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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

"I told you so, but you still think I'm bats"

"It feels bad," is the simple answer provided by Associate Professor John Hasnas of Georgetown University in his short piece "What It Feels Like To Be A Libertarian." "Imagine what the internal life of Cassandra must have been and you will have a pretty good idea," he explains, "imagine spending two decades warning that government policy is leading to a major economic collapse, and then, when the collapse comes, watching the world conclude that markets do not work."

Libertarians haven't been scorned by Apollo, they have no hotline to the Fates, but they tend to make accurate predictions "because [those predictions] are derived from Hayek’s insights into the limitations of human knowledge, from the recognition that the people who comprise the government respond to incentives just like anyone else and are not magically transformed to selfless agents of the good merely by accepting government employment, from the awareness that for government to provide a benefit to some, it must first take it from others, and from the knowledge that politicians cannot repeal the laws of economics."

I don't feel all that bad, or all that lonely; but scorned, derided, and frustrated I can understand and even relate to. Hasnas has spent some time in the trenches collecting battle scars, he was a libertarian before anyone knew what a libertarian was. I suppose this young optimist can grant him his curmudgeonry.

(h/t SK)

Posted by Kalim Kassam on February 3, 2009 in Libertarianism | Permalink


Hasnas is an awesome libertarian. I've met him a few times now and the sense you get from him is an overwhelming cynicism, more pronounced than you find in some (most?) libertarians.

Cynicism is, for me, a positive trait. Diogenes the Cynic (the term didn't mean exactly what it means now, but there are similarities) famously went around in the day with a lamp, looking for an honest man (or a human being; I'm not sure which is the more accurate rendition.) I've always thought Diogenes appreciate ideas, but disliked the pretention of other intellectuals, like Plato.

Hasnas struck me as somewhat similar. He had scathing -- scathing! -- things to say about philosophers, although you could tell he liked and appreciated philosophy.

Oh. And his own version of early American history was one of the funniest things I've ever heard. And yes, very cynical. I wish I had a copy of it.

Posted by: Terrence Watson | 2009-02-03 2:44:59 AM

One of my favorite quotes I recall from one of the seminars I attended in which Hasnas gave a talk:

"You know why they call it the Dark Ages? Because there weren't any major wars going on! The Dark Ages were great!"

Of course, I quote from memory.

Posted by: Terrence Watson | 2009-02-03 2:46:21 AM

For me, I think it's necessary to combine an optimistic disposition and outlook with both realism and cynicism, lest my naive hopes get crushed along with my spirits.

Posted by: Kalim Kassam | 2009-02-03 10:32:01 AM

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