weakened by the provision of assistance – where, in short, we deal with genuinely insurable risks – the case for the state’s helping to organize a comprehensive system of social insurance is very strong … Wherever communal action can mitigate disasters against which the individual can neither attempt to guard himself nor make the provision for the consequences, such communal action should undoubtedly be taken.

That’s from The Road To Serfdom, one book of the libertarian and conservative Bible.
Aside from Sullivan butchering the concept of insurance by attempting to force it within the framework of government, rather than keeping it within the framework of free markets, which is the only place where it is not a subsidy, Sullivan is using an appeal to authority of an otherwise hated non-interventionist. He is holding his nose Jesse Benton style and calling on Hayek to advance his cause.

Well, the hell with Hayek. The Road to Serfdom is in many ways a great book, but Hayek is just wrong in his view that government is needed to provide for charity in the case of serious illness. It is an evil argument that politicians use all the time, that is, to claim that charity needs to be run through government. It is an insult to civilized societies. It implies that without coercion the needy wouldn't be taken care of. It is terrible trap that Hayek fell into.

Hayek leaked on liberty and we are getting it smashed in our faces now. Lets' hope Rand Paul will never be considered a serious libertarian, because we will be faced with all kinds of "Well, Rand Paul is in favor of..." Whenever Rand steps away from libertarian principle he should be aggressively called on it, so that the Andrew Sullivan's of the world don't dredge up interventionist quotes of Rand as somehow being a libertarian view.


  1. "It is an evil argument that politicians use all the time, that is, to claim that charity needs to be run through government."

    It is certainly evil now, but reactionaries have made this point from time to time, that if the underclass is going to fight the damn wars for the elites or risk life and limb for treasure to be expropriated by the elite one way or the other, they deserve some measure of reduced suffering. These reactionaries dealt with the world as they found it, not as one would have it be. An example might be Kipling--a life long individualist/socialist.

    1. I see little logic in your argument. Yours is the same as the rest: it ends with systematized violence, that is, violence in perpetuity. But you prompted me to write a sonnet, albeit a puerile one.

      The state says it can afford
      To offer us what we hold most dear.
      It promises that its sword
      Will protect us from want and fear.

      It has nothing of its own;
      It robs Peter to pay Paul.
      It claims to be my flesh and bone
      With its hand in my pocket as it is in all.

      What’s this conceit?
      How does this logic end?
      With us groveling at the feet
      Of men whose whips make our backs bend.

      But I am a freeman!—to liberty and God do I owe my troth.
      Away from me you false master!—being neither you claim to be both.


  2. With a little tweaking, this becomes the perfect argument for totalitarianism:

    [An economy] is an inherently collective endeavor. That’s how it works. It’s one area where going it alone makes very little sense. And, of course, the bigger the [economy], the lower the [entry barriers]. This is not socialism. It’s a simple [economic] principle, used by free countries for centuries.

    See, so obviously, political states should be making all economic decisions of importance. Whether by doing so, you risk deliberate wholesale genocide, is completely irrelevant.

    This slope is so slippery, it's like greased Teflon(R).

  3. Dear Bob:

    You are 100% correct on Hayek's Road to Serfdom.

    These pubs of mine support you.

    Best regards,


    Block, Walter E. 1996. "Hayek's Road to Serfdom," Journal of Libertarian Studies: An Interdisciplinary Review, Vol. 12, No. 2, Fall, pp. 327-350,; reprinted in Ama-gi: Journal of the Hayek Society at the London School of Economics, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 22-25

    Block, Walter E. 2006. “Fanatical, Not Reasonable: A Short Correspondence Between Walter E. Block and Milton Friedman (on Friedrich Hayek).” Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol. 20, No. 3, Summer, pp. 61-80;

  4. The issue is not whether the government should offer this or that subsidy.

    The issue is that, when the government is involved, there is no choice, no competition, and no evolution.

    It has nothing to do with charity. Charity exists independent of the government. It has everything to do with my individual right to dictate within the bounds set by suppliers the services that are provided to me.