Libertarians work?

Corey Robinson has a pretty good take on the Cato Institute controversy, which seems to be libertarians worrying that money might be able to force a particular worldview on the rest of us. I know, shocker.

It’s worth a read, but I did want to add one more thing; Julian Sanchez let the cat out of the bag on one other major libertarian belief: that people only do their jobs for money, and they only do them well if compensation is tied to performance. Sanchez gives a pretty good reason as to why he couldn’t do his job as an analyst and writer well if Cato were to become a (more obvious) partisan organization, since his job is to tell the truth as he sees it, not bullshit people to advance a particular viewpoint.

Strangely enough, that’s pretty much the opposite of what libertarians believe about workers. The general belief that I’ve come across is that people do their jobs because they get paid, and a personal will to do a decent job enters nobody’s calculation. Don’t believe me? Check out this video from when Reason tried to get Matt Damon to agree that teachers should be treated like Walmart cashiers. Part of the reason conservatives and libertarians can’t stand teachers is because their salary generally isn’t tied to performance, it’s way below what someone of that skill level doing work that important would make in a comparable field, but they still do it because they love making a difference and doing their job well.

They pretend not to get that when it comes to “liberalizing the work force,” since threatening a worker with starvation is the only way to get them to put in an honest day’s work. When it comes to obscene bonuses in finance firms, the justification is that’s the only way to get people to perform well.

But when it comes to Sanchez’s personal experiences, suddenly he’s a human being whose soul can’t be bought. If he couldn’t make as much money as he’s currently making elsewhere (which is true if he’s a rational, utility-maximizing being), then he’s going to have to take a pay cut for his principles. Not really all that libertarian.


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