Throwback: Ethics vs. Economics

Check out this old school debate between David Friedman and George Smith.

I have to say, David’s opening remarks were spectacular. I pretty much agreed 100%.

While I like to think of libertarianism as standing on two legs — economics and ethics, economics clearly has to do the heavy lifting. When I think back to my pre-libertarian days, I can remember being thoroughly unconvinced by ethical arguments. You may have been able to get me to agree that taxation is coercive or even that a perfect world would not have taxation, but I would have never agreed that it was immoral. After all, if civilization will unravel without it, doesn’t that call into question the universality of property rights?

It wasn’t until I realized that civilization would not unravel without taxation that the moral side came into focus. If taxation almost always produces bad consequences than maybe property rights are more universal than I thought. The same thing can be said of left wingers. If it can be shown that capitalism doesn’t produce the horrible consequences they think it does, chances are they will begin to find socialism morally unattractive.

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