Friday, July 27, 2012
CATHOLICS WON'T VOTE FOR ROMNEY OR OBAMA THIS NOVEMBER!
YES, CATHOLICS CAN HAVE LIBERTARIAN LEANINGS - PART II:
Part 1 here.
[W]ouldn’t libertarianism be a proposition of dubious moral value, insofar as it would impede a correctly ordered civil government? Is government really, at essence, nothing more than force? A necessary evil? And doesn’t libertarianism fail in certain vital areas to protect the best economic interests of the nation? It is, for example, quite lax on immigration restrictions and and supportive of the very free trade that has destroyed our manufacturing sector. And isn’t the notion then men free to act morally will act morally just a bit too much like something Rousseau might say? I do worry that the libertarian view of moral actors in a free market is rooted in Enlightenment thinking, not an understanding of human concupiscence as rooted in Original Sin.
Again, some comments in response:
“Is government really, at essence, nothing more than force? A necessary evil?” I suppose not, but the incentives which face those in government certainly lead it in that direction. Try describing the functions of government, at essence, without concluding that government is a monopoly on the legal use of force. Sure, sixth-grade social studies classes will say something like “high-minded citizens working together toward the common good,” but what results? Laws or regulations that, if not followed, are enforced via police and courts.
“Doesn’t libertarianism fail in certain vital areas to protect the best economic interests of the nation?” Well, yes, because libertarianism respects all people equally regardless of nationality. But this presumes that only protectionist policies will serve the best economic interests of the nation. Mercantilism, which Adam Smith demolished theoretically, believes that a nation is enriched only if its neighbors (near or far) are made poor. The reality is that the best economic interests of the nation, taking the entire nation as a whole (and not focusing on one or two particular industries), is served through free trade. Economic freedom is consistently shown to lead to higher standards of living overall. The free trade ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found politically unpopular and left untried.
“It is, for example, quite lax on immigration restrictions.” Of course it is. If we recognize the benefit of liberty in the movement of goods and services in different parts of the world, why not allow liberty in the movement of people? You will immediately chide me for reducing people to the status of goods and services, but is it logical to recognize the benefit of being able to let a pound of coffee move from South America to here, but not to let a person make the same move? Do we allow more freedom for coffee than persons? There is also the unstated assumption that immigrants are a net drag on the economy, which is untrue (vids 1, 2, and 3).
“[Libertarianism is] supportive of the very free trade that has destroyed our manufacturing sector.” Depends on how you define “destroyed.” Here is the available data on manufacturing employment and output:
To no one’s surprise, manufacturing employment has fallen, but output has risen over the same period. We are becoming more efficient and more competitive. A relatively few people no longer work in the industry, but the relatively large number of people who invest in manufacturing (through 401ks, mutual funds, etc.) benefit from the increased output and efficiency that results from international competition.
Further, just as I don’t understand why relatively wealthy Americans deserve jobs more than relatively poor foreigners (if we are supposed to care about our neighbor), I don’t understand why the manufacturing industry deserves attention more than other industries. 1) Given our high (union-driven) wages, we no longer enjoy a comparative advantage in manufacturing, so why force our scarce resources into a relatively inefficient and costly industry, when we could devote them to more efficient ones? 2) We worry that manufacturing is being destroyed at the expense of white-collar industries, but manufacturing was itself a destroyer of other less-efficient industries a few centuries ago. 3) Who wants to work in manufacturing? Why would I want to work where it’s loud, hot, and dangerous when I can work in an office where it’s quiet, cool, and safe?
Free trade may have been responsible for the decline in manufacturing employment (also for its increase in output) since, say the 1950s, but real per capita incomes have risen over the same period.
In short, the economic arguments for free trade are clear once one recognizes that the much smaller benefits of protectionism are often highly visible since they are concentrated among a few groups or industries, while the much higher benefits of free trade are often less visible since they are dispersed among many industries and consumers.
“Isn’t the notion then men free to act morally will act morally just a bit too much like something Rousseau might say? I do worry that the libertarian view of moral actors in a free market is rooted in Enlightenment thinking, not an understanding of human concupiscence as rooted in Original Sin.” We would have to disentangle free trade libertarianism from the morality of folks like Ayn Rand first, but I don’t know any proponents of free trade who would argue that it will necessarily improve morality; I also don’t think any of them would suggest that it reduces morality. An economic system is not a moral philosophy. Free trade promotes material well-being better than any other economic system; it doesn’t promote materialism. Materialism thrives when morality decays. If we want free men to act morally we don’t need to restrict their freedom, we need to inform their morals.
After a few weeks of being the CV libertarian cheerleader, I promise next week to identify the faults I see with it.
Posted by Eileen at 2:58 PM