What Hope for Liberty?

EconTalk Extra
by Amy Willis
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David Boaz, P.J. O'Rourke, and... Christy Ford Chapin on the Evo...

half full.jpg Is the future of liberty in America bright, or in peril? A special live episode filmed at the Cato Institute, EconTalk host Russ Roberts welcomes David Boaz, PJ O'Rourke, and George Will in this week's episode. While some see the glass as half full, you'll definitely hear some pessimism from this week's guests as well. What do you think? And regardless of your own level of optimism, what can be done to ensure liberty remains valued in the United States?

Let's hear your thoughts...We love to hear your reactions to our episode, how your own experience(s) bear on the conversation, and the questions you're left with at the end. Let's continue the conversation!

1. David Boaz opens the conversation suggesting that American may be nicer today, but not necessarily freer. What does he mean by that, and to what extent do you agree?

2. PJ O'Rourke argues that Americans have lost touch with a fundamental principle- knowing when to get out of town. Which has changed more, and why- American labor markets or American values and culture? (You may want to revisit this 2016 episode with Erik Hurst on this same issue...)

3. What should the role of think tanks be in promoting liberty in our society? How successful do you think they have been to this point, and why?

4. What reasons do the various speakers suggest for our persisting failure to persuade people of the moral value of liberty? Which do you agree with? Which would you add? (You might also be interested to read Arnold Kling's review of this essay collection on the moral justification(s) for liberty, also published by the Cato Institute.)

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COMMENTS (6 to date)
Jim Stehle writes:

I am a regular podcast listener. On this episode you and your guests fail to explain the support for Trump/Sanders. The people out of jobs and left behind don’t care about free trade, gay rights and the 4th amendment. How can these people move to where the jobs are? In the 80’s and 70’s laid off auto workers had assets. They could sell their boat, vacation cottage and move to Texas. Many of these workers haven’t worked in years. So what is the answer for these people that are left behind? At the end of the program, I felt you all were going to get to it when you started to mention education. But I think you meant education in the traditional sense of the word (K-12). Sincerely, Jim Stehle, Atlanta, GA

Andy McGill writes:

One huge threat to liberty that did not come up in the discussion was the several decades old movement partially put into executive branch law by the Obama Administration to redefine discrimination laws.

Most prior law defined discrimination as protecting all people equally. The new Obama law is to see the laws as protecting only minority/victim/unprivileged people against the majority/powerful/privileged group. The movement about "white privilege" is the most visible part at the moment.

Thus the Obama Administration, especially the DOJ Office of Civil Rights and the office dealing with higher education did not view it possible for minorities to discriminate against majority. So DOJ would not investigate claims of voter intimidation by blacks, or claims of reverse discrimination against white applicants.

Such a re-writing of discrimination law completely changes the laws from protecting individuals to protecting groups, and the subsequent loss of liberty to individuals is immense. The result is making people forever categorized by law with government trying to interfere to "equalize" the outcome by group.

Dennis T writes:

I find your references to the "Nanny State" creates a bias to your dialog that is at odds with your otherwise very open debates. Suggest you replace it with "government programs" or some neutral terminology. Otherwise the debate is biased from the get-go. Solutions to social issues should be evaluated on inputs and outcomes, not whether they fit into our worldviews.
Thanks for a great podcast. Never miss an episode. Valuable whether I agree with the conclusions or not. Thanks.

Rod Miller writes:

Maybe us outcome oriented anti-ideological fans and our comments echoed in your mind when you made your final comments Russ. The liberty view often fails to give a caveat that with our large scale (billions of people) our liberty to pollute or create other externalities can make life unlivable. The millions of people living in valley below me want be free of big government regulations on air pollution and I want the freedom to breath air that doesn't irritate my lungs and to have air that doesn't cloud my 80 mile view to 10 miles. Whose freedom is more important? In this case regulation provides greater freedom by protecting the larger group from the selfish. Regulations should be smartly crafted which they often aren't, but don't some regulations reflect community values of preserving our freedom to enjoy the commons and markets without our neighbor's poo or selfishness?

Gary Henricksen writes:

I agree with Jim Stehl's comments. I own and run a small manufacturing company. Over the last 10 years we have replaced half our machine operators with creative directors, programers and project managers-all with college degress and high cognitive skills scores (we test everyone). We are racing into the software based future as fast as possible to avoid becoming irrelevant. And we are leaving in our wake Trump and Sanders supporters.

I love the podcast. Can you include more episodes on how the economy should deal with network effects, automation and AI? I'm not hearing an answer from libertarians or classical liberals to these trends...

Lloyd writes:

Rod, you might want to reflect on an economic axiom once well-stated by P.J. O'Rourke:

"When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators."

See also: regulatory capture.

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