Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Mitch Daniels' (Libertarian) Top 5 reading list

From an interview of Gov. Daniels by author Jonathan Rauch on the website FiveBooks.com...

The five books:

1.) Friedrich Hayek’s Road to Serfdom

2.) Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose

3.) Charles Murray, What It Means to Be a Libertarian

4.) Mancur Olson, The Rise and Decline of Nations

5.) Virginia Postrel’s book, The Future and Its Enemies

On Hayek:

...when I thumb back through it and look at what I marked when I first read it, was the book that, to me, convincingly demonstrated what was already intuitive: namely, the utter futility, the illusion of government planning as a mechanism for uplifting those less fortunate.

Asked "How does this book inflect how you deal with that?"

With humility and caution....led me to a view that government clearly has to establish rails around certain behaviour and economic activity. But simplicity, clarity of the rules, a caution about over-prescriptiveness in how to achieve a certain outcome or prevent a certain externality from happening...

On Friedman,

I think that Free to Choose probably is there because it expressed best to me the moral – I hate to say superiority – but the moral underpinnings of free economics, if one starts from the premise that the highest value is the autonomy and dignity and freedom of the individual....

On Murray and in response to "Are you a libertarian?"

By his definition I guess I’d say so. Like all these labels these days, a lot of them have been transmuted out of their original meaning. For instance, I’m what would have been called a liberal in the 19th and early 20th century... I also liked his book In Pursuit of Happiness and Good Government. I guess I could have chosen that one instead. He’s talking about simple, clear, intelligible rules – a willingness to tolerate a lot of freedom going on within certain boundary lines or rules.

And then Daniels agrees with this statement by Rauch:

Something that sets him apart from some others is that he adds an emphasis on responsibility going hand in hand with freedom and that when you diminish freedom you also diminish people’s ability and willingness to take responsibility for their lives.

Then Rauch asks:

Can you govern as a libertarian in America? You’ve got all these state government programmes and you probably can’t get rid of a single one of them – or at least not more than one or two without a battle. Can you be a libertarian governor?

Daniels' response:

I try to be. I mean, just to be simplistic about it, we believe that leaving the maximum number of dollars in the possession of those who earned them is an exercise in enlarging freedom....Then I talk about how inevitably we have to coerce money out of people to do necessary and important public business. But if we believe in freedom and liberty than we ought to do that only for necessary purposes. Then I go on to talk about competence and the fact that it becomes an equally solemn duty to never misspend a dollar. Maybe that’s not the right response but when I’m asked about governing as a libertarian, I would say that’s one way I do it.

Do you have to accept the whole government leviathan that you inherited?

No, of course not. I got an e-mail last night telling me that we now have the fewest state employees in Indiana state government since 1979. I’m not saying we’re doing a whole lot less but, yes, we have stopped doing some things and many other things we are doing by contract. We are still delivering the service we believe in, but in more cost-effective ways, and in ways that, in small amounts, have grown the private economy of our state as opposed to the public sector.

It’s the kind of incrementalism that adds up.

I think so. Our attitude here, I’ve expressed it a thousand times, is we believe in limited government, but within that sphere of things that government does, we believe government should do them as well as possible. We’ve done everything we can think of to implant the accountability that’s not really there. Government is a monopoly and we know how monopolies mistreat their customers and overcharge them because of the absence of competition, which is another major theme that runs through these books: the best regulator is competition....

On Olson, who Rauch calls "one of the great and underrated thinkers of the centre-right of the past century":

This is a really extraordinary book. Olson has got a little bit of a pessimistic view. He makes it sound almost inevitable that free societies will become encrusted with these interest groups that form. It’s not sufficiently in anybody’s interest to oppose them, and because the cost they impose or diffuse over everybody...

On Postrel:

...her fundamental distinction is not between the left and the right but between ‘stasists’ who believe in the one best way, which you impose and freeze in place with a central authority, versus ‘dynamists’, who are very comfortable with an open-ended, unpredictable social situation, where you don’t know the outcome or the single best way and you just let stuff happen.

...there are plenty of people who we would describe as conservatives these days who are very uncomfortable with the risks and the uncertainties that come with an embrace of competition and change and simple rules....the Olson-like structures that we have to guard against in our country today tend to be those that favour the large interventionist state we built. I’m including here, by the way, the incumbent businesses who love the way in which it suppresses competition and puts up barriers to entry.

Finally, Rauch closes with national/presidential ambitions:

This is a book interview so I won’t ask you about your national ambitions but I will say it would sure be interesting to see you take these ideas and bring them to life at this moment in American history…

More interesting than I have the gumption for.


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