All Commentary
Saturday, July 1, 1995

Liberty and Individual Potential

Why Does Man Want Liberty?


“Man wants liberty to become the man he wants to become. He does so precisely because he does not know what man he will want to become in time…. Man does not want liberty in order to maximize his utility, or that of the society of which he is a part. He wants liberty to become the man he wants to become.”

—James M. Buchanan
“Natural and Artifactual Man”
What Should Economists Do?

(Liberty Press, 1979)

Freedom and Responsibility

“In a free society, individuals should have the right to make choices, even if their choices might harm them. With freedom comes responsibility, and if we turn our responsibility over to the government, we turn our freedom over at the same time.”

—Randall G. Holcombe
Public Policy and the Quality of Life
(Greenwood Press, 1995)

Theory into Practice

“We can successfully ride [a bicycle] without knowing how we do it. Moreover, we can hold a totally erroneous theory about bicycle balancing without getting into any trouble, unless we try to design the bicycle in accordance with our faulty theory. That is when we will get into trouble. In the economy, we can enrich one another without knowing how we do it. And we can maintain completely fallacious views of how any economy works without creating any great difficulties for anyone. But if our practical success generates excessive confidence in our erroneous theory, and we try to use that theory to improve the operation of the system, we can do a great deal of damage. When we put faulty theories about bicycle riding into practice, we are instantly refuted. Few of us are either stubborn or stupid enough to persist in a faulty theory that is skinning our elbows or bruising our bottoms. We admit our ignorance. There is nothing similar, however, to correct faulty theories that are applied to the reconstruction of economic systems. The links between causes and effects are too numerous and too difficult to trace.”

—Paul Heyne
“Why Johnny So Rarely Learns Any Economics,”
in Richard M. Ebeling, ed., Economic Education:
What Should We Learn About the Free Market?

(Hillsdale College Press, 1994)

Competition and Cooperation

“Now what the critics of economic competition overlook is that–when it is conducted under a good system of laws and a high standard of morals–it is itself a form of economic cooperation…. General Motors and Ford are not cooperating directly with each other; but each is trying to cooperate with the consumer, with the potential car buyer. Each is trying to convince him that it can offer him a better car than its competitor, or as good a car at a lower price. Each is “compelling” the other—or, to state it more accurately, each is stimulating the other—to reduce its production costs and to improve its cars. Each, in other words, is “compelling” the other to cooperate more effectively with the buying public. And so, indirectly,—triangularly, so to speak—General Motors and Ford cooperate. Each makes the other more efficient.”

—Henry Hazlitt
The Foundations of Morality

The New Manifest Destiny

“Traditionally, the nation-state provided two major benefits, both of which tended to increase with the state’s territory … physical protection against external enemies and an extensive internal market…. But the first … is becoming less important with the spread of democratic forms of government, because democracies are highly disinclined to make war on their neighbors; and the second is becoming less important with the growth of international trade and commerce—some of it due to the liberalizing actions of governments, some of it due to the emergence of technologies resistant to government control, all of it tending to make the economic benefits of extended markets available without regard to the geographic size of the individual state.”

—Christopher Demuth
President of the American Enterprise Institute
The American Enterprise,
Vol. 6, March/April 1995