Freedom Means Anarchism
Freedom Is Not Compatible with Government’s Initiation of Force Against Innocent People
by Robert Higgs
In yesterday’s New York Times appears an op-ed article by Edward L. Glaeser, a professor of economics at Harvard. Glaeser’s article is remarkable because arguments in favor of freedom, insisting that economic analysis implicitly rests on a moral presumption that individual freedom has fundamental value, do not appear every day – or every month – in “the newspaper of record.” So, I am glad to give two cheers to Glaeser, one for his theme and another for his courage in placing the argument in such a hostile outlet.
I cannot give Glaeser a third cheer, however, because toward the end of the article he inserts a concession that I find wholly inconsistent with the rest of the argument. He writes:
Economists’ fondness for freedom rarely implies any particular policy program. A fondness for freedom is perfectly compatible with favoring redistribution, which can be seen as increasing one person’s choices at the expense of the choices of another, or with Keynesianism and its emphasis on anticyclical public spending.
Many regulations can even be seen as force for freedom, like financial rules that help give all investors the freedom to invest in stocks by trying to level the playing field.
To be sure, many mainstream economists do think about policy just as Glaeser says they do. But in doing so, they are mistaken. I find it difficult to believe that a man of Glaeser’s intelligence has really given much thought to what he is saying in these passages.