Enron billionaire John Arnold took a break on Tuesday from his long-standing project of taking away the pensions of public employees in order to provide $10 million to keep Head Start programs running during the government shutdown. This is perhaps one of the more depressing spectacles so far to come out of the shutdown mess. The early education of poor kids in America now partially swings on the whims of a man with way more money than he deserves to have in the first place.
Generally, I like to talk about liberty the way that libertarians do. I primarily do that because liberty, as discussed by libertarians, actually makes private property ownership an injustice. Because few people ever bother to think about that, adopting libertarian notions of liberty in my interactions with people of that persuasion is a never-ending well of hilarity. “What do you mean unilaterally grabbing up pieces of the scarce world without the consent of others (whose previously-existing access you steal away) and then violently attacking people who don’t go along with your fiat claims of ownership is aggression?” they say, “that’s just homesteading followed by self-defense!” And on it goes.
Scott Sumner has become famous in the internet world and elsewhere as monetarism’s most capable defender. Sumner has a lot of things to say, but one is illustrative for my purposes here. Sumner argues that advocates of fiscal stimulus often make the mistake in their arguments of assuming away monetary policy as static or accommodating. His point is that you can’t do that because the efficacy of fiscal policy always depends on what monetary policy is doing in the background.
Last week, the Census Bureau put out its annual income and poverty figures for 2012. The big news on the poverty front is that the percentage of Americans living in poverty is unchanged at 15 percent, which amounts to 46.5 million Americans. More than one in five kids under the age of 18 are in poverty, and nearly one in four kids under the age of six are impoverished as well. These are numbers we’ve all become accustomed to, but they can still shock the conscience if you make an effort to let them soak in again.
Economic libertarianism’s most amusing failing is philosophical. In particular, the non-aggression form of libertarianism so popular among the Paul clan and their followers quite straightforwardly generates the conclusion that all private property is unjust theft. Internal contradictions abound in libertarianism, but that is surely the most problematic one. As much as I enjoy the philosophical arguments, experience tells me others prefer an approach that seem less like game-playing.