Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Libertarian no more

So, if I understand this post correctly, the Niskanen Centre - the nice libertarians who don't disbelieve in climate change and who were seemingly pretty centrist on lots of issues - has recanted and decided it can't really call itself libertarian anymore.

Seems a reasonable conclusion.

Instead,  founder Jerry Taylor talks about moderation as an alternative to ideology.  I can agree with the sentiment:
What is the alternative to ideology? There is no easy answer. Without some means of sorting through the reams of information coming at us every day, we would be overwhelmed and incapable of considered thought or action. Without any underlying principles or beliefs whatsoever, we are dangerously susceptible to believing anything, no matter how ludicrous, and to act cruelly without moral constraint. Yet any set of beliefs, if they are coherent, are the wet clay of ideology. Hence, the best we can do is to police our inner ideologue with a studied, skeptical outlook, a mindful appreciation of our own fallibility, and an open, inquisitive mind.

Politics and policymaking without an ideological bible is incredibly demanding. It requires far more technocratic expertise and engagement than is required by ideologues, who already (they think) know the answers. It also requires difficult judgments, on a case-by-case basis, about which ethical considerations are of paramount concern for any given issue at hand, and what trade-offs regarding those considerations are most warranted. 

To embrace nonideological politics, then, is to embrace moderation, which requires humility, prudence, pragmatism, and a conservative temperament. No matter what principles we bring to the political table, remaking society in some ideologically-driven image is off the table given the need to respect pluralism. A sober appreciation of the limitations of knowledge (and the irresolvable problem of unintended consequences) further cautions against over-ambitious policy agendas.
I had previously posted about, with approval, their endorsement of moderation given by Will Wilkinson.   I think abandoning the title "libertarian" is probably a good idea.

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