Tuesday, September 13, 2011

From the secret history of liberalism

Scott Horton has a good "6 questions" interview with U-Chicago prof Bernard Harcourt (who, now that I think of it, I've seen commenting around the internet too) about Harourt's new book The Illusion of Free Markets: Punishment and the Myth of Natural Order. Interesting stuff: here's question # 1 and the beginning of Harcourt's response.
Your book builds off an intriguing study of the eighteenth-century French Physiocrats — François Quesnay, Pierre-Paul Le Mercier de la Rivière, and others — in which you suggest that their theories of economics closely parallel what we have come to think of as the Chicago School. What exactly are the parallels, and how did this idea come about?

It’s the messianic belief in natural order in economics — in spontaneous order, as Friedrich von Hayek called it — or today in the efficiency of free markets, conjoined with a faith in strong government to deal with those who are outside the natural order — who are out-of-order, or disorderly. It’s the combination of those two paradoxical tenets — of government incompetence when it comes to regulating the economy and government competence when it comes to policing and punishing — that links these thinkers.
I would've told him to subtitle it "From the Physiocrats to the Tea Party," but that's just the low way I think.

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