You seem to be very into the idea of rights and freedom, but your economic development essays, while very interesting, seem a bit (not go around applying ideological labels) redolent of central planning and a certain how shall I say Make-the-trains-run-on-time vibe? Would you really do stuff like that if you were a Lord Paramount, or is it just a thought exercise on what might be the best thing to do if the people were 100% on board?

Well, this is a first; haven’t been called a fascist in an ask before. (And no, the cutesy, “I won’t put a label on it” attitude doesn’t make it any less offensive.) I’m going to be charitable and assume that you’re coming from a rather blinkered perspective where all forms of economic planning are considered signs of totalitarianism. I’m also going to assume that you’re fairly new to my work, and haven’t picked up on the fact that I’m a Jewish social democrat; I don’t particularly hide either fact.

So allow me to clarify: 

  1. There are many frameworks of thinking about rights and freedoms, especially in an economic context. Libertarianism is not the only one, nor (IMO) is it the best one, especially for this particular topic. A lot of big name libertarians – Robert Nozick, Walter Block, Murray Rothbard, etc. – got themselves tied up in knots specifically on the point of feudalism and similar systems of private coercion, due to how they’d previously defined freedom and oppression, public and private, etc. 
  2. Economic planning is not inherently totalitarian and there are many forms of economic planning which have been pursued in liberal democracies – democratic economic planning (where geographic or economic groups of people vote on economic objectives; a good example of this is the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, where farmers were supposed to vote on production levels in order to achieve necessary swings in prices); tripartite planning (where economic stakeholders – usually labor groups and business groups, but often including government as well, and sometimes including consumer groups – are invited to negotiate on wages, working conditions, prices, and other economic objectives), indicative planning (where the state uses soft targets for economic objectives and then uses incentives like finance, subsidies, taxation, and “jawboning” to influence private sector behavior), Keynesian demand management (which usually refers to counter-cyclical fiscal and monetary policymaking; although notably Keynes himself argued that investment would have to be socialized…), to name a few.
  3. Political ideas especially have to be discussed in historical context, because they usually don’t make sense or couldn’t function outside of that context. As I’ve complained in the past, it doesn’t make much sense to ask what political party any ASOIAF character would belong to, because they’re all (with the exception of Davos) medieval aristocrats who don’t have any concept of a modern mass democracy. Ditto, it doesn’t make sense to try to slap a fascist label on an imaginary Lord Paramount because the key elements of historical context – an industrialized economy, mass media, the rise of the nation-state and nationalism, cultural reactions to new forms of “modernity,” etc. – aren’t present.

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