pp. 165-169: Peter Lewin

Advocating for Freedom in a Complex World: The Efficacy of Strongly-Held Convictions
Studies in Emergent Order, Vol. 7, 2014


Doing Bad by Doing Good (Coyne 2013) is a worthy follow-up to and extension of Christopher Coyne’s powerful After War (2008). It emerges from the realization that all forms of government-sponsored intervention, whether overtly coercive or not, share certain inescapable dangers and limitations. These are very well articulated by Coyne in both books, and together they provide formidable ammunition for the point of view he is championing. But my goal is neither to praise – nor to criticize. I share Coyne’s convictions and I believe his arguments in support of them. I would like rather to explore the challenges that all such arguments face. We are not dealing with mathematical theorems or simple experiments. We are dealing with policy espousal in a complex world where there are no decisive proofs and the “evidence” is problematic. This means that any victory for strongly-held convictions will be hard won and will come from an appeal to both facts and values.

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