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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

On liberty

I mentioned last week over at Division of Labour the strong resemblance to the news of 1906 and the news of 2006. There, I listed several "stories" or "issues" that haven't been "solved" over the last century.

My thoughts on this are, perhaps, timely on July 4, a day on which we celebrate liberty. It is precisely liberty, which is the foundation of the U.S., that guarantees that problems "requiring" government intervention will not be solved by said intervention. The moment we see more of the problems from 100 years ago suddenly "solved" by government programs, I suggest checking the pulse of liberty.

My thinking would parallel that of von Mises and Hayek. Government policy/programs/fixes require too much information to be fully successful, at least as success is defined by activists/statists. Because a society based upon liberty will, by definition, have individuals acting on their own information, in their own perceived best interests, and (perhaps) intentionally counter to the government imposed policy (think home schooling or medical marijuana use), successful centralized government-based reforms are orthogonal to liberty. In other words, the only way for government programs/reforms to "work" is to remove the possibility that individuals can undermine the programs/reforms, whether such undermining is intentional or not. The only way to remove the ability to undermine centralized reforms is to remove liberty.

While removing the liberty to act would seem a requirement to ensure reforms will "work," it also seems that reforms (in the broad sense) will only work if the ability to comment on the reforms, especially in a negative fashion, is also proscribed. A full consensus on the success of a program/reform can only occur if all personal comment is stifled. This is also orthogonal to liberty.

Removing the liberty to act and the liberty to express one's opinion would not necessarily remove the liberty to think, yet liberty of thought is the fountainhead of the liberty of action and voice. No system that ensures all reforms "work" can survive with a general liberty of thought.

There are likely holes in my argument - here I sit typing on my wireless laptop watching Germany and Italy in the world cup semis - but the lack of "progress" on any number of issues such as stopping cigarette smoking or "improving" education is almost comforting. To me it suggests that the reformers/activists - who demands statist intervention in the lives of individuals - have not been successful thus far.

I credit liberty for such failures and acknowledge the men who, 230 years ago, crafted our nation's fundamentals from which that liberty stems.

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