Phil Magness to Libertarians: Don't Bother Trying

Phil Magness tries to debunk Will Wilkinson's argument that perhaps libertarians should support Bernie Sanders by claiming:

“Such a sweeping and systemic move, if attempted in the U.S., would immediately encounter several deeply entrenched political interests that simply make it an untenable proposition. And if, by some miracle, it were ever able to overcome those already entrenched interests, it would then succumb to new political appropriation by further interest group capture, leading to the perversion of its original stated goals.”

As Magness is a libertarian, he has a problem here: this same argument completely undermines any policy suggestion for trying to put libertarianism into practice: however good the idea may be in theory, if Magness is right, attempting such a "sweeping and systematic move" will guarantee that what gets implemented instead will be a completely perverted version of what libertarians want.

Meanwhile, Wilkinson is just saying that on the margin, we might get more liberty by moving towards a system more like Denmark's. Of course, a lot of the policies suggested for moving in that direction would get perverted along the way. And maybe on the importance of that point rests a good case for just sticking with the status quo. But it certainly is a terrible foundation for any case for libertarian activism!


  1. "Wilkinson is just saying that on the margin, we might get more liberty by moving towards a system more like Denmark's"

    Actually, what WW is saying is that we might get more liberty by VOTING FOR SANDERS, and his justification for this prima facie bizarre claim is that as a democratic Socialist, Bernie has praised Denmark. THIS is what is passing strange about the argument. It hinges ENTIRELY on Bernie's having said "Denmark" as opposed to Cuba or Venezuela or...

    1. Talk about passing strange, Ted: it is as though you complained that my preference for candidate A's environmental policies hinges ENTIRELY on his wanting to make my town more like Yosemite than like a toxic waste dump. Imagine that anyone could prefer a politician on such a basis!