Cato — Roger Pilon II

My previous post expresses bemusement at Roger Pilon’s views of the Republicans and free society. Roger was kind enough to respond via email:

Just saw this:

“Roger, how can you possibly interpret that as belief in a free society?”

It’s because I live in the real world, unlike lunatic libertarians, and because I define “public goods” technically, as economists do.

Roger Pilon, Ph.D., J.D.
Vice President for Legal Affairs
B. Kenneth Simon Chair in Constitutional Studies
Director, Center for Constitutional Studies
Cato Institute
1000 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20001
202-789-5233; fax: 202-842-3490
cell: 301-442-1252;

Just for convenient reference, here is the text I objected to:

Republicans … recognize the fundamental place of cooperation — whether economic or charitable — in human affairs, and the role of government in providing “public goods” like national defense, clean air, and infrastructure — as well as certain “private goods” if voluntary measures prove insufficient. They believe, in short, in a free society.

Where to begin?

Let’s start with recognizing the role of cooperation in the course of civilization. Now this might seem like a sine qua non of civilization to reasonable people, possibly even too obvious to require explicit statement, but if this is to be a cornerstone of an argument that distinguishes Republicans from Democrats, there ought to be some evidence that the parties differ in this regard.

Could we see some kind of official statement from the Republican party that does indeed recognize cooperation as fundamental? I don’t deny that such a statement is possible, but it would raise at least one of my eyebrows, especially if no contradictory statements (such as the above: “if voluntary measures prove insufficient“) could be adduced. And of course, it would be good to check that no such statement could be found in the Democrats’ pronouncements.

Then I would like to see Roger’s definition of a free society, in terms that would fundamentally distinguish it from an unfree society (degrees of oppression are indeed important in the real world, but a good definition should avoid shades of gray).

Once these are clear, perhaps the conclusion that Republicans believe in a free society (presumably in contrast to Democrats?) becomes obvious, but just in case, it would help to walk through the logic that derives the conclusion from the premises. Perhaps this would be the place to clarify why the technical definition of public goods is pertinent to the argument.

Finally, I certainly have to agree, from perspectives such as presented in The Dictator’s Handbook, why libertarians are forever doomed to be a small minority party, but I fail to understand why that intrinsically marks us as lunatic.

Over to you, Roger.

PS: I’m not going to follow you into arguments ad hominem, but please also explain why I should continue to contribute to the Cato Institute?


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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