Sunday, June 17, 2007

One Radical to Another

The following is my response to an editorial by Brad Warthen, Editorial Page Editor of "The State" newspaper in Columbia, SC. Brad is a friend with whom I have friendly disagreements. One of the things I disagree with is his fondness for the phrases "strident libertarian" and "radical libertarian."


Frankly I'm puzzled at the way you casually dismiss anyone who disagrees with you as a "strident libertarian," while strenuously resisting any attempt to identify yourself a "strident communitarian." Don't you think it's a little hypocritical?

As for those you label "libertarian," you should be aware that it includes a rather diverse community. Reagan Republicans, moderate libertarians, anarcho-capitalists, evangelical Christians, and even some conservative Democrats share many of the views you dismiss under one label.

I do not doubt your sincerity in wishing for a better world. We share that wish. However, what I do worry about is your enthusiasm for using political power to mold a particular vision of the social order. As F.A. Hayek pointed out sixty years ago in "The Road to Serfdom," people with good intentions believe political power can improve the world, and end up discovering that political power is quickly usurped by those who use it for their own ruthless ends. This explains much of the pointless suffering of the 20th century.

And before you dismiss Hayek as a "strident libertarian," you should know he resisted the label. He repudiated conservatism and was sympathetic to socialism (a careful reading of "The Road to Serfdom" reveals a social policy not too different from the Democrat Party Platform of 1992). Hayek preferred to call himself "an Old Whig," a term I think we should revive for its quirkiness, if for no other reason.

Ben Rast
President, The Bastiat Society
Treasurer, The SC Club for Growth

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