Saturday, October 6, 2007

Recommended Reading: Walter Williams essay

The Intellectual Defense of Liberty

By Walter E. Williams

All too often defenders of free-market capitalism base their defense on the demonstration that free markets allocate resources more efficiently and hence lead to greater wealth than socialism and other forms of statism. While that is true, as Professor Milton Friedman frequently pointed out, economic efficiency and greater wealth should be seen and praised as simply a side benefit of free markets. The intellectual defense should focus on its moral superiority. Even if free markets were not more efficient and not engines for growth, they are morally superior to other forms of human organization because they are rooted in voluntary peaceable relationships rather than force and coercion. They respect the sanctity of the individual…

Therefore, acts such as murder, rape, and theft, whether done privately or collectively, are unjust because they violate private property. There is broad consensus that collective or government-sponsored murder and rape are unjust; however, government-sponsored theft is another matter. Theft, being defined as forcibly taking the rightful property of one for the benefit of another, has wide support in many societies that make the pretense of valuing personal liberty. That theft, euphemistically called income redistribution or transfers, is often defended by lofty phrases such as: assisting the poor, the elderly, distressed business, college students, and other deserving segments of society. But as F. A. Hayek often admonished, “[F]reedom can be preserved only if it is treated as a supreme principle which must not be sacrificed for any particular advantage. . . .”

…In other words, the rise of capitalism enabled the gradual extension of civilization to greater and greater numbers of people. More of them had more time available to read and become educated in the liberal arts and gain more knowledge about the world around them. The greater wealth allowed them the opportunity to attend to the arts, afford recreation, contemplate more fulfilling and interesting activities, and engage in other cultural enrichment that was formerly within the purview of only the wealthy…

For individual freedom to be viable, it must be a part of the shared values of a society and there must be an institutional framework to preserve it against encroachments by majoritarian or government will...

…As is often the case, political liberty is used to stifle economic liberty, which in turn reduces political liberty.

read the entire essay

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