February, 2021

The Struggle for a Better World

  • Peter J. Boettke

    Director, F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics
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In The Struggle for a Better World, Peter J. Boettke explores how the social sciences, and political economy in particular, help us understand society and its institutions of governance. Boettke advances an approach for understanding, articulating, and pursuing a coherent and consistent vision of a society of free and responsible individuals who may prosper through voluntary participation in the market and their communities. In this volume, a collection of addresses, lectures, and papers over the past two decades, Boettke articulates ideas which, if consistently pursued, can help fulfill liberalism’s emancipatory promise to advance human flourishing and overcome adversity caused by economic, social, and political injustice and repression. Boettke advocates for liberal cosmopolitanism, grounded in the principles of equality, justice, and liberty, and the basic recognition that all people are dignified equals, as the best hope for a better world.



“In his deep and eloquent book, Boettke makes the case for liberalism—‘liberalism’ understood not as ‘tentative socialism’ but in its root meaning, of a society without slaves. No subordination of women to men, adult children to fathers, subjects to tyrants. But it is not in Boettke’s vision cruel. His liberalism is generous and openhanded and respectful, willing to listen, really listen, in an age of closed ears. Open yours, and read his book.” — Deirdre Nansen McCloskey, Distinguished Professor of Economics, History, English, and Communication, University of Illinois at Chicago; Author of Why Liberalism Works

“Peter Boettke succeeds in integrating the best scholarly ideas from more than two centuries into a coherent narrative explaining the condition that Western societies are in today. He also clarifies the opportunities we have to escape the worst tendencies of our age. This book is an excellent melding of solid scholarship with analysis of today’s urgent public concerns.” — Mario J. Rizzo, Associate Professor of Economics and Director, Foundations of the Market Economy Program, New York University; Co-Author of Escaping Paternalism

“In Book III of his Politics, Aristotle said: ‘Equality seems to be just and it is, but not to everyone, only to those who are equal to begin with. And so, inequality seems to be just, and, indeed, it is, but not for all people, only those who are not equal.’ How can equality and inequality both be just? The answer is that justice is a complex concept, and any society is the product of rules and conventions; those rules matter more than they should. We live in an optimistic moment of history, when it has become clear that open societies, property rights, and free exchange among equals is capable of ending poverty. But we live in a pessimistic moment of history, when crude egalitarian dogma threatens to destroy the very equality of opportunity that has brought us this far. Boettke writes a ‘pessimistically optimistic’ assessment of where we are, and where we might go. Echoing the tension identified by Aristotle, Boettke shows that societies have become a battleground between the capacities of individuals to create and cooperate in new ways, and our atavistic brain architectures that makes us want to transform the sin of envy into a confused version of social justice.” — Michael C. Munger, Professor of Political Science, Economics, and Public Policy, Duke University, Author of Tomorrow 3.0 


Table of Contents:

Introduction: Economic and Political Liberalism: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow
1. The Battle of Ideas: Economics and the Struggle for a Better World
2. Economics and Public Administration
3. Liberty vs. Power in Economic Policy in the 20th and 21st Centuries
4. What Happened to “Efficient Markets”?
5. Is State Intervention in the Economy Inevitable?
6. Why Does Government Overspend? Because It Has Too Much Power
7. The Role of the Economist in a Free Society
8. Don’t Be a “Jibbering Idiot”: Economic Principlesand the Properly Trained Economist
9. Information and Knowledge: Austrian Economics in Search of Its Uniqueness
10. What Should Classical Liberal Political Economists Do?
11. Context, Continuity, and Truth: Theory, History, and Political Economy
12. Fearing Freedom: The Intellectual and Spiritual Challenge to Liberalism
13. Rebuilding the Liberal Project
14. The Reception of Free to Choose and the Problem of the Tacit Presuppositions of Political Economy
15. Competition, Discovery, and the Pursuit of Happiness: The Case for International Liberalism in Our Time
16. Pessimistically Optimistic about the Future
Conclusion: Liberalism, Socialism, and Our Future
About the Author