Jonathan Rauch on Democracy, Capitalism and Liberal Science

Jonathan Rauch gave a talk at a Campus Freedom Network Conference summarizing the argument in his book “Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought.” In addition to the link under the picture of Jonathan above, here is a link to a nice piece by Greg Lukianoff flagging the video: 

Jonathan Rauch on Why Free Speech is Even More Important than You Thought.

I loved Jonathan’s talk. I was struck by the similarities between Jonathan’s arguments for academic freedom in this video and Milton Friedman’s arguments for capitalism in the videos I marshalled in Milton Friedman: Celebrating His 100th Birthday with Videos of Milton.

The key elements of what Jonathan calls “liberal science” are its decentralization (no one in particular is in charge) and its rules. The discipline of criticism is just as necessary for ideas floated in the academy as the discipline of the market is for enterprises. However painful systems of trial and error are, if we interfere with the systems of trial and error, we will be saddled with errors.

Although in this video Jonathan is talking mainly about liberal science and only in passing about capitalism, the parallels made me appreciate the strength of Milton’s arguments even more than I had. And Milton’s arguments in turn, by the parallels, strengthen Jonathan’s case for liberal science. Finally, the arguments for both liberal science and capitalism strengthen the case for democracy; and the arguments for democracy strengthen the case for both liberal science and capitalism.

Postscript: Speaking of decentralization, some government functions (such as taking care of the poor) might be better served if they could be decentralized to nonprofit organizations. In particular, such decentralization allows a trial and error process to work its magic as donations shift away from the least effective nonprofits to more effective nonprofits. Because people love freedom, such decentralization of certain government functions has other advantages as well, as I argue in my post “No Tax Increase Without Recompense.” In that post, I propose a way to make sure such nonprofit efforts are adequately funded.