Lucretius, the Libertarian?
By: Barry Belmont

No doubt you have come across Lucretius in your Humanities classes, perhaps even being so lucky as to have read his On the Nature of Things. Within it you will see one of the greatest expositions of Epicurian philosophy, intricate poetry, and systemic doubt in authority in all of history. A perfect example of this follows, where, as historian (poet, philosopher, renaissance woman) Jennifer Michael Hecht, “the idea that a world constantly managed by an intelligent force is much less efficient than a universe that generates itself according to regular principles” is developed.

Who can wheel all the starry spheres, and blow
Over all the land the fruitful warmth from above
Be ready in all places at all times,
Gather black clouds and shake the quiet sky
With terrible thunder, to hurl down bolts which often
Rattle his own shrines, to rage in the desert, retreating
For target drill, so that his shafts can pass
The guilty by and slay the innocent?

(Lucretius. On the Nature of Things. Translated and edited by Anthony M. Esolen.)

Basically, the idea that there is some person or god (or set of people or set of gods) who are in any way capable of managing the complexity of the world is absurd. This is the point that libertarian philosophy has been trying to hammer home ever since there was such a thing as libertarian philosophy: how could a person simply by writ control an entire population or environment or universe?

It’s a strong reminder that economics precedes according to a set of laws, and not simply because someone thinks they can tweak a few knobs on some imaginary panel label “The Economy.” Just as we have taken thunderbolts out of the hands of Jupiter, isn’t it time we did the same with the deathgrip politicians have on trade?

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