A great article from the author of the Bleeding Heart Libertarians blog. I'll admit that there isn't a better word to describe my political views than "libertarian". I'm certainly not Milton Freidman or Jeffrey Miron--both of which I admire and respect greatly--but I can't consider myself "Bleeding Heart" either. Maybe many of my issues are with extreme--and unfortunately often uninformed--left swinging folks that I had to deal with at a very liberal undergraduate institution. But I often despair that when people think libertarian (and often times generalized to "Economists") it is unfortunate that they often think of someone with no values and little empathy. Matt Zwolinski does a great job of communicating this, and I especially like the following quote:
"These are my reasons for thinking that progressives should have greater confidence in free markets and civil society to realize their values, and less confidence in government regulation. But even if progressives are not convinced by that claim, I hope they are convinced by another one: namely, that political disagreement does not always, or even usually, imply an irreconcilable conflict of fundamental values. Progressives and libertarians should realize that they share many more values in common than they probably think, and that their different political prescriptions are less the product of an epic battle of good vs. evil and more a function of reasonable disagreement regarding how to prioritize and realize their common goals. Even if disagreement persists, bearing this point in mind should make that disagreement a more civil and productive one."
Libertarianism and moral values are not mutually exclusive. The economic prescriptions of a strictly libertarian viewpoint are an invaluable starting point to base policy. Once we have that cost-benefit and understanding of efficiency of a free market, one must turn to the values of the society and the best balance of both in order to foster both economic and societal growth. As Zwolinski says, "Good intentions, even when they exist, are not enough."