Debate Debate

In comments to this post Will Wilkinson notes that by “winning the debate” I mean “winning elections while having a debate about this” rather than “winning the debate on the merits.” I don’t know that the debate on the merits really can be won. It seems to me, it has always seemed to me, and it will always seem to me that the strong claims of ideological libertarianism (as opposed to the empirical observation that this or that government program might not be a good idea) are just patently and obviously absurd, though I know perfectly well that this view is held by many intelligent, though grossly immoral individuals. It strikes me as a tautology to say that coercion in the pursuit of the common good is justified, and, indeed, necessary, though as I say people disagree and I don’t know how one could possibly resolve such a disagreement. Hence we clash on the field of politics where the pro-coercion side deploys coercion (we’re pro-coercion, after all) and the anti-coercion side deploys dishonesty (since most people want what’s best for most people).

I recall a really good blank stare moments from back when I was in a seminar taught by Robert Nozick my junior year in college. Do you really believe that?

UPDATE II: Ah, I see Volokh has a reply on this point. I find it pretty unconvincing. Basically he says the outlandish hypothetical he outlines wouldn’t fall under the conditions laid out by the suspension clause. It seems to me, though, that if we’re going to bend the rules anywhere, it would be better to bend them here than to do the bending Volokh is contemplating. More broadly, absent “rebellion or invasion” or the threat of an imminent invasion it just doesn’t seem that you have the sort of compelling threat to the country that would warrant a setting aside of the normal rules of procedural justice. The constitution is not a suicide pack, but losing operational control over Falluja for a limited period of time isn’t suicide.