Do I Need an (Ideological) Affirmation?
| Steven Postrel |
Arnold Kling has proposed that “libertarian conservatives” form an “Ideological Affirmation Task Force” (IATF) and requested comments on an initial draft of such an affirmation. Borrowing the lingo of Internet governance, he calls this an “IATF RFC.” I loosely qualify to be part of the interested group, so here are a few random thoughts, not a systematic treatise, on his first draft (which is a quick read, so you might want to look at it):
1. Putting “limited government” in the economics section is a bit odd, unless one takes the view that all phenomena are economic phenomena, in which case no heading would be needed. There should be a heading for “political principles” where we talk about the separation of powers, the appropriate system levels at which different decisions should be made, when collective choice is necessary and desirable and when it is not, and the role of various kinds of feedback on decision makers.
2. Under economic principles, affirm that we want rules that steer natural human instincts for achievement, competition, and status into wealth-promoting activities (innovating, discovering and meeting other people’s needs, etc.) rather than wealth-redistributing activities (stealing, rent-seeking, etc.)
3. I like the anti-envy point 4 in the proposal. I think it captures a true distinguishing feature of the Kling-on, lib-con way of looking at the world.
4. I also especially like point 7 under ethics, which captures nicely the Hayekian tension between innovation and tradition.
5. Under international principles, I would like to see an item that says): “We accept the national sovereignty of governments if and only if they a) are capable of maintaining a minimal level of order within their territory and are capable of preventing people on their territory from physically attacking or threatening those outside their territory, and b) are not savagely oppressive of those within their territory. Success in meeting those conditions causes us to grant presumptive sovereignty to governments regardless of actions or votes by international organizations. Failure to meet either of these conditions confers the right, though not the obligation, of outside parties to forcibly replace that government, with or without the concurrence of international organizations, as well as to engage in preventive or punitive military action on their territory. In addition, even unquestionably sovereign governments that choose to attack or facilitate attacks upon our country and people are also legitimately subject to forceful defense and retaliation under the traditional laws of war, though this should always be a last resort.”