An Introduction to Political and Economic Philosophy

Having long been a fan of Hayek and the libertarian movement, I only recently decided to start exploring the basis of political and economic philosophy to see what other information I might learn to help me understand how our American political system can be structured in such a dysfunctional way.  I recently came across this video by Big Think, in which Tamar Gendler explains the fundamentals of Rawls‘ and Nozick‘s view of the role of the state in economics.

 Ironically, Gendler’s dismissive treatment of Nozick seems to make him more persuasive

It brings up an interesting point, which has troubled me for some time.  I’m a right-of-center voter, but I’ve long held some sympathy for the view of those like Friedman who believe that some small degree of social welfare can be tolerated as the price to pay for social stability.  That said, like everyone else, I’ve learned to be much more cynical about the unlimited intrusion of the state that this brings.

In any case, why have conservatives allowed the discussion to be framed by the left’s ideology?  At its base, tax is theft.  To some degree, society agrees to surrender private property for the common good, i.e. a courts system, police, a military, etc. to defend the institutions of the basic state by which capitalism functions.  Above and beyond that, though, as Nozick posits, there doesn’t appear to be a legitimate justification for the confiscation of private property that has been legally gained.  So when Republicans talk about keeping the tax rate down, they fall into the trap set by the left and must defend marginal tax rates in a progressive taxation system.

Republicans must learn to frame the debate in terms the public can easily understand.  ObamaCare is slowly opening the general public’s eyes to the fact that it’s attractive to vote for social welfare as long as it appears someone else will pay, but ultimately, the middle class will always pay as well.  A more populist approach, framing the ObamaCare mandate, and tax in general, as theft, might begin to shift the debate.

In addition, we often hear lamentations about how our debt burden will crush our grandchildren, but the voting populace lives in the now, and does not care about future problems, especially if they will no longer be living when the problems manifest themselves.  I recommend that specific aspects of the state, which can instigate populist rage, should be attacked as a starting point for shrinking the state, and I think public workers are the most fertile target.  In the future, I’ll talk about how Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, and other political leaders exploited this wedge issue to move public opinion back in the direction of capitalism.  This is critical if we want to return to an era of high growth.