Balkinization Symposium on Andrew Koppelman’s ” Burning Down the House: How Libertarian Philosophy Was Corrupted by Delusion and Greed”
The Balkinization website is currently hosting a symposium on Northwestern University law Professor Andrew Koppelman’s recent book Burning Down the House: How Libertarian Philosophy Was Corrupted by Delusion and Greed. There are already contributions up by Richard Epstein, Christina Mulligan, James Hackney, and myself, among others. More will be posted in the coming days, including pieces by VC co-blogger Jonathan Adler, Stanley Fish, and Jennifer Burns.
I have many reservations about this book. But it’s hard to deny that it’s help kick off a debate about the strengths and weaknesses of modern libertarianism. And Yale Law School Prof. Jack Balkin has—with Koppelman’s help—assembled an impressively diverse crew of commentators for the symposium.
Here are some excerpts from my contribution:
Andrew Koppelman’s Burning Down the House makes some worthwhile points, and I agree with more of it than I would have expected. But it is also something of a missed opportunity. Koppelman attempts a critical analysis of libertarian political thought and its impact on public policy. But he overlooks major aspects of both.
Let’s start with a few points of agreement. Early in the book, Koppelman recognizes that free markets have made enormous contributions to human freedom and welfare… He also notes the validity of F.A. Hayek’s classic critique of economic central planning, on the ground that governments lack the knowledge needed to plan economic production competently. Perhaps most strikingly, he points out that many on the left fail to recognize the contradiction between their support for diversity and their sympathy for socialism; the latter is likely to stifle the former. As Koppelman puts it, “[m]any on the left repudiate capitalism because they don’t grasp the anti-socialist logic of their present views…”
Koppelman is also right to point out that some prominent advocates of libertarianism – most notably Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard – have made a variety of weak and sometimes even downright silly arguments. Many of these weaknesses have been covered before, including by other libertarians. But Koppelman’s listing of them is particularly helpful and accessible….
Sadly, Koppelman’s relatively thorough dissection of Rand and Rothbard is coupled with neglect of more recent and more sophisticated thinkers. As a result, he overlooks crucial ways in which libertarians
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