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How One Short Story Changed Someone from Left to Libertarian

Summary:
I gave a talk on Milton and Rose Friedman today to an audience of about 60 law school professors and judges. It went well, by the way. One of my slides, labeled “Equality of Outcome,” was a quote from Milton and Rose Friedman’s Free to Choose: The ethical issues [with fairness] involved are subtle and complex. They are not to be resolved by such simplistic formulas as “fair shares for all.” Indeed, if we took that seriously, youngsters with less musical skill should be given the greatest amount of musical training in order to compensate for their inherited disadvantage, and those with greater musical aptitude should be prevented from having access to good musical training; and similarly with all other categories of inherited personal qualities. That might be

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How One Short Story Changed Someone from Left to Libertarian

I gave a talk on Milton and Rose Friedman today to an audience of about 60 law school professors and judges. It went well, by the way. One of my slides, labeled “Equality of Outcome,” was a quote from Milton and Rose Friedman’s Free to Choose:

The ethical issues [with fairness] involved are subtle and complex. They are not to be resolved by such simplistic formulas as “fair shares for all.” Indeed, if we took that seriously, youngsters with less musical skill should be given the greatest amount of musical training in order to compensate for their inherited disadvantage, and those with greater musical aptitude should be prevented from having access to good musical training; and similarly with all other categories of inherited personal qualities. That might be “fair” to the youngsters lacking in talent, but would it be “fair” to the talented, let alone to those who had to work to pay for training the youngsters lacking talent, or to the persons deprived of the benefits that might have come from the cultivation of the talents of the gifted?

At the bottom I added: “Cue: Harrison Bergeron” and told them the gist of the famous short story by Kurt Vonnegut.

An enthused law professor came up afterwards and told me that before he had read that story years ago, he was a “left-wing hippy.” But that story had a profound impact on him, getting him to question his fundamental views, and led him to becoming a libertarian.

Here’s Harrison Bergeron, for those of you who haven’t read it.

David Henderson
David R. Henderson (born November 21, 1950) is a Canadian-born American economist and author who moved to the United States in 1972 and became a U.S. citizen in 1986, serving on President Ronald Reagan's Council of Economic Advisers from 1982 to 1984.[1] A research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution[2] since 1990, he took a teaching position with the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California in 1984, and is now a full professor of economics.[3]

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