I need your views, again (updated)

I am impressed. My expectation was that there will be some good answers to my questions but the result was much better.

Thank you for taking the time to answer.All are really good answers and thought provoking. Especially the idea, which showed up few times, of a libertarian working for a state to undermine it from the inside.  I am not sure if this would work more than one electoral cycle but it is a thought.

Also interesting to see, that some of you find a role for a libertarian working for the state providing a public good , i.e. healthcare, which in your view creates value to the entire society. I wonder who should be able to choose those public goods that should be provided by the state and cannot be provided as efficient by the private sector. I can only really think of the justice system being one, for the rest if freed from taxes the private sector can provide services with superior value to those provided by the state.

Regarding the conflict of interests,  I do not see one if a libertarian is working as a policy maker and promotes policies that would lead to a smaller state. There is a grey area in my view when we talk about libertarians working as employees for the state.

However, to me conflict of interest does not arise only between a libertarian/liberal and the state. It is present within an institution, or for those people that work for the state and private sector in the same time. Conflict of interest is in my view access to privileged information and using it to further your own well being.

I asked the question about the conflict of interests because I see too many examples in Romania of people either working for a private institution and heading a public body or working for a public institution  and in the same time be a board member in a private company where the state has some shares.

Thank you again for your views. Is good to see that there are some people out there that see value in a smaller state.



The original post here:

I am a bit busy this morning but I do have two questions for you.

Do you think that libertarian/liberals/supporters of a minimal state should work for public institutions?

What does conflict of interest mean to you?

To be clear, I am in favor of a small, very small state.

Let me know what you think.




19 thoughts on “I need your views, again (updated)

  1. The fathers of the American republic were supporters of a minimal state, nevertheless they were all involved in political affairs. Being libertarian in not opposed to public involvement. However, a libertarian or liberal should not be involved in a socialist way of conducting public affairs. So, such a man has two opportunities: a pro-reform government in a socialist environment (Europe, mostly) or a liberal government in a liberal environment.

  2. It depends on what would that work imply. If the libertarian/liberal/supporter of a minimal state were to perform a job as a public employee, which could have been outsourced to the private sector, then yes, from a moral point of view you have a conflict of interest. If that person provides services to the public sector, but is not a public employee, then he should have no ethical issues (assuming of course that he is not one of those guys who get contracts for having the right public/political connections).

    On the other hand if I were to be a fireman/policemen, and a libertarian, then I would not see a conflict of interest, since the private sector is not likely to take on such services for profit purposes.

  3. There are many types of libertarians/liberals, from the ones that see all forms of state action as bad, to the ones that recognize there is some reason to have some state institutions. In general I guess is a conflict of interest to work in an institution that you believe is not necessary at all. You will everything you can to sabotage that institution, isn’t it?

  4. If they want to promote their ideas and get involved into politics, they would need to accept they could end-up working in a public institution. And they could end up in a a position which could be contrary to their views. In that case, they should probably try to reform the institution (e.g. shrink it).

    If one’s a libertarian and he’s not into politics or in other activities where he wants to promote his views and he’s working in a public institution, then no, probably he shouldn’t be there. But most probably he’s not a libertarian if he got there in the first place.

    Conflict of interest can be best assessed by a person rather than a law, or strict guideline. It’s when one is in position to influence decisions in a specific way but where he perceives his interest is to tilt the decision in another way.

    The more important a decision is, the more likely is that the person taking the decision is conflicted somewhat.

    I’m a libertarian at heart but a balanced one, willing to listen to the other point of view and some times accept it.

  5. This is funny :)))).

    Ok. I’ll tell you what I think.

    I think the monetarists shouldn’t work for BNR. (Some of them call themselves libertarian). This is the only sure thing.

    I think life with no state is just a dream, which means, yes he could work for a public institution. A minimal state doesn’t actually mean no state at all.

    An I’m not sure this would be a conflict of interest. A conflict of interests inspire to me two interests that diverge. The interests could be either directly material, or even something more at the ideology level.

    But, you know, I’m not very sure that the state’s interest is to keep on growing :)) I’m sure the state itself knows his limits, it’s just some people around who keep pushing it higher, and higher, by forcing it. Which actually means that a guy who would like to live and work within a sustainable happy state, and in the same time would do something in this respect, would do a good to the state. Imagine somebody putting a hard bag in you back, and than take the hardest thing from it little by little.

  6. Actually libertarians should work in public institutions to bring the system down from inside. That is what Ron Swanson does

  7. “Do you think that libertarian/liberals/supporters of a minimal state should work for public institutions?”
    Short answer: yes.
    Selfish long answer: Just don’t depend financially on the wage given by the public institution especially if you’d like it reduce its importance. You may be in the position of cutting your own salary in the future. 🙂

    “What does conflict of interest mean to you?”
    If a libertarian genuinely wants to increase the prosperity for the overall population then there can be no conflict of interest. The whole point of having public services is to help the overall population.

    There’s also the other side of the coin: Most politicians are inside the establishment to promote their own interests. That’s called conflict of interests. But they don’t sell it like it’s a conflict of interest.

    If you want to get inside the government and help at making it smaller and if you are not a thief then you are free of any conflict of interest.

  8. If you don’t have a moral problem to be paid with money that have been obtained by theft (taxes), then you can work for the state. But can you call yourself a true libertarian when you don’t apply to your personal behavior the moral values that you claim to believe in? Can you be a libertarian and, in the same time, a net beneficiary of the public system, on the expense of others?
    Well, maybe such a moral problem should also torture “libertarians” working for the banking system, as it is today, when taking into consideration the complicity in the theft (the fiat money system… fractionary reserves… multiplying credit…robbing people through inflation…).
    Using your position in a public institution to bring the system down from inside, according to your libertarian beliefs, as Radu Ionescu suggested, would position you in a conflict of interests….unless the job you signed the contract for were exactly about this: reducing the state, privatizing or closing public institutions.

    1. P.S. One can be a decent public servant (there are so many…teachers, doctors, firemen,etc), being useful to society and working in an honest manner for the money the state (the thief – in the libertarian view) is paying, but cannot be an honest libertarian at the same time

  9. Oana, I think being a virtuous is one thing, and being a narrow minded is another :). If you wanna see if something is ethical or not, you should imagine it at the general scale.

    Lets imagine we live in a world full of true honest libertarians, as you consider them they should be. Everybody becomes a libertarian and everybody subscribes to your doctrine, because finally everybody acknowledge that this is the pure universal truth.

    According to your view, if we take it to the general scale, who’s gonna be the teacher, the doctor, the judge, the policeman? In this state the state will not exist, at all. So, it results that as long as the state exists, your idea is not valid, and there exists a probability that at least some of the people working there are honest true libertarians.

    I don’t know much about doctrines, and this is why I never liked them and subscribed to them, I prefer specific solutions for specific problems. All of them are minimalistic, and make the people to be too narrow minded, in an unnatural way, and not open minded.

  10. Florin, i don’t agree with you either.

    I don’t see a problem, at the general scale, with working for both environments in the same time, and be a head, director, what ever. I think the morality problem goes to the individual level, not to the general level. As long as from the side of a private institution you support your employer’s interest, and when you head a meeting for the public institution you support your people’s interest, I don’t consider this to be a conflict of interests. It’s about the decisions one, at the individual level, takes for both his jobs, and his capacity to detach himself from the other job. The only problem is that there are not many people able to detach and keep their objectivity intact. But, again, this is immoral at the individual level, not at the general level.

    If you ask me I wish we would live in a state where some guyz working for the private businesses meet 1 h in the evening to discuss some state policy, or adopt a law supposed to be moral at the general level. And that’s it. This would create the minimalistic state all of us dream about, as we would pay too much for a 1h/1w job, and in the same time will bring the decision to the hands of the people actually involved in the private life, and knowing its problems, needs, injustice, and pitfalls.

    1. Well, I would love to see how a private banker will supervise the private system. Or a private banker that oversees a committee that advises on fiscal policy while his bank buys the bonds that finance that deficit.

      Here is another question: what if the interest of the private institution are against the interest of the public institution?
      Of what if the information available in the public institution can be used to increase the profits of the private institution?

      I could go on with examples but I do not see the point. The world is here today because we allowed conflict of interests, front-running clients, insider trading, etc.
      Show me one single case in Europe that punishes this?

      1. You don’t wanna know my opinion for the first issue, trust me :)))

        Exactly, is a question of individual morality. The individuals can’t detach themselves from their interests in their private life. But this is another story.

        It doesn;t matter if the interest of you employer and the state’s interest diverge, you are supposed to take the best decision while ruling on your private job, and the best decision while ruling on your public job. And it will gain whatever will prove to have had have more intrinsic value.

        The insider information is indeed a problem. But, again, is a question of individual ethics and self-esteem. We see insider info, and money made throughout insider info, in the private environment also, without the state’s implication. In the US this is punished when cases get on court, and sometimes start traders get their punish (like Milken, for instance, but not only), and they still have the phenomenon. Is part of the human nature and the lack of too many quality individuals inside a society, more than part of what the state punished or not.

        The only reason we could say that occupying certain jobs in the same time is immoral, is because people themselves, doing the jobs, are immoral, they are not quality persons, and not because at the general level it is immoral. :).

      2. @Lavinia
        Unfortunately we have to fill those positions with people,that is why we need to make sure they are not put in a position to test their morality.

  11. I agree on this one :)) Totally. It’s just I don’t agree with confusing ideas. It’s ok if you tell me that we shouldn’t allow them such a position only because there is a risk they will not act like quality people. Otherwise, at the general level, I don’t consider this to be immoral. Sometimes it may even help. But this is valid only under the condition of individual morality for the persons involved.

    I consider those in the fiscal council my enemies, and not representing me and my interest, because of one of their proposals made in the past, that proved that they exist for the state and for the increasing of the state, at the cost of the whole people, and not or the whole people. This is why I consider them immoral, and I consider we should be vary careful with all their proposals. I don’t care for whom are they working in their private life, this is cancan for me :).

    1. I am sorry, I have to come back to this. You cannot separate the two because humans maximize own utility. It is not a question of morals, is a question of being human. Put in a situation to cheat and use information to further ones own interests more often than not humans will look after their own interests. In extreme situation we revert to our core structure: survival of the fittest.
      The best examples of survival of the fittest these days are : the state and the banking sector. Both will cheat , lie, steal to remain alive. They represent the sum of decisions of the people involved in those sectors.

      In your example, there is a clear reason for choosing those people. The Fiscal Council in Romania is headed by a private banker and a central banker. How is that moral?

  12. :)))))

    Am fost la biserica si i-am promis lui God ca nu ma mai contrazic cu tine, la tine pe blog :)))) Asta e chiar ultima data :).


    I’ll die convinced that the best fiscal code would be made by the business people and investors, and not by those nice guyz, full of good intentions and armed with high morality standards and subscribing to a certain economic doctrine (any of them), who are willing to provide everybody in the state a better standard of living (unsustainable by the means of reality, most of the times, which makes their nice approach degenerating in unsustainable deficits, debts, and so on). Even if you would consider this to immoral. Just like I am 95% convinced that a better monetary policy could be made by the bankers themselves, than by the central bank. A high-intermediate to smart practitioner, if preferred, if you ask me.

    The problem with our fiscal council is that they are not the sort of guyz to follow their own interest, as people, (which is not double taxation), they aligned themselves to the state system. They sold their souls and themselves, for the sake of the state :))). They don’t think like a person from the outside, but like somebody from the inside the box.

    Take NBR for an example. What is more immoral, that some guyz got there on political considerations, or that some guyz got there after a natural selection process, but they brought the country to a balance of payments crises with their primitive view on killing inflation by using the currency appreciation, as their advices to the political guyz? A view actually recognized in the theory to almost always end in a balance of payments crisis. But the guyz didn’t read enough, as in the end we all could see. Who should be more to blame? How can you separate immorality from blame? Under my own calculation, they are all the same.

    Another example. If a greedy bankster is more able to increase the romanian industry than a stupid politician, or a stupid economics teacher, or a stupid central banker, is, allow me to prefer him to rule me, I invite him to do it. We are in crisis because actually we don’t have too many greedy banksters around, to follow their own interest in all of their decisions. It’s like everybody is defect, nobody has personal interest anymore, and nobody follows them anymore.

    I’m not the type of person ready to die in the first row for somebody’s else big ideas. I’m probably a practical person, and I follow one single rule in life: I like being able to feel proud of myself when I look in the mirror, and to overall feel comfortable with my decisions. And I’m usually more focused on concrete results than on the details around them. Just like in business. The goal is to make money, not to increase the productivity, you do this only and only if this brings more money. Is the same, but at another level.

    And this with: they work for I don’t know who, is a detail. My question is not who are they working for in their private lives, but what decisions did they take for me? You are moral or immoral according to the morality degree of your proposals and decisions, under my view, and not according to other details. May be this is why we can’t see things the same, we allow more credit to different structures of morality.

  13. Regarding that FC. I think is great to have a fiscal council, and I think is great to be formed by people outside the state employees and academics world, it should contain more people from the business world, the guyz who know more about costs and their impact on businesses and wages increases, and some people from banks, as they also may have some better insight. It’s just they should find other people, who can understand that double taxation is immoral, who can follow their own interest, as human beings, when they propose things to the state, and can find solutions and proposals to cut current spending, so that to take off idiotic things like double taxation, for everyone and everything. And be able to propose some fiscal issues to indeed sustain growth, mostly by investment than current spending of any kind (state wages), while little by little cutting these spending. If you can do this, you are 100% moral, doesn’t matter who you work for. :)))) You’ll gonne become a hero of the country.

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