Blogs > Liberty and Power > Good distinction

Mar 21, 2007 4:36 pm


Good distinction



Fascinating discussion over at Cato's website about Brian Doherty's new book. The whole exchange is well worthwhile, but I was especially prompted to blog Tom Palmer's post in which he makes a really interesting distinction between promoting liberty and promoting libertarianism.

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Stephan Kinsella - 3/23/2007

Aeon, I don't know what you mean. My post was perfectly serious: I plan to start using "Education doesn't eliminate trade barriers, legislators do." as my personal motto, replacing "Tu ne cede malis, sed contra audentior ito". I might even put it on a bumper sticker, and as part of every email sign-off: "Education doesn't eliminate trade barriers, legislators do." I can't get enough of it: "Education doesn't eliminate trade barriers, legislators do."

As for Tom and I not getting along, I don't know where you got that from. I love every principled honorable, and honest advocate of liberty in the world!


Otto M. Kerner - 3/22/2007

Right; either making the public more libertarian, or actually effecting free institutions and activities where possible (just like when Mr. Palmer smuggled books into the Soviet Union).


Otto M. Kerner - 3/22/2007

It would be simpler and more meaningful to say, "Legislators create trade barriers."


Aeon J. Skoble - 3/22/2007

I don't disagree at all, and I didn't take Tom's piece to be contrary to it.


Anthony Gregory - 3/22/2007

Isn't it possible for trade barriers (and other statist barriers) to effectively be lowered or destroyed not by legislative action, but by simple non-compliance and a lack of authority on the part of the state for it to enforce them? It seems to me the most beautiful way liberty can be achieved is when people just take it back for themselves and the politicians can't do anything about it. Palmer himself heroically smuggled books into Socialist countries, didn't he? It was that kind of action, times a thousand, that brought down the Soviet Union. In the very long term, it seems that big moves toward liberty indeed depend on education. Making the public more libertarian seems to me a necessary part of any program for freedom to survive in the long term.


Aeon J. Skoble - 3/22/2007

I don't want this to turn into a flame-war, as I know you and Tom don't get along. But look, that's true: nothing _I_ say in any class I teach or book I write will result in the elimination of trade barriers unless the majority of the memebers of Congress agree that those barriers are bad. Tom wasn't bashing education, and of course it's _possible_ that the legislators will vote to lower barriers because my arguments in an academic journal were so freakin persuasive. And Tom would surely agree that philosophical demonstations of the wrongness of trade barriers can be useful in building a groundswell of popular supprt for removing them. But the bottom line is, only the legislators make the laws. So the distinction between defending a philosophical position and getting political results is all too real. Hey, I wish it weren't so! It would be nice if I could write an awesome book about liberty, and then have the congress say dang, we'd best repeal all these coercive laws asap. But I don't see it happening any time soon.


Stephan Kinsella - 3/22/2007

I just loved the line, "Education doesn't eliminate trade barriers, legislators do." Nothing warms the heart of a libertarian like praise of legislators.