A Question for John Hasnas

John Hasnas writes: “ ‘The only way to win is not to play.’ In my opinion, this is a perfect description of the game of politics.”

But is politics an optional game? Isn’t it rather the sort of game such that, if someone with values or beliefs or interests antithetical to yours decides to play, you have to play too, or lose? And maybe politics has no outside anyway; maybe there is no bench one can sit on while others are playing politics. Liberty, and the free market, and property rights in emerging technologies, are just another set of political arrangements that will be contested and defended through and by means of politics. “Not playing” is just one sort of stance within the game - and probably a poor one that leaves the initiative, and the decisions, to others.

Also from this issue

Lead Essay

  • Philip Wallach describes rising skepticism about the administrative state in our representative government. But what can be done about it? Populists promise to return the government to the people, and yet effective government in the modern world to a high degree requires technical expertise. Libertarians have a telling diagnosis of the problem, says Wallach, but few workable solutions. If Congress is to regain control of the sprawling administrative state, it will have to demonstrate that it is willing and able to govern instead.

Response Essays

  • Clyde Wayne Crews finds much to agree with in Philip Wallach’s diagnosis of administrative sprawl. But then he asks: Why not rein it in? Other countries have done so, and we have even taken some important and bipartisan steps in that direction before. The bureaucratic pretense of expertise has never been so clearly exposed as it is today, and we should take the opportunity to improve the regulatory environment before incipient technologies, like autonomous cars and commercial drone transport, are caught in the regulatory web.

  • Adrian Vermeule openly doubts that the administrative state faces a legitimacy crisis. He observes that Congress itself created the administrative state, and that it remains firmly in control of its creature. Moreover, the public appears fairly content with the administrative state that we have, and certainly shows no inclination to scrap the whole thing. Both these observations should count, he suggests, in any consideration of the administrative state’s legitimacy. In short, there is no crisis here, and no radical solutions are warranted.

  • John Hasnas does not think that the administrative state can be reformed. But it can be outpaced. This, he says, offers hope for libertarians, whereas politics does not. The administrative state is inherently slow to adjust to new social developments, and liberty will always exist just a few steps ahead of it.