The Welfare State Atomizes… And It’s Great!

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Libertarians have long argued that the socialist or interventionist state, despite its promises of building up community, in fact destroys families, communities and social cohesion in general. Tyler Cowen, who seems to have “matured” since his younger days as an Austrian and libertarian, sees this effect as well… But he likes it:

But what I enjoy most about Sweden is the sense of freedom… Let’s be blunt: much of this freedom stems from government, and what you get is freedom from other people. People are not less free of the tax man, but in Sweden you don’t need other people very much to insure your economic well-being. You can do your own thing, without much fear (relatively speaking, of course) of personal oppression from others. You really can choose which personal relationships you wish to have. Autonomy reigns. The Swedish family is, of course, fractured. For all of its collectivist reputation, Sweden is the land of the true individualist, sometimes verging on atomism. At will you can go off into the woods and eat your lingonberries, weather of course permitting.

“Non-state oppression” may indeed be something that should be opposed as Roderick Long claims, (though I am not convinced that you can avoid it while living in society… Societies push for some degree of cohesiveness and conformity whether around the values of the Roman Empire or Christianity). But Cowen’s willingness to have state oppression to avoid non-state oppression seems to me a very bad and short-sighted bargain.

5:57 pm on October 27, 2006