Thursday, November 17, 2011

life, liberty and social change

Ever since my first exposure to the writings of Virgina Postrel, one of my favorite reads is the magazine Reason, not so much in its print version but certainly its on line manifestation.  Along with being home to Postrel for a while, Reason also acts (or has acted) as host to insightful posts by John Stossel, Ronald Bailey and Nick Gillespie amongst others.

One of the contributing editors at Reason is Radley Balko, a worthwhile read in his own right and an editor with an astute sense of proportion and justice. Here is Balko in response to an interview published by the Economist (h/t Samiizdata quote of the day)

  •  In theory, libertarians share about half of our positions with the right, and about half with the left. Broadly speaking, we're social liberals and fiscal conservatives. The problem is that once in power, neither side pays much heed to the issues they have in common with libertarians, because that would require them to voluntarily put limits on their own power. And politicians don't generally seek higher office for the purpose of limiting what they can do when they get there. So the libertarian stuff is where they're most willing to compromise. And it's what they're least willing to spend political capital defending. 
  •   I think there's reason for some optimism for libertarians. The generations raised on the internet will be more educated, aware, and informed than any before them, and I think that has instilled in them some naturally libertarian instincts, particularly when it comes to issues like government transparency, accountability, censorship, and police power.
  • George Orwell wrote of government power, "If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever." He may still be right, but there's now a decent chance someone will be there with a cell-phone camera to post it on YouTube. And exposing abuse of power is half the battle.
One of the staple exam questions in my 3rd year course on sustainability and change, is to ask " what are the prospects for widespread adoption of dynamism?".  Balko's remarks give me cause for optimism that the firmament for continued progressive change is intensifying.  And, that in an era of globalized information accessibility, empowerment and personal publishing, a libertarian dynamic is in the ascendency.  Hopefully so, because there is precious little sign of it within the halls of academia.