Economics

Now at Reason.tv: Fair Governance or Libertarian Paternalism?

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Reason.tv caught up with F.H. Buckley of George Mason University to discuss his new book, Fair Governance: The Enforcement of Morals, and the appointment of "libertarian paternalist" Cass Sunstein as regulations czar in President Obama's administration.

Can certain rules make us more free? If opt-out rights are great, why not expand them? Are we becoming too risk-averse as a society? Is "libertarian paternalism" a dangerous oxymoron? Watch now for answers.

Approximately 5.30 minutes. Interview conducted by Nick Gillespie. Shot and edited by Dan Hayes.

For embed code and an iPod-friendly version, go here.

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  2. LAKELAND, Fla. – An eighth-grader was suspended from riding the school bus for three days after being accused of passing gas. The bus driver wrote on a misbehavior form that a 15-year-old teen passing gas on the bus Monday to make the other children laugh, creating a stench so bad that it was difficult to breathe. The bus driver handed the teen the suspension form the next day.

    Polk County school officials said there’s no rule against flatulence, but there are rules against causing a disturbance on the bus.

    The teen said he wasn’t the one passing gas.

    Whether he did it or not, he might have gotten off easy. A 13-year-old student at a Stuart school was arrested in November after authorities said he broke wind in class.

  3. Hmmm. You can’t tell the libertarian paternalists without a score card, can you? I’m not too crazy about Cass’ rap, but the notion, pushed by Reason 14th Amendment fans, that the Supreme Court has the right, power, and duty to overturn about 90% of the legislation that comes down the pike these days doesn’t make much sense either.

  4. A society as increasingly risk-averse as ours might be incapable of adopting libertarianism, unfortunately. I think we’re going to have to go flat broke before the consequences of regulatory overload are dealt with.

  5. 14th Amendment? There’s certainly a few violations of that going on (I’m thinking of how Section 1 might apply to “United States v. $124,700 They’d Like To Take”). But surely it wouldn’t invalidate 90% of legislation.

    Or were you thinking of the 10th Amendment? In that case, bump it up to 95%… but don’t worry about *any* enforcement any time soon. Even if justices were tempted to demand Consitutionally delegated authority for some brand new legislation, they’d never dare risk opening up that can of worms on every existing law. Even any closet libertarians would worry. Weaning society away from big federal government is one thing, but going cold turkey without even time for states to pick up any slack? We’d have rioting and looting in the streets within a week.

  6. We’d have rioting and looting in the streets within a week.

    As opposed to the weekly rioting and looting in the Capitol.

  7. I remember back when Welfare Reform was passed liberals were predicting rioting and looting in the streets. Didn’t happen.

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  9. I produce D n’B (as DJ Taktix, hence the handle). I gots some raw cutz for ja Ruud Boyz…

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  10. Dude. Self-restraint, awareness, criticism, and doubt are useful things.

    But Dude. Paternalism implies power. How about we wait until Libertarians get a little more influence before we start worrying about paternalism. Even most of those areas where you think you’re winning are largely being driven by non-Libertarian political actors working for non-Libertarian ends (i.e., unregulated immigration).

  11. De Tocqueville has a good quote about regulations “It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting.”

    We are way too risk averse these days and it is only going to get worse as so much of the news now derives revenue from scaring people into watching it by overplaying the risks of various goods and activities. Opt out policies and warnings/waivers might help people maintain more freedom but this requires people to be aware of these polices and these polices to be easily enacted and not overly complicated or too time consuming for individuals to engage in.

  12. From listening to this guy talk about him, it seems like Cass Sunstein would have been a more ideal pick for Education secretary.

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