On enshrining economic liberties…

Read Mike Konczal comments on the Bleeding Heart Libertarian’s symposium on market democracy and Free Market Fairness. The key point:

One of the core parts of Free Market Fairness’ theory of “market democracy” is enshrining economic liberty at the level of basic liberties protected by the constitution, like free speech, the right to a trial or political participation.

The problem with such an idea? Given that economic activity is inherently a series of tradeoffs, it strikes some people that defining economic liberty as immutable in the same sense as speech and other freedoms is functionally impossible*. Of course a more practical objection is this:

Now here’s what I mean by incoherent: treating economic issues as a basic liberty tells us nothing about how to address stabilization one way or the other and substantially confuses our intuitions about how to approach the problem – which is one of tradeoffs. […]

In other words this viewpoint contributes roughly nothing* to how we should address macroeconomic conditions, and might actually force one to confront those conditions from a substantially less-helpful angle.

*Unless, of course, enshrining economic liberty means effectively leaving out any possibility for collective actions by any level of government with regards to the economy – and pretty much any other domestic issue tangentially related to economic activity. This might be a basic assumption by John Tomasi (huge caveat – I haven’t read the book) that escapes Konczal’s analysis.


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