Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Glaeser on Pure v. Pragmatic Libertarianism

Harvard Econ Professor Ed Glaeser has a thoughtful piece in today's New York Times on the distinction between "pure" and "pragmatic" libertarianism (here). The only problem is that what he defines as "pragmatic libertarianism" seems to me generally indistinguishable from Social-welfare Economics or New Institutional Economics. For instance, he writes that "[t]o the pragmatic libertarian, the question of whether to act or not on global warming comes to down to costs and benefits, not any philosophical objection to restricting pollution." I just don't see any semblance of "libertarianism" in that assertion. Which is not to say that I disagree with it. But neither would any economist I know, including those who do not ascribe to any particular variant of libertarianism.

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