Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Things I read recently and liked

1. An excellent post from Bleeding Heart Libertarians on the "missing callous libertarians," with this nice commentary on Ayn Rand's views of the poor:

If libertarians really believed that, then it would seem hard to explain why so many of them are preoccupied with showing how markets, under the right conditions, end poverty.

Even Ayn Rand, of all people. In Atlas Shrugged, the most productive and innovative members of society–tired of being told they exploit everyone else–go on strike. The American economy collapses. This sends a clear message: the less talented need the more talented more than the more talented need the less talented. So far, there is nothing here to excite a high liberal or a person concerned with social justice.

But notice that Rand is at pains to show that the strikers only hasten an inevitable collapse. In Atlas Shrugged, socialist economies have been collapsing long before John Galt calls a strike. And Rand goes at great lengths to illustrate that the people who suffer the most from these collapses aren't her heroes (they all lead happy lives in the mountains), or the unheroic rich (they use their connections to exploit others), but instead the least talented and least advantaged members of society. So, in Atlas Shrugged, the bad guys try to exploit Rand's heroes, but Rand makes it clear that the innocent poor are the ones that suffer the most as a result. If Rand were utterly unconcerned for the poor, or anyone else––as she is often taken to be––why would she do this? As a mere reductio or taunt? (Rand, in thick Russian accent: “I couldn’t care less if the poor starve. But I know you socialists dislike it.”)

2. I suspect that Tom Vilsack is the anti-matter version of me. In response to Vilsack's claim that farm subsidies are necessary to make rural Americans feel better about themselves, Ezra Klein makes sensible points about economics. Perhaps this constitutes a glimmer of hope for the doomed liberaltarian alliance?

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