The Ethical and Economic Case Against Lockdowns

Last Friday, February 19, I gave about a 1.6 hour Zoom talk to Ryan Sullivan’s class at the Naval Postgraduate School.

It was titled “Don’t Forget What We Know: The Ethical and Economic Case Against Lockdowns.”

Here it is.

By the way, the most surprising thing I heard from Jeremy Horpedahl in his debate/discussion with Phil Magness is that when there’s an externality, there’s a presumption in favor of government intervention. I disagree and I say why at about the 28:50 point.

The Commissar Komisar discussion at 54:27 is based on a short blog post I did here.

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Serbians’ Freedom to Choose

Serbia has adopted an approval mechanism for vaccinations, giving citizens the option to choose which vaccine they want to get and in which location they want to get vaccinated.

This makes Serbia the only country in the world where citizens can choose the vaccine type, between shots from Pfizer-BioNTech, China’s Sinopharm or Russia’s Sputnik.

This is from Sara Mageit, “Serbia reaches one million vaccines with help of AI framework,” Healthcare IT News, February 23, 2021.

There are 6.9 million people in Serbia, of whom over one million have received their first dose of vaccine. That’s 14.5 percent of Serbia’s population.

Let’s compare that with the United States.

64 million doses have been distributed in the United States. 64 million is 19.4 percent of the U.S. population, which makes the U.S. look better than Serbia. But that would be if everyone who got a shot here got just one shot. Such a policy would be quite sensible. But it’s not the one that U.S. governments have chosen. 13.3 percent of the U.S. population have received at least one dose. 13.3 percent of 330 million is 43.9 million people.

So 20.1 million people in the United States have received 2 doses and 23.8 million have received 1 dose.

Since 2 doses isn’t much better than 1, a reasonable comparison would be between our 13.3 percent and Serbia’s 14.5 percent. In other words, almost a dead heat (because getting 2 doses is slightly better than 1 dose.)

Interestingly, 14 U.S. states plus the District of Columbia have populations in which the percent having received at least one vaccination exceeds 15 percent. 3 states (Colorado, Iowa, and Wisconsin) have exceeded 14% but not 15%.

 

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Jeff Hummel on Classical Liberals and Libertarians

Economist and libertarian Jeff Hummel, pictured above, sent me the following and I think it’s worth sharing:

In a Zoom session some libertarian friends and colleagues had a lively discussion of the correct usage of the term “libertarian.” Afterwards I had some additional thoughts. So I wrote this message to lay out my argument in more detail.

In the late 60s and early 70s, as the libertarian movement was just distinguishing and disentangling itself from conservatism, the terms “libertarian” and “classical liberal” had clear and relatively precise meanings, at least among the U.S. libertarians with whom I associated. These meanings were once very clearly articulated by libertarian philosopher Eric Mack at one of the IHS (or Cato?) summer seminars I attended.

He defined a classical liberal as someone who believes that maximizing individual liberty should be the highest (if not sole) goal of government (or the State). A libertarian is a classical liberal who further believes that government should have no morally privileged status with regards its powers. In other words, government and its agents could justly engage only in actions that were legitimate for individuals or groups of individuals. Thus, governments should be confined to using force (coercion) to the extent that individuals can rightfully do so for defense or restitution. Stating the libertarian constraint on government in this way gets around (or evades, if you prefer) some of the difficult problems defining the moral limits of legitimate defense and restitution, about which libertarians sometimes disagree, especially in the realm of so-called national defense. Yet nearly all moral philosophies, religious and non-religious, share certain broad outlines, disapproving of murder and theft, as much as they may differ on the borderline details of justifiable defense or restitution.

This way of putting the constraint also leaves open some room for the libertarian archipelagos of Chandran Kukathas, or for the proprietary communities that other libertarians favor. But in order to qualify as genuine libertarian social orders, such communities must be voluntary associations. The opposition to government taxation is also what distinguished libertarians from non-libertarian classical liberals, who in contrast believe that there is a difficult trade-off between liberty and coercion. In their view, government must impose taxes and perhaps exercise other coercive powers not derived from individual rights in order to effectively maximize total liberty. Libertarians, in contrast, held that government should be entirely voluntarily funded, a position that even Ayn Rand embraced at one point.

Libertarians then divided into limited-government libertarians (or to use Sam Konkin’s term, minarchists) and anarchist libertarians (or anarcho-capitalists, a term I never liked). Rand, among others, was a limited-government libertarian. Anarchist libertarians, such as myself and the younger Roy Childs, did argue that the limited-government libertarian position was inconsistent, pointing out that there is no sure way that a government (even if it eschews taxation) can maintain its monopoly without using some coercive powers that are illegitimate for individuals. But we never therefore denied that limited-government libertarians failed to qualify as libertarians, as long as they continued to believe that a voluntarily funded government was desirable and possible, no matter how mistaken we found that belief. Moreover, these distinctions were fairly widely recognized and accepted by libertarians of all varieties, whether primarily influenced by Rand or Rothbard.

I admittedly recognize two problems with maintaining these clear distinctions today. There is often a tension between prescriptive and descriptive definitions for words. I accept that the meanings of words spontaneously evolve over time. The word “libertarian” was used with a less precise meaning before the modern movement, even being embraced by some socialist libertarians. And in common usage today, the terms libertarian and classical liberal have become virtually synonymous. I attribute that evolution to two developments. (1) As some (many?) of the young libertarians of the 60s and 70s matured and aged, having to deal with real-world problems and issues, their views became less consistent or more nuanced and subtle, depending on your point of view. For particularly extreme cases of this intellectual evolution, I like Jeffrey Friedman’s term of “post-libertarian.” (2) The newer generation of libertarians is much more focused on current government policies, and has little interest in the fundamental but thorny philosophical and ideological foundations of their views. Even some of us in the older generation have gotten tired of those endless debates. So in casual conversation, I have to go along with current usage. Yet I still think the greater clarity of the original meanings should sometimes be maintained and specified for more serious discussions.

A second problem with a strict definition for the term “libertarian” is that in the past it led to endless internecine squabbles about who was a “genuine” libertarian, almost like the hair-splitting divisions and deviations that arose among early Marxists. I certainly have no interest in bringing back these counter-productive excommunications and denunciations. If someone wants to claim the label “libertarian,” there is not much to be gained from arguing about that, unless the self-identification is particularly outlandish. I’d rather focus on specific and concrete differences of opinion.

Some contend that one consideration should be whether people self-identify as libertarians, as Rand did not. For labels that describe people’s ideas there is a smidgen of validity to his claim. With respect to religion, we usually accept as definitive people’s self-identification as Christian, Muslim, atheist, etc. But that is simply a courteous and usually reliable rule of thumb. Lurking behind it is still some objective notion of what, for instance, a Christian believes. If, on questioning someone who claims to be a Christian, you discover that he or she does not believe in the historical existence of Jesus or in the existence of God, and also thinks the New Testament has less religious relevance than the Koran, you would be justified in doubting his or her self-identification.

By the way, by the strict standard that Jeff lays out for libertarians, I am not quite a libertarian.

 

 

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Amity Shlaes and the challenges for free market scholars

In 2018, Amity Shlaes had an impressive essay in the City Journal. I’ve read it only now because it was published on the City Journal’s website. That is quite apropos, given the controversy surrounding US history at the moment.

Shlaes’s thesis is outlined in the very first lines:

Free marketeers may sometimes win elections, but they are not winning U.S. history. In recent years, the consensus regarding the American past has slipped leftward, and then leftward again.” Freedom is under appreciated in academia, equality is over appreciated: this is building a narrative that emphasizes political fights for equality at the expense of the springs of economic opportunity.

Shlaes focuses on top political figures. Her hero, to whom she devoted a splendid biography, is Calvin Coolidge, Coolidge is described in the article as a staunch fighter for economic freedom, who put “markets first,” understanding their power in creating prosperity. He reversed the quite inauspicious beginning of the 1920s through tax cuts which worked as they are supposed to, according to the supply-side playbook. A sort of anti-hero is Herbert Hoover (“Hoover thoroughly intimidated business and markets, blaming them for hogging too much of the money”) and an even bigger anti-hero is Lyndon Johnson, who simply “assumed growth”, thinking that free enterprise would produce its marvels whatever the incentives.

The essay finishes with a plea to “fostering of new institutions that will, in turn, nurture economics thinkers who dare to acknowledge the merits of markets.” I’d be interested in Shlaes’s view, two years after her piece, about how we are doing toady. Has the pandemic weakened or strengthened those institutions? Can the intellectual movement for free enterprise flourish after Covid19? Or is it substantially more feeble and less cogent now, both in the fields of history and economics?

 


Editor’s Note: Shlaes recorded a podcast with Law & Liberty focused on her Coolidge biography.

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The Magness Horpedahl Convergence on Lockdowns

Yesterday I watched a debate between Phil Magness and Jeremy Horpedahl on lockdowns and liberty. Phil is a senior research fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research and Jeremy is an assistant professor of economics at the University of Central Arkansas. The debate was sponsored by the University of San Diego’s Center for Ethics, Economics, and Public Policy and the Center for Health Law Policy and Bioethics. The moderator was Dov Fox, Professor of Law and Herzog Endowed Scholar at USD.

I had expected a debate about lockdowns, with Phil arguing against and Jeremy arguing in favor, but that’s not what it turned out to be. Phil did argue against, but Jeremy didn’t argue in favor.

I tend to take copious notes and here’s what I wrote down from Jeremy’s opening statement. This is not word for word, but it’s close.

Lockdowns are general shutdowns of non-essential industries.

There are two problems with lockdowns. First, they are very strong restrictions on people’s liberty. Second, all the lockdowns did was delay infections.

These restrictions did very little good and a lot of harm.

We should shut down where there’s an outbreak.

On the last sentence above, Jeremy gave the example of his own University, where 20% of the tests were positive the first week of classes in January and so they shut down for just a week. So the impression I got was that Jeremy believes only in localized shutdowns that last a short time. This is nothing like the lockdowns that we in California have to deal with. In fact, Jeremy stated that most states had abandoned lockdowns within a month of imposing them and it was only rare states like California that sustained them for 10 months.

In short, both Phil and Jeremy strongly oppose the extensive lockdowns we have had in California. I was gratified to hear that.

I had to leave the debate at 5:12 p.m. and so it’s possible that in Q&A Jeremy made stronger statements in favor of lockdowns but I think I’ve stated the views I heard accurately.

Much of the discussion was about masking and there were real differences between the two debaters about mask mandates. I’ll deal with that in a separate post.

One thing I liked was the civility of the discussion. Jeremy went first and set the tone by referring to Phil as his friend. Some debaters say this kind of thing and then go on to show that the person isn’t their friend at all, but that’s not what happened. Jeremy seemed genuinely friendly as did Phil in response.

I’ll update with a link to the recorded debate once I get one.

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An 18th-Century Revolution, With Current Examples

One of the greatest discoveries of the 18th century did not come from physics or astronomy but from the nascent science of economics. It is the theory that if individuals independently and freely pursue their ordinary self-interest, the resulting social order will be efficient, that is, will allow virtually all these individuals—or at least their vast majority, given their starting points in life—to better satisfy their own preferences.

Adam Smith is, among the first modern economists, the one who, in his 1776 The Wealth of Nations, best formulated the idea:

The natural effort of every individual to better his own condition, when suffered to exert itself with freedom and security, is so powerful a principle, that it is alone, and without any assistance, not only capable of carrying on the society to wealth and prosperity, but of surmounting a hundred impertinent obstructions with which the folly of human laws too often incumbers its operations; though the effect of these obstructions is always more or less either to encroach upon its freedom, or to diminish its security.

Most schools of economics, with notable exceptions (orthodox Marxian and Keynesian beliefs, for instance), have carried this idea to our days.

The 18th-century idea of an autoregulating society was deeply revolutionary as it had been unknown all along the previous 500,000 years of mankind. It would make it possible to understand, during the following three centuries, the escape of ordinary people from hunger and poverty through the multiplication of real goods and services (GDP) in countries where political authorities stopped trying to control everything. Between 1775 and 2018, it is estimated that the British GDP per capita was multiplied by 13 (see the Maddison Project).

Among many illustrations of the power of the idea of autoregulation, consider a story in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal: Leslie Scism, “Car Insurance Prices Fell in 2020 as Pandemic Reduced Driving.” Why did car insurance prices decrease by an average of 4% last year? Is it because the shareholders of property-casualty insurance companies started being altruistic? It would be a complex and unrealistic hypothesis to entertain. Nor would it be a credible hypothesis that altruistic governments across all American states forced the insurance companies to cut their prices. It is true that car insurance rates are monitored or controlled by many state governments (not everybody understands Adam Smith!) but only a minority of them require prior approval—which could probably not have worked so rapidly after Covid-19 hit in 2020. (See Marianne Bonner, “How Insurance Rates are Regulated,” December 14, 2028.)

The explanation of the price reductions lies in the simple fact that that the several hundreds of car insurance companies in America are in competition and cannot avoid cutting their prices if only one of them does it to gain a competitive advantage. So if reduced driving pushes down automobile accidents and their cost during a pandemic, the price of insurance will automatically decrease.

This is a general feature of free markets. Suppliers try to get the highest prices while buyers try to pay as little as possible. It would be vain to blame individuals in either group. On the contrary, it is because they act this way that prices are autoregulated towards the lowest possible prices for consumers consistent with suppliers’ costs.

The drama is that many people still don’t understand the autoregulating character of free interindividual relations. A well-known story is that of the Russian official who, shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, asked British economist Paul Seabright, “Who is in charge of the supply of bread to the population of London?”

There are many examples of the persistent ignorance of the autoregulating character of free interindividual relations, and one does not need to look at poor countries laboring under tyranny to find them.

Consider the vice mayor of Long Beach in California who defended the imposition of a $15 per hour minimum wage for grocery workers. Two grocery stores just announced they were closing: see Havley Munguia, “Long Beach’s Grocery-Worker Wage Bump Spurs Closure of Ralphs, Food 4 Less Sites in City,” Press-Telegram, February 1, 2021 (H/T: Andrea Mays). “Our job is to keep providing for the residents,” he declared, not realizing that providing for the resident grocery workers means not providing for the residents who eat food, as food prices will rise if only through shopping travel. More fundamentally, the vice mayor does not understand that the most efficient way to determine wages is to let the market do it.

Another exquisite example is the postal inspector who opined on the conduct of a convenience store owner who sold Covid-19 supplies at a price the politicians and bureaucrats considered too high (see the Department of Justice’s press release):

Unfortunately, Mr. Singh allegedly chose to use this opportunity to make money by hoarding and price gouging PPE [personal protection equipment]. The conduct charged in the complaint is reprehensible and against our most fundamental American values.

Singh later entered into a deferred prosecution agreement and agreed to “donate” $450,000 of PPE, to be distributed by politicians and bureaucrats instead of being sold on the market to ordinary individuals who needed it urgently. If he thought he was in the “country of free enterprise,” he was obviously mistaken.

There are quite probably exceptions to, and within, the theory that individual liberty generates an autoregulating social order—a “spontaneous order” as contemporary economists like F.A. Hayek call it. Justifications exist for governments acting under a realistic presumption of unanimous consent—for example around the goal of not settling conflicts by open violence and organizing protection against that or, more controversially, around other preferences for public goods. But to be credible, these justifications must be built up from an understanding of the general efficiency of the spontaneous order, not handed down from the millennial ideal of a shepherd or some political authority protecting his flock to better exploit it.

A good question is why the 18th-century monumental discovery is still ignored by so many people. Public choice theory suggests many answers, which revolve around the idea that it is in some individuals’ interests to make sure it is ignored. Think of shareholders and executives of steel companies and the bosses of their trade unions. But there are also purely intellectual reasons: after all, many people—despite, or because of, public schools—still believe that the earth is flat.

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Censorship is a two-edged sword

Reason magazine has a very good Nick Gillespie interview of former ACLU head Ira Glasser.  (The bolded question is Gillespie, the rest is Glasser):

It wasn’t until my 30s that I began to understand free speech, that the real antagonist of speech is power. The only important question about a speech restriction is not who is being restricted but who gets to decide who is being restricted—if it’s going to be decided by Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Rudy Giuliani, [President Donald] Trump, or [Attorney General] William Barr, most social justice advocates are going to be on the short end of that decision. I used to say to black students in the ’90s who wanted to have speech codes on college campuses that if [such codes] had been in effect in the ’60s, Malcolm X or Eldridge Cleaver would have been their most frequent victim, not David Duke.

Was that a convincing argument?

It pulled people up short. They imagined themselves as controlling who the codes would be used against. I would tell them that speech restrictions are like poison gas. It seems like it’s a great weapon to have when you’ve got the poison gas in your hands and a target in sight, but the wind has a way of shifting—especially politically—and suddenly that poison gas is being blown back on you.

Back when I was at the University of Chicago, there was a great deal of controversy about the ACLU’s decision to defend the right of Nazis to protest in Skokie, Illinois (which had a large Jewish population.)  In 1977, there were many Holocaust survivors in Skokie, so the ACLU’s decision was understandably highly controversial.    Thus I was interested to discover that the strategy seems to have paid off:

How did Skokie turn out?

We won the case at every level. It even went up to the Supreme Court. It was an easy case legally because these bonding statutes had been struck down a million times before.

Meanwhile, some of the people who lived in Skokie—once we won the case and the Nazis said they were coming—did what the town should’ve advised them to do in the first place: They organized a massive counter-demonstration. About 60,000 people were ready to come. And then the irony of ironies is, when confronted with that, Collin and the neo-Nazis never came to Skokie. Once we won that case, it also allowed them to demonstrate in Marquette Park, which was what they had wanted to do all along. They also confronted a massive counter-demonstration there that never would have happened without the case. It completely overwhelmed them; they couldn’t be seen or heard. Right after that they fell apart.

One thing I’ve discovered in life is that bullies tend to be cowards.

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Nationalism, prejudice, and FDA regulation

President Trump was a forceful advocate of nationalism. Many intellectuals (myself included) are strong opponents of nationalism. Indeed I view nationalism and communism as the two great evils of the 20th century. Thus it’s ironic to find many proponents of government regulation making essentially nationalistic arguments.

Alex Tabarrok recently pointed to the FDA’s scandalous refusal to allow the manufacture and sale of AstraZenaca vaccine in America:

By the way, the US failure to authorize the AstraZeneca vaccine in the midst of a pandemic when thousands are dying daily and a factory in Baltimore is warmed up and ready to run is a tragedy and dereliction of duty of epic proportions. The AZ vaccine should be given an EUA immediately and made available in pharmacies for anyone who wants it while continuing to prioritize Moderna and Pfizer for the elderly and essential workers.

When I advocate allowing people to be free to take a non-FDA approved drug or vaccine, the response is generally an argument relying on some form of paternalism. People are too poorly informed to be allowed to make these choices. They should not be allowed to take the drugs unless experts have verified that the drugs are safe and effective.

But that’s obviously not their actual motive. Experts in the UK have looked at the AstraZenaca vaccine and found it to be safe and effective. And yet Americans are still not allowed to use the product. So if paternalism is not the actual motive, why do progressives insist that Americans must not be allowed to buy products not approved by the FDA?  What is the actual motive?

The answer is nationalism. The experts who studied the AstraZenaca vaccine were not American experts, they were British experts. Can this form of prejudice be justified on scientific grounds? Obviously not. There has been no double blind, controlled study of comparative expert skill at evaluating vaccines. We have no way of knowing whether the UK decision is wiser than the FDA decision. Instead, the legal prohibition is being done on nationalistic grounds. We are told to blindly accept the incompetence of British experts, without any proof.  (And even if you believed there was solid evidence that one country’s experts were better than another, it would not explain why each developed countries relies on their own experts.  They can’t all be best!)

These debates always end up being like a game of whack-a-mole. Shoot down one argument and regulation proponents will simply put forth another. Their minds are made up.  You say people shouldn’t be allowed to take a vaccine unless experts find it to be safe and effective? OK, the UK experts did just that. You say that only the opinion of US experts counts because our experts are clearly the best? Really, where is the scientific study that shows that our experts are the best? I thought you said we needed to “trust the scientists”?  Now you are saying we must trust the nationalists?  Was Trump right about nationalism?

My dream of a completely free market in drugs will likely never happen. But what’s wrong with the following three-part system of regulation as a compromise solution:

1. FDA approved drugs can be consumed by anyone in America.

2. Drugs approved by any of the top 20 advanced countries (but not the FDA) can be consumed by anyone willing to sign a consent form indicating that they understand the FDA has not approved this product. I’ll sign for AstraZeneca.  (The US government puts together a list of 20 reputable countries.)

3. Drugs approved by none of the top 20 developed economies will still be banned.

This is what regulation would look like if paternalism actually were the motivating factor. But it’s not.  It’s Trump-style nationalism that motivates progressives to insist that only FDA approved drugs can be sold in America. They may look down their noses at Trump, but they implicitly share his nationalism.

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The Mittens of Mr. Sanders: Economic Lessons

The mittens that Bernie Sanders wore at the inauguration of the new president have been a big hit in the media and in cyberspace. And we now know where the famous mittens came from, although most people miss the economic lessons of the story. The mittens were sown from recycled materials by a Vermont teacher called Jen Ellis, who moonshines in this artisanal hobby (Travis M. Andrews, “The Handwarming Story of How Bernie Sanders Got his Inauguration Mittens,” Washington Post, January 21, 2021).

Remember Adam Smith’s pin factory. In the second part of the 18th-century, the division of labor allowed 10 men working together to each make the equivalent of 4,800 pins a day, while a single man working alone could only make 20 at most and perhaps not more than one pin (The Wealth of Nations, 1776). Now, apply that to mitten production.

Ms. Ellis reportedly spent an hour making Mr. Sanders’s mittens. If she had spent that hour working in a clothing factory instead, she would have produced several pairs of mittens, perhaps dozens or hundreds of pairs. As Adam Smith saw for pins, the division of labor dramatically increases productivity—and even more dramatically with modern machines that did not yet exist in the early years of the Industrial Revolution. The numerous pairs of mittens produced by Ms. Ellis’s work in an hour could have been sold to Walmart or Dollar stores, keeping warm the hands of many poor. She chose instead to produce one pair for a wealthy Vermonter. (The 2016 purchase by Mr. Sanders and his wife of a house in a wealthy Lake Champlain neighborhood, documented by a local Vermont newspaper, has not been contradicted by Snopes.)

Note that, except for the economic lessons, none of that is our business. Assume that Mr. Sanders’s income from taxpayers represents what has been necessary to incentivize him to give up private employment opportunities and be as productive or more productive for voters (and detrimental to none). Individual preferences (which guide individual actions) are subjective, and Ms. Ellis obviously preferred the recognition and gratefulness of Mr. Sanders to the contentment of several poor individuals.  She is, or should be, free to produce what she wants with the technology she prefers and sell or give her products to whom she wants. She is not, or should not be, obliged to bake a cake for the poor. On his side, Mr. Sanders is, or should be, free to wear the mittens he wants, however eccentric or ostentatious, just as people who want deodorant should be free to buy the sorts they want, despite what Bernie himself thinks; or just as people who want dolls for their daughters should be free to purchase them from Chinese producers or anywhere they find what they consider a good bargain, despite what Sanders’ co-politician Donald Trump proposed.

What Mr. Sanders and Ms. Ellis have enjoyed is called economic freedom. It is the regime that, in general, best and most equally allows individuals to satisfy their preferences.

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Biden’s Endearing but Collectivist Speech

If Donald Trump were not (alas) so ignorant, he would envy the quality of Joe Biden’s inaugural speech pronounced earlier today. But there is a deep question to ask: Why are political rulers so insistent on “unity.” It was the main theme of Biden’s speech, where the word appears eight times. It was also a constant theme with Trump—but muffled as time went on. Remember his remarkable 2016 campaign ad, which is well worth listening to:

I will unify and bring our country back together. … We will be unified, we will be one, we will be happy again.

The reason for the rulers’ obsession is simple: unity makes people easier to rule. If the multitude of individuals with different preferences and circumstances were united like a single individual, governing would be easy: just give “it” (or him or her) what it wants and take the rest for yourself including perks, money, and honors. What makes ruling difficult is that the ruled are different individuals so that, in fact, only minimal governing is possible without disagreement, dissent, and ultimately “war of all against all” (to use the expression that Thomas Hobbes thought only applied to the pre-Leviathan state of nature).

In a democracy, “we can still disagree,” Biden said, and:

If you still disagree, so be it, that’s democracy, that’s America.

What he does not realize is that disagreeing but being forced to submit to the majority in actual actions, in lifestyle, is not a recipe for peace. Agreeing to disagree not only in words but in lifestyle is the key to (classical) liberal peace and prosperity.

It is more difficult to understand this individualist methodology or (at another level) normative principle if one has not learned some economics or, perhaps, as a not-perfect substitute, some classical-liberal legal theory. (That Hobbes himself started with methodological individualism and ended up with a glorification of Leviathan is a puzzling contradiction that classical liberalism avoided.)

A less spiteful Trump could have given basically the same speech as Biden because both men think in collectivist terms, not in individualist and (classical) liberal terms. To use an allegory to summarize individualist liberalism, let peaceful individuals have guns if they so desire, be atheist or deist, or import (and buy) what they want from where they want.

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