How Evil Are Politicians?

Essays on Demagoguery

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Bryan Caplan is an economics prof at George Mason University. This is his second curated collection of blog posts from EconLog, a joint blog of libertarian economists. (He moved on to his own Substack site earlier this year.) My take on his first collection is here.

Yes, you can probably get most of the content of this book for free by wandering through EconLog archives. (For example, if you would like to get a flavor of Caplanesque argument, the title essay for the book is here.) But it's nice to have a collection, and I don't mind contributing a few bucks to the Caplan kids' scholarship fund.

Bryan is an excellent essayist, setting forth an uncompromising array of libertarian positions. Here, besides his unsparing criticism of our rulers' morality, you'll find his views on pacifism (for); socialism (against); open borders (for); demagoguery (against). And more.

There's only one small misstep I noticed: in a 2006 post, "The Mirage of Libertarian Populism", Bryan despairs that the majority of voters are unlikely to push for libertarian reform; witness the popularity of entitlements like Social Security and Medicare, and the ease with which demagogues turn any proposal of reform into "pushing granny off a cliff in her wheelchair" TV ad. But:

Furthermore, the public heavily supports even the least defensible infringements on personal liberty – like prohibition of marijuana.

Sixteen years later, and (uh, so I'm told) a short drive down to East Coast Cannabis will satisfy any weed craving I might have. So maybe "libertarian populism" isn't quite as hopeless as Bryan once thought.

Last Modified 2024-01-16 4:46 AM EDT