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More than intellectual golf? – Econlib

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” What has it meant to you in the past, and might there be a way to apply this caution to the way we approach politics? That’s what this episode is about. It’s fan favorite Mike Munger’s 44th appearance on EconTalk, and one of my favorites yet. The conversation starts with Munger describing his 2008 run for Governor of North Carolina, and the lessons he learned based on constituents’ response to his education platform. (It involved vouchers…)

There’s a lot to dig into here as always, so let’s get right to it. We’d like to hear more of what you think related to this episode. Please use the prompts below to share your thoughts in the comments. Or use them to start your own conversation offline. We’re here for it.



1- How does Munger describe the difference between directionalists and destinationists? Which one better characterizes you? Explain.

(Bonus: In a recent episode of the Great Antidote podcast at AdamSmithWorks, host Juliette Sellgren and guest Mark Calabria discuss the question, “Should people who care deeply about increasing freedom work for the government?” How would you answer this question, and how do you think this relates to directionalists versus destinationists?)


2- Munger says, “It may be that the reason we can’t have nice things is that my side has constantly–that is the directionalists–have constantly conceded the moral high ground.” What does he mean by that? Which do you think are more effective- consequentialist or moral arguments? Is the distinction between the two any more than just intellectual golf? Explain.


3- Roberts reminds us of Milton Friedman‘s policy proposals in Capitalism and Freedom, now nearly 60 years ago, saying Friedman’s arguments were more pragmatic than moral. How successful were Friedman’s policy prescriptions? What about the minimum wage? Do you agree with Munger that “we” have effectively never tried to argue against a minimum wage on moral grounds? What would a compelling moral argument of this kind look like, and how successful do you think such an argument could be?


4- Russ asserts, “I think, the number of people who believe in the value of liberty for its own sake in the United States is larger than ever as a proportion of the population [today].” To what extent do you agree? Who are all these people on “our side,” and how do they find themselves there? To what extent do principles stands proliferate in politics today? (You might want to read this Kevin Corcoran post at EconLog on anchor versus derivative preferences. Then consider, who are the people whose anchor preference is liberty, and how and where do we find them?)


5- Roberts asks Munger if he’s ever read a book that–written in the last 100 years–made the moral case for capitalism and that was persuasive to an open-minded skeptic? What do you think of the books Roberts and Munger note in this regard? How would you answer that question?





Rayna Prime

Rayna Prime

Rayna Prime Editor