Glibertarianism

Jacob Sullum gets off a funny. He wouldn’t be laughing if he’d lost his job.

I know my friends who call themselves “classical liberals” or “libertarians” hate the “glibertarian” label. Since I have their interests always in mind, I take every opportunity to remind them of the sort of stupid behavior that leads other people to apply that label.

For example:

The day before unemployment hits 7.6% and rising, with economists left and right warning about the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression, Orin Kerr (safely tenured) quotes, with seeming approvial Jacob Sullum (securely drawing wingnut welfare courtesy of the donors to the Cato Reason Foundation), making fun of the stimulus bill their party is trying to block, with the fairly explicit goal of making things worse so that the voters will blame the President.

This is the theory underlying the “stimulus” package: Since we can’t depend on consumers to spend money they don’t have on stuff they don’t need, the government has to do it for them.

Ha. Ha.

Actually, of course, that’s actually the theory behind tax cuts: that since consumers aren’t spending money they don’t have on stuff they don’t need it’s important to borrow money from China to send back to consumers in tax cuts so they can spend more.

The theory behind the stimulus is that since people losing their jobs or afraid of doing so don’t buy stuff, and the result is more people losing their jobs so they can’t buy stuff, the government ought to spend some money on stuff we actually need, like schools and cops and roads and health care and scientific research, thus putting money in the pockets of people who will then spend it and put other people back to work.

But as long as you can sit back in your comfortable position and make fun of serious attempts to relieve other people’s suffering, why bother to do any actual thinking? That’s what I call “glib.”

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com