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Deirdre’s Test

Summary:
There is much in Deirdre McCloskey’s new book, How Liberalism Works.* As I’ve written in a previous post, this work is more about _politics_ and liberalism than McCloskey’s previous works. While McCloskey talks with her distinctive “Aunt Deirdre” voice, aiming at articulating a liberalism which is different than the “childish” libertarianism’s, or the anarchist’s, or the small government kind’s, she is not mincing words. Consider, this, which is her challenge to all those who, perhaps because they live under relatively decent governments (say in Sweden or Minnesota), tend to assume that government is nothing but a benevolent servant of the People. I suggest we call it, now on, “Deirdre’s test”: To test your belief that the government is your own (good) will

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There is much in Deirdre McCloskey’s new book, How Liberalism Works.* As I’ve written in a previous post, this work is more about _politics_ and liberalism than McCloskey’s previous works. While McCloskey talks with her distinctive “Aunt Deirdre” voice, aiming at articulating a liberalism which is different than the “childish” libertarianism’s, or the anarchist’s, or the small government kind’s, she is not mincing words.

Consider, this, which is her challenge to all those who, perhaps because they live under relatively decent governments (say in Sweden or Minnesota), tend to assume that government is nothing but a benevolent servant of the People. I suggest we call it, now on, “Deirdre’s test”:

To test your belief that the government is your own (good) will generalized, and to test in particular your disbelief in the centrality of coercion in government, I suggest an experiment on April 15 of not paying your US income taxes – perhaps giving voluntarily a few contributions in strict proportion to the share of the government’s budget you judge to be effective and ethical. Whether you tend toward left or right on the conventional spectrum, you will have plenty of corrupting items in mind NOT to give to. The new fighter jet that doesn’t work. The corporate subsidy that does.
Then try resisting arrest. Then try escaping from prison. Then tri resisting re-arrest. After release, if ever, you will note the contrast with the non-policy, non-police arenas of commerce or persuasion. Try buying an iPhone rather than a Samsung. Nothing happens. Try not agreeing with McCloskey. Ditto. You will observe a sharp difference from your experience with the entity possessing the monopoly of coercion, even in Goetborg or St. Paul.

Alberto Mingardi
Mingardi, one of the rising stars of European libertarianism, is the founder and Director General of the Italian free-market think tank, Instituto Bruno Leoni. His areas of interest include the history of economic thought and antitrust and healthcare systems. He is particularly well known for popularizing the work of past scholars under-appreciated by today’s libertarians. Currently an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, Mingardi has also worked with the Heritage Foundation, the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, the Acton Institute, and the Centre for a New Europe.

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