George H. Smith and David D. Friedman have a debate over whether natural rights or rule utilitarianism forms a better basis for libertarian ideas.

George H. Smith was formerly Senior Research Fellow for the Institute for Humane Studies, a lecturer on American History for Cato Summer Seminars, and Executive Editor of Knowledge Products. Smith’s fourth and most recent book, The System of Liberty, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2013.

David D. Friedman, son of Nobel laureate Milton Friedman, is a leading proponent of anarcho‐​capitalism, the theory that the state is an unnecessary evil and that all services, including the law itself, can be provided by voluntary cooperation in the private economy.

While Friedman holds a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Chicago, he is chiefly known for his scholarly contributions to economics and law. He is the author of five books of non‐​fiction as well as the novels Harald and Salamander. In The Machinery of Freedom: Guide to a Radical Capitalism, Friedman argued that an economic analysis of impact of state action points to an anarchist conclusion. In Law’s Order: What Economics Has to Do with Law and Why It Matters, he shows how directing the law to seek economic efficiency can lead to the achievement of justice.

Friedman stands in contrast to many other anarchists because of his “consequentialist” approach. Rather than argue that humans have inviolable natural rights which it is always wrong to violate, he uses cost‐​benefit analysis to assert that a world without government is measurably better than one ruled by states.

George H. Smith was formerly Senior Research Fellow for the Institute for Humane Studies, a lecturer on American History for Cato Summer Seminars, and Executive Editor of Knowledge Products. Smith’s fourth book, The System of Liberty, was recently published by Cambridge University Press.

David D. Friedman is an economist, political philosopher, and the author of many books including The Machinery of Freedom: Guide to a Radical Capitalism, wherein he lays the groundwork for a society based exclusively on voluntary transactions.

In this video from a 1981 Libertarian Party of Texas event, Smith and Friedman have a debate over whether economics or ethics–whether natural rights or rule utilitarianism–forms a better basis for libertarian ideas.

They each take turns presenting their case, counter each others’ arguments, and take questions from the audience.