"On another subject, you write:I respond:
“It fits my story - I was conservative in high school, was a libertarian that dropped all the stuff I didn't like about conservatism when I moved into college, and as I learned more and more economics I became much less libertarian (some people may become more libertarian, but they probably have different starting points).”
It doesn’t fit mine. I was a classical liberal in high school, became a more extreme libertarian as I thought more about the question and learned more economics.
And I would expect, on average, that learning economics would make people more libertarian. The strongest argument against laissez-faire, although not the best, is the difficulty of seeing how a decentralized system can coordinate production. Understanding that is central to understanding economics, so learning it makes one more, not less, likely to approve of a laissez-faire system.
It’s true that there are more sophisticated economic arguments against laissez-faire, but there are also more sophisticated economic arguments against those arguments, most obviously public choice theory.
My expectation is consistent with my observation. Most economists are less libertarian than I am but more libertarian than other social scientists. And extreme libertarians in academia, although rare, seem to very often be economists."
I think learning economics would make people value things like spontaneous order more. I find it grating that libertarians identify this so instinctively with libertarianism. Libertarianism and anarchism are examples of quite extreme social engineering in a lot of ways (obviously any given libertarian is going to vary in the extent to which this characterizes them - Hayek, for example, was very good at seeing the risk of things like this).I think it's wrong to think about something like public choice as a theory of why laissez faire works. Public choice is a theory about the behavior of public figures particularly as it relates to problems posed by social welfare theory. Libertarians that like public choice theory make certain public choice arguments, but non-libertarians use other types of public choice arguments (although it's often just called "political economy" in that case).
So I'd say if you came in not appreciating spontaneous order you ought to come out of economic education appreciating it a lot more. But that doesn't seem like quite the same thing as libertarianism to me. I may try to post on this this weekend, because I think the conflation of the two is pervasive.
I think it's very dangerous to equate these positive ideas with normative allegiances.
David may not be familiar with stuff I've written in the past on libertarian social engineering, but I think most readers probably are. Libertarianism, in many renditions (as I noted, Hayek is [often] a very important exception), is very much a viewpoint that militates against spontaneous order, although it's more amenable to spontaneous order in some fields. Virtually any dedication to a radical reorientation of social institutions is going to have some tension with spontaneous order. I want to tinker around. I'm not terrified of social engineering. It's one of the neat things that we humans are capable - re-imagining our society and then doing something about it. But I don't think any of the changes I'm interested in making are anywhere near as radical or disruptive as what libertarians want to do.