Cato — Jeffrey Miron, Libertarianism, from A to Z

In 2010. Cato’s Jeffrey Miron published an encyclopedia-format book on libertarianism. I had a look at it, and posted the following review on

Miron’s approach is to explain why many popular activities of government are unlikely to achieve their intended results. To his credit, he is completely open about this; it is nothing more than a cost-benefit analysis, in keeping with his profession as a professor of economics.

Our expectation is therefore that, if Miron were to find some government program that did achieve its intended goals, he would favor it. Now, a libertarian would predict that such cases will be few and far between, but Miron condemns us to an infinite continuation of analyses of specific cases, including the continuing need to refute arguments that old or present programs can be made to work by tinkering. Principles? What are principles?

It is significant that, in his dictionary format, Miron does not see the point in even mentioning terms such as Rights or Freedom. He does address this topic under the unlikely heading Consequential vs Philosophical Libertarianism, in which he concludes that philosophical libertarians are also really only just pragmatists at heart; they have just generalized the utility argument. Miron:

“… the philosopical libertarian assertion that policy should protect individual rights is really a statement that adhering to this principle promotes human happiness, or social progress, or something.”

Coming from a purported libertarian, that’s pretty bad!

Miron would have done better titling his book something like The Pragmatics of a Libertarian. It outlines some libertarian perspectives, but it fails completely as an introduction to libertarian principles.

Jeffrey, what were you thinking?


About 86dave

World traveler, mostly first and second world Outdoors: hiker, cyclist, photographer Libertarian Author, Gigabit-capable Passive Optical Networks, Wiley, 2012
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