We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Part of the problem I have with some versions of the libertarian case is that they take capitalism (if not classical liberalism more generally) to be an argument against the need for restraints on our appetites and passions, rather than an argument for the possibility of such restraints — to be an argument for libertinism rather than liberty. I’m with Edmund Burke, who said that “men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites.”
In my view, a libertarian advocates your freedom to make your own choices and bear the results thereof, free of my judgment of what is wise or prudent. A libertarian would oppose laws that criminalize adultery or fornication among adults. That same libertarian might, if asked, counsel anyone against adultery and might even choose celibacy. A libertarian would oppose prohibition of alcohol and might use little or no alcohol personally. Libertinism as I understand it would encourage any "feels good" activity regardless of its true cost or who will bear the cost. It's easy to confuse the two ideas.
A free society with decent justice and law enforcement will, in fact, compel some level of restraint because almost all of us have appetites we can't pay for. I've got five or six of them myself. A moral society also tries to curb non-economic harmful appetites and uses the force of law when someone crosses Jefferson's boundary -- when the action picks my pocket or breaks my leg.
From an economic standpoint, I think the issue is that Burke is concerned that full liberty leads to excess indulgence. Which may be true.
But why should we limit excess indulgence? What we need to do is find ways to protect people who are risk-averse.
In other words, if I am an investor who takes inordinate and outsized risk, while you are a saver - I am putting the system at risk while you are not. Yet if I fail, massive support is available for me, while you will be penalized with taxes and fees to support me.
To make matters worse, the government then looks at this situation, realizes it's unfair, and says "in order to prevent this from happening again, we're going to limit outsized risks and prevent people from being to aggressive"
The problem with this is that it limits OVERALL risk. Your economy becomes risk-averse and stops growing altogether.
The government SHOULD have penalized the companies that hurt the economy by selling them off for pennies on the dollar and preventing their management from collecting bonuses and fees that were ridiculous. It would have hurt the system short term, but in the long run, debt would have been destroyed and the system would fix itself.
Instead, the government propped up the instigators, then worried about the bonuses and salaries that were (frankly) outsized. They weren't illegal - they were unjust. Only because they were paid out of money designed to benefit good performers. Justifiably, these companies APPEARED to be good performers based on government support. How ludicrous is that?
But it would have been equally unfair to prop them up and pass a law limiting salaries and bonuses. That would mean contracts are meaningless.
Instead - let the market do what the market does. These people would've been penalized, and future risks would've have been reduced out of FEAR OF RISK rather than having a government promoting MORAL HAZARD.
Moral hazard is only reduced by the market. If the government tries to do anything, it can only increase hazard OR outlaw it altogether. Problem is - both will kill your economy.
"an argument against the need for restraints on our appetites and passions"
Incorrect. Libertarians argue that such restraints should be self-imposed, and not fashioned by others and imposed on them.
The problem with Burke's concept is that liberty is a natural right, and not something one has to "qualify" for. Who has the right to be the judge on what "qualifies"? Why should your conception of what is a proper restraint take precedence over mine? Why should I allow the mobocracy to dictate their prejudices and conceits?
I think Geoff has it right in his last paragraph. There are some legal restraints that society imposes to prevent violation of others natural rights,... but they don't directly apply to capitalistic economic appetites.
I'm presuming that "greed" would be considered something to be restrained, but it isn't greed that needs restraint, but the methods legally accepted to satify that greed. Stealing, fraud, embezzlement...all no-no's. But hard work, enterprise, risk-taking in business and investments...why should those be restrained?
What should be restrained is our political system. Restrained from interfering with the risk-taking of others. There should not be such a thing as too-big-to-fail...those institutions should be allowed to fail. Meddling with other's risk-taking insures we ruin the feedback necessary for a self-regulating system. Preventing failure short-circuits risk management.