Libertarian Public Policy
In this Guide, loosely based on a course he teaches at Harvard University, Jeffrey Miron lectures on a variety of issues in public policy from what he calls a “consequential libertarian” perspective. Miron’s consequential libertarianism is based on his observation that when you consider the evidence with sufficient rigor and a broad enough scope, most of the time it turns out that freedom is a better policy than government intervention and control.
In this series of lectures, Jeffrey Miron applies economic thinking to a variety of policy questions.
Miron’s “Consequential Libertarianism” holds that on a rigorous, broad understanding, the costs of restricting liberty outweigh the benefits.
The policy “cures” for a variety of putative social ills—drug use, gambling, sex work, gun ownership, etc.—are worse than the “diseases” they purport to treat.
It’s doubtful whether any government involvement in education is a net good, and it would be better for the state to finance vouchers than to run schools itself.
If government provides marriages, there’s no reason to allow only opposite-sex couples to marry. A libertarian legal order could have a variety of marriage types.
Markets have been shown to be effective to a degree in combating certain types of discrimination. Anti-discrimination laws have drawbacks we shouldn’t ignore.
Even though markets aren’t perfect, most regulations end up being counterproductive. Other regulations, like contract enforcement and rules against fraud, help.
Government intervention has lowered the quality of medical care and made it more expensive.
There’s a plausible case, though not a fully persuasive one, for redistributing income to relieve poverty. Other forms of redistribution should be eliminated.
Policies aimed at economic stabilization do more harm than good. Macroeconomic policy should be focused not on stabilization, but on economic growth.
National defense is a legitimate function of government, but military spending and the scope of military action tend to grow to excess.
Dr. Miron briefly discusses criminal justice, intellectual property, scientific research, risk management, campaign finance, abortion, and behavioral economics.
What would a libertarian society look like? Which changes in that direction are most important?
About the Lecturer
Jeffrey Miron is director of economic studies at the Cato Institute and the director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Economics at Harvard University. His area of expertise is the economics of libertarianism, with particular emphasis on the economics of illegal drugs.