Friday, February 02, 2007

IATF RFC Response

On Tech Central Station yesterday, Arnold Kling began the process of laying out principals that guide "contemporary libertarian conservatives." Since I consider myself a "small l" libertarian, I am taking this opportunity to respond to his RFC and hopefully help refine the IATF principal list:

Economic Principals
I'm surprised not to see some mention of the invisible hand of the market and a more explicit acknowledgement that people acting in their own self-interests can simultaneously be working toward the common good. I would also advocate a principal of limiting government's economic involvement to solving externalities and one of using market-driven policies or a respect for market forces to achieve public interest goals.

Ethical Principals
I am struggling with item #5. I am not sure I am comfortable with the government providing incentives for a particular form of life-style or family structure. I understand Professor Kling is only saying that the government should not incentivise people against family, but I worry that's a slippery slope. Government should be enacting policies that allow people to live as they see fit. [Update: Or, even better, the government should be repealing existing policies that limit or constrain how people live.] I would rather see this principal advocate protection for children who are not yet mature enough or capable of caring for themselves. I might mention them importance of strong education but I would limit any attempts to governmentally influence how parents' raise their children.

In item #6, I would broaden "Ten Commandments and Biblical scripture" to include something along the lines of "the moral teachings of the world's great religions."

I would add this principal: "We believe that morality and ethics should primarily be built upon the simple foundational premise that 'my right to swing my fist stops at the tip of your nose.'"

I like item #7.

International Principals
I think the international principals are fairly strong as they are. I would consider adding "We view diplomacy not as a goal, but as a tool to further other goals, including national security and the free exchange of goods, services, and ideas." I might also add (but I'm less concerned with this one), "We are unwilling to relinquish our individual liberties and freedoms to the will of foreign leaders who we have not elected to represent us. We do not feel embarassed or ashamed when citizens and leaders of other nations criticize our beliefs, ideas, or way of life. Instead we recognize their desire to live differently and request that they respect ours."

All in all, I think this is an interesting set of principals, and I am looking forward to seeing it develop and strengthen as Professor Kling leverages the internet's marketplace of ideas to refine the list.

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