7/16/10

The libertarian case for... conservatism

7/16/10
Actually, it's a conservative case for libertarians... but a unique argument for why libertarians should be conservatives, from the much underrated GMU economist Bryan Caplan who happens to be an ardent libertarian.

Deep down, most former conservatives such as myself who embraced libertarianism, still hold conservative positions, it's just that they're more or less relegated to the personal, not the political. And no, that's not cognitive dissonance, it's tolerance for freedom being used poorly.

Still, a persuasive argument:
But just as liberals exaggerate the benefits of government, libertarians exaggerate its defects. Judiciously halving government's role in the economy is reasonable. Laissez-faire in the face of monopoly, imperfect information, irrationality, externalities and other textbook market failures is not.
On immigration however, open borders is a big pill to swallow. I'd have to agree with the conservative case here, but Caplan ignores, purposely perhaps, the unmentionable debate within conservative circles about what to do with legal immigration, especially after the borders have been secured.
A few liberals - and many libertarians - literally advocate open borders. I recognize that immigration is the greatest foreign aid program in human history, and I sympathize with the plight of would-be immigrants in the Third World. Most immigrants - legal or not - are nice people. But open borders is crazy. It seriously risks killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. I'm very open to more cost-effective and humane ways to deal with the negative effects of immigration. But as long as immigrants are eligible for government benefits, hurt low-skilled native workers, and vote, the only people we should readily admit are the highly-educated and clear-cut humanitarian cases. I'd put Haitians in the latter category. Asking Mexicans to live on a $10,000 a year in Mexico is reasonable, but asking Haitians to starve in post-earthquake Haiti is a disgrace.
Be sure to read the whole thing, and the comments.

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