As I’m neither a lawyer nor an economist, feel free to chime in. Epstein is intense.
Once you convince yourself that the business of government is to ‘worry about the elimination of wealth differentials,” as he states, then you will almost always end up shrinking the pie. Epstein advocates keeping the pie growing, and removing barriers for people to enter into voluntary exchanges where both parties can benefit.
The income inequality folks often end up making more inequality through good intentions, cinching off the economy at its top through crony capitalism (favoring a few business winners and creating barriers to market entry along with enormous, inefficient bureaucracies). They can also increase the politicians’ control over the money supply, eroding capital and tying outcomes to short-term political cycles. Aiming for more equality often leads to less equality, much as the equality of outcome folks want more one-man, one-vote democracy, which is pretty much impossible in practice.
The whole thing stalls and people fight more over less.
***Say you’re more conservative, or religious, a Burkean, a la Kirk, or very interested in what keeps families together and the restraints necessary upon individuals and their own passions, helping to pursue life, liberty and some happiness. As a libertarian law/economics thinker, Epstein makes the case that conservatism is great for genetic relations and family units, but not always scalable beyond these smaller circles necessary to maintain greater freedoms in civil society: our families, churches and civic organizations. He advocates a broader system of voluntarily entered into agreements and contracts, through Chicago School economic theory, which keeps the pie growing below in a large republic like ours.
***One concern I have from the conservative perspective is that libertarian theory introduces an individualism that flirts with anarchy over from Europe. Maybe that individualism is already here, as a friend points out, and if so, perhaps it’s better than filling the postmodern hole with rights-based secular humanism, collectivism, or tying postmodernism and leftist solidarity to liberalism proper. There is both a classically liberal and a deeply anarchic libertarianism.
Over on the other side, Jeffrey Sachs and Paul Krugman have a debate on what our current debt levels mean, with Sachs calling Krugman a ‘crude Keynesian.’ Here’s Sachs:
‘I have argued against short-term stimulus packages. Krugman has supported them, and indeed argued that they should have been even larger. I have been against temporary tax cuts and temporary spending programs, believing that instead we need a consistent, planned, decade-long boost in public investments in people, technology, and infrastructure. Such a sustained rise in public investment should have been paid for by ending the Bush-era tax cuts in 2010, or by adopting a comparable boost in revenues. Instead Obama and Congress have now made almost all of those tax cuts permanent, putting us into a deeper fiscal bind.’
Both men see a bigger role for government.
Where will the jobs come from? Are we headed for a big market correction?
Related On This Site: Covering the law and economics from a libertarian perspective: Richard Epstein At The Hoover Institution Journal: ‘Three Cheers for Income Inequality’…Richard Epstein At The Hoover Institution: ‘Death By Wealth Tax’…Richard Epstein At The Hoover Institution: ‘The Obamacare Quaqmire’
Originalism vs. The living constitution: George Will Via The Jewish World Review: ‘True Self-Government’.
Kant is a major influence on libertarians, from Ayn Rand to Robert Nozick: A Few Thoughts On Robert Nozick’s “Anarchy, State and Utopia”…Link To An Ayn Rand Paper: The Objectivist Attack On Kant