Richard Epstein

Election Eve Meditation

Cross-posted from The Dangerous Servant.


I don’t like to make political endorsements and, on principle, I certainly don’t discuss my vote before an election (the protection a secret ballot offers me from harassment and intimidation only works if I keep my preference a secret). I was stunned to read in an email yesterday, “I had no idea high-information, intelligent undecided voters even existed!” You know, as if the choice between an underwhelming incumbent president, an underwhelming challenger, a list of names with no mathematical chance to win, and not voting at all is an easy one to make. If your only goal is to beat the incumbent, then your decision is easier than mine. I, however, don’t only want to beat the incumbent; I want to elect a president worthy of the exercise of one of my most sacred rights, the right to vote.

Scholars seek to reclaim the term “liberal” from governmentalists


There is a push in libertarian circles to reclaim the term “liberal,” a word that once represented a hands off approach to government, from those who advocate for the “governmentalization of social affairs.”

Through Liberalism Unrelinquished, an effort spearheaded by Kevin Frei, a number of scholars are declaring that they will not surrender use of “liberal” to describe their views. The organizers of the statement hope to attract 500 or more signers.

The statement explains that “liberal” once represented the views of Enlightenment era, perhaps best identified through the work of Adam Smith, an 18th Century moral philosopher and the father of modern economics.

Smith laid the foundation for the moral case for capitalism in The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) and The Wealth of Nations (1776). The statement also points to Richard Cobden, William Gladstone, and John Bright — 19th Century British liberals who advanced laissez-faire economic views.

The American founders enshrined the liberal concepts of the Enlightenment era into the Declaration of Independence and, later, the United States Constitution.

“Especially from 1880 there began an undoing of the meaning of the central terms, among them the word liberal,” the statement reads. “The tendency of the trends of the past 130 years has been toward the governmentalization of social affairs. The tendency exploded during the First World War, the Interwar Years, and the Second World War.”

Reason chats with Richard Epstein

Nick Gillespie of Reason TV recently spoke with Richard Epstein, author of Takings: Private Property and the Power of Eminent Domain and How Progressives Rewrote the Constitution, on the presidency of Barack Obama, spending, taxes and many other issues.

Here is the interview:

Big government means less trust

In his most recent column, Richard Epstein, auther of Takings: Private Property and the Power of Eminent Domain and How Progressives Rewrote the Constitution,  discusses the lack of trust Americans have in their government:

[I]n today’s situation, the maxim takes on greater urgency because the loss of trust in our public institutions does not stem from fear of corrupt actions by this or that dishonest public official. Rather, the weariness arises from the deep conviction that we should worry about conscientious government officials who are on a fool’s errand. Global confidence is down. This past Saturday the papers were covered with headlines about how “optimism fades,” or that “earnings are down” or even that “the rich” are cutting back and tightening the belt. The American dream is itself under siege.

This uneasiness about public trust would not be news if it were confined to libertarians and other small-government types who flat-out resent any state intrusion in to private affairs. But the public malaise on trust runs far broader. It covers wide segments of the population who are not the card-carrying libertarians who utter before bed each night, “Those who govern best govern least.”

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