The centuries-long debate between conservatives and progressives about governance, argues Michael Munger, is essentially a disagreement about a simple concept: whether the State is a unicorn.
Unicorns, of course, are fabulous horse-like creatures with a large spiraling horn on their forehead. They eat rainbows, but can go without eating for years if necessary. They can carry enormous amounts of cargo without tiring. And their flatulence smells like pure, fresh strawberries, which makes riding behind them in a wagon a pleasure.
For all these reasons, unicorns are essentially the ideal pack animal, the key to improving human society and sharing prosperity.
The problem, of course, is that while unicorns may exist in our imaginations, they do not exist in reality. Similarly, certain progressive views of the State are like unicorns, they have the “properties, motivations, knowledge, and abilities that they can imagine for it.” The goal of the liberty movement, says Munger, is to “persuade citizens that our opponents are the idealistic ones, because they believe in unicorns. They understand very little about the State that they imagine they can design.”
To help them see reality, he offers the “Munger Test”: