general thoughts on economics and government, IMO

Some thoughts after a discussion with a friend and self-described “libertarian”:

Government isn’t a means to a socially prosperous end. However, government can serve a positive (or negative) role during the process of social change. It’s a tool that may be beneficial or harmful depending on how it’s put to work. Regarding contemporary economics, implementing a purely laissez-faire or strict command economy will surely stifle. Our nature (which we’ve inherited yet differs from, the animals) demands a nuanced approach. We must be given the freedom to learn as individuals yet our aggression is best kept in check, at least to some degree. I think of our current existence as wounded yet promising. We’re often in conflict; that is our history and present. Confronted with scarcity and a fear of it, greed often dominates and we ruthlessly compete. Yet, we are capable of deep compassion and often, with no strings attached, care for others and the environment. I think government can be useful medication for the wound as we heal; or it can be salt.

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2 Responses to “general thoughts on economics and government, IMO”

  1. arguri Says:

    I would describe myself as a “libertarian” too, but as you might guess, every libertarian is different.

    Getting to a point. Would you agree, that, externalities ingored, the less people involved the easier an agreement established? At least from game-theoretic perspective and a classical approach, you should be able to agree. Then considering another effect: government grows, which could be considered an empirical fact. Do you agree?
    Do you agree that competition can lead to cooperation or agreement, at least between individuals?
    Do you think greed is inherently bad? (Which I would oppose, considering for instance environmental effects: spending less on gas reduces air pollution, not even considering the fact if you consider climate change as bad or even existing).
    What do you mean by contemporary economics? Do you mean some set of economic “axioms” or “conjectures” from “mainstream” economists or the set of economic rules in our society / societies, possibly created by governments?

    Yeah, I try to show something with my questions, but I think we should discuss these questions first before going any further, because maybe I missed something. Also, have you ever read Hayek?

  2. petrock Says:

    Yes, there are significantly differing views among libertarians.

    Why would we ignore externalities? They are a part of reality. I don’t think it would be useful to engage in a discussion over the role of government if we discount externalities – both negative and positive.

    Though the number of people involved in making a decision will be a factor, what decision is being made would be another factor. Perhaps you could offer an example?

    Sure, competition can lead to cooperation. I agree with that. But what some see as “cooperation” can sometimes be collusive. I think in some cases, government regulation can help promote genuine competition and ward off collusion.

    Greed is what it is. We are capable of a wide spectrum of behavior – the result of which is often arguably harmful or beneficial. Where the debate over good versus bad should be is in the consequences of our behavior.

    I think I should have said “contemporary society”. I don’t mean to imply a particular theory of economic thought. I just meant to say that we currently live with greed. Perhaps one day we won’t and government won’t be needed at all (I’m skeptical), but some argue that government in any form actually impedes the improvement of society. I don’t agree and I suspect that these sorts of libertarians are in the minority even within their own identity. Perhaps you could offer some insight into that.

    Hayek: some but not enough.

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