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What's wrong with libertarianism?

Some musings about the pros and cons of libertarianism from Michael Kinsley:

Libertarians are quick to see hidden costs of ignoring libertarian principles and slow to see such costs in adhering to them. For example, Tucker Carlson reports in the Dec. 31 New Republic that Ron Paul wants to end the federal ban on unpasteurized milk. No one should want to drink unpasteurized milk, and almost no one does. Paul himself doesn't. But it bothers him that the government tells people they cannot do something they shouldn't do.Libertarians would say that if most people want pasteurized milk, the market will supply it. Firms will emerge to certify that milk has been pasteurized. These firms will compete, keeping them honest.

So yes, a Rube Goldberg contraption of capitalism could replace a straightforward government regulation. But what if you aren't interested in turning your grocery shopping into an ideological adventure? All that is lost by letting the government take care of it is the right of a few idiots to be idiots. That right deserves respect. But not much.


Libertarians have always struck me as kind of naive -- kind of like die-hard Tolkien fans who insist on dressing like elves and wondering why, really, we don't all just fight it out with swords to solve our problems.

I'm deeply sympathetic, yes. But I still think it's a bit naive.

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