9-7-16 – David Boaz on Individualism and Community

by John McClaughry

One of my favorite thinkers is David Boaz, longtime executive vice president of the libertarian Cato Institute. In a recent editorial he discussed individualism, community and coercion, and I’d like to share two paragraphs with you.

“As Don Boudreaux wrote in The Essential Hayek, “the close personal connections, the on-going face-to-face communications, and the mutual affections that bind together members of … small groups give each member in these small groups such deep knowledge that they can deal with one another personally.”

“In contrast, in the larger society, where we interact with strangers and even with people we will never meet, we need general rules to allow us to live together peacefully…More formally known as rights of property and contract. Within that simple framework we can create, innovate, trade and build.

“And every tax, mandate and prohibition interferes with our ability to cooperate with others to construct our own lives as we – not our rulers – see fit. That’s the problem with appeals to community and communal values that turn out in practice to mean coercive policies and in the end a political battle to impose our own agendas on others and take other people’s resources for our own use. The end of that process is Venezuela.”

“Fortunately our Constitution and the good sense of the American people have kept us from reaching such a point – so far.”

Thank you, David Boaz.

– John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute

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The Ethan Allen Institute is Vermont’s free-market public policy research and education organization. Founded in 1993, we are one of fifty-plus similar but independent state-level, public policy organizations around the country which exchange ideas and information through the State Policy Network.

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