Skip to main content

Economic liberty and actual liberty

Some of my more thoughtful conservative friends have criticized President Obama's bigger initiatives -- like the health reform law -- from a "first principles" argument that economic liberty is the foundation of, well, liberty liberty. Any governmental act that interferes with the rights of individuals to their property or profit is a reduction of liberty and thus potentially a step down the slippery slope to tyranny. I think it's an insightful argument, but I also think it's got limits.

And I think those limits might be demonstrated by the Heritage Foundation's 2010 Index of Economic Freedom. What's notable is that the two "countries" ranked highest on the index -- Hong Kong and Singapore -- might be great places to make cash, but they're not what most Americans would think of as substantially "free." (The United States ranks ninth.) Hong Kong might be listed as a separate "country" for the purposes of the index, but it's ruled by Chinese Communists; it might be more free than the mainland, but there are still rather significant concerns about freedom of expression. And Singapore? It's the authoritarian government that gave us caning and ranks 133rd in the World Press Freedom Index.

Heritage's index, obviously, doesn't take those things into account. Instead it ranks each country on a list of 10 criteria, including property rights, business freedom, government spending and "labor freedom." Weirdly, Canada -- with its big socialistic health care system -- ranks ahead of the United States.

I don't think my thoughtful conservative friends would assert that countries with libertarian policies only for corporations and not for citizens are truly free. Nor would I want to suggest that the ability to express yourself freely is the only criterion for liberty; economic liberty is an important component. But it appears that low taxes and free trade are no guarantee of freedom; I suspect it probably follows that a more-regulated health system isn't the end of our Republic.


Notorious Ph.D. said…
Now how did you know that I just logged on to your site half an hour ago and thought, "Well, is that Joel going to post anything again Ever?"


(Comments tomorrow)

Popular posts from this blog


I've been making some life changes lately — trying to use the time I have, now that I'm back in Kansas, to improve my health and lifestyle. Among the changes: More exercise. 30 minutes a day on the treadmill. Doesn't sound like a lot, but some is more than none, and I know from experience that getting overambitious early leads to failure. So. Thirty minutes a day.

One other thing: Yoga, a couple of times a week. It's nothing huge — a 15-minute flexibility routine downloaded from an iPhone app. But I've noticed that I'm increasingly limber.

Tonight, friends, I noticed a piece of trash on the floor. I bent over at the waist and picked it up, and threw it away.

Then I wept. I literally could not remember the last time I'd tried to pick something off the floor without grunting and bracing myself. I just did it.

Small victories, people. Small victories.

Liberals: We're overthinking this. Hillary didn't lose. This is what it should mean.

Nate Cohn of the New York Times estimates that when every vote is tallied, some 63.4 million Americans will have voted for Clinton and 61.2 million for Trump. That means Clinton will have turned out more supporters than any presidential candidate in history except for Obama in 2008 and 2012. And as David Wasserman of Cook Political Report notes, the total vote count—including third party votes—has already crossed 127 million, and will “easily beat” the 129 million total from 2012. The idea that voters stayed home in 2016 because they hated Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is a myth. We already know the Electoral College can produce undemocratic results, but what we don't know is why — aside from how it serves entrenched interests — it benefits the American people to have their preference for national executive overturned because of archaic rules designed, in part, to protect the institution of slavery. 

A form of choosing the national leader that — as has happened in …

I'm not cutting off my pro-Trump friends

Here and there on Facebook, I've seen a few of my friends declare they no longer wish the friendship of Trump supporters — and vowing to cut them out of their social media lives entirely.

I'm not going to do that.

To cut ourselves off from people who have made what we think was a grievous error in their vote is to give up on persuading them, to give up on understanding why they voted, to give up on understanding them in any but the most cartoonish stereotypes.

As a matter of idealism, cutting off your pro-Trump friends is to give up on democracy. As a matter of tactics, cutting off your pro-Trump friends is to give up on ever again winning in a democratic process.

And as a long-term issues, confining ourselves to echo chambers is part of our national problem.

Don't get me wrong: I expect a Trumpian presidency is a disaster, particularly for people of color. And in total honesty: My own relationships have been tested by this campaign season. There's probably some damage…