Sunday, February 18, 2007

The freedom to get crushed by a crane jib

Via comments at Our Word, Rob makes this excellent point.
It’s always struck me as a serious tactical mistake for those on the left to argue against laissez-faire on the grounds that it deprives people of economic security, because this hands a powerful rhetoric of liberty to the right, who basically only care about it for rich people. The sensible thing to say is that what redistributive transfers to is redistribute freedom: money is general all-purpose means to doing things, and taking it from one person and giving it to someone else doesn’t of itself create or destroy freedom, but redistribute it...

The point isn’t conceptual - freedom from want is probably a kind of security - but practical or political: rhetorically, saying something is a kind of freedom is pretty powerful. Stripping the libertarian-right of a quasi-monopoly of a discourse of freedom would be, I think, a generally good thing.
I've never understood a particular point of conservative discourse, which is that a) it's good that people should take risks, start new businesses, invent things etc and b) this can best be achieved by worsening the consequences of failure. I entirely agree with the first half of the point, but it's the second I don't get. If you work in the kind of organisation where you get told "It's not your job to use your initiative!", you're not unionised, and the consequences of being fired are maximally dreadful, you're unlikely to have any good ideas.

I think this point is getting increasingly important. I don't believe any more, if I ever did, that nationalising a lot of stuff is going to help anything - it's not the differences, but the similarities, between big hierarchical organisations in the private and public sectors that are impressive. And frankly, I don't expect much from Blairism-and-water politics. Says Chris Dillow:
why, if a centrally planned economy is a stinking idea, should a centrally planned company be a good one?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Here is an excellent example of what happens when a relatively low cost of failure, funded by high taxation, enables exactly the kind of risk-taking and entrepreneurship that the libertarian-right is always blathering on about.

kostenloser Counter