Imagine that you are offered a choice for home entertainment that is to last you the rest of your life. One choice is a television with only one station available, a news station run by a corporate giant, but includes three different video game consoles with twenty games from different companies to choose from. The other is a television with five different news stations, both local and corporate, but you are limited to just one video game for one console. Which provides you the greater liberty? Which do you choose?
If you go by our natural rights, which includes free thinking, the system with greater news variety provides greater liberty. The corporate giant may be providing news, but that news will be filtered through the perspective of what might be harmful or beneficial to the corporate giant. With no other option for news this amounts to brainwashing. With a variety of news stations both corporate and local you establish “checks and balances” against this brainwashing.
This is not the way a puppet libertarian views liberty. I was reminded of this one Saturday evening spent in a hotel room with Cindy after we attended a friend’s wedding. Cindy was sleeping while I was, um, watching C-Span. What can I say? Ever since starting down this path of analyzing social systems I have turned into one wild and crazy guy. I tuned into the excitement of Dr. Edwin Glaeser, whom we have featured before on The Middle Class Forum, presenting a talk to the Pioneer Institute on Milton Friedman.
Dr. Glaeser does not idolize Friedman and the Chicago School of economic thought quite to the extent that Dr. Reisman idolizes Ludwig von Mises and the Austrian School. Dr. Glaeser is still a proponent of many of Friedman’s views, including the relationship between utility and liberty. Dr. Glaeser lectured that the essence of freedom was choice. In utilitarian fashion you can then quantifiably assess freedom through assessing the variety of choices available.
Using this utilitarian approach, the home entertainment that provides the greatest liberty is the one where the greater number of businesses provide a greater number of products from which to choose. The ability to think freely has little to do with liberty as long as people can expand their choices for how to indulge themselves. Thus think tanks like the Ludwig von Mises Institute bill themselves as advocating liberty by virtue of advocating laissez faire capitalism. They see no irony in representing a dogmatic school of thought.
The Middle Class Forum presented a feature on liberty that distinguished between liberties as natural rights and liberties as cultural entitlements. Being able to indulge ourselves by maximizing economic choice falls squarely into the latter category of cultural entitlement. Unfortunately, the cultural entitlement of greed tends to assault true natural rights of free will, free thinking and unexploited labor. This is the type of liberty that floats the puppet libertarians boat as they dogmatically convince us we all “benefit” from rising tides.
The notion that greed liberates us, which is the essence of what laissez faire economists from either Austrian or Chicago Schools advocate, may sound strange to the average middle class person. The equation does not seem to ring true based on our own personal experiences of dwelling in middle class communities. But experience is not what these folks are all about. They rely on scholarship derived from premises that they consider self-evident independently of empirical evidence. I will turn to a few of these premises next.