Our free society rests on the fact that human beings are first and foremost sovereign individuals with the capacity for self-rule and self-directedness. But what do we do when disaster strikes? Natural calamities--earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, and the like--seem to warrant an expansion of governmental authority beyond what a free society would sanction. But principles, explains Hoover fellow Tibor R. Machan in Liberty and Hard Cases (Hoover Press, 2002), are tested by such hard cases. Despite the temptation to abandon the principle of limited government in the face of calamities, we might do well to encourage the development of institutions that handle these problems without the involvement of government.
Liberty and Hard Cases explores whether government action is in fact indispensable under such circumstances and what might be done to restrain the expansion of the scope of governmental power if indeed emergency circumstances warrant governmental intervention. The contributors, experts in the fields of ethics and public policy, examine the role of government in responding to national catastrophes as well as the role of the free market in dealing with natural disaster. They offer ways to reduce--but not entirely eliminate--the scope of government in disaster relief. And they present a case for fully privatizing catastrophe insurance--and explain how to make it work.
In emergencies, especially those that have a wide impact on a society, the opportunities for demagoguery abound, as those who administer public policy become the ultimate arbiters of what will be acceptable public policy. Liberty and Hard Cases offers a refreshing approach to maintaining our individual freedom in the face of calamity.
About the editor: Tibor R. Machan is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and a professor at the Argyros School of Business and Economics at Chapman University. His writings have appeared in the Humanist, the National Review, Barron’s, the American Scholar, and numerous daily newspapers throughout the country.
The Hoover Institution, founded at Stanford University in 1919 by Herbert Hoover, who went on to become the 31st president of the United States, is an interdisciplinary research center for advanced study on domestic public policy and international affairs.