A dialogue between a socialist and a liberal

Liberal: Radical castration of the state is required.
The state should remain minimal.
The state should become a night watchman.

Socialist: To do this, we must stop promoting the freedom to do whatever you want to. People in their behavior should be guided not by their own personal gain, they should think about how their behavior affects other people.


L.: It’s necessary to stop blowing the state out of proportion. Let people pursue their private interests within the frames of law the way they find comfortable for themselves. The state shouldn’t interfere with them.

S.: It should be somehow coordinated with the actions of other states. Freedom of state’s actions is limited by other states. And people should pursue not their private interests, but common ones.

L.: The statement about the “interests of the state” is always and everywhere a smokescreen for covering up the use of power to achieve someone’s own interests to the detriment of other people’s interests.
No, no.
Let everyone pursue his own interests.

S.: Exactly the pursuit of personal interests makes people unite into states. This way it’s easier to reach them and make work for them the ones who failed to unite in a sufficiently strong gang for protection of their personal interests.

L.: Oh, that’s another talk. The state is a gang. That’s the talk of real men.

S.: The pursuit of personal interests turns the states into gangs. The pursuit of public interest destroys these gangs.

L.: People always pursue personal interests. Anytime and anywhere.

S.: No, people can solve their problems in different ways. Here is, for example, a bright evidence of the father of the Singapore’s nation Lee Kuan Yew: “I had two ways. The first one – to steal and bring my friends into the lists of Forbes, while leaving my own people on the bare ground. The second one – to serve my people and lead the country to the top ten of the best countries in the world. I chose the latter.”

Another example. A man sacrifices his life for the lives of others. So only from the point of view of the Liberals people always and everywhere pursue only their personal interests. The things that it’s not so doesn’t bother them.

L.: The fact that people sacrifice their lives doesn’t mean that they don’t pursue their own goals. This means that in order to achieve some of the goals they are willing to sacrifice their lives.

S.: Recognition of the existence of these goals is a step forward. There remains just to learn calling them “public goals”.

L.: These are private interests. Some people even kill themselves and hundreds of other people together with them to achieve such goals. This is called terrorism.

S.: Terrorists kill, and don’t save. What does a man who saves the others win for himself from his own death? Nothing. Therefore, such a person gives his life for the sake of society, he is driven by the public interest, not personal.

The position from which the Liberal talks in the dialogue can be described as methodological individualism, developed by Friedrich Hayek in the framework of the Austrian School of Economics. A few words about this approach. We can deduce the properties of the society from the properties of individual behavior of its members, like, for example, we can deduce the properties of a substance based on the properties of its constituent molecules. The problem is that liberals empower people solely with selfish desires, as if we would endow the molecules of the substance only with the property to repel each other. However, depending on the properties of the molecules, we have gas, liquid or solid, but not exclusively gas. And with the public it’s also this way, according to existing norms, their destruction, recovery or introduction of new ones, we will have a different society.

Liberals downplay moral and ethical norms and assert that egotism is the strongest and most “natural” stimulus that determines the world order. Hayek even saw the whole meaning of the social sciences in the study of this, as he saw it, “spontaneous” world order. Where do things stand in reality? Dan Ariely has shown with his experiments that moral and ethical incentives are stronger than the market ones (see the book by Dan Ariely, Predictably Irrational, ch. 4, The Cost of Social Norms: Why We Are Happy to Do Things, but Not When We Are Paid to Do Them).