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Mar 12, 2013

Free Markets Series E7: Presidential Special

Whichever candidate wins the 2012 presidential election in the United States will be faced with numerous serious domestic challenges. In this instructive interview, eminent libertarian legal scholar Richard A. Epstein offers some advice on how to promote liberty and prosperity in the coming years.

In addition to recommending a stable currency, Epstein takes aim at regulations, calling for a more rational appraisal of the wisdom of many of the rules that restrict trade and ostensibly protect consumers. As for environmental regulation, he maintains that if governments want to protect wetlands and other sensitive areas, they should compensate owners whose land is taken, and he provides examples of the corruption that otherwise results. “You only get honest public deliberation when the costs are put on the table along with the benefits, and only a system that requires compensation, just compensation, can do that.”

Far from bemoaning Congressional gridlock, Richard Epstein praises it as a saving grace of government, and points out that the checks and balances built into the Constitution were in fact designed to make it difficult to pass laws. This is because the Framers understood that most proposed legislation would be harmful. Unfortunately, gridlock also makes it hard to repeal laws, a problem that might be circumvented by proposing the simultaneous repeal of a whole package of special-interest rules.

Epstein ends by skewering the notion that technology causes jobs to disappear. “Never, ever, ever let people start to tell you that technological progress is a source of danger,” he argues. “It is a source of betterment for everybody in the society at large, and I think that those people who take the opposite position should be castigated publicly for their kind of negativism.”