Saturday, June 07, 2008


Will Wilkinson has an interesting post about how his market liberal views are very like the views of Hayek, Friedman, and Buchanan, and that the libertarian-conservative alliance against a slippery slope to socialism isn't justified by what's actually occurring in the world today.

In a subsequent post, he writes about how economic regulation and tax/transfer policies are logically separable, but most people think about them as if they aren't; a comparison of levels of inequality and poverty across the EU shows that the common thought that less regulation and taxation goes hand-in-hand with higher levels of poverty and inequality (of the sort seen in the U.S. and UK) doesn't hold. Thus you could have a regime with very low levels of regulation yielding more wealth, combined with more redistribution for a better safety net and less poverty and inequality.

And in another post, he calls for greater empirical grounding for proposals in political philosophy, of the sort that has started to yield fruitful results in moral philosophy:
But shouldn’t it impossible to take seriously an argument to the effect that, say this or that policy is required in order to secure the conditions for the development of some capacity, in the absence of (a) a well-empirically-grounded theory of the nature of that capacity and its development, and (b) some kind of actual evidence that this or that policy in fact has the kind of effect on it that one hypothesizes? I wouldn’t mind so much if political philosophy arguments were more often in the form of “Hey, here’s a conjecture! I suggest somebody competent to do so try to find out if it’s true.” I would be quite happy if I saw more “Hey, here’s a conjecture, and here’s a my attempt to honestly synthesize the relevant literature in a first pass at getting the answer.” That would be terrific. But usually, the argument aims to establish something substantive with an armchair, a Joe Stiglitz op-ed, and something remembered from the Tuesday Science Times.
Let's hear it for empiricism.

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