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Libertarian at the margin

Greg Mankiw described himself in a recent post as a “libertarian at the margin”. I can sympathise with this sentiment. I might call myself a pragmatic libertarian, but I tend to avoid the term altogether. Even if on many issues I might be critical of the role of the government, and might read classic libertarian texts and see where they’re coming from, the pace of transition to such a system usually suggested by them would be what would turn me against them. Just as Karl Popper proposed piecemeal social engineering against totalitarianism, I feel something similar towards much of libertarianism as often proposed. Even if at each step along the way, I’d probably side with the libertarian side of an argument, such a step-by-step approach is usually more conducive to social cohesion. Otherwise, the libertarian argument is no less the establishing a system of government upon a theory that has historically led to unforeseen results.

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