Tyler Cowen over at Marginal Revolution has a new approach to government, which he calls State Capacity Libertarianism. You should read his 11 points which define the phrase for yourself, but here are the first two:
1. Markets and capitalism are very powerful, give them their due.
2. Earlier in history, a strong state was necessary to back the formation of capitalism and also to protect individual rights (do read Koyama and Johnson on state capacity). Strong states remain necessary to maintain and extend capitalism and markets. This includes keeping China at bay abroad and keeping elections free from foreign interference, as well as developing effective laws and regulations for intangible capital, intellectual property, and the new world of the internet. (If you’ve read my other works, you will know this is not a call for massive regulation of Big Tech.)
Do not, under any circumstances, read the comments. I’m sure there are some intelligent criticisms and defenses in there somewhere, but they are thin on the ground.
Other libertarians are weighing in immediately on the topic, so I think this argument may have legs. Despite the clunky name.
Mises Institute’s Jeff Deist, from George Mason. (Disagrees)
Reason Magazine’s Nick Gillespie. (Disagrees but think it is a good starting place for discussion)
John E. Cochrane from Hoover Institution (Agrees in part)
Cameron Harwick SUNY-Brockport (Competing theory)
Henry Olsen Washington Post (Rejoices in all anticonservative aspects, can’t see possible problems on the liberal side. Predictable.)
Cowen links to an interesting discussion from someone who used to work for a Member of Parliament whether Boris’s man Dominic Cummings is an example of a state capacity libertarian. He also mentions the upcoming book of another George Mason economist, Garrett Jones, 10% Less Democracy. Jones is the author of Hive Mind: How Your Nation’s IQ Matters So Much More Than Your Own, which I read a positive review of when it came out in 2015.
I am not going to weigh in at present, mostly because Cowen is not only smarter than I am, but he writes for other economists, using terms that I understand only superficially. It’s going to take me a bit to even figure out what is going on here. I confess I have an initial worry, that the desire to relent slightly on the idea of smaller government could easily snowball. But Tyler Cowen has good libertarian credentials, so he has likely already thought of that.
That should keep you all busy for a while, so I won’t put up my other posts tonight, and maybe not tomorrow either.