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« Samuel DeCanio and the Future of Public Choice | Main | "One of these things is not like the others. One of these thing just doesn't belong." -- Rational Choice, Social Science, and Public Policy »


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We bring about the rebirth by promoting civic crowdfunding...

"Crowdtilt is also in discussions with the San Francisco Parks and Recreation Department about new tax structures that let citizens dictate what projects their taxes fund." - Rebecca Grant, Crowdtilt unveils Crowdhoster to ‘infect the world’ with crowdfunding

Civic crowdfunding would effectively solve the public sector's knowledge problem. Once libertarians stop threatening to throw the baby out with the bath water, the other side will become more receptive.

Some on the other side already recognize the necessity of costless exit...Velazquez: Funding war should be taxpayers’ choice.

Identify the rules. Identify the language. Use the language. Can you find the poets you need to create stories demonstrating the rules and using the language? That's what you need.

I propose an analogy in the human use of fire. Humans observed fire for a long time before they began to understand ways to make or control fire. We who aspire to live in a free society are in the early stages. We observe a free society and ponder how it happened. We are still developing the language to describe what we hope to achieve.

But the problem is greater if you take "we" to mean everybody in the American democracy. The first users of fire did not await a majority vote, I suppose, among all cave dwellers.

Twenty years ago I started a project (the Free Nation Foundation ) in which I aspired to develop descriptions of critical institutions which make free nations possible. Although that project slowed to a standstill after seven years, for want of collaboration and support, I still believe it achievable. As with the project of building and controlling fire, "we" do not need a majority vote. We can make rapid progress if we turn inward to work with other people who share the value of a free society.

I think the problem goes very deep. People see the state as the only power that can transform human nature and save us from ourselves, as Richard Pipes wrote in Property and Freedom:

“Philosophic socialism was a pure intellectual movement led by ‘those men who,’ in Trollope’s words, ‘if they had hitherto established little, had at any rate achieved the doubting of much.’ In their thinking, the materialistic conception of man played a central part. Locke’s theory of knowledge, expound in The Essay on Human Understanding (1690), which claimed that human beings have no ‘innate’ ideas but form ideas exclusively from sensory perceptions, remained in England an abstruse epistemological doctrine, devoid of political significance. In France, however, it was applied to politics, providing a theoretical basis for the conviction that by properly shaping the human environment – the exclusive source of all ideas – it was possible so to mold human behavior as to create an ideal society. And the ideal society, much as Plato had envisioned it, was characterized by equality.” 39-40.

The biggest enemy of freedom is the idea that people are born innocent and are basically good.

Fascinating post. I would like to think that this erosion of support for a society's norm and values was in fact one of the major if not the major issue for the Austrians. Hayek's 'revolt against civilization' was very much an attempt to analyze the origins of this erosion.

One can find this issue in various Austrian authors, Mises makes this point about the respect for property in his book on Socialism (liberalism has debased property into a utilitarian, worldly matter). Schumpeter writes about the erosion of family values in CSD, Wieser already wonders what supports the govern norms (Sitte) and it is central in much of Hayek's work. An example from Hayek's work is the gold standard, which he admits rests on a fiction which probably cannot be uphold any longer (although the effects of this fiction were very useful). Much the same applies to his ambivalent attitude towards religion (useful for others, but it does not stand up to critical scrutiny).

In fact Popper's concept, which Hayek uses frequently, 'the strain of civilization' is an expression used to explain this revolt against civilization, against the governing morality and the governing norms. I show the importance of these insights for their overall body of work in my recent dissertation 'The Viennese Students of Civilization'. I there however also show that Hayek offers little hope to suggest that such norms will be supported in our modern society. He suggests and hopes at some instances that such support might come from markets themselves, but I doubt whether that is sufficient.

In my dissertation I suggest that one could think of other sources for this support. As a non-American I am always impressed with the appeal to the constitution for the maintenance of certain values and norms in the USA. And as Bartley suggests in The Fatal Conceit one could also think of the work of Johan Huizinga on play, as a formative element of our culture. According to Huizinga plays has helped to shape both market norms and law in the history of our civilization.

Sounds like a job for the poets.

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