Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Freedom: faith- or reality-based?

In an interesting review of an interesting book, the economist Edward L. Glaeser says:
Libertarianism rests on two bedrock beliefs: human freedom is a great good and the public sector tends to screw things up. The first belief is based more on faith than empirical result; the second derives from millennia of human experience.
I won't argue with the latter, and there's no doubt that human freedom is in large part viewed as a primary good, not as a means to some other good, and not just by libertarians. But the idea that some good or goods must be taken as primary seems not to be a matter of either faith or experience, but rather of moral logic. Glaeser, of course, is an economist, not a philosopher, and he's after practical results -- still, it seems odd to me that even the most cursory knowledge of the history of the last 500 years, say, wouldn't tell you that human freedom is also a means to many other goods, wealth being just one.

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