Cold Fusionism

So, you know how my blognado was supposed to get my juices flowing again?  Yeah, well so much for that plan.  I can plead all manner of excuses: I’ve started a new project at work that’s tapping my creative juices, I didn’t want to touch the contraception issue because my distaste for the Catholic Church made it impossible for me to be at all objective, the sun was in my eyes.  But none of that matters, because I’m back.

I’ve been thinking lately about political ideology and the way libertarianism functions in politics (or at least how it fails to do so), mostly because of l’affaire Cato, though I don’t really want to talk about Cato in specific because I can’t imagine what I could say that would be relevant given that there are plenty of people who actually know what they’re talking about (such as Will Wilkinson or Jason) commenting on it already.  As a general rule I try to avoid talking about things when I have no idea what I’m talking about.  Instead I’d like to start from first principles, and ask the central question of Realpolitik that plagues libertarians – given that libertarian thought is a minority, and probably always will be, how do we influence government?  The normal practice in politics is to ally with another group to advance mutual goals.  Ah, but who?

One of the many strange things about libertarianism is that despite being a form of liberalism (it’s even in the name) it is most commonly associated with conservatives.  The reason for this, like so much of politics, is historical accident.

In the beginning the economy was without plan, and Depression stalked the land.  And then FDR moved across the surface of the deep and He said “Let there be the New Deal!”  and it was good.  At least for the left it was.  Conservatives were naturally unhappy with such sharp changes to the American system of government and economics, but they weren’t the only ones.  Some liberals were closer followers of Hayek than Keynes and were worried that government getting so closely involved with the economy would end in tears, many were also incensed at the presumption that the government had a right to assume such a large role in society.  Ultimately this split in liberal thought goes right back to the Enlightenment, where it could be seen in the distinctions between the Scottish and French Enlightenments, and in the US (itself a product of the Scottish Enlightenment) things had suddenly gotten a bit too French for some liberals.  OK, I’m oversimplifying this a lot, but I think that covers the issue well enough for what I’m talking about here, this post is going to be long enough already.

It was from these disaffected liberals that libertarianism was born.  And so when the early libertarians were searching for allies it was only natural they would go to the conservatives.  But the factional nature of human psychology, added to the effects of status quo bias, can make what was a historically-contingent alliance of convenience seem like a true alignment of interests.   And I think that alignment of interests started to break down some time in the 1980s, primarily because the left’s view of economics changed during that time.  The sclerosis and collapse of the Soviet Union made central planning much less intellectually tenable (not that the mainstream left in the US was ever socialist, but still the interventionist “heavy corporatism” of FDR looked a lot less tenable when it became clear that the USSR was not the economic powerhouse it claimed to be, and that in the end it could produce neither guns nor butter), and the stagflation of the 1970s and early 1980s showed that Keynesian economics, as applied by real world governments, had some limitations.  So while today’s Democratic Party is not libertarian by any standard, it no longer represents the early and mid 20th Century Progressivism that libertarians first fought against either.

The Republican Party has also changed, and not for the better.  Since 9-11 Neoconservatism has captured Republican foreign policy, in effect they have taken the standard interventionist view of government and applied to to foreigners instead of Americans.  On behalf of foreigners, permit me to say thanks, but no thanks.  And then there’s the steady expansion of the Security State domestically.  Remember back during the Red Scare when conservatives warned of the horrors of communist totalitarianism?  How you wouldn’t be allowed to travel within your own country without showing identity papers at government checkpoints?  How the government would limit your ability to petition the government for grievances?  How every phone-call and private activity could be monitored by The State?  Sure you guys may not be back in the USSR (for one thing, your gulag only takes foreigners), but what is it about the fall of communism that made conservatives think it was a good idea to steal their playbook?  Add that to the ever-growing conservative push in the Culture Wars, and I see little reason to see the Republican party as the home of libertarianism.  Hell the only issue where we have strong agreement is taxation and that doesn’t count because as Milton Friedman pointed out long ago cutting taxes doesn’t count as shrinking government unless you also cut spending.  Taxation delayed is not taxation denied.

So do we pack it all in and shack up with the Democrats?  Well, that wouldn’t be wise either.  While Obama style “light corporatism” is more libertarian than FDR “heavy corporatism”, there’s still a sizable gap.  For one thing Democratic politicians see no problem with pursuing the “War” on Drugs with just as much fervour as Republican ones do.  And I’m not convinced the Democrats are any better on the Security state than the Republicans are.  Plus the ACA is not a libertarian piece of legislation to put it mildly.  What I’m proposing instead is more of a cold-blooded approach to politician alliances.  Sometimes we’ll see the Democrats are right on an issue, and when they are, we should support them.  And sometimes we’ll see the Republicans are right on an issue, and when they are, we should support them.

“But what about political candidates?”, you might ask.   Should we try to get Republican or Democratic nominations?  Well, why not both?  Libertarianism is a set of beliefs about how government should work, unlike Liberalism and Conservatism which are much broader views about what a good society is.  While the first libertarians were liberals, years of alliance with conservatives have produced conservative libertarians too.  Take Ron Paul, he’s a conservative by any stretch.  When he’s not talking about government his view of the world is very similar to any standard conservative.  At the other end of the spectrum, I’m a liberal.  I don’t like organised religion (or religion at all really) I find nothing wrong with homosexuality, abortion or any of the culture war issues that conservatives rail against.  I’m not even very Burkean, I can see too much persistent madness and horror in human history to think too highly of the status quo (not that I reject Burkean principles entirely, I just don’t weight them anywhere nearly as highly as any good conservative should).  By morals are driven by humanist principles, not by Divine Commandment theory or by appeals to tradition.  If you look at my ideal of what a good society is, but leave out the part about what government should do to make it happen, I look like a liberal.

What I want to see is a left-wing equivalent of Ron Paul challenging the Democratic nomination.  I want people to think of libertarianism as its own political force that cuts across partisan lines.  I want to see liberaltarians and conservative fusionists each working with their own groups to advance libertarian goals whenever and wherever they can.  I doubt we can accomplish much, we’re a small group and libertarian thought runs counter to the natural psychology of politicians (people who are sceptical of government’s ability to do good tend not to become politicians), but I think we can do more good than we are right now by extending a hand to potential allies on both sides of the political aisle.

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243 thoughts on “Cold Fusionism

  1. The historical narrative is a little wrong. Recall that the likes of Rothbard initially worked with the far left; the movement toward the far right came later. The culture war in a recognizably modern state was a product of the 60s, not the New Deal. Economic freedom used to be a slogan waved by the socialist US left as late as the 40s; it meant the right to unionize – you can see old political cartoons showing this. US states had a tendency toward regulation prior to the ND and in fact the Lochner era comprised the federal government restraining US states from intervention, not the other way around.

    The mistake is to interpret the past in the lights of a present, and heavily US-academic-libertarian-influenced lens. The past really is another country; they did not perceive of the separation between state and business in exactly the same way we do today (which itself is a reaction to Marxist accusations of capitalist domination). Today we are conscious of the symmetry between government action to support something and government action to suppress something else but this was not always the case – the transition is most obvious when we consider the role of the state in formulating codes and standards, which (when favored by incumbents) were historically often considered pro-business. Or the role in the military and diplomacy in promoting domestic business interests overseas.

    The people most analagous to libertarians today would have been anarchists in the prewar sense, not the anti-progressives. A modernist flavor of classical liberalism is at its least meaningful in an obviously rapidly changing society and society was, at that point in time, rapidly changing. There is no distinctively interventionist state when ‘small’ states keep getting called upon to resolve ever new complications in rights with no neutral answers.

    Corporatism was not new to FDR. A three-way negotiating table between state, business, and labour dates to the earlier progressives. What changed was the scale, a federal-bureaucratic-professional play by the state, and the ideological shift from trust-busting to counteracting destabilizing competition.

    Likewise, recall that by the 60s the establishment right had wholly embraced the perception that managed capitalism was necessary for prosperity (and this view was, by any suggestion, being vindicated). The right vs. left distinction was over who should prevail in the tripartite disputes that states were expected to mediate.

    I think in this light it is rather implausible to claim that the recent flavor of allegedly apartisan US libertarianism contains no vision of the good society; rather, all it denotes is a preference for political identities to be couched exclusively in terms of universalist rights and violations of rights. Civil society is invariably given a rather ambitious role in liberaltarian and fusionist visions; by the same token there is always a lot of hidden assumptions about what kind of society this produces, not very different from how non-libertarian liberals and conservatives view the world.

    The libertarian rejection is of the way modern government is able to accomplish change, that is, by legislation, bureaucracy, or judicial review – not coincidentally, the ways the US has been obliged to mediate the culture war. But of course the US was once a society where civil society was far more powerful and it was not, in practice, a society where interest parties could not restrain the freedoms of individuals.

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    • The historical narrative is a little wrong.

      You’re right, my little story was highly stylised with a lot of real world complications pruned out.  My central point was simply that conservative fusionism was a product of history rather than some fundamental ideological alignment.

      Likewise, recall that by the 60s the establishment right had wholly embraced the perception that managed capitalism was necessary for prosperity (and this view was, by any suggestion, being vindicated). The right vs. left distinction was over who should prevail in the tripartite disputes that states were expected to mediate.

      This in particular is a good point, I like to say that rather than the American economic debate is really a contest between corporatism and mercantilism rather than the battle between socialism and capitalism that some perceive it to be.

      I think in this light it is rather implausible to claim that the recent flavor of allegedly apartisan US libertarianism contains no vision of the good society; rather, all it denotes is a preference for political identities to be couched exclusively in terms of universalist rights and violations of rights. Civil society is invariably given a rather ambitious role in liberaltarian and fusionist visions; by the same token there is always a lot of hidden assumptions about what kind of society this produces, not very different from how non-libertarian liberals and conservatives view the world.

      I was being a little loose with my language.  My point was that libertarianism has no unifying moral vision of a good society apart from it’s relationship to government.  The distinction I’m trying to draw is between ends and means.  I contend that the major difference between a liberaltarian and a liberal is not in what they think is good, but rather in how they want to bring it about, and the same is true with conservatives and conservative libertarians.

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      • Really, James, I see your point.
        The libertarians that I knew back in the Reagan years came off more like wild-eyed fringe liberals.
        Then somehow, they became associated with conservatives.
        I think the Bush II administration and the prevalence of culture war issues brought them back to being liberals again.
        But if there is not a robust presence of libertarians within the Democratic Party, certainly.

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      • This in particular is a good point, I like to say that rather than the American economic debate is really a contest between corporatism and mercantilism rather than the battle between socialism and capitalism that some perceive it to be.

        That’s an interesting point.  I’m not sure I agree, but I’ll have to think on it for a while.

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  2. ” As a general rule I try to avoid talking about things when I have no idea what I’m talking about. ”

    You really don’t have a handle on this ‘blogging’ thing at all, do you?

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  3. For the most part, I just try to not kid myself.

    I mean, It’s all well and good to say that everyone should have an X. Then you have to ask what X creation would entail. What X distribution would entail. What X upkeep would entail. What X replacement would entail.

    I love the idea of everyone having X. Seriously, I do.

    It’s just that X tends to entail a hell of a lot. People who say that they want X but don’t want what X entails are kidding themselves.

    Of course, when you point out to other people that they are kidding themselves, they tend to take that *REALLY* personally. “What about Y? What about Z??? You do Z *ALL THE TIME*!!!”

    From there the conversation tends to go downhill. Every now and again, however, I plant a seed.

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    • In my experience, when X = “an equal chance in our society”, libertarians sputter about liberty, and taxing their labors, and “but, but, free markets”, and “charities can handle that better than the government”, and “BUT, BUT!, the government doesn’t make it more equal”, et alia.

      In my experience, libertarians want the white-dominated, patriarchal society that we have as much as conservatives do, not the equal society they delude themselves into believing is true.

      Because, to honestly engage with this idea means admitting that they will have to give up some of the inherent benefits they enjoy. Their lives would be harder, and they don’t want to hear that.

      (/seedplanted)

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      • Yep you got us nailed.

        You know, I’m not going to argue that a great majority of libertarians and internet libertarians are middle class and up white guys, because they are.  But do you really perceive any future where being a white middle class and up guy isn’t a good deal?

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        • But do you really perceive any future where being a white middle class and up guy isn’t a good deal?

          I sure hope there is a future where white middle class guys get a much less good deal than they have today. The country is already browning. Given time, it will be much more brown than white. This is why the conservative movement has their heads exploding all the time. That future may still have white middle class men in a favorable position, but much less favorable than today.

          Can I imagine the country electing a Lesbian Hispanic Athiest Woman to the presidency? Yes, eventually, but not soon enough for me. And being a white middle class guy when that happens won’t be nearly as great as it is today.

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          • I’ve been in a number of places where whites were a minority.
            Whites were less than 50% of the population when I was growing up in New Mexico.
            They still seemed to own a lot of businesses, wear a lot of suits, drive pretty nice cars, and get together at the Rotary Club.
            If that’s what you’re worried about, I wouldn’t lose sleep over it.

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          • “Can I imagine the country electing a Lesbian Hispanic Athiest Woman to the presidency? Yes, eventually, but not soon enough for me.”

            Like Mr. Berg said, I wish you would get your story straight.  If you’re tying ‘progess’ to the election of such a person to the Presidency, does the election of an African American to the Presidency mean that Black people have now got it made?

            Libertarians (for the most part) don’t go into the whole brown panic thing.   That’s why they’re not conservatives.

            But really, I’d like to know exactly what benefits I would have to give up, the ones that keep others down but a required for libertarian orthodoxy, (or even heterodoxy).  The Drug War? The War Wars? The unresponsive bureaucratic state?

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            • Wow, I’m surprised that you really don’t get it.

              If a woman of color has the same chances as a white male, then this means the white male has given up many advantages he has today:

              – how much he is paid
              – how easy or difficult to get a job
              – a high paying job
              – a management position
              – a CEO position
              – a Board of Directors position
              – chances of being stopped by the police
              – chances of being arrested or convicted
              – chances of being a victim of a violent crime
              – how he is viewed as trustworthy
              – chances of being elected to office
              – elected president
              – appointed to the Supreme Court
              – appointed to the Federal Reserve
              – etc, etc

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                    • Again, there are quite a few places in this nation where whites are not a majority.

                      And, yet, there are no places in this nation where being white has advantages over being black.

                      To pick something relevant, who is profiled negatively more by police and regular folks – whites or blacks?

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                    • There are definitely places where being Hispanic has advantages over being white.
                      Demonstrated by the phrase I saw so often in the classifieds of the newspaper in Corpus Christi:
                      Bilingual only need apply.

                      Racism isn’t always a black/white issue.
                      New Mexico is 3% black.
                      The racism there is typically between Mexicans & Indians, and it’s been that way for 500 years.

                      The undue focus on blacks mars any functional distinction.
                      The conversation then turns away from ‘racism’ to ‘black people.’
                      Not the same thing.

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                  • This is one of those questions that I always wonder about. When I think about when I wish I were born, I never ever wish that I were born earlier. Like, I never think “wouldn’t it have been awesome to be born in 1935, be a white male entering the workforce in 1955 and retire 45-47 years later.”

                    The *EARLIEST* I’d want to have been born is the 70’s. I envy those who were born in the 80’s, 90’s, and 00’s. The kids born next year? What medications will they take? What skills will they learn? When will gene therapies finally show up? When will it be reasonable to expect that we could be healthy and vibrant into our 80’s and 90’s? Hell, what *GAMES* will they play?

                    But I’m a white male.

                    JHG, if your birthday was not the best day on which to be born an African-American Male, what day was it? Was it before (because, for the life of me, I can’t imagine it being before). I’m guessing, that like being a White Male, it’s either on that day or it’s after.

                     

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                    • I don’t want to put words in your mouth, JB, but it sounds like you are saying “Hey, it’s better for blacks now than it was before. What are you complaining about?”.

                      Of course, I think being born when I was is better than being born in 1850 (and many other times). Do I think it will always be better in the future? No, I don’t. By and large, perhaps, but not absolutely. There are enough examples of societies going backwards, especially at the end of empires, that I do not trust that the future will always be better for someone with black skin.

                      The differences I have with libertarians is that they often respond with this, as if this affirms that no further action should be taken. I doubt that YOU have people look at you EVERY DAY like you might be a criminal. When is that going to end? And, will it end on its own?

                      I don’t think it will end on its own. A large part of this country will only be brought there kicking and screaming (which they are already doing since the black dude moved into the White House).

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                    • I don’t want to put words in your mouth, JB, but it sounds like you are saying “Hey, it’s better for blacks now than it was before.  What are you complaining about?”.

                      Huh. I thought I was mostly talking about me and extrapolating from me to you. “It’s like this for a white guy, I imagine it’s the same for  black guy.”

                      Is imagining myself in your place presumptuous?

                      I doubt that YOU have people look at you EVERY DAY like you might be a criminal.  When is that going to end?  And, will it end on its own?

                      What program do you think we could pass that would get this to change? What law? What solution do you think we, as a society, should impose to get people to stop looking at you every day like you might be a criminal?

                      Because, lemme tell ya, if and when that is going to end, it will end *WITHOUT* someone passing a law to make it happen.

                      If your biggest problem is with the thoughts in the heads of individual persons, you pretty much have to change one mind at a time. And what if people are so prejudiced that they won’t change their minds. you ask? Plant a seed.

                      I don’t think it will end on its own. 

                      To play the whole “show me one Libertarian society” game, could you show me a single society where this has ended at all (let alone ended on its own)?

                      I can’t think of any off the top of my head. That doesn’t mean that it’s not a goal worth aspiring to, of course. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t something we should strive for every day… but I can’t think of any society off the top of my head that has gotten rid of this sort of thing.

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                    • Is imagining myself in your place presumptuous?

                      Not at all. Empathy is a good thing. I wish there was more of it.

                      What program do you think we could pass that would get this to change? What law? What solution do you think we, as a society, should impose to get people to stop looking at you every day like you might be a criminal?

                      How about if we fired cops that did stuff like in Sanford? Or, fired them and put them in jail? That might change cops behavior. Of course, this only addresses one aspect of the problem.

                      However, at the end of the day, this type of thing can only be addressed through education. So, how about if we stop complaining about the NEA, and fund it properly. Same for schools – equal funding, so that the poor, black kids have just as much chance (at publicy funded schools) as the rich, white kids.

                      There’s a whole laundry list of stuff like this.

                      However, I asked YOU what libertarians would do, and you didn’t answer and instead asked the same question of me. But, this isn’t about me, it’s about libertarians. So, what would libertarians do to address this? You say it will happen without a law. Ok, how does it transpire in the libertarian vision?

                      To play the whole “show me one Libertarian society” game, could you show me a single society where this has ended at all (let alone ended on its own)?

                      Well, that’s not really a fair comparison. I asked for one Libertarian society, and you ask for a society where this has been abolished. The answer is never – no society has ended this. This is why liberalism exists. To try to get us closer to that point, by interfering with people’s lives, planting seeds, and trying to change minds. Education certainly plays a big role, but so do laws.

                      We wouldn’t have made as much progress as we have without the Civil Rights Act. So, we’ve made progress through laws, and that is an example. It would NOT have happened without laws.

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                    • How about if we fired cops that did stuff like in Sanford?  Or, fired them and put them in jail?  That might change cops behavior. 

                      So when Libertarians come up and start talking about abolishing Public Union jobs, are you going to be right there with them? Or are you going to say, well, the cops deserve a union, we just want to fire the bad ones and we want the union to be on board?

                      However, at the end of the day, this type of thing can only be addressed through education.  So, how about if we stop complaining about the NEA, and fund it properly.

                      Hrm. This is another point of disconnect. If District 20 has awesome schools and District 56 has crappy schools, the last thing in the world that I think would be the root of the problem is insufficient funding of the NEA. That is so not even on my radar.

                      However, I asked YOU what libertarians would do, and you didn’t answer and instead asked the same question of me.

                      Well, in these two cases, my first intuition is to think that the public sector unions are doing what they can to protect the worst and weakest members who then get shuffled off to the crappiest jobs in District 56 and/or dealing with the parent(s) of the kids in District 56.

                      Well, that’s not really a fair comparison.

                      Then allow me to apologize to you and withdraw the question.

                      We wouldn’t have made as much progress as we have without the Civil Rights Act.  So, we’ve made progress through laws, and that is an example.  It would NOT have happened without laws.

                      In Plessy v. Ferguson, who was the good guy and who was the bad guy, again? When James F. Blake refused to leave “park” and move into drive, did he appeal to company policy or did he appeal to the law?

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                    • Or are you going to say, well, the cops deserve a union, we just want to fire the bad ones and we want the union to be on board

                      That one. Don’t see why we need to abolish unions in order to have equal justice under the law.

                      the last thing in the world that I think would be the root of the problem is insufficient funding of the NEA. That is so not even on my radar.

                      Education does not happen just in a classroom. Access to the arts is an essential element of any good education. That’s what the NEA does. You’ve mentioned before that you don’t like it (want to abolish it?). That’s seems at cross purpose to quality public education.

                      Well, in these two cases, my first intuition is to think that the public sector unions are doing what they can to protect the worst and weakest members who then get shuffled off to the crappiest jobs in District 56 and/or dealing with the parent(s) of the kids in District 56.

                      Yeah, we tried having no unions in this country. I prefer (as painful and dirty and error-prone as it is) our country with unions. I’d like even more. You want something that keeps government at bay? It’s unions and things like them. I would have thought you would support them.

                      However, the question I asked was how would a libertarian make a more equal society (my example was the common response of people not trusting black males). How do you address it without government coercion?

                      In Plessy v. Ferguson, who was the good guy and who was the bad guy, again?

                      It seems that Brown has determined the answer to that. It may be that some other decision in the future will change who the good guy/bad guy was.

                      When James F. Blake refused to leave “park” and move into drive, did he appeal to company policy or did he appeal to the law?

                      City code, so, the law. Also company policy because it was company policy (like it is at many companies) to follow the law.

                      Is there a point to any of this?

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                    • That one.  Don’t see why we need to abolish unions in order to have equal justice under the law.

                      When it comes to police unions? I think that the cops most likely to violate rights, cover up egregious behavior, and otherwise act poorly are the ones most likely to be protected by the unions. A quick google of “Police Union Defends” gives some very interesting stories. I didn’t see a single one that made me change my mind about public service unions.

                      Education does not happen just in a classroom.  Access to the arts is an essential element of any good education.  That’s what the NEA does.

                      I thought we were talking about the National Education Association. I didn’t realize that we were talking about the National Endowment for the Arts. (Not, of course, that that particularly changes my opinion.) Without getting into Mapplethorpe and Serrano, I’d ask whether there would be an appreciable impact upon children’s education if “Poetry Out Loud” went away and if the money that was going to the NEA instead went to local school districts helping kids learn about poetry with that funding instead.

                      Yeah, we tried having no unions in this country.  I prefer (as painful and dirty and error-prone as it is) our country with unions.  I’d like even more.  You want something that keeps government at bay?  It’s unions and things like them.  I would have thought you would support them.

                      In the private sector? Absolutely. When they’re in the public sector? They *ARE* the government.

                      However, the question I asked was how would a libertarian make a more equal society (my example was the common response of people not trusting black males).  How do you address it without government coercion?

                      I suppose that I would push for more conversations like this one to be read by everybody where they can see that, holy cow, those two guys are talking like just two regular guys! and change minds from there. How would you address it with government coercion?

                      Is there a point to any of this?

                      That just because the law is your friend today, doesn’t make it your friend tomorrow. Hell, it’s not even your friend today.

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                    • Access to the arts is an essential element of any good education. 

                      No, art is firmly on the nice to have but still non-essential side of the equation. Hell, even calculus and trigonometry is probably more useful than poetry. Hell, even philosophy is more important than poetry. A good philosophical education is secondary school gets us to think more critically and rigourously. Poetry and art do what exactly?

                      (Yes, I am letting my analytic prejudics get away from me. But I’ve got the nasty suspicion that teaching poetry produces bad habits of mind such that beautiful turns of phrases are mistaken for arguments and that polemics is mistaken for serious thought)

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                    • I think that the cops most likely to violate rights, cover up egregious behavior, and otherwise act poorly are the ones most likely to be protected by the unions.

                      I don’t disagree. Yet, can we not improve the unions? Will they be this way forever? Remember the liberal code: change it and improve it. Better than throwing the baby out with the bathwater, even though there will be mistakes, fits and start, failures, and all that.

                      I’d ask whether there would be an appreciable impact upon children’s education if “Poetry Out Loud” went away and if the money that was going to the NEA instead went to local school districts helping kids learn about poetry with that funding instead.

                      Well, if we’re going to start reapportioning budgets, then I have a lot to say about how we choose to spend money. Could we just not fight for a day or two in our wars of aggression? That will fund the NEA for the next couple of decades. How about if we just cut defense spending the the same amount as say: Russia, China, Great Britain, and France. That will give us enough to fix all the crumbling schools and pay teachers a decent salary, so we don’t have such poor choices and get better teachers in the classroom. But, I don’t think you were wanting to really have this conversation, so I’ll stop here.

                      When they’re in the public sector? They *ARE* the government.

                      I have to ask you if you know what a union is, for this makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Unions pass laws? Set legal precedent? Determine rates of taxation? Provide for the common defense? Need I go on?

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                    • I don’t disagree.  Yet, can we not improve the unions?  Will they be this way forever?

                      Why wasn’t Zimmerman arrested? Do you think a single cop will be made accountable for this?

                      Well, if we’re going to start reapportioning budgets, then I have a lot to say about how we choose to spend money.  Could we just not fight for a day or two in our wars of aggression?  That will fund the NEA for the next couple of decades.  How about if we just cut defense spending the the same amount as say: Russia, China, Great Britain, and France.  That will give us enough to fix all the crumbling schools and pay teachers a decent salary, so we don’t have such poor choices and get better teachers in the classroom.  But, I don’t think you were wanting to really have this conversation, so I’ll stop here.

                      Oh, I’d *LOVE* to have this conversation!

                      Hey! JHG! If you don’t like it, move to Somalia!

                      I have to ask you if you know what a union is, for this makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.  Unions pass laws?  Set legal precedent?  Determine rates of taxation?  Provide for the common defense?  Need I go on?

                      Is that an exhaustive list of things that the government does? You and I both know that it’s not. Who are the Police accountable to, at the end of the day? Who are the Teachers accountable to, at the end of the day? If it’s not “the people” (and it ain’t), then they’re part and parcel with the US Postal Service (which, like it or not, also does not set legal precedent).

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                    • Jaybird, I’ll have to let the teacher I know who has to teach five more kids a class this year with a ten percent smaller budget that she actually is the government and that it’d be a good idea if she gives up a whole lot of the protections of the job and likely get paid less in benefits.

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                    • I like the way this is going; and don’t let me interrupt you, but a few points I want to interject.

                      We have never tried being without unions in this nation. Unions were first founded by Capt. John Smith at Jamestown Colony.
                      We’ve done without public employee unions. That’s a different matter.

                      This thing:
                      equal funding, so that the poor, black kids have just as much chance (at publicy funded schools) as the rich, white kids.

                      It sounds like another “throw money at it” solution.
                      I think that public education overall could easily be improved by smaller schools more connected to the communities.
                      Security is an issue at many inner-city schools. Smaller schools would reduce the risks to personal security.
                      And everyone would know each other better, and all the benefits that come from that.

                      Just sayin’.

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                    • Jaybird, I’ll have to let the teacher I know who has to teach five more kids a class this year with a ten percent smaller budget that she actually is the government and that it’d be a good idea if she gives up a whole lot of the protections of the job and likely get paid less in benefits.

                      Will she try to explain to you that, no, she’s in the private sector? After she yells about how heartless people can be, ask her what she thinks about tenure protections for elementary school Teachers.

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                • It doesn’t mean that someone else is giving something up.

                  Ahhh, but it does. They’re giving up their place of privilege certain social arrangements. A very compelling argument claims that conservatism can be defined (to a great degree anyway) as an attempt to preserve unjustified privilege from the egalitarianism of liberal change.

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              • – how much he is paid
                – how easy or difficult to get a job
                – a high paying job

                This current recession has actually hit males much harder than females.  (But indeed has hit African Americans much harder than whites).  Given how much the above also tied into eduction level (which women are going to college and medical and law school in equal numbers if not more than men) I predict the continuing leveling of the field.  Insofar as they are still widely varying educational opportunities between African Americans and Whites, well, any steps at trying to change that other than throwing money at the problem are stymied at every turn.  But not by libertarians.

                – a CEO position
                – a Board of Directors position

                Most white guys aren’t getting this either.  But it’s easy enough to fix the upper levels, much easier than to fix the main body, in fact.  To wit, what’s your policy prescriptions to get more women and non-white people in this group?

                – chances of being arrested or convicted
                – chances of being a victim of a violent crime
                – how he is viewed as trustworthy

                This is where libertarian policy policy are the best, by ending the drug war, rather than add more penalties for more drugs, like some liberal Senators want to do.

                how he is viewed as trustworthy

                That other people are deemed equally trustworthy in the future does not actually harm a white guy who is also trustworthy at all.   And in the sense that the system uses ‘lack of criminal record’ as a proxt for trustworthiness, see above on how to fix that.

                – chances of being elected to office

                That certainly depends on where one is running, doesn’t it?

                – elected president
                – appointed to the Supreme Court
                – appointed to the Federal Reserve

                Most people aren’t going to get these either, but again, the latter two are easy enough to jerry-rig.

                My point, which you missed as it your wont. is that even if new people are admitted to the elite (which they are and should be) the elite (for a given definition and delimitation of ‘elite’)  are still going to keep on being elite.  Always was and always will be.

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                • I will admit though, that getting the lead out of household paint  (which helped both reducing crime and reducing people arrested for crime) was a good thing, and one that did not have an effective ‘libertarian’ solution.  (unlike say, reducing SO2 emissions, which was also a good thing, and did have a market based solution in the form of tradable emission permits)

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                • Each of the things in the list were areas that white males currently have an advantage, which they would need to give up if things were more equal.

                  Most white guys aren’t getting this either.

                  However, the chances of a white guy getting those is astronomically higher than a black woman. You keep avoiding this part of the issue.

                  like some liberal Senators want to do

                  If you want to argue ideology to ideology, then let’s do that. If you want to argue your ideology against the actions of politicians, then we’re having an apples and oranges discussion.

                  That other people are deemed equally trustworthy in the future does not actually harm a white guy who is also trustworthy at all.

                  Sure it does. Trust is a comparative issue. If I a black woman is trusted as much as a white male, then the white male no longer has a distinct advantage of being more trustworthy. The white male has lost an advantage.

                  My point, which you missed as it your wont. is that even if new people are admitted to the elite (which they are and should be) the elite (for a given definition and delimitation of ‘elite’) are still going to keep on being elite. Always was and always will be.

                  I’d be happy if there were more voices of different flavors in the elite. As it is, the elite in this country is comprised almost entirely of old, white men. Maybe some of those other flavors might change what the elite think and do. The elite might even start caring about groups of people other than old, white men.

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                    • How about, though, when it’s a zero sum game between a black man and a white woman? Who gets to play the privilege card?

                      They both do. You see, we live in a white male dominated society, and have since its formation. The white male loses, when others gain (in this scenario). Everyone wins at his expense. Some would say the black male gains more; others would say the white woman gains more. In fact, there was much infighting in 2008 about this during the D nomination contest. It’s a mugs game, though.

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            • Oh, and this:

              does the election of an African American to the Presidency mean that Black people have now got it made?

              when there have been a number of African Americans elected to the Presidency equal to the share in society at large, yeah, it’ll be a whole bunch better.

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      • There’s the “what does an equal chance entail?” discussion we could have… such as “an equal chance at *WHAT*?”

        We generally don’t like to talk about culture, we generally hate talking about cultural relativism unless it’s characterizing all cultures as their Epcot versions and, from there, saying it’s a good thing, and we never, ever, talk about iatrogenic diseases.

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        • And we could also have the “what does life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness really mean” discussion or the “what does all men are created equal really mean” discussion, as well.

          we never, ever, talk about iatrogenic diseases

          Well, sure. Except for all the talk about government not being able to solve any problems stuff.

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          • Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? What would you like? How about an education free of charge, healthcare free of charge if you make less than a certain amount, food free of charge if you make less than a certain amount, and housing assistance if you make less than a certain amount?

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            • If my liberty is constrained by the color of my skin or my gender, then we are not in an equal society.

              If my pursuit of happiness is constrained by my sexual identity or my lack of belief in god, then we are not in an equal society.

              If the society is rigged against me, then your “liberty” is grotesque.

              There’s lots to talk about before we get to the policy details. But, you don’t want to talk about culture. I see why.

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                • No, you’re probably right about that. I think the point he’s trying to make is that not all liberty-limiting institutions derive from coercive governmental power. Certain social conventions and the underlying power differentials that give rise to them (a ‘free market’ of cultural norms, as it were) can also limit liberty. The libertarian, at that point, is in a bit of a pickle since limiting government intervention is supposed to increase individual liberty. But in the cases mentioned, and others, it doesn’t.

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                  • I don’t think it really matters what individual persons or groups do to libertarians.
                    I can’t see why it would.
                    Libertarianism is a view concerning the role of government, to my understanding.
                    To compel persons or independent groups from pursuing their own ends could only be achieved by some means of coercion; ie, it would infringe upon their liberties.

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                    • I don’t think it really matters what individual persons or groups do to libertarians.
                      I can’t see why it would.

                      It’s not that libertarians as individuals are singled out. It’s that libertarian theory holds that coercive governmental power is the source restrictions on liberty. I mean, they don’t really believe that, since slavery as a cultural institution could have existed both conceptually and causally prior to the formation on any government and that institution could have then been passively entrenched in governmental Code.

                      Part of the problem I’m talking about here is that libertarians cleave off government from ‘normal society’ in question begging ways that are – from my pov – both conceptually and causally false.

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                    • slavery as a cultural institution could have existed both conceptually and causally prior to the formation on any government

                      So, these are the libertarians from 8000 BC we’re talking about here?
                      I think everyone was a libertarian back then.
                      Maybe there was a lot of competition between the libertarians and the anarchists.
                      I think I like that two-party system.

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                • I say “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” and JB says “free health care”.

                  The fact is that we live in a society that is does not provide equal opportunities in “life, liberty, pursuit of happiness”.

                  The problem is that you guys want to skip over that part and whack policy strawmen. Let’s start with the basics: is society equal or not? does everyone have equal liberty or not? If not, should we even try to make it more equal?

                  You guys always seem to respond with “No” to that last question.

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                  • What does access to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness entail?

                    It seems to me that, for me, it means more or less staying out of your way (and, by extension, you staying out of mine). If we interact, it’s because we both agreed to.

                    I assumed that you’d argue that that isn’t enough and that there are things that I have access to that you wouldn’t in such a circumstance. Such as?, I imagine we’d go to next, and then we’d start talking about public policy, education, health care, law enforcement, and so on.

                    Do we really just want to talk about what life, liberty, and TPOH entails without talking about setting up government institutions? Golly, I’d love to discuss that.

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                    • It seems to me that, for me, it means more or less staying out of your way (and, by extension, you staying out of mine). If we interact, it’s because we both agreed to.

                      This sounds great. I’m on board. Yet, how do we get rid of the fact that you look at two people, one white and one black (or one man and one woman), and you automatically trust one more than the other because of the color of their skin (or their gender)? Will that just fix itself, once we start staying out of each other’s way?

                      Do we really just want to talk about what life, liberty, and TPOH entails without talking about setting up government institutions? Golly, I’d love to discuss that.

                      This is exactly what I am trying to discuss. But, if you’re going to put that out there, I’m going to show you all the holes in it, all the dirty parts of actually implementing any of it, the necessary compromises that would need to happen in reality, and how you are (most likely) ignoring a true and level playing field.

                      Have at it. How do you coerce the (large) part of society that does not want to have a level playing field without government?

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                    • Yet, how do we get rid of the fact that you look at two people, one white  and one black (or one man and one woman), and you automatically trust one more than the other because of the color of their skin (or their gender)?  Will that just fix itself, once we start staying out of each other’s way?

                      No. Of course not.

                      I’ll use my college lunchroom experience as a starting point in here, though. In my college’s lunchrooms, the Caucasian-Americans sat at one group of tables, the African-Americans sat at another group of tables, and the Asian (I suspect that they weren’t “Asian-American” because they seemed to all be first generation immigrants who had English as a second language) kids sat at a third.

                      Here’s my question for you:

                      How would you have resolved this problem?

                      As a Libertarian, mind, I don’t see it as a problem in the first place… but I do think that forcing the kids to share meals might result in more trust between communities… but I don’t think that forcing the tables to break up and be more diverse would be anywhere close to an acceptable solution.

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                    • So what you mean by “equality” is that when you look at me looking at you, you don’t want to think that I’m thinking of you as a criminal. 

                      Which, I gotta say, is kind of on your side of the equation.  Unless you think that all those mothers who are so scared of phantom child molesters that they won’t let their daughter play outside are on to something.

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                    • How would you have resolved this problem?

                      Coercion of some kind. It is not as bad as you think it is to force people to mix in different groups, even though they want to stay “with their own kind”.

                      They used to call it integration. Before that it was called segregation.

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                    • Coercion of some kind.

                      Oh, no doubt! But that’s like me giving “Liberty!” as an answer for how’d I fix any given problem.

                      What specific policy would you institute?

                      They used to call it integration.  Before that it was called segregation.

                      The kids in the lunch room seemed to sit where they wanted without any particular policy. If that’s what we now mean when we say “segregation”, we may be giving a particularly rosy view of the past. “Why were there segregated schools?” “It’s a lot like college cafeterias.”

                      BSK – Why is that seating arrangement a problem?

                      Allow myself to quote me:

                      As a Libertarian, mind, I don’t see it as a problem in the first place… but I do think that forcing the kids to share meals might result in more trust between communities… but I don’t think that forcing the tables to break up and be more diverse would be anywhere close to an acceptable solution.

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                    • Check out Beverly Tatum’s book: http://www.amazon.com/Black-Kids-Sitting-Together-Cafeteria/dp/0465083617

                      She argues that a lot of good comes from such seating arrangements. Of course, this isn’t an either/or situation and a both/and approach is probably ideal.

                      My issue with such arrangements are when they are not self-selected. Ideally, anyone could sit anywhere in the lunchroom and feel welcome and have their decision respected. Racial (or ethnic or gender or sexual orientation or etc…) affinity groups can be founded elsewhere.

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                    • High School tables, I can kind of understand hesitating to institute an official policy (all of the policies that I can come up with sound awful to me but, then again, I’m me).

                      I’m also trying to imagine what the policy would look at if we look at the cafeterias at Global Conglomerate. I live in Colorado Springs (which isn’t the most diverse city in the world) but I wonder what the cafeterias looked like in, say, Flint, Michigan. Were they integrated?

                      If not, should GM have instituted an “Integrate Lunch” program?

                      (I have a handful of military friends at work, I will ask them about who ate with whom in their various cafeterias at their various bases. My immediate suspicion is that if anyplace had integrated lunch tables, it’d be Ft. Carson but I don’t know for sure.)

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                    • I would think that the goal is to have more black people and white people be friends.

                      If the number one thing that gets people to change their mind about gay marriage is knowing a gay person who wants to get married (and, odds are, it’s probably a family member), I imagine that the number one thing that would help turn racism around (or such dynamics as looking at a black guy and immediately being worried) is either having a black person join the family and, barring that, you’re stuck wondering how to otherwise get to know them the way you get to know family.

                      In the military, it’s easy. Put them in the same room and have a DI yell at them until they have no ego. They’re all brothers in arms now.

                      How would it work at GM? Well, put them all on the line together, and make them eat together too. Share a meal, share a story… next best thing to family is friends. Next best thing to friends is work friends.

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                    • Is that GM’s goal? Or society’s?

                      My point is that better and more authentic intergration is a laudable goal; but lunch might not be the best time to use active interventions to seek it. Especially when there is value to having time in homogenous groups.

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                    • Is that GM’s goal?  Or society’s?

                      I have no idea.

                      But if I walked into the GM plant in Flint, Michigan and I saw all of the white folk sitting together here, the black folk sitting together over there, and the Asian folk sitting together over yonder, I’d probably think “that ain’t right, this ain’t the way it ought to be”.

                      Now, as a Libertarian, I think I have about as much right to prevent people from doing such a thing as I have to prevent them from smoking opium or getting an abortion… but that doesn’t change the initial intuition of “that ain’t the way it’s supposed to be.”

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                    • I’d take a bit more time to assess a situation beyond a cursory glance around a lunchroom before assessing how right the dynamics are. But that is just me.

                      I seriously encourage you to check out that book. Affinity groups have real value. There are times people should be in heterogenous groups and times they should be in homogenous groups. I’d need to know more about the goals of the lunch room before deciding if it ought to be the former or the latter.

                      Genuine question: How much work have you done on racial identity development, particularly your own white racial identity?

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                    • Precious little. I’ve spent more time exploring my atheism. Hell, there was that “Scottish” phase in high school but, since then, ugh. Who has the energy?

                      I remember reading about that book (if I didn’t read it… 2002 and 2003 were a blur for me).

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                    • What specific policy would you institute?

                      Does this really need fixing? Perhaps, but perhaps not. Yet, you asked for specifics for your scenario:

                      Everyone is assigned to a numbered table. Each person’s number is randomly chosen each week. You get the luxury of being forced to sit with someone that you might not choose to sit with. And learn about them. And start to see them as a person. And maybe think differently, or empathize more, etc. This does several big positive things and only a couple of minor negative things (you can’t choose where you sit in the lunchroom).

                      But, of course we have bigger issues than this. However, I wanted to answer your question specifically.

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                    • If I ran a college, I’d do this: one of the requirements for graduation would be two quarters of ethnic studies.  But it can’t be your own ethnicity.  Let white kids learn about slavery and Jim Crow, and black kids learn about internment, and Protestant kids lean about restricted law firms and country clubs.  Maybe extend “ethnic”, so kids from Oregon learn about growing up surrounded by the Lost Cause.

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                    • What if I sit with my buds anyway (and other folks sit with their buds)?

                      How does any corporate policy get enforced, from dress codes, to appropriate workplace language [*], to coding standards ?  Carrots, sticks, and peer pressure.  I’ve worked at places with far dumber policies than assigned lunchroom seats.

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                  • An equal society doesn’t mean that everyone gets dealt the same cards.
                    It means that the rules of the game are applied evenly.

                    That people start at different places in life is no sign of inherent inequality.
                    It’s a sign of individualism within a society.

                    Winters are colder in Milwaukee than they are in Florida.
                    Summers in Florida can be brutal.
                    Inequality?

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                    • An equal society doesn’t mean that everyone gets dealt the same cards. It means that the rules of the game are applied evenly.

                      This is the thing I keep talking about. The rules of the game are NOT applied evenly.

                      How do you make sure that the rules of the game are applied evenly without government coercion?

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                    • The rules of the game are never applied equally. The rules of society are applied by mortal people who have their biases and hatreds and flaws.

                      So colorblind laws will be enforced by cops who decide whether or not to question Geroge Zimmerman’s story, or not; District attorneys who decide whether to prosecute, or not, juries who decide whether to convict, or not.

                      Employers who decide which people to hire, or not; landlords who decide which people to rent to, or not; Customers who decide whether to buy, or not.

                      Government is actually only the smaller fraction of power in society. Tribal affiliation and culture enforce power even more effectively.

                      Witness Haley Barbour talking about how in his day, when the town elders decided they didn’t like someone, they conspired to effectively shun and strip him of the power to act on the freedoms he ostensibly held. So far as I can determine, libertarian theory doen’t have any effective answer for this wielding of private power.

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                    • Libertarianism, like classical marxism, has this “perpetual motion machine” aspect to it; that once we have this perfect System, we just let the System run, and it self-corrects.

                      But there is never a sense of empirical evidence based measurement; how under libertarian theory do we measure outcomes, and adjust the System if the outcomes are not acceptable?

                      For instance, if we have colorblind laws, then discover that a wildly disproportionate level of black men are incarcerated compared to white men,?

                      Since a priori, outcome based tinkering is taboo, the tendency is to contort ourselves into finding excuses for the data, as Megan McCardle does here.

                       

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                    • The rules of the game are never applied equally. The rules of society are applied by mortal people who have their biases and hatreds and flaws.

                      This is, of course, an insoluble problem in an absolute sense.

                      Practically, however, you can mitigate this quite a bit by moving enforcement and audit into two different buckets.  This is, after all, why you should have a local police department, the State police, and some form of federal law enforcement.  Then when the local police department fails to execute the laws equitably, you have other organizations to force them to comply.

                      In practice, this breaks often because either the other organizations lack the ability to force them to comply, or (worse) the other organizations have a vested interest in allowing them to continue to break the rules.

                      Internal Affairs really shouldn’t be part of a police department; they answer to the same entity, and that’s just messed up audit control.  IA should be part of another organization that doesn’t answer to the same control structure as the local police (a whole different level of government would be best).

                      The problem isn’t “big Government”, per se.  The problem is that we have a tendency to kick everything up to the level of the federal government and then there’s no power structure of sufficient strength to make the feds comply.  The original idea was to make the federal government enforce this itself, via separation of powers, but that hasn’t turned out well because you can’t make Congress do its actual duty.  Shoot, they completely abdicated declaration of war as an effective power to the Executive.  The Executive branch has abdicated its duty to police itself, too.  It’s too easy to cite political expediency and rename the MMS and pretend nothing happened.

                      I’m not sure which mechanism is the right one to correct this, but at some point the states need to have better abilities to compel the federal government to do things, or whatever those things are need to be kicked down one level to the states and then give the federal government just audit power over the states.

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                    • Liberty,

                      What makes you think libertarians can’t measure outcomes and adjust? The whole point of libertarian society is the flourishing of mankind. It is a system of cooperation and constructive competition.

                      The measure of social progress is that we achieve as much of what we desire as possible. This can be measured by the conventional metrics of economics and sociology: per capita GDP, education, income mobility,lifespan, etc etc. One of the most important measures is the flourishing of the least advantaged members of society. Neither you nor I would want to be a part of a society where children, the handicapped, or those suffering calamity were not cared for. I voluntarily choose a society with reasonable safety nets.

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                    • John,

                      You ask how do we make sure the rules are applied evenly without government coercion? Patrick gives one level of answer, and I basically agree with him, but let me take it another direction.

                      First, how do we ensure the government applies rules equally? Libertarian experience is that governments are horribly biased at disbursing privilege.

                      The key to quality government is the right of entry and exit, along with voice and options. If I believe the referees are biased, I want the right to change referees. Sure some of us would like biased rules in our favor, but as long as we have freedom of choosing our referees, we will find nobody will want to play with us unless we all agree to fair and unbiased officiating.

                      The key to social cooperation is to set up a system where we can voluntearily enter into a game that ensures positive sum ( I refuse the awkward term Pareto) outcomes. Stop believing in the naive beneficence of government. Without competition and choice they will screw us every time. Privilege goes to those with the lowest scruples.

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                • Not too much deference – ya’ll would like to see that stuff eliminated/minimized as much as a liberal – but the tools at your disposal to mitigate those injustices don’t include government intervention. So the libertarian solution is to say if it weren’t for government entrenching these injustices to begin with, we wouldn’t have a problem. So the source of the problem is government, not social and cultural norms being entrenched in individual behavior independently of government. That seems to me to be a category error.

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                • “So the problem with libertarians is too much deference to racism, heterosexism, and Judeo-Christian normativism?”

                  Well, if you aren’t willing to use the full weight of government power to stamp out these things root and branch, then obviously you support them on some level.

                  After all, there’s no deed too base, no reach too far, no lake of blood too deep to wade through to keep a king on the thro–er, I mean, to eliminate racism.

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                • In a sense, yes.  Libertarianism may not be out on the front lines of racism, and its distaste for state action removes one of the main avenues by which racist policies are effected.  But libertarians frequently avail themselves of pseudo-racist ideology nevertheless.  How often have you heard libertarians try to justify entrenched racial inequality by referencing IQ?

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      • Because, to honestly engage with this idea means admitting that they will have to give up some of the inherent benefits they enjoy. Their lives would be harder, and they don’t want to hear that.

        You guys on the left need to get your story straight. When you’re trying to sell your program, you tell us that it will benefit the 99% at the expense of the 1%, and that they’re so well off that they won’t notice much of a difference anyway. But when you’re trying to smear the opposition, we’re a bunch of greedy bastards who don’t support your agenda because it will benefit others at our expense.

        This could be consistent if libertarians were all rich, but we’re not. Given that neither most libertarians nor most leftists are rich, you have it backwards. Non-rich leftists are greedy, and non-rich libertarians are opposing handouts which would ostensibly benefit us.

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        • It is true most Libertarians are not rich.   This is because they do not understand how markets work.   The rich do understand and parade you about, as if you were respectable scholars of the market, in hopes someone will take you seriously about Deregulation.   That Regulation keeps the rich from becoming richer through fraud.   Hate it if you will. Though your sermons about Force have much to commend them, your failure to observe your own dicta about Fraud shows you for what you truly are, about 50% Marxist, insofar as you fantasise about the withering away of government.   But even the Marxists understood what capitalism would produce over time, the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few at the expense of the many.   Would that you had even gotten as far as Marx but you have not.   We Liberals don’t care how rich the rich become, as long as the poor advance as well.

          You get the Leftist story straight before you presume to lecture us.   We believe capitalism works, but only when Risk is managed at least as well as a craps table in Las Vegas, where winners and losers can be distinguished from each other.

           

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        • When you’re trying to sell your program, you tell us that it will benefit the 99% at the expense of the 1%, and that they’re so well off that they won’t notice much of a difference anyway. But when you’re trying to smear the opposition, we’re a bunch of greedy bastards who don’t support your agenda because it will benefit others at our expense.

          No, when we’re doing our pitch, we tell you that it will benefit the 99% at the expense of the 1%, and that they’ve had the game rigged for decades, and this is part of making things more equal. When we’re trying to smear the opposition, we’re pointing out that you keep resisting this sort of thing and the only thing we can think of is that you don’t want to benefit others at your expense, because you have it prettygoodthankyouverymuch.

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          • Eh. I’ve heard both justification for why it’s okay to tax the hell out of the top 1%. But anyway, the point is that the vast majority of libertarians aren’t part of the top 1% of income earners.

            you keep resisting this sort of thing and the only thing we can think of is that you don’t want to benefit others at your expense

            Okay, so basically you don’t understand why we oppose your agenda, so you just make something up. Got it.

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            • Eh. I’ve heard both justification for why it’s okay to tax the hell out of the top 1%. But anyway, the point is that the vast majority of libertarians aren’t part of the top 1% of income earners.

              I’m not saying that the vast majority of libertarians ARE part of the top 1%. I’m saying that when liberals say “The system is rigged!” libertarians say “Free Markets! Liberty! Government bad!”

              Okay, so basically you don’t understand why we oppose your agenda, so you just make something up. Got it.

              So, let me get this straight.

              – Liberals point out the system is rigged.
              – Liberals think Libertarians should want to stop it.
              – Libertarians say government can’t fix the problem. In fact, government is the problem.
              – Liberals assume Libertarians don’t want to benefit others at their expense.

              And, this means I don’t understand your position and am making something up?

              How do we fix the rigged system without government being involved? Deregulation (less government) actually caused much of the rigged system.

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              • The fourth point doesn’t follow at all from the first three. It may, strictly speaking, be true in that that’s what leftists assume, but that’s just another word for making something up. You don’t understand the arguments against your position, so you just imagine something uncharitable.

                As for how we fix the rigged system without a powerful activist government…well…the answer’s right there in the question. Government is the most powerful rent-seeking tool known to man. How else do people rig the system, if not by lobbying the government to do it for them?

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                • How else do people rig the system, if not by lobbying the government to do it for them?

                  1. Assemblage of horizontal monopolies that eliminate competition in the marketplace. Oftentimes this comes with the “illusion” of competing products, such as the 18 different brand names GM has marketed cars under.
                  2. Assemblage of vertical monopolies that place the entire supply chain under one ownership, preventing the potential of others competing for contracts.
                  3. Trust-coalitions (RIAA, MPAA, etc) that engage in price fixing, serving as a monopoly interest even when supposed, but not actual, competition exists between fictitiously “separate” labels or businesses under Hollywood Accounting schemes.
                  4. Company Towns, or Company-Town behavior. How nice for the modern slaveowners to have so-called “employees” beholden as slaves and unable to leave their jobs no matter how abusive the environment gets lest they lose their health insurance, their membership in the credit union that holds their mortgage, and a dozen other points of economic entanglement?

                  Does that help to explain the sort of things that strong government regulation needs to prevent?

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                  • Barnum,

                    Absent the use of coercive force, it is extremely hard to sustain a monopoly. In other words, in free enterprise sustainable monopolies tend to breed their own destruction. The only way to maintain monopolies in most industries is by force or government privilege.

                    Free enterprise is dependent upon rules which prohibit coercive force from monopolists, cartels and most importantly from the government. coercion is only allowed to counteract coercion.

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                    • It’s trivial to maintain a monopoly as long as you can raise the barriers to entry high enough through standard market techniques such as collusion and price fixing.   Monopolies have never bred their own destruction.

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                    • BlaiseP: “It’s trivial to maintain a monopoly as long as you can raise the barriers to entry high enough through standard market techniques such as collusion and price fixing.”

                      This is where you present a real-world example of such a monopoly maintained through such a process.

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                    • How many people do you know who are now outright dead because of the illicit and unpunished use of force by corporations?

                      Right. Back here in the real world, the number of dead men serves as a chilling influence on whistleblowers.

                      How much more of our autonomy must we cede in order for the government to actually end the use of force?

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                    • Yes, I suppose DeBeers is an example, although I don’t find it all that persuasive when you consider that the value of diamonds is primarily the result of advertising and social convention.  Should people decide to fixate on other gemstones (or none at all) then DeBeers would be forced to either lower their prices or go out of business; diamonds are not a staple high-volume-demand item whose price is kept high entirely through private collusion.

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                    • Let’s try another monopoly:  the NFL.   Again, you could aw-shucks and say people can live without it, still it’s a monopoly and the courts allowed it.   The Microsoft per-processor monopoly stood for years until it was broken by antitrust legislation.   The Standard Oil monopoly, same story.

                      In short, capitalism always tends to price-fixing and from thence to monopoly once a cabal of operators works to that end.   See, here’s another thing I just don’t get about Libertarians, they think market operators are stupid.   They simply don’t understand the dynamics of capitalism for all their praise of it to solve problems.

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                    • Blaise and Duck,

                      Blaise your argument is on really skinny branches.

                      I never said natural monopolies are impossible, they certainly are really, really rare. Your example is DeBeers, which if you Wikipedia natural monopoly you get the following explanation….

                      “A monopoly can seldom be established within a country without overt and covert government assistance in the form of a tariff or some other device. It is close to impossible to do so on a world scale. The De Beers diamond monopoly is the only one we know of that appears to have succeeded (and even De Beers are protected by various laws against so called “illicit” diamond trade). – In a world of free trade, international cartels would disappear even more quickly.”

                      He basically found the odd exception that proves the rule and is trying to use this to support the substantially more demanding axiom that free markets have an inherent tendency to “inevitably” produce monopolies. So out of six zillion products, one natural monopoly proves this as a fundamental and inevitable characteristic?

                      NFL is not a natural monopoly, it is set up as a set of artificisl local monopolies within the rules of the league. As for discussions on Standard and Microsoft, check out this link.

                      http://www.investopedia.com/articles/economics/08/hammer-antitrust.asp#axzz1qK4bWez7

                      The overwhelming evidence is that natural monopolies are special cases within free markets, and that the majority of them are caused and supported by either coercion, or by government coercion or privilege.

                      That said, it is possible to believe in mostly free markets and still have an agency deal with rare cases of long term systemic natural monopolies or market concentrations with proven harmful effects. Libertarians would believe it will do more harm than good, but it would meet Blaise’s designs. In other words, if free enterprise did need the rules to restrain natural, non coercive monopolies, then these could be added to the rules of the system.

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                    • ,

                      It’s trivial to maintain a monopoly as long as you can raise the barriers to entry high enough through standard market techniques such as collusion and price fixing.

                      in other words, It’s trivial to maintain a monopoly as long as you can manage to satisfy some non-trivial conditions.Yes, those things can be done relatively easily in the short-term, but they’re hard to maintain over the long term, due to the fundamental collective action problem involved.  C.f., OPEC–every time they raise the price by colluding to cut back on production, the higher price creates an incentive for individual countries to cheat on their production quotas, with the inevitable result that the price collapses.

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                    • ,

                         The Microsoft per-processor monopoly stood for years until it was broken by antitrust legislation.   The Standard Oil monopoly, same story.

                      Both of those are myths.  Standard Oil began declining in share almost from the very moment of its formation, and had lost between a third and a half of its market share before it was charged under antitrust laws.  It’s trendline was still headed downward, so there’s no good reason to think their loss of share wouldn’t have continued for some time even absent the anti-trust case.

                      And Microsoft was never a monopoly.  I’ve had access to Macs ever since I first touched a computer.  Easy access to alternatives means there’s no monopoly.

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  4. “Liberaltarianism,” well, that’s the problem here, JamesK, et al.  You hate the Right, but the Left hates you.  They call you “Glibertarians.”

    Irrelevance is libertarianism’s biggest problem about now, which is behind the Koches’ powerplay Cato.  So thx for the link to Will Wilkinson on the battle for Cato.  Nice job by Mr. W, who no longer has a dog in that fight, and allows that the Kochtopus might not be exactly be turning Cato into an arm of the GOP.

    For years, I’ve used Cato [and Reason Mag] as “honest brokers” in the partisan comment wars, that there was a disinterested third party whose authority might be stipulated by left and right to call it clean.  But even here LoOG, formerly an all-comers forum where libertarianism has its place at the table, Cato is seldom if ever cited.  [Let alone the Gillespie-Welch Reason crowd.]

    If there was one blog where Cato should have a significant profile, it is [or was] LoOG!

    So I use scare quotes on “libertarianism” because I don’t know what this left-libertarianism that JamesK attempts to limn even is.  I cannot delineate it from plain ol’ left-liberalism except in degree, not kind.  [Libertarians seem more polite, although not always.]  It must have been so much easier in the 2001-2007 Dubya era when the GOP controlled Congess as well, and all failures governmental could be blamed on the Right.

    Now, besides the obligatory slags on neo-conservatism, there’s not much to say beyond the usual bedroom and bong issues [aside from giving a heart transplant to the Cheney/torture issue, which hasn’t been a live wire since the Bushies discontinued waterboarding back in 2006].

    Obama?  Who’s he?

    This left-libertarianism remains inert, impotent, flaccid.  The sex-and-drug culture wars are proceeding fine without them, and libertarianism makes no commitment to the [conservative] preservation of the status quo of our reasonably functional civil society, nor does it put its shoulder to the wheel of the progressive project, the “improvement of man’s estate.”

    This would be why conservatives question this “liberaltarianism” as being anything other than ordinary leftism however pallid, and why the Balloon Juice crowd is so hostile in disowning these “glibertarians” as anything but obstacles to their vision of progress.  Like tha man said, It’s gotta be this or that.

    Again, HT to Will Wilkinson’s analysis of the Koch-Crane Cato War, and add my own observation [and I think the Koch argument] that Cato has simply become irrelevant in the American discourse.  The Reason crowd is far more relevant: although it lacks the heavyweight scholarship, numeracy, and brainpower of Cato’s estimable assemblage of wonks, it’s got some poetry, some soul.

    [Yo—recently re-subscribed to Reason.  I like it again.  67 cents an issue here—http://www.magazinepricesearch.com/detail/reason.html?terms=reason  Go for it.  I got it for $5/yr from that site a few months back, so bookmark that one.]

     

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    • “This left-libertarianism remains inert, impotent, flaccid. ”

      As is all libertarianism, really.  It’s an uphill slog in either party and in the electorate in general, for reasons both both and Mr. K elucidate.

      “The sex-and-drug culture wars are proceeding fine without them,”

      The sex one is, but the drug was isn’t as long as Senator Charles Schumer  still carries a lot of water in town – who is in fact seeking to expand to drug war to even to fake drugs.

      “makes no commitment to the [conservative] preservation of the status quo of our reasonably functional civil society,”

      It does so in two ways 1) by not making a federal case out of everything and 2) further trying to apply localism that is appealing to all of hippies, libertarians, and SWPL people, (e.g. food trucks, raw milk)

      (as an aside, and I say as an aside because this is not directed at you Mr. van Dyke, events like the Travyon Martin case really shoot in the knee the causes of advocates both of functional civil society and localism)

      “nor does it put its shoulder to the wheel of the progressive project, the “improvement of man’s estate.””

      well, because that’s a bad idea, and I presume you are in favor of left-libertarians (and libertarians) not doing that.  And even the orthodox left and core of the Democratic Party are not in favor of that construction all that much anymore (fever dreams of Glenn Beck nothwithstanding)

      Reason magazine is good.  In Reason’s wonkish think tank arm, however, I have found a lot of weakness in their analysis and conclusions.  (particularly when Mike Flynn was there – who later became part of the Breibartverse)  Hit and Run posts are good, Hit and Run comments used to be the equal of those here, but have since descended to just a rung above Youtube comments.  I used to throw a few bucks at their webathons every year, but not so much anymore.

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  5. After roughly a year of examining the issue, attempting to give the Libertarians every possible opening, I have concluded they simply will not live in the real world.   They are even more impossible than the Marxists, another band of political indigents who alienated everyone who ever saw a good thing in them.

    Like the Marxists, they seem to be terminally disaffected.  And like the Marxists, the Libertarians have become internally fractious, gnostically detached from every political fact.  Thus has every political entity dismissed them as useless, no friends of democracy as it is, the rough and tumble of the scrum and compromise seems too good for these Libertarian pantywaists.  Realpolitik is beyond them:  they will not recognise the collective as a meaningful construct for progress.

    I have come to believe the Liberal is no Libertarian.   FDR enacted the New Deal because the USA had a gut full of the Old Deal, a Deal which closely coincided with the laissez-faire which had cropped up like a vile weed after the Progressives under another Roosevelt, Theodore, had cleaned out the pigsty and been sent home like so many janitors.  The markets have never been guided by Wise Men, only by the greedy and self-interested, contradicting every principle of Libertarian dogma to its core.

    American Conservatism has long been a deeply angry and schizophrenic beast, pulled this way and that by Elitists and Populists, though in truth neither of them fit the bill for anything Burke might have called a Conservative.   It has become the hidey hole for ideological monsters bred in the sleep of reason.  The Republican Party is an inflamed appendix in the body politic.   Once it served some useful purpose but it has not done so since the advent of Richard Nixon.   Ronald Reagan, their lying prophet, was a cardboard cutout, a disaffected Democrat by his own admission.   What has followed on his heels has been a grotesque parody of Conservatism.

    The Libertarians were not born of the disaffected modern Liberals but of the same rootstock as the Neoconservatives, a cadre of effetes who, like Marx, hoped for a withering-away of the State.   They have no heritage in Liberalism but in the anti-Communism of yore and from thence did their prophets arise.  They continue to make slurs on the State with the old arguments of Marx, without his necessary critiques of Capitalism.

    For Marx was never the enemy of Capitalism.  He merely foresaw what it would inevitably produce.   Though they disagree with him, Libertarians really ought to re-read Marx:  they would find in him many of their own errors.  Marx’s greatest error was to believe man is wise, that he would be merciful to his fellow man, be enlightened and embrace socialism, if only external factors and the class struggle were put away.   The Libertarian, too, believes his fellow man ought to be liberated, believes him wise, operating in his own best interests.

    Man is not wise.  He is selfish and grasping because he is short-sighted and will not be enlightened to his true nature.   He lives in fear of powers which might act in restraint of his selfishness.   His self-interest is all-consuming, his powers of delusion very great.  If only mankind spent as much time and effort into doing good in the world instead of making excuses for his disgusting crimes against his fellow man, we should live in a paradise.  That we do not live in that paradise speaks to our true nature, that we are not good or wise.  Very well, then we shall be governed by law and live in fear of it, for we do not live in fear of our consciences.  And we shall have attorneys like so many locusts to make our excuses for us.

    Though they dream of a paradise where men are angels, there is no place in their hearts for the weak and defenseless, nor for children, especially not for children.   Confronted with this grievous shortcoming, they ruefully admit to it, more power to them for their honesty.   But it does not attenuate the charge of wanton selfishness nor that of the superciliousness that ignores the suffering world.   That the Koch Brothers now appear on the doorstep of Cato, shares in hand, demanding supremacy, well, no more poetic justice was ever visited upon a hard-hearted people.

    And there sat Alan Greenspan, the great apostle of deregulation, telling the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on Capitol Hill October 23, 2008  “Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholders’ equity are in a state of shocked disbelief.”

    Greenspan, noted Libertarian, seems to have come to state of shocked disbelief.   Today’s Libertarian has not reached the same conclusion.   I repeat myself in saying mankind’s powers of self-delusion are very great.

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    • While I’m not in agreement with nearly all of this, I must express my admiration for it as a polemic. Compared to this, I cannot see why people made such a fuss about Hitchens’s alcohol-infused sneering.

      I  will endorse the bit about Greenspan.  How people can understand  that the defining feature oi a corporation is the separation of control from ownership and yet fail to appreciate that that has consequences escapes me.

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      • I’m w/Mr.Schilling here in praise of alcohol-induced sneering.  [Or whatever drives BlaiseP.]  I would say “liberated” sneering, in the case of the late Mr. Hitchens and our correspondent here—that every thought was formed during the lucid moments, but only loosed with a bit of what they called “Dutch Courage” back in the day.

        So now you know why Kowal & I named it “Dutch Courage.” It was an inside joke and really had little to do with Ronald “Dutch” Reagan, and everything about what it takes to swim against the tide of popular opinion.  It was about speaking your mind and then getting ready for the onslaught of the mob of douchebags.  He stands at the ready.

        So this is why BlaiseP is a hero to me and not a villain.  He does not sneer for the sake of being liked or agreed with, neither does he sneer for being under the influence.  Anything he writes at midnight he had already thought of at dawn.

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    • Realpolitik. When I hear that word, I hear Henry Kissinger explaining why it’s important that we keep backing “our” bastards.

      Maybe Realpolitik worked in a world with two superpowers. I don’t see why in the hell we need to keep compromising away our souls in a world where there isn’t a “their” behind the bastards who aren’t “ours”.

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      • Perhaps I should have used a better word.   Insofar as Realpolitik is pragmatism at its most ruthless, the word works in that sentence.   Those who would avoid compromising their souls must remember Christ’s dictum in Matthew’s Gospel: Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.

        What we have in today’s Libertarian is a deluded little boy who think the town constable is a wolf and who denies the need to learn the wisdom of the serpent ere he sets out principles about harmlessness.

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          • The Libertarian would file an amicus brief for your wolf. After all, it is in the nature of wolves to eat sheep. Market forces and whatnot.

            No, the Libertarian really does think the need for constables is minimal at best, for like Pangloss of old, he’s convinced the injustice of the world is all caused by those meanies who attempt to impose order through laws.

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            • Wait, who’s the wolf here in your parable?  A police officer or just some dude?

              That you use this analogy is interesting given the number of canines that have met their demise at the hands of the police over the last several years.  

              And given that the same analogy was used by arch-conservatives back when neo-con foreign policy was at its zenith.   (the original essay published in 2005 I cannot find on the net, just references to it)

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                • “What we have in today’s Libertarian is a deluded little boy who think the town constable is a wolf”

                  That’s what I’m running with. Of all of the weeks to mock Libertarians for this, the week that the Trayvon killing reaches public consciousness, seemed to be one of the more inauspicious times to do so.

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                  • But is it not Libertarian doctrine that the State must necessarily wither away, or at least be vastly foreshortened in its powers?    I will stick by my little metaphor, for you would hoist up Trayvon Martin’s little body and the failure of a police department as a talisman of the Wicked Old State’s failure, I will respond with the New Black Panthers as society’s vigilante response without the state.   If we are to take your weeping about Public Consciousness seriously, policemen are indeed wolves.   Alas that the Libertarians have not mastered that Wise as Serpents business.   Be careful what you wish for:  you might get it.

                    Hi, ho, next stop will be the Circle A Ranch.

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                    • “But is it not Libertarian doctrine that the State must necessarily wither away, or at least be vastly foreshortened in its powers”

                      You’re thinking about Marx.

                      ” I will stick by my little metaphor, for you would hoist up Trayvon Martin’s little body and the failure of a police department as a talisman of the Wicked Old State’s failure, I will respond with the New Black Panthers as society’s vigilante response without the state.”

                      Failure of a police department?

                      This is corruption of the police department. This isn’t human frailty manifesting here. If there’s an analogy, it’s to the police not investigating a lynching. That’s not a “failure”. It’s active malice.

                      “I will respond with the New Black Panthers as society’s vigilante response without the state.”

                      Which is, pretty much, the only response left when the government colludes with innkeepers when it comes to murdering children.

                      I see the NBP’s response as inevitable.

                      What’s your solution? More police? Police police that make sure the police follow the laws?

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                    • I am thinking primarily about Roderick Long, not Marx.  I have been reading, you must remember.

                      So it’s come to me being asked for the solution?   I believe in the rule of law and a government effective enough to enforce those laws.   Unlike the Libertarian who can only see benefits from removing regulation, I believe regulations and laws are written in the blood of the victims and should not be discarded without contemplation of the reasons behind those regulations.

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                    • I believe regulations and laws are written in the blood of the victims and should not be discarded without contemplation of the reasons behind those regulations

                      In many cases even those regulations so called written in the blood of the victims are misguided. Very often regulations are written in response to just one incident without any kind of appreciation o whether it was a one off thing or what the normal operation of the system was like or for that matter how the regulation could screw things up in other ways. Bravo, they were done with good intentions in mind. Due care was still not taken.

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                    • “I believe in the rule of law and a government effective enough to enforce those laws.”

                      The Libertarian would say he agrees that’s a good idea, and then ask you to show him a society where that actually happens–one that wouldn’t have worked out great no matter what due to the fundamental moral virtue of its citizens.  (Like the guy said, there’s a great deal of poverty in America, and not much poverty in Sweden, but in America among Swedes there isn’t much poverty.)

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    • Man is not wise. He is selfish and grasping because he is short-sighted and will not be enlightened to his true nature. He lives in fear of powers which might act in restraint of his selfishness. His self-interest is all-consuming, his powers of delusion very great.

      This is one of the key arguments against activist government. Reckless though man may be in managing his own affairs, he is more reckless still in managing the affairs of others.

      Leftism arises from the failure to apply this principle consistently.

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      • The Left at least has the decency to further flesh out just what mankind has been obliged to do about mankind’s acknowledged recklessness in managing his own affairs.   For it does seem to me good laws are about keeping us from “managing” each others’ affairs, to wit, taking what isn’t ours and writing up colossal credit default swaps on millions of people’s mortgages.

        Oh, we Lefties may be accused of many things with considerable cause, chief among them idealism of a very different sort.   The world has seen what Deregulation, the Libertarians’ solution to every problem, has produced.   Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting.   We shall have law because men are not angels.

        Fact is, I, too, have been thinking lately about political ideology and the way libertarianism functions in politics.   I have concluded the Libertarians shall influence nobody, precisely because nobody wants the Libertarians.   While you lot maunder on about Activist Government, the rest of us find it the most appalling nonsense.   Perhaps you would prefer we be governed by plaster saints, lest our representatives actually do something. Libertarianism, in short, does not function at all and seems to feel this lack of function is somehow a virtue.

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        • I’ve got a sense that you are making a strawman out of libertarianism.

          Perhaps you would prefer we be governed by plaster saints, lest our representatives actually do something.  Libertarianism, in short, does not function at all and seems to feel this lack of function is somehow a virtue.

          Yeah, what you have described sounds horrible. But I dont think that it accurately characterises libertarianism.

          BlaiseP vs straw 1:0

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          • I have done nothing of the sort and I’ll thank you to make your point with more grace and at least some rejoinder from the basis of what Libertarianism believes about the role of government.   All I have seen from them is so much teenage grumbling about how Daddy won’t let them drive the family chariot until they can pay for their own insurance.

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            • So you call us juvenile, hard-hearted, self deluded and purveyors of “appalling nonsense”, but for someone to suggest your point is over-broad?  Well that would just be rude!  I assume you definition of grace also includes lying still while you kick us.

              Libertarians are nothing if not individualistic, you even point this out.  And yet you seem to think you can tar us all with the same brush.  You seem to be treating all libertarians as if they were the narrowest of minarchists, and given your statement about constables you may even be defining libertarianism more narrowly than that.  I myself have outlined what I feel are reasonable grounds for regulation more than once in the past, but apparently this is just to distract you long enough for me to privatise the entire government whole your back is turned.

              Complex systems do not fail for just one reason, and economists will be debating the causes of the Great Recession for decades.  But what is clear is that while the private sector definitely screwed the pooch, the government was cheering them on every step of the way.  You see all those clever financial games made housing more affordable while lifting house prices, an outcome that appeals to poor people who don’t own houses as well as rich people who do.  Hell, Greenspan for all his supposed love of lassiez faire, played his part by keeping interest rates so low.  And don’t forget it was Fannie Mae that brought debt securitisation into existence in the first place, an entity that only existed because of even older government interventions.  Malregulation is at least as big a story as insufficient regulation here.  After all we may speak of “regulation” in the abstract but in reality every possible government intervention (regulatory or otherwise) is a separate thing that need sot be evaluated on its own merits.

              At some stage I should write a post on how I would try to prevent future financial crises (and the operative word is try because there are serious limits on what can be accomplished here).  And while some new regulations would be needed, there a a few things your government is currently doing that it should stop doing.  Would that count as regulation or deregulation?  Does the question even make sense?

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              • Yes I do.  Libertarians have done a wretched job of explaining their positions.   I came here for just such an explanation and have not received anything even faintly resembling one.  Like the Marxists, you come in many flavours.  And like the Marxists, you feud endlessly with each other.   Completely incapable of compromise, not only with each other but with the political parties, the only meaningful exponent of your faith who ever held any power for change, Alan Greenspan, has proven to the world just what your Deregulation crap has led to, the collapse of the world economy, only narrowly avoided by an emergency enema of Keynesian cure.   Your economists are worthless, worse than worthless.   Were it up to the Libertarians, we should live in at Circle A Ranch, where Force and Fraud are on the menu daily.   If I hear another word about that old fraud Hayek, astrologer to the stars, I shall puke.

                We know exactly why the Great Recession happened:   investment banks took on more risk than they could handle.   Because their transactions were not traded on regulated exchanges, they were able to hide their idiocy.    The Libertarians have long been preaching how the market shall solve our problems, a sermon which has much to commend it.   When I bring up the fact that risk must be accompanied by regulation, oh well, that old Liberal Fathead BlaiseP is up to his usual Liberal Idiocy.   Not once have I seen a Libertarian concur with me on this and I’ve brought it up a hundred times.   I shall not bring it up again around here, for it is only a Liberal Doctrine.

                The government wasn’t cheering them on.   The investment bankers demanded, and got, a repeal of Glass-Steagall which would have absolutely prevented this mess.    This was Deregulation, plain and simple.    The very fucking idea that we do not understand what went wrong in the Great Recession is nonsense.  It requires no further explanation.   You have been given the only possible explanation.   You might incorporate it into your thinking.

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                • Blaise,

                  Oddly, I agree with much of what you say. Free enterprise has always depended upon a set of rules that determine the game.

                  Excessive regulations introduce massive disturbances into the system’s dynamics, and this leads to liberarian concerns with regulation. Sometimes we are prone to oversimplify and say regulation bad, dereg good.

                  On the other hand, deregulating crony capitalism introduces a whole new level of potential abuse. To channel your favorite astrologer, complex institutions can develop into functional systems that nobody either intended or understands. Piecemeal removal of individual constraints of a complex system can lead to unexpected and oftentimes perverse results.

                  To summarize, it is one thing to suggest the system will work best with firm, consistent, predictable, minimalist rules and regulations and another to suggest the rube Goldberg contraption we actually have will operate better without so many regulations.

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                  • Excessive regulations introduce massive disturbances into the system’s dynamics

                    More accurately:
                    The regulatory environment then shapes the dynamics of the system.

                    It’s no longer a disturbance, but the norm.

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                  • I repeat myself in saying the Libertarians do not understand markets.    Was Glass-Steagall excessive regulation or hard-won wisdom learned during the Great Depression?

                    Crony Capitalism can only be attenuated by thrusting risk instruments into a regulated exchange.   Everyone knows this.   Minimalism my ass, the regulation of risk is as complex as the risks thus taken.  This minimalist position puts me in mind of Emperor Joseph II confronting Mozart about the Marriage of Figaro.   “Too many notes”, to which Mozart responds “Which ones do you think I should take out?”

                    And thus it is with the Libertarians.   Too many notes, and not a clue which ones they want to remove.   What they’re for in the way of regulations remains a mystery.

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                    • Blaise,

                      You seem to be vehemently agreeing with me. Once we have a Rube Goldberg device, We can never be sure which simplifications improve the system and which ones lead to massive fail.

                      Where I disagree is that you seem to be implying that massive complexity is not possible without massively complex rules and regulations. This is not true.

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                    • “What they’re for in the way of regulations remains a mystery.”

                      “I came here for just such an explanation and have not received anything even faintly resembling one.”

                      Half of your statements speak to what Libertarianism is or isn’t, then the other half asks for an explanation. If you want to know about libertarianism, read the literature — it will not be explained in full in the comment sections of a blog. If you say you have read the literature and still don’t know what libertarians believe and why they believe it, then I don’t know what to say, except — each to their own. If you say you’ve read the literature and simply think libertarians are wrong, then you are dishonest about not knowing what libertarians believe. And if you know what libertarians believe and think they are wrong, then state why if you want to convince anyone. You are long on bluster and short on substance.

                      Someone asked why there hasn’t been a libertarian society, as if this is proof that libertarianism is not viable. First of all, history didn’t start in at the beginning of the 20th century. political philosophies can evolve over time, and from the 20th century til now is like a fraction of a second. Many of the libertarian ideas were not really formed until the last 100 years. The Enlightenment was an awakening and The Declaration of Independence was a spark, but the resulting Constitution and Merchant State which allowed slavery shows that the ideas were no where near fully formed. We could see a libertarian state within the next fifty years. The problem is that a libertarian state doesn’t promise gifts paid for by other people, but we will eventually be forced to grow up and be responsible.

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                    • I have read everything I can lay my hands on, Farmer.   I still cannot fathom the Libertarian definition of Free Markets.    It’s completely asinine.   Runs contrary to every fact about markets.   Force and Fraud, I am told are the chief evils in the world according to the Libertarians.   Force they cannot define and Fraud, well, they simply have failed to recognise it when they see it. Worse, they are constantly making excuses for it, waving their hands about, saying it’s all too complex and the Market shall sort it out.

                      Well it just hasn’t.

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                    • Don’t kid yourself, the libertarians know what notes they want removed. Their response is “all of them.” Libertarianism is thinly disguised corporate anarchism, the end result of which is people being herded around by whoever controls most of the money and their hired “security force” armies.

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                    • Blaise,

                      It would be more productive for you to have a dialogue with “us” rather than with an opaque “they” that you can define any damn way you please.

                      Would you like to know how we define free markets, coercion and fraud? If so, we can have a productive discussion.

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                    • Roger:  insofar as I have yet to receive such a definition of Markets from anyone hereabout, feel free to chime in.   As for putting all this in some abstract labelling, rather than the first person, I would only repeat the first sentence in explaining why.

                      Now I shall lay out a debate proposition for you or any other Libertarian around here to answer, if you’d be so good as to respond, for I will not put words in anyone’s mouths, beyond the periodic cheap shot to which I feel entitled, now and again.  I shall put it in Libertarian terms, such as I understand them, so you can justly disagree with it.

                      Resolved:   Market freedom is only the freedom of money.   If rights are a function of property, only those with property have rights.   Such people of property are only constrained to honour their contracts and the property rights of others.

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                    • Blaise,

                      I am not sure I agreed with anything in your initial resolution, so let me start from scratch. My definition of Free Enterprise (FE):

                      FE pertains to a particular domain of human interaction. Broadly, to cooperative problem solving on the production and exchange of scarce resources.

                      Based upon human nature and cultural evolution, groups of humans have discovered various conventions which allow us to interact in ways which create a complex adaptive problem solving system to meet our various needs. The first convention is often referred to as liberty or its inverse, non-coercion. Specifically this relates to the concept that adults have freedom to do whatever they like in the domain as long as it does not directly harm another. Harm is roughly defined as physical force, threats, theft, murder, rape, fraud and deception. It does not apply to opportunistic harm, or lost opportunity or status based upon the actions of another. Economic liberty means we are free to produce whatever we want, to make voluntary agreements with whomever also voluntarily agrees, to exchange with whomever also agrees.

                      The next essential element is the definition of property “rights”. These are conventions that determine who owns what. The evolved conventions in FE are that we own ourselves and our efforts. In addition there are agreed upon conventions on claiming ownership of property and on rules for exchange of property. Other conventions and evolved institutions such as money and contracts further lubricates the system.

                      With these basic conventions of property and liberty, humans can constructively solve problems for themselves and others. Indeed, it becomes easier to solve problems for oneself by specializing in the solving of problems for others. This ties us all together in a complex competitive cooperative system of limitless potential. Adults specialize in areas of comparative advantage and exchange their specialized efforts for the efforts or property of others.

                      Humans are brilliant problem solving systems. As such, all able bodied adults can contribute to and participate in the domain. Basically they offer in their efforts and receive the efforts and property of others.

                      The rules of FE basically lead to a positive sum system that creates and builds solutions to human problems. Everyone works to produce things of value and or to exchange things of less value for something with more value. As long as liberty and property rights are observed, people can only engage in win win interactions. All involved parties have to agree to the interaction, meaning that it is superior to their alternatives. Some specialize in production, some voluntarily hire others, some specialize in investments, etc. The patterns of positive sum interaction multiply and build upon each other almost limitlessly. Every involved person gains in virtually every action and interaction. The system becomes one of trillions upon trillions of cumulative positive sum interactions. It is the source of modern prosperity.

                      Note also that the rules prohibit stopping someone from doing something. This means they are free to compete with you to solve other’s problems better than you. Indeed everyone is encouraged to creatively and competitively solve more problems better than anyone else ever has. Thus the system becomes an engine for problem solving. It becomes a complex adaptive learning system of positive sum solutions.

                      I have already gone too long, and there are a lot of issues that I am skipping (such as externalities) but the basic points are that FE is a system of rules or conventions, and it is a creative system that allows humans to compete and cooperate in the advancement and prosperity of themselves and others.

                      Other domains exist, such as science, the care of those unable to care for themselves, and sports which operate under totally different rules. It is a mistake to apply FE domain rules outside of the domain.

                       

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                    • Free Enterprise, eh?   Since the invention of money, we’ve known how to deal with the various conventions of enterprise.  All else is irrelevant in terms of market freedom.   Those with money have power.  As Libertarians have some rum views of money, what with their opposition to the Federal Reserve and their complete failure to understand how the money supply works, I’ll need a better definition than Free Enterprise.

                      C’mon, you’re just recapitulating the old Libertarian mythos.  There’s obviously more to this than mere property rights and some skeevy and entirely inadequate definition of Liberty.   Fraud chiefly concerns me and I shall pin the Libertarian like a dead frog to the wax tray of the dissection tray and find out how seriously any of you take it, for I find the Libertarians are woefully deficient in both its definition and how they might act to prevent it.   For working markets are defined both internally and externally, with meaningful and powerful bureaucracies to enforce those laws against Fraud.

                      It is clear rhetoric is no longer taught in schools.  Please respond to the Resolved, as put forward.   Dispense with all else.

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                    • Blaise,

                      I will gladly reply to your resolution if you will reply to mine. I have no issues with the federal reserve. You are again fighting “them” and not anyone on this site. You said we have no rational concept of free markets, so I offered one for your feedback. Instead you go off on the federal reserve?

                      Let’s just have a discussion and we can both gain from the dialogue. That is our common goal, right? Just let me know what I wrote that you agree or disagree with and why. It will be productive.

                      “Please respond to the Resolved, as put forward. ”

                      Ok. Market freedom is not about money, it is about freedom of human interaction within the domain. Money is an institutional protocol to facilitate these interactions and exchanges.

                      Rights are not just about property they are fundamentally about self ownership. Every able bodied adult owns himself and his efforts and thus brings his creative potential into the system. These are of course exchanged voluntarily for property. That is how I got all mine. I voluntarily agreed to work for someone in exchange for money. Which I used to buy things and invest for future returns. My employer gained, I gained and the millions of consumers we served gained. I helped make the world a little bit better and was rewarded for doing so.

                      Liberty and property rights apply to everyone within the domain, not just to those with money or physical property.

                      As I said, I respectfully and rationally disagree with everything you suggested.

                      Your turn….( please be nice)

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                    • So you don’t mind the Federal Reserve?   If we are to play nice, let’s start with the conclusion this position is at considerable variance from standard Libertarian belief structures.   It is certainly at variance with Ron Paul’s positions.   I have yet to see a Libertarian embrace this notion.   You would be the first.

                      The rules of FE basically lead to a positive sum system that creates and builds solutions to human problems.

                      FE creates as many problems as it solves.  Capitalism, like the force of gravity in star and planet formation, tends to concentrate wealth in the hands of the few, inevitably producing monopolies as the entities thus created gain political power through the influence of money, the only real source of power in the world.   Capitalism is a great force for good in the world, insofar as barriers to entry are reasonably low and monopolies are prevented.

                      Everyone works to produce things of value and or to exchange things of less value for something with more value. As long as liberty and property rights are observed, people can only engage in win win interactions. All involved parties have to agree to the interaction, meaning that it is superior to their alternatives.

                      Here I must return you to this notion of Fraud, to which the Libertarian only gives lip service.  Everyone works to convince others to buy their goods and services.   Whether those goods and services are actually useful or the labels and contents match up is a matter for a third party.   That melamine might be in the milk or rat shit in the peanut butter are not known without extensive and continuous intervention in the market.

                      Some specialize in production, some voluntarily hire others, some specialize in investments, etc. The patterns of positive sum interaction multiply and build upon each other almost limitlessly.  Every involved person gains in virtually every action and interaction.

                      Not when you’re getting melamine in the milk.

                      The system becomes one of trillions upon trillions of cumulative positive sum interactions. It is the source of modern prosperity.

                      Prosperity for whom?  Monopolies form up, the monopolist becomes prosperous.   The workers have no protections.  We’ve already established this in the Gilded Age.   Now perhaps you’ll admit to some market regulation, but you’d be getting even farther off Libertarian Acres.

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                    • Blaise,
                      I have no position on the Federal Reserve, and do not take orders from Ron Paul. I did not start with libertarianism, I found that it matches my beliefs more than other socioeconomic theories.

                      All problem solving systems in the real world tend to lead to more problems. Progress is where we solve more than we generate.

                      There is no tendency in free enterprise to monopoly. I can supply you with literature on the case. Monopolies are possible in some rare cases, and where supported by coercive force, deception and possibly collusion. The reason freedom destroys monopoly is that absent coercive barriers to entry, monopoly positions lead to monopoly profits and opportunities. The potential rewards for competition grows if the monopolist avoids innovation or charges above market prices. It is a system dynamic thing. Monopolies have dominated in history, but this is because they were enforced coercively. King’s charters, guilds, unions, trade protections, mercantilism, crony capitalism, etc

                      If your position is that you reject free enterprise because you believe despite conventional wisdom that it leads to monopoly, then at least I now understand where you are coming from. From now on we can all just remember that Blaise is the guy that is convinced free markets lead to inevitable monopolies.

                      Those benefiting the most from FE are the less advantaged. In prior eras the serfs worked 12 hours a day from toddlerhood to death toiling on their masters farm. They earned the equivalent of a dollar or two a day for their short, miserable, illiterate lives. Today, any adult can learn a trade, specialty or profession and via the miracles of division of labor, economy of scale and comparative advantage make a good living. A barber, plumber or waiter alive today has more freedom, a longer expected lifespan and more opportunity than a Rockefeller or prince of prior eras. FE isn’t the only factor, but it is the most important one.

                      Certainly FE does lead to wide disparities in wealth. This is a feature, not a bug. Assuming some people want to acquire massive wealth the path is clear. You must creatively solve more problems better than your competitors, and you are not allowed to restrain your competition. In other words, unlike prior eras, the path to massive wealth comes from doing good for others. FE is a positive sum game as opposed to the exploitation games of prior eras where force, coercion, slavery and privilege determined wealth and power.

                      Fraud is totally unacceptable in FE. It is deception. It violates the rules and is forbidden. Labeling of products and truth in advertising are essential. Certainly I prefer bottoms up solutions such as Underwriters Laboratory, but I can live with government rules if need be.

                      “Prosperity for whom?”  For all.

                      ” The workers have no protections.” Of course they do. The rules apply equally to all. Only voluntary interactions and terms of employment are allowed by definition. The market rate based upon the productivity of the economy and the miracle of comparative advantage ensures that workers such as you and I are fairly compensated for our efforts. If we are not we take our contributions elsewhere.

                      “We’ve already established this in the Gilded Age.”. Yes, this was the time of more economic advancement for more people than any other time in the history of the known universe (13.8 billion years). Since then we have advanced at an even faster rate. The hard thing for people to grasp in economics is what Kahneman refers to as the All You See Is All There Is fallacy. Even the poor workers in the sweat shops chose this as a superior alternative to dying of starvation on the farm. The robber Barron’s did more humanity than every king, prince, duke priest and liberal combined.

                       “Now perhaps you’ll admit to some market regulation, but you’d be getting even farther off Libertarian Acres” As I have explained, FE requires regulations and rules. It is a rule based system. Yes, I prefer these bottoms up and voluntary wherever possible, as do all libertarians. That is because it makes them more robust and less susceptible to tampering. I am not an anarchist, and neither are most other libertarians.

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                  • Roger,

                    The people who complain about regulation the most are the scofflaws — the ones who run right up to the edge of regulation to make another buck. They’re the ones who cause ecoli infestations regularly.

                    Every regulation had some reason to be — most of them are really extreme. You should see what got fire escapes put on every building!

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                • Libertarians have done a wretched job of explaining their positions.   I came here for just such an explanation and have not received anything even faintly resembling one.

                  So you don’t think you have a good handle on what libertarians believe (otherwise what would you need an explanation for?), and yet you seem perfectly comfortable making broad sweeping statements about what all libertarians believe.  Interesting.

                  If I hear another word about that old fraud Hayek, astrologer to the stars, I shall puke.

                  Oddly enough I have zero interest in what a non-economist has to say about any economist.  I doubt you know much of anything about what Hayek’s academic contributions actually were.  I’ll grant you he made some bad predictions, but that’s par for the course really.

                  We know exactly why the Great Recession happened:   investment banks took on more risk than they could handle.   Because their transactions were not traded on regulated exchanges, they were able to hide their idiocy.

                  Excessive risk-taking is an incomplete explanation.  That would have caused a couple of bank failures, but nothing the FDIC couldn’t handle.  Debt securitisation was a necessary element, without that the rot would have been easy to contain.  And regulators knew what was going on, it’s just that (like the banks themselves) they believed that houses prices would keep going up forever.  Madness, but widely spread madness.

                  When I bring up the fact that risk must be accompanied by regulation, oh well, that old Liberal Fathead BlaiseP is up to his usual Liberal Idiocy.   Not once have I seen a Libertarian concur with me on this and I’ve brought it up a hundred times.

                  I will grant this point, at least in some cases.  I don’t want to totally deregulate the financial industry, I just think we need to approach this from a different angle.

                  The government wasn’t cheering them on.   The investment bankers demanded, and got, a repeal of Glass-Steagall which would have absolutely prevented this mess.

                  The problem with this theory is that Glass-Steagall only prevented investment banks from getting into retail banks and vice versa.  Plenty of pure retail banks had the exact same problem as the Glass-Steagall-defying hybrids.  Glass Steagall is a red herring, seized upon because it was one of the few deregulations that took place in this industry.

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                  • So you don’t think you have a good handle on what libertarians believe (otherwise what would you need an explanation for?), and yet you seem perfectly comfortable making broad sweeping statements about what all libertarians believe.  Interesting.

                    That’s a pretty fair assessment of the extent of my ignorance. I’ve been reading for a year now. I see a great deal about what Libertarianism is Not. Very little about what it is.

                    Oddly enough I have zero interest in what a non-economist has to say about any economist.  I doubt you know much of anything about what Hayek’s academic contributions actually were.  I’ll grant you he made some bad predictions, but that’s par for the course really.

                    I am sorry to hear you say such things. I’ve traded on the floor of CBOT and I write AI models and back office for a living, including a company named Rand Financial, yes, named for Ayn Rand, with lots of Rand quotes in the lobby. I have worked for Libertarians and some of them take me seriously if you do not. The difference between them and you is pretty clear, they handle real money. There is no par for the course when you’re handling other people’s money because the only defined course I respect obeys rules and regulations, the real market, not your anarchic Free Market.

                    Your attitude amuses me greatly but it is not surprising. It’s not clear to me there is a Libertarian here who can adequately explain the necessary role of SEC or CFTC to me, or knows selling a put from a buying a call or a strike price from a market price. I sit here all day long, with a copy of TradeStation on the other monitor, watching my positions, with trading models I’ve written executing my risk and profit stops, writing more models in a desultory fashion, meanwhile idly amusing myself writing here. I know markets and I know economics. It’s pretty fair to say it’s all I know: all I do is write event- and rules-driven software.

                    Absolutely nothing Hayek ever had to say ever came true, precisely because he never understood the past.

                    Excessive risk-taking is an incomplete explanation.  That would have caused a couple of bank failures, but nothing the FDIC couldn’t handle.  Debt securitisation was a necessary element, without that the rot would have been easy to contain.  And regulators knew what was going on, it’s just that (like the banks themselves) they believed that houses prices would keep going up forever.  Madness, but widely spread madness.

                    Bullshit. You don’t understand the terms of a CDS bet. It was a hedge on another bet on other people’s credit ratings. Because these pooled mortgages were imperfectly defined, the tranches meant nothing. The repeal of Glass-Steagall, combined with the treacherous dealings of the investment banks on unregulated markets led to a fatally overtrained network, for everyone was making similar bets, making vast profits while they could still churn the bottom of the barrel. The investment banks became intertwined, an effect Glass-Steagall had addressed. The model went out of its success boundaries. The regulators were not aware of the CDS bets nor could they have prevented them, for they were not only over-the-counter custom instruments but secretly so. FDIC. Jesus. Don’t tell me you know anything about economics again, you’ve climbed the tree far enough for me to see your ass.

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                    • I am sorry to hear you say such things. I’ve traded on the floor of CBOT and I write AI models and back office for a living, including a company named Rand Financial, yes, named for Ayn Rand, with lots of Rand quotes in the lobby.

                      I’m sure you know a lot about finance, especially the real world rough and tumble side of things that doesn’t get covered in degrees.  But I’m talking about academic economics here, which is a different thing entirely.  What Hayek got right is that a centrally planned economy cannot cope with the impossible information needs that central planning has.  He predicted the collapse of communism due to inefficiency at a time most educated people considered the triumph of communism inevitable.

                      Bullshit. You don’t understand the terms of a CDS bet. It was a hedge on another bet on other people’s credit ratings. Because these pooled mortgages were imperfectly defined, the tranches meant nothing.

                      But that’s my point, if the debt wasn’t securitised in the first place, you wouldn’t have had this problem.  It wasn’t a lack of Glass-Steagall that caused the banks to be intertwined it was securitised debt.  On my list of causes for this mess that can actually be fixed debt securitisation is right at the top.  If you want me to endorse a regulation in response to the financial crisis, how about banning debt securitisation?  Bear in mind though, that securitisation was at core a government initiative.  Yes, the private sector took it too far, but your government wasn’t interested in reining them in.

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                    • James,

                      Hayek was right — for his time. But what if he’s wrong, now? Millions of variables are what computers are good at, after all… Centralized planning too complicated? Get a better brain.

                      Today’s arbitrage is computerized, to some degree…

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                    • Hayek was completely and utterly wrong on centralization.   He never understood market fundamentals and declared them a great mystery because he didn’t.

                      A centrally planned economy is not what’s up for discussion.   Centralized regulation is what’s on tap at present moment.   The CDS was an over the counter bet, essentially insurance against another bet, which rode over a third set of bets, the mortgages themselves.

                      Allow me to repeat this, nice and slow, so you can read along.   Under Reagan, the first cracks in Glass-Steagall began to appear.   Reagan allowed non-participating banks into the securities fold.   I remember when Bank of America started trading their own version of mortgage-backed securities and the old guys were shaking their heads, predicting disaster.   Well, it took a while, but it happened.

                      See, the Libertarian correctly fears bubbles.    Always ranting about them, wiggling his fingers, trying to scare the kiddies.   But they do not understand how such bubbles are created.   Now it is a simple and horrible fact:  the government ended up essentially underwrite trillions of dollars in crap paper, just like the boys I knew back in the day at GE/Kidder Peabody had predicted.

                      Want real securities trading?   Ever heard of the Blue Sky Laws?   Know why they were passed?   Now here’s a simple and obvious way to deal with this problem, entirely congruent with market principles.   Want to issue securities?   Get a license and trade either NYMEX or EUREX.   The OTC securities market should be abolished:  the OTC CDS was already illegal, it was selling insurance without a license. That’s why AIG got involved, it was providing a convenient fig leaf, though it was nothing but a cutout, a straw buyer.

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                    • Kimmi,

                      Much of knowledge is tacit, fleeting and localized. It can’t be entered into a data base. In addition, the economy is made up of billions of people with differing values with no way to compare add or net utilities. You really should read Hayek’s The Use of Knowledge in Society. I think you will enjoy it, even if parts infuriate you.

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                    • Hayek was completely and utterly wrong on centralization.   He never understood market fundamentals and declared them a great mystery because he didn’t.

                      A centrally planned economy is not what’s up for discussion.  

                      Blaise, centrally planned economies were exactly what was up for discussion in the debate Hayek was engaged in.  That you don’t know that demonstrates how poor your understanding of Hayek is. Maybe you’ve read some libertarian comic-book version of him, or maybe you skimmed Road to Serfdom and weren’t impressed, but I’m doubting that you’ve read “The Use of Knowledge in Society” closely enough to explain it.

                      The style in which you write reminds me of Darwin’s famous statement that “”Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.”

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                  • Once again, James H makes my point for me.  I pointed out something Hayek was right about.  The fact he won the calculation debate should not be held against him.  And while this insight is less relevant in modern times precisely because he did win the calculation debate, it has some force.  It is still a bad idea to try and second-guess market outcomes.  If a market is producing bad outcomes, the solutions needs to be to figure out what market failure(s) are causing the problem and fix them directly, rather than trying to override the market outcome by fiat.

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          • I might add to that little metaphor about Teenage Grumbling, that this metaphorical teenager (Al Greenspan, known to his friends as The Oracle) has already taken the chariot out for a spin, crashed it into the house, racked up somewhere between seventeen and twenty five trillion in damages which caused Tyrannical Old Dad to take out yet another mortgage on the house lived in by this Much-Oppressed Teenager who now rants about Activist Parents who just won’t let a kid have his freedom.

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    • I agree, a most excellent screed and not without good points.  But saying ‘they will not simply live in the real world’ is kinda amusing given your own policy prescriptions regarding, for example, Afghanistan.

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    • This.

      It’s not complete, there are more elements to this (class, race, gender, environment, and the rest). But for a comment on the Internet, it’s sketches out the picture very well. Agree with every word, and a bunch more that weren’t written.

      To me, the question always is: why aren’t there any libertarian societies? Or, ones that the libertarians want to use as evidence of success. There’s plenty of liberal examples (for better or worse) and conservative examples (mostly for the worse).

      Is there a law, like Godwin’s law, about discussions of libertarian societies on the ‘tubes and how quickly you get to “Somalia!”?

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      • John,

        You remind me of the fish that refuses to notice it lives in water.

        Libertarian societies? How about the most common social organization in the history of the human race? Aka the hunter gatherer band. Individuals were autonomous. Coercion was minimal. Every individual had the “right” of exit. “Insurance” and social welfare were handled via reciprocity, an early form of win win exchange ( I’ll give you my lower marginal value surplus today as long as you agree to give me your surplus when you have it and I most need it). Leadership was by mutual consensus and persuasion.

        The problems started when we got tied to the land and that allowed those that specialize in force to dominate and exploit the productive class. We lost the ability to exit and were effectively subdued by those with more power.

        For ten thousand years, agricultural societies rambled on in a Malthusian world of subsistence living on what we would equate to about a dollar or two a day for a short, miserable, uneducated life of toil as the one or two percent and their henchmen exploited the rest.

        Starting a few centuries ago, the liberal/libertarian vision of the enlightenment began to take hold. People gained in liberty and “rights.”. Adam Smith pointed the way to productive, win win interactions based upon no coerced, voluntary exchange and property “rights.” The free inquiry of knowledge led to science and it’s sister technology.

        Today, we have more freedom and liberty than even our hunter gatherer ancestors, and we have lifespans that are twice as long with relative incomes that are simply incomparably prosperous. This is the libertarian vision that you swim in. Sure it can get better. Perhaps it will. Perhaps it won’t.

        My point is that the libertarians have been winning for the past two hundred and fifty years. That is why you are educated, prosperous and free. I am well aware that liberals are intent on pursuing the path back to feudalism. Perhaps you will succeed. I hope not.

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        • More anthropology and less Rousseau for you guys.    People didn’t escape from their societies.   The hunter gatherer band was not autonomous, it was led by a chief with absolute autonomy, who generally enslaved or murdered anyone trespassing on his domain or authority.

           

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          • Blaise,

            Do you just make up facts as you go along? HG’s were not coercively dominated by alpha males. This is true for chimps, but is/was not the case for humans.

            Men have weapons and have for over a hundred thousand years. This creates a balancing force in human bands. Any dominant ass hole can be killed or maimed in a single blow by any other male. This makes coercion risky. Authoritarian jerks tended to get disproportionately weeded out in unfortunate hunting accidents. The other option for nomadic HG’s is of course exit. They could just split off from the authoritarian figure.

            The dynamic of Nomadic HG’s in sparsely populated pre agricultural communities was one where exploitation and coercion were simply impossible to sustain. Leadership required persuasion.

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              • Murali,

                It is easiest to envision HGs as lossely knit bands within larger tribes. The population densities were extremely sparse, with anywhere from 5 to 50 square miles per person. If a person tried to coerce others the others in the band had two options, to coerce back ( ie harpoon in the back) or to abandon the coercer. Individuals could on their own separate from the coercer and wander off to another band within the larger tribe ( often filled with various relatives), or an extended family or group of families could head out on their own.

                I do not believe this is a contentious issue in anthropology, as I have read the same thing from dozens of sources. I’d be happy to supply references.

                Within tribe coercion is widely recognized as a more recent phenomena starting with agriculture. The dynamic just isn’t easy to maintain (for the exploiter) in HG society.

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              • The Apache had a system of slavery, though without the modern concept of ownership.
                They rarely, if ever, lived with the total as a group. Their groups were small: two brothers and their friend; a man, wife, the children, and a slave; etc. Smaller groups make for more effective hunting, and travel is easier.
                In the Apache slave system, the slaves would normally be kept for two or three years, sometimes as long as five or seven. If the slave had proved themselves, they might be invited to join the tribe, depending on how plentiful the food was. Otherwise, they would be sent back to where they came from.
                The Apache were notorious for raiding the Pueblo and Navajo during lean times to capture slaves. They would then trade them back in exchange for food from the agrarian tribes.
                Every once in a while, you see a Zuni (straight nose, narrow face) that looks more like a Navajo (wider nose, wide cheekbones). That’s what happened.

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                • Will,

                  Yes, leadership was based upon personal influence and persuasion, but violence was endemic between tribes.

                  By the way, do you know if Apaches were always nomadic HGs, or did they branch off earlier horticultural tribes from the north? I’ve heard that the epidemics post Columbus so decimated the native populations, that it led to reversions toward HG lifestyle in some cases. Is there any truth to this?

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                  • To my knowledge, the Apache have always been nomadic hunters.
                    That said, the term “nomadic” can be misleading. Some tribes were more migratory, like birds. The Apache, both the Jicarilla and the Mescalero, were more like “free ranging.”
                    The idea of killing a runaway slave was completely foreign to them, as was the idea of killing someone for trespassing (there was no ownership of the earth, a European concept). A runaway slave might be chased down and have the living daylights beat out of them, but death would have been extremely rare.
                    To kill someone because they were alone and a group happened upon them would have been about as common as the trappers in the Yukon doing that sort of thing. They would be more interested in meeting someone new, trading stories and a meal.
                    There was something of an “honor system” to the type of slavery that went on then that I haven’t seen elsewhere (not to say that it didn’t exist, but that I haven’t seen it).
                    It would be quite common for a person captured as a slave to go out hunting with the group the next day. They viewed hunting implements more the way we view knife and fork rather than as weapons.
                    The concept of friendly fire or such “hunting accidents” was completely foreign to them. It would seriously diminish ones standing in the group– a group whose primary subsistence was in expert use of those hunting implements– were something like that to occur. And I think a series of beatings would be in order.
                    These days, the Jicarilla elect their chief for two year terms. I’m not sure how far back this system goes, but I think leadership was always on the basis of personal charisma.

                    Most all of the Pueblo are matriarchal in structure, and they have a council rather than a chief (the Navajo have a chief, and are not Pueblo). Many if not most of the Pueblo have council either predominantly or exclusively female. The Hopi used to have a council exclusively female, though I am unsure if this is still the case.
                    Some of the Pueblo had a standing council composed of males and a special council composed of females. Decisions of going to war were reserved for the females of the group.
                    This might be one reason the Apache were seen as so war-like– they didn’t have to ask their grandmothers permission to go to war.
                    I bring this up because the time of the Pueblo revolt was a very unusual time in our history. We honor Popé, but what he did was more Apache-like. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
                    The Spanish system of slavery was very different. They didn’t want brothers-at-arms; they wanted to keep people like cattle– forever.
                    “Conquest” they call it. They think they own the land until their bones lie bleached in the sand.
                    The system of slavery in place in the pre-Spaniard times is something unlike anything I’ve seen elsewhere (not to say it isn’t out there, but just that I haven’t seen it). It benefited both parties by allowing the opportunity to learn and practice skills which would have been unlikely to acquire within their own group; a cultural exchange.

                    I see a lot of projection of Western concepts on those people, and it really does both parties a disservice.
                    But the idea of a hunter society dominated by males and agrarian society dominated by females rings true.

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                  • And something that got lost from the original reply that was eaten by the wireless that somehow didn’t make it to the more lengthy second reply:

                    If three fishermen sit side-by-side all day, it’s not always the best fisherman that ends up with the most at the end of the day. If that’s you’re main means of subsistence, you have to be able to share food.
                    And there’s a big difference between sharing two rabbit between three people and sharing an elk between twelve.
                    Those things might not be apparent conceptually, but when you’re looking at how much food you have comparing it to how many hungry mouths you have to feed, it all becomes plain rather quickly.

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            • Roger,

              you know this how? Alpha males dominated economically, just as much as by coercion. And SOMEONE had to give the orders, when communal hunting happened.

              Authoritarian jerks tend to be Paranoid for a REASON. And to have shmucks around to back them up (those “drill more oil” dudes are some of the same, peasant bootlickers to princes, hoping for crumbs when they ought to demand bread).

              Alphas come in quite a few varieties, and one substantial variety is charismatic (your politicians are generally this type).

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              • Kimmi,
                I just make it up. LOL.

                No, seriously, they know how HGs operate by studying the ones that have continued to exist. Coercive leadership is not a very effective technique based upon the operational dynamics. Coercive and exploitive leadership of the type you prefer is a relatively recent dominating strategy that arose with agriculture.

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                • one has extreme methodological problems in looking at HGs nowadays, because they often live on marginalized land, among other things. Flippity me if I know what that does to the economics — let alone the social structure built on top.

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        • Roger

          Are you fucking kidding?

          Gentleman version-

          Name that society. Give us a name or source for your claim that early societies were as you describe.

          As to the history that I read, “right to exit” meant “right to almost certain death by starvation/predation/disease”

          The Native Americans, the Bushmen, the indigenous tribes of South America and the Pacific Islands- they all have various forms of communal lifestyles, where resources and abilities are pooled to various degrees. I doubt that even the concept of “personal autonomy” would translate into their languages.

           

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          • Liberty,

            To be honest I am not aware of any modern literature that disputes it. I have read dozens of books and articles on the topic and never remember hearing any of them suggest that HGs ruled by coercive violence. Please let me know where you have heard differently, and see my reply to Murali on ease of exit. I never suggested individuals had the option of long term self sufficiency. They didnt. We have been a social species for millions of years.

            This is from Dr Paul Johnson at Auburn: “Primitive” or “traditional” cultures such as those of hunter-gatherers tend to rely very heavily on moral incentives and make relatively little use of coercive and remunerative incentives to sustain social cooperation.”

            And from Francis Fukuyama in the Origins of Political Order we have him explaining that within band level societies “…there is little differentiation between families, no permanent leadership, and no hierarchy. Leadership is vested in individuals based on qualities like strength, intelligence, and trustworthiness… Opportunities for coercion are very limited.”

            As to the pooling of resources, I believe the consensus is that this operates primarily via reciprocity. Which might scare you as it sounds a lot like primitive versions of voluntary exchange.

            You will especially get a kick out of Hunter-Gatherers The Original Libertarians by THOMAS MAYOR (google it). Here is a choice quote…..

             Begin quote: “A hunter-gatherer cannot sell his surplus for money to be used to purchase food in times of scarcity because money is a modern invention. But the very survival of early man depended on his ability to find an institutional surrogate for money that allowed “saving” during times of surplus and “dissaving” during times of deficit. That simple surrogate is what we might call “food sharing” by members of a band: individuals with surpluses transfer food to members with deficits. The result is consumption smoothing over time. We refer here of course to food sharing outside the immediate family because there is nothing remarkable about such sharing within the family, where it is a basic requirement of rearing children to adulthood in modern societies as well as in primitive societies.

             Dowling concludes that reciprocation in some form must eventually occur, or the band will likely dissolve. Here again the freedom of association and mobility plays an important role in understanding hunter- gatherer behavior. Nonreciprocators are not likely to be tolerated in a band of reciprocators. And an entire band of nonreciprocators is unlikely to have evolutionary success.” end quote

            In other words, food sharing is a form of voluntary reciprocal insurance. It is not coerced or altruistic. I’ll bet that rocks your world!

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            • I did get a kick out of it.

              My world was especially rocked by the concept of “voluntary recpirocal insurance” which is “not coerced”;

              Nonreciprocators are not likely to be tolerated in a band of reciprocators.

              Please elaborate.

              Sounds a lot like the voluntary, noncoercive aspects  of Obamacare.

               

               

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              • Liberty,

                I’d just be speculating on what he meant. I assume they would be shunned. Like a person today with bad credit. Social pressure is extremely strong in bands.

                Unlike Obamacare, the choice to reciprocate is voluntary. Libertarians don’t dispute that there are consequences to choices, just that we should not be forcefully coerced. If you disagree with my behavior, I fully support your right to not tolerate it. Don’t try to punch me, shoot me or arrest me though, please.

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                • I only pursue this point because it seems a very good example of what all you libertarians [sweeping my hand in a dramatic arc across the landscape] do quite often.

                  That is, defining everything you like as “voluntary” and everything you dislike as “coercion”. Then hammering and bending every data point into one of the boxes until it fits. (Apparently in libertarian theory there are no other characteristics- everything in the universe fits one of these two poles).

                  You want to construct a world where hunter-gatherers such as say, the Sioux, live without coercion. Yet amazingly enough, they live according to a set of beliefs which are universal within the tribe; there are no divisions of belief, no Sioux versions of Christopher Hitchens who speaks up and says “y’know, I don’t  think there is any such thing as the Great Spirit; and these rocks and trees and mountains that are sacred- hogwash!”. There are no such things as Sioux who says, “hey, these horses are mine, all mine- and fuck this, I don’t want to share this buffalo with anyone!”

                  Nope, every single member of the tribe, without exception follows the same belief systems and accepts the same ideas as to the origin of the world, how property is to be shared or kept, and so on.

                  Yet none of this is “coerced”; oh, they may be shunned; they may be cast out of the tribe, to walk alone across a hostile land where half a dozen other tribes would gladly peel one’s scalp or worse;

                  But thats not “COERCION” heck no, it is, um…voluntary.

                  By your very own logic- the IRS never coerces anyone; if you don’t like paying taxes, you are free to exit society, (just like the hunter-gatherers!) and move to Somalia Switzerland.

                  Taxes are voluntary!

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                  • Liberty,

                    Actually I get a kick out of your writing. You never fail to make me laugh, even when it is directed at me.

                    I do not totally disagree with you on the voluntary nature of taxes. If there are competing alternatives, I can choose which tax structure to live within. HG’s had more choice in which band to live in than we do, and I would value a world where we have more choice and alternatives than we do now.

                    I can totally envision living in a libertarian society with taxes. Seems like a reasonable way to pay for public goods. My right of exit ensures that the taxes will be used relatively efficiently and will not be used to exploit me.

                    I am not sure what confusion you have with my use of coercion. I usually prefer to use the word exploit, which I define as physically harming, restraining, stealing, or lying. Obviously the details need to be specified. Other libertarians use the word coerce more. They usually mean about the same thing as me though. When liberals use either word, they mean any outcome they don’t like. For example offering someone a job at terms the liberal doesn’t approve is exploitation or coercion

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                    • This is a good place to agree-to-disagree.

                      My confusion over “coerce” is that you draw it much more polar and tightly knit that my fellow liberals.

                      We see it as much more ambiguous and broadly defined.

                      Telling someone in a coal town to negotiate with the coal mine or find another job elsewhere is in our book so unequal a negotiation as to constitute coercion. Obviously you disagree.

                      I doubt I have the means to persuade you.

                      But I do have a better perspective into your reasoning.

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                    • Liberty,

                      The discussion we had last summer on this forum educated me on broader interpretations of the term coercion. I get your point.

                      It is possible for people to be in situations where they have virtually no alternative options, and this is IMO a bad thing. I wouldn’t say the coal mind situation meets my definition of exploitation. I do agree that the employer could use the advantage in a coercive way.

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              • It means that if you’re not good at sharing, then after awhile people who are good at sharing won’t want to share with you anymore.
                But of course, in such a context, you wouldn’t have made it far enough to have something to share if you weren’t good at sharing.

                Nothing at all like Obamacare.

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        • All progress of the last 250 years is due ENTIRELY to libertarian thought and influence.

          I have no response to any of this, except to say that Smith was wrong. You cannot have infinite growth in a finite system.

          Anyone want to prove me wrong? Ready to publish whatever you have that disproves the laws of Physics?

          I am really all ears for this.

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          • John,

            Quote: “All progress of the last 250 years is due ENTIRELY to libertarian thought and influence.”

            I wouldn’t say all of it. I would say we would probably be a lot more prosperous if liberals were not promoting exploitation and prohibiting progress via rent seeking and coercive redistribution.

            The below linked paper makes the case pretty convincingly:

            Barriers to Riches
            Stephen L. Parente and Edward C. Prescott

            http://www.sfu.ca/~dandolfa/barrierstoriches.pdf 

            If your only retort to Adam Smith is that ” You cannot have infinite growth in a finite system.” then there is no point arguing with you at all, as you are debating yourself. Are you really saying that the effectiveness of free enterprise depends upon infinite growth?

            Whatever man.

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            • Are you really saying that the effectiveness of free enterprise depends upon infinite growth?

              No, I’m saying that Smith is wrong because he assumes infinite growth is possible (in fact, necessary), when it is not possible. Capitalism needs constant growth or it starts eating itself. If growth cannot be infinite, then it means growth must slow and eventually end. This is why recessions and depressions are so debilitating – it’s a taste of what will happen when the economy can’t grow anymore because it has hit physical limits to the system.

              Lack of cheap energy and complexity are usually the culprits, because we quickly hit the point where waste in the system and waste coming out of the system take all of the new energy you can put in. The interesting thing is that complex societies usually fall because the solutions to their complex problems require ever greater complexity. Infinite growth (or infinite complexity, if you like) is not possible in a closed finite system.

              Money doesn’t make the world go round. Energy does. When you cannot continually raise your energy inputs to society, things get worse. For everyone, eventually. It starts at the outside edges and slowly contracts inward. We are already living in it.

              I recommend Jared Diamond or Joseph Tainter. They are much smarter than I am.

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              • Infinite growth (or infinite complexity, if you like) is not possible in a closed finite system.

                This may even be true, but I think we are still fairly far away from the limit. There are still other sources of energy which have not been exploited yet. A number of these are renewable. There is still nuclear power (and if we run out of fissionable material on earth (which won’t happen for a very long time) we can always start mining asteroids for fissionble material, or even hopefully get fusion technology when a lack of fissionable material starts to become a problem.

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                • It’s not just energy. It’s energy and complexity.

                  There may be future sources of energy (I don’t think there will be enough by several orders of magnitude, nor will they be of the type needed), but how do you wind down the complexity of a society?

                  This is particularly important for libertarians, I would think, since removing government means reducing complexity. No society has ever done it voluntarily. It only happens when it is forced – when a society collapses, which can take decades to happen fully.

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                  • John,

                    You bring up a really important issue that pertains to the issue of long range human progress. I would love it if you could convince me of the issue.

                    A few random thoughts…

                    1). The finite energy debate, as Murali points out, is a limit hundreds, thousands or more years in the future. There is a positive feedback effect in that the more we advance technologically, the better we get at discovering and tapping new sources more effectively. If the issue is long term energy, the solution is economic progress, not lack thereof.

                    2). There is a long term transition going on from physical output to virtual output. From books to electrons. From plays with dozens of actors and props and stages to blurays of performances that can be copied and preserved and replayed forever and virtually limitlessly. From physical travel to virtual meetings via phone or Skype Most of my time is now spent in the virtual world. The economics of virtual progress are totally counterintuitive to those used to thinking in terms of conventional physical economics. In brief, it is possible to create something almost infinitely better in a virtual domain at almost no marginal cost.

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                  • John,
                    I agree that there is a tendency in organizations — indeed in living things in general– to become sclerotic and jammed up with kludges and duct tape.

                    Libertarians preach simpler, fairer rules and less interference, bureaucracy and privilege. Thus libertarians are pushing against this trend.

                    That is one reason I was arguing with Murali earlier that libertarianism needs to be voluntary and bottoms up. Yes, this can mean it arises out of the ashes of society(a really bad thing), but it also can mean it is something that arises in new colonies or spin offs. Paul Romer and the charter city people have made similar observations.

                    Note that the time of the modern breakthrough a few hundred years ago was also the greatest time of new colonies and social spin offs in the history of civilization.

                    Personally, I would be amazed if libertarian solutions can prevail for the sclerotic kludged up societies we live in today.

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                    • The tape which is red is preceded by the tape which is yellow. The yellow tape surrounds the crime scene. The red tape binds up the court documents which follow.

                      I wouldn’t worry about the red tape. Well heeled crooks can usually buy the legislature to repeal the laws which convict them. Less yellow tape leads to less red tape.

                      It’s an existential problem. Bureaucracies enforce laws. The easiest route to repealing a law is to dispose of those who enforce those laws. No problem.

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  6. James,

    Pacifists make for poor gladiators.

    We can rephrase the dilemma as:

    Why can’t a framework for human cooperation based upon decentralized, bottoms up freedom thrive in a game of centralized, top down coercion?

    If libertarianism is a superior framework for human flourishing, and I believe it is, I doubt it’s path will come from politics.

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    • Roger, unless you are an anarchist, the framework itself has to be imposed top down. The state is the one that has to decide what rights to protect and which ones not to. The state has to be the one to keep itself from interfering into peoples’ lives unnecessarily. The framework which allows bottom up interactions cannot itself be bottom up. As democracies often show, when people start trying to choose their own framework, the create frameworks that allow them to impose serious s*** on others.

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      • Murali,

        I am not an anarchist.

        Let me address your excellent points from a couple of directions. First, there is the issue that if you are right that it has to be top down, then libertarians are I’ll equipped to win this struggle. When you can only win by violating your own principles by forcing others to be free, you’ve lost before you’ve begun.

        Second, I am not a big fan of embodying the state. It is probably better to recognize that the state is made up of people and their dynamic interplay.

        Third, of course the rules themselves are possible bottoms up. Humans have diverse ideas on how to cooperate together. They try things. Most fail, a few don’t. They then compare those that succeed and choose the ones that best meet their needs. Some systems flourish and lead to prosperity, some lead to subsistence. In the modern era of liberal prosperity and freedom notice how many new colonies and states were being formed. Post Columbus, we had an era of almost 500 years of new state formation and experimentation. In at least some of these, they asked for volunteers and offered charters of rules and contractual obligations. Over time, these states evolved and competed and coalesced.

        Fourth, democracy itself is a form of coercion by majority.

        Yes, some people choose to exploit others. Some don’t. Some recognize that the best way to avoid being exploited is to waive one’s right to exploit others. Libertarianism needs to persuade or exhibit its benefits to others. I am strongly against forcing another to be free.

        That said, it may be that the path to libertarianism is top down. It is possible. I just view it as a very dangerous shortcut.

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        • I think we mean different things by framework. Let me be more specific. By framework, I mean the property regime, the tax regime, the various liberties protected etc etc. Presumably, a framework which allows people to voluntarily associate etc must allow them to do so and prevent other people from coercively preventing them from doing so right? Any system which serves this role has to coerce those who would otherwise coerce others and revent those others from pursuing their own conception of the good. This coercive aspect has to be top down. For example, constitutions are not bottom up. They are interpreted by elites and enforced coercively. Same with any system of laws.

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          • Murali,
            I certainly won’t argue that most institutional frameworks don’t have a coercive, top down aspect.

            I will offer that they don’t have to be this way. For a voluntary society to be based upon liberal principles, it is essential that people freely choose it. This means that they have competing options and select the libertarian path and constitution. Implicit in this choice is that they exchange the right to coerce others for the right not to be coerced. Constitutions are drafted and interpreted by men, and people should have the option to adopt them. In other words, we should have the freedom to opt in to our social institutions.

            And for the record, I would never opt into a system without reasonable competing/cooperating social safety nets.

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      • To elaborate a bit more.

        I think one of the underlying factors that make for greater right-fusion in libertarianism is the tendency for them to equate their economic libertarianism with an overemphasis on first principles based Austrianism. (Particularly modern Austrian economics) This creates a tendency for dogmatic support for laissez-faire and particularly deregulatory economics which works much better for large-scale corporatism along the lines of the Koch brothers.

        An emphasis for example on new institutional economics (of Elinor Ostrom fame) would probably go toward the opposite direction particularly as the latter is 1. substantially more empirically sound and 2. begins to tackle issues such as bounded rationality and externality mitigation, both of which are given short-shift in most Austrian literature I’m familiar with.

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        • Hi Nob, thanks for elaborating.

          Free enterprise is not the friend of large scale corporatism. It is the never ending threat. Free enterprise with clear simple rules, serves consumers and makes them sovereign. Those that succeeded in serving consumer needs in the past know that their dominance is always threatened by a new entrant with a better idea or value proposition. Incumbents– workers, producers, retailers — turn to force, usually in the form of government granted privilege or monopoly to “cheat” the free enterprise system.

          Do you have any good suggestions on an online intro to Ostrom’s ideas?

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          • Insurance works by having more money than the next company. no new ideas, no better value proposition (assuming you can hire the best actuaries). Can I put you down as not wanting insurance to be a business? Seriously, it’s not terribly well suited to the concept….

            Where libertarianism seems to have the worst trouble is in opaque markets. There’s also the problem of oligopolies — where everyone agrees to take an extra ten, that people don’t notice.

            Incumbents will always turn to force, and if it can’t be done by the government (take Japan, where the government’s use of force is relatively minimal), it’ll be done by private forces.

            Shit. Just had a cool thought — government’s force does not produce a monopoly on such force. It’s impossible for government’s force to prevent a sufficiently powerful company from theft/espionage/assassination. Now, that’s an argument for liberalism (or at least a limited part of such) that doesn’t depend on “big corps are evil” or “ceos are psychopaths”

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            • Kimmi, sorry, i missed this one…

              Q: “Insurance works by having more money than the next company. no new ideas, no better value proposition (assuming you can hire the best actuaries). Can I put you down as not wanting insurance to be a business? Seriously, it’s not terribly well suited to the concept….”

              As someone who spent most of my career in the insurance field, and who was responsible for creating superior value propositions for consumers, I beg to differ. Insurance companies do compete upon rating plans, but that serves consumers by matching rates to risk and encouraging risk mitigation. Further, companies compete upon efficiency and customer service. If you can settle claims better for less you can attract larger market share. Finally, the products and features do not have to be standardized. We studied consumers and used every known quantitative and qualitative technique at our disposal to create better products and value propositions.

              As for opaque markets, i do support rules that make them more transparent.

              Q: “Incumbents will always turn to force, and if it can’t be done by the government (take Japan, where the government’s use of force is relatively minimal), it’ll be done by private forces”

              I basically agree that incumbents will use force to preserve their status. That I why we need a process to penalize such abuses. Governments and competition ( voluntary choice) are the most common counters to this force. I support limited government that uses coercion sparingly to minimize coercion. I just add to your concern that if the government and open competition are successful in prohibiting competition, incumbents will then resort to government as the enforcer for their exploitation. They lobby th government for privileges. These come in he form of barriers to competition, regulations that reward incumbents, etc.

              Incumbents such as union workers, political bureaucrats, CEOs, stockholders etc are rational. If they have to earn profits by serving others they will put the vast majority of their effort in to win at the game as defined. If they can get ahead by changing the rules of the game or gaining privileged status or by cheating and exploiting they will do that too.

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              • You are aware that there are large swaths of the South where it’s impossible to get particular types of housing insurance? And that the defacto response to this is “let the government bail them out. Repeatedly?”

                In the health care insurance market, we have recorded instances of companies that would routinely deny all claims higher than a given value, no matter how good the justification. (emergency room treatment for miscarriage? call it an elective abortion, and refuse to cover it.)

                Do you think it’s appropriate for people who buy red cars to pay more in auto insurance? How about the standard industry practice of continuing to charge them larger premiums after they ditch the red car?

                (I’m actually glad to hear that Somewhere someone’s not trying to wring blood from a stone — murder by spreadsheet’s a colorful term, but it’s sadly accurate).

                If you disagree with the aforementioned, what do you think we ought to do about them? (note: yes, it’s perfectly within the bounds of my question to say: move everyone out of the tidal South).

                Your last paragraph is very wise. perhaps not entirely accurate, but very wise. As with a lot of things around here, liberal and libertarian/conservative tend to be matters of perspective, rather than real points of disagreement.

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                • Kimmi,

                  I can only manage comments in my email, so if my name isn’t in the reply I often fail to notice it is directed at me.

                  I am very familiar with the problems with wind and hail and flood insurance. Long term, as long as there are no problems with assymetries of knoweldege on risk or on moral hazard (neither is the key issue in hurricanes) the market dynamic would be to supply coverage at a given price. The problem is that the price in some areas is outrageously expensive. This leads to regulations on prices, and this leads to economics 101 of companies unwilling to meet demand. Shorter term it is also complicated by wild swings in the market as companies make drastic moves in and out of the market based upon perceptions of catastrophic risk. It is possible that customers can be left with no short term ( next couple of years solution). One solution for this is pools of insurance, usually with some level of government coordination. There are pros and cons to this solution.

                  And you and I both fully expect companies to seek privileged bail out status if they can get away with it. I will not rally to the defense of incumbent industries. I am pro competition, and not pro industry or labor.

                  I have virtually no experience in health insurance. It is a wacky market with all kinds of problems with moral hazards, knowledge asymmetries, over-regulation and problems where those using the product don’t pay directly for the service. My opinion is that it is totally FUBAR, virtually guaranteed to spin out of control. My answer about any company failing to pay its contractual obligations is that the company should have its butt whipped in civil and criminal courts. It is not acceptable to enter into a contract with someone and then violate it, and it is an appropriate use of government to step in when this occurs.

                  My recommended fixes are beyond the scope of this post, but they would include a free market bottoms up routine health care market, a separate catastrophic care market, and a social safety net.

                  I designed dozens of rating plans and never once found any justification for charging more for red cars. That said, I would encourage competition in the design of rating plans and if the actuaries for a company want to give higher rates to red cars and/or lower rates to non red cars, then I encourage them to do so. Just as long as customers have the freedom to shop with any company and leave at any time.

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                  • nobody tells them that it costs more if you own a red car, of course. Opaque market wins again.

                    Friend of mine got to do the insurance work for a manmade lake in California. On a fault line. What are the odds of it causing an earthquake…? About the easiest contract he ever saw (mooted it, naturally).

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              • by the way, my thanks for bothering to respond! If there’s any questions of yours that I’ve missed from above, point me at ’em. You may not always like my responses, but I am much much more likely to miss something than to be studiously ignoring ya!

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            • ,

              government’s force does not produce a monopoly on such force.

              There’s never been a claim that government had a monopoly on force.  Weber’s definition was that government had a monopoly on the legitimate use of force, others’ use of force being illegitimate.

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    • I see Austrian Economics as similar to Marx insofar that as a descriptive device it provides accurate and trenchant criticism.

      This doesn’t mean that it ought to be embraced as a philosophy in its own right.

      (That said, when Keynesianism happens to not work, it’s always, always, always because we didn’t put our backs into it enough. If only we had been Keynesian *ENOUGH*, we could have avoided The Business Cycle.)

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    • I could do with less Austrianism in libertarianism.  There are a couple of good insights from Austrian economics, but I think like a lot of the so-called heterodox economics schools it represents a source of refinements to the mainstream view, not a replacement to it..

      The gold standard thing in particular is a nuisance, though it’s not  a universal view among libertarians (not that there are many universal views in libertarianism anyway).

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  7. The fact that Hayek and Mises and the Austrian “school” get a following despite being manifest bullshit easily seen through by anyone who can understand a minimum of 3rd grade arithmetic can be explained by my most famous quote.

    There’s a sucker born every minute.

    The Austrian School is about creating modern serfdom at the hands of industrial monopolists, and nothing else.

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  8. “One of the many strange things about libertarianism is that despite being a form of liberalism (it’s even in the name) it is most commonly associated with conservatives.”

    Well, duh.  If you refuse to believe that (insert some odious behavior associated with conservatives) ought to be a felony crime, then obviously you support conservatism, which means that you’re just another sort of conservative.

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  9. What I want to see is a left-wing equivalent of Ron Paul challenging the Democratic nomination.

    I get the feeling, and maybe it’s incorrect, that Republicans are more willing to run suicide candidates than the Democrats- so Barry Goldwater runs without moderating his views, and maybe he loses pretty big, but eventually Reagan wins on similar positions. I think they’re more willing to see a candidate lose for being too conservative than the Democrats are to see a candidate lose for being too liberal when he could have tacked to the center. Again, I could be wrong about this, but it is something I’ve noticed and I suspect it’s how this next election will play out: Obama will pose as the moderate center and Not-Obama will pose as the sincerely right wing.

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  10. To all Libertarians on this thread

    Do you guys ever step back and observe the libertarian whack-a-mole that goes on in these threads?

    Check out John, for example. In the course of a few days he manages to accuse us of:
    1). Sputtering about liberty while really pursuing white male privilege.
    2). Skipping over the question of whether people have equal opportunity
    3). Being idealists with no actual social experiments supporting our case
    4). Being proven wrong ( along with Adam Smith) because the laws of physics prove you can’t have infinite growth in a finite system
    5). By which he really means that there are natural limits to energy usage
    6). Or at least requirements that libertarians violate the laws of increasing complexity

    John throws out these killer critiques one at a time, often backed with a supporting comment by a fellow progressive (Robert, Kolohe, Kimmi, Barnum or Liberty). At which point, one or more libertarians then step in and give a response that clearly reveals that this argument is inane. But the response is not to acknowledge the argument, the progressives just throw out the next argument. Whack! Whack!

    But John doesn’t begin to compare to Blaise, who offers up the following list of stunning refutations of libertarianism:
    1). We aren’t rich because we do not understand how markets work
    2). That free markets always lead inevitably to monopolies, which never breed their own destruction
    3). That we want to eliminate all rules in the market ( or was this Barnum?)
    4). That we think market freedom is only the freedom of money and that the rules or rights of free markets only apply to individuals with property
    5). That we don’t understand bubbles
    6). That hunter gatherer leaders were murdering autocrats
    7). That we neither care nor understand the issue of fraud or poisoning in our food
    8). That Hayek (astrologer of the stars) was completely and utterly wrong on the issue of centralization

    Of course what he really wanted to engage us on is that we are all confused on the recent financial crisis or the role of the fed or something. Again, Blaise and the progressives throw these ideas out and we address them, one after the other. But observe what happens, they just move on to the next libertarian whack-a-mole.

    Perhaps we just enjoy getting a good whack.

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