Conservative Principles: Liberaltarian Afterthoughts

by John Holbo on May 26, 2010

Conor Friedersdorf showed up promptly in comments to my last post, which was a response to his post, which was welcome. Dialogue! Unfortunately, we weren’t prompt in welcoming him. I think he got stuck in the queue for the longest time. Either that or I just missed him sitting up there at the top. Anyway, his response deserved something better than a 100-comments-late comment afterthought from me, when at last it came to my attention. So here goes.

In response to my request for him to explain what conservative-libertarian principle it is that Goldwater (read: Any Good, Principled Conservative) should have bent, and why, to accommodate the Civil Rights Act, Friedersdorf quotes quite a bit from Brink Lindsey and a bit more from Julian Sanchez. This is all fine. But it seems to me more or less to confirm my point. If the conscience of a conservative should be, ideally, the conscience of a liberaltarian, then that really is quite a large philosophical concession. Friedersdorf may not mind it, may be happy with it – good for him – but lots of conservatives won’t. Because the conscience of a Lindseyan liberaltarian is pretty darn liberal – with some policy disputes on top. When Lindsey stands with conservatives it is mostly on somewhat accidental (but not therefore inconsiderable) policy grounds. He thinks liberals tend to adopt self-defeating policies. When Lindsey stands with liberals it is mostly on philosophical grounds. This point fits in with the one I made in this post, about different sorts of libertarians: basically liberal or basically feudal. If you are a feudal libertarian, you really shouldn’t have a problem with Jim Crow, in principle. If you are a liberal libertarian, you should. Conservative libertarians tend to be on the fence, feudalism/liberalism-wise. (This depends partly on a cheeky use of ‘feudal’ – see my post. But, then again, what was Edmund Burke? a guy who was torn between liberalism and feudalism. That’s not such a bad sketch of his personality-type.)

Let’s look briefly at the bit from Lindsey Friedersdorf quotes: “But it [the principle in question] has exceptions. In particular, after three-plus centuries of slavery and another century of institutionalized, state-sponsored racism (which included state toleration of private racist violence), the exclusion of blacks from public accommodations wasn’t just a series of uncoordinated private decisions by individuals exercising their freedom of association. It was part and parcel of an overall social system of racial oppression.”

This is a very interesting point because it’s not the case that libertarians – much less libertarian-conservatives – think that individuals are obliged to remain individualists. That is, the patterns individuals’ ways of life exhibit don’t need to be, and remain, uncoordinated with the lives of others. It is, indeed, to be expected (nothing else could be remotely likely or desirable) that patterns of coordination will emerge, even if (impossibly) we started with a bunch of atomistic individuals, thrown together in the state of nature. This is the wisdom of crowds, of the market. So what do we do if these emergent patterns turn out to be socially ugly – the potential moral ugliness of crowds? One of the main things that separates a Nozickian, say, from a Rawlsian, is that the former, not the latter, is opposed to ‘patterned redistribution’ to break up such ‘bad’ patterns. Now conservatives – and even libertarians – don’t have to be Nozickians. And, should they fail to be Nozickians, Rawlsianism is not the only alternative. But I think it says something that Friedersdorf’s Lindseyan ‘exceptions’ seem to put him much more in the Rawlsian than in the Nozickian camp. This was my point in the last post: this way lies … liberalism.

Now it would be possible to say that the problem here, from a Nozickian standpoint, precisely is the history. Illegitimate government interference in the past requires positive government intervention in the private sphere now, by way of compensation. But I think this is a bit morally implausible, per the tail end of my last post. If we imagine two worlds – one in which it is has been Jim Crow from time immemorial (a purely social, informal Jim Crow); the other in which Jim Crow is the legacy of slavery – it is very hard (for me) to see that this makes the former ok, but not the latter. The quote from Lindsey is ambiguous about what really matters: the history or the current social oppression.

{ 157 comments }

1

Nick 05.26.10 at 2:20 am

There is a question of standpoint here. If Jim Crow laws existed socially since time immemorial without coercive imposition, in an institutional regime that otherwise supported individual rights for all, then who exactly are the people finding it ugly? It just would be a consensual order of a really weird kind. Why would anyone who found themselves in charge of the levers of power be the sort of person to change it in that situation, unless there was actually something coercive about it.

It also seems implausible that such a situation could be maintained. It would be very exposed to agitation as soon as someone pointed out the absurdity of sticking to those norms (so long as free speech were respected). Since those norms could not be enforced through Government, you would see alternative norms emerging fairly quickly, just as was actually happening during the civil rights movement independently of Government policy.

2

John Holbo 05.26.10 at 2:28 am

“There is a question of standpoint here. If Jim Crow laws existed socially since time immemorial without coercive imposition, in an institutional regime that otherwise supported individual rights for all, then who exactly are the people finding it ugly?”

I take it we are some group of people who have come to decide that racism is immoral, even though it used to be thought not just acceptable but morally obligatory. You just need to imagine some situation like that obtaining in the US in the 1960’s, only the history of the South is different. It’s like the caste system in India. It’s origins are lost in the mists of time. (No doubt there would be some ugly sights if we could penetrate the mists, but we don’t positively know that the caste system arose through illegitimate government interference, as opposed to legitimate – if regrettable – coordination by many private actors.)

3

Nick 05.26.10 at 2:38 am

Ok, I guess I would bite the bullet in this historically unblemished case. I would say that it is incumbent on us to protest and challenge this scheme of norms using non-coercive means (as of course, actually happens). With their property rights and free expression fully respected, this group will have the resources to set out their alternative way of blacks interacting with whites on socially equal terms and demonstrate its moral superiority.

4

Nick 05.26.10 at 2:55 am

I suppose it might be worth saying why historical origins are significant, in a way that isn’t simply deontological. Libertarians and conservatives share a key premise that an awful lot of the good stuff, liberty, equality, prosperity etc.. were created by human actions, but not human design. The institutions that generated these outcomes were not intended to do so. Sometimes it is not even clear who instituted them. For conservatives, this is a reason to hold onto traditional institutions because without them, things might get worse. For libertarians, the reason to hold onto them is precisely because they allow societies to continue changing for the better.

With this in mind, the historical origins of a particular social situation are significant, because if they are the product of flexible and voluntary institutions, then that would suggest that they are more likley to be better than the alternatives. Which is why it seems unlikely that such institutions would produce or maintain Jim Crow norms very well, but if they did, it would suggest that the alternatives might be untenable or even worse. If they are the product of coercion, by contrast, there is no reason to imagine that alternative norms have been fairly tried in the past. So not only are they illegitimate, they are also likely to be bad in other ways too.

5

Lemuel Pitkin 05.26.10 at 3:15 am

So basically, Nick would vote against the Civil Rights Act. Which is the consistent libertarian position. Which no libertarian involved in practical politics can espouse.

6

Wonder Mike 05.26.10 at 3:24 am

So basically, Nick would vote against the Civil Rights Act. Which is the consistent libertarian position. Which no libertarian involved in practical politics can espouse.

Not sure. Unless I’m mistaken, he’s going for something even harder here:

Ok, I guess I would bite the bullet in this historically unblemished case. I would say that it is incumbent on us to protest and challenge this scheme of norms using non-coercive means (as of course, actually happens).

it’s not just that non-coercive means are to be preferred, but that coercive means are impermissible. Wonderfully strange.

7

Nick 05.26.10 at 3:28 am

Well the actual Jim Crow was the product of loads of coercion, both legal and illegal. So there was certainly plenty of kinds of Government intervention that was justified.

So I could have wholeheartedly have endorsed Titles I, III, IV, VI, VIII, IX

If the whole act were presented as a bundle, it would be a touch choice.

8

Rich Puchalsky 05.26.10 at 3:53 am

It’s odd, isn’t it, that all such exceptions are safely in the past. Clear sailing for libertarianism from now on!

What have we learned from this tiresome series of three posts? Not that there are two sorts of libertarians, for God’s sake. The liberal libertarians, like Henley, don’t even call themselves libertarians any more. No, there really is one basic kind of libertarian, which shows different behavior in different environments. If they’re a pseudonymous guy like Nick, they bravely stand up against civil rights. If they’re a pundit of sorts with some kind of potential public profile, they agree that in this safely-in-the-past case, they would have stood up for civil rights. Though not in any current case of course.

9

Lemuel Pitkin 05.26.10 at 4:09 am

OT, but Rich, do you happen to live in the Pioneer Valley? South Hadley or Easthampton or thereabouts?

10

Nick 05.26.10 at 4:12 am

That isn’t an argument. It’s a sneer. What is actually wrong with my position?

11

Sebastian 05.26.10 at 4:13 am

“It’s odd, isn’t it, that all such exceptions are safely in the past. Clear sailing for libertarianism from now on!”

Are they? I would say that there is the death penalty. And while I think the moral absolutist arguments against it are bad, the “government screws things up all the time, why should you trust to to kill only the right people” argument is pretty strong.

12

Lemuel Pitkin 05.26.10 at 4:20 am

But Nick, sort of the point of this discussion is that the flaw in libertarianism isn’t (just) an intellectual one, it’s its complete inapplicability to the real world. Meaning the appropriate response isn’t an intellectual argument, it’s some version of “grow up”, i.e. a sneer.

Don’t you ever wonder, in a proper Burkean spirit, why almost no one shares your view of the world? or where’s the libertarian paradise? Why is it every rich country — and especially every rich and democratic country — has a big and growing public sector? Are we all just stupid? brainwashed? what?

13

Bruce Baugh 05.26.10 at 5:27 am

So what we’ve got here, in the conservative approach that may or may not be libertarian, is a decision-making system that allows one to be right about some of the critical issues of our time decades after crucial decisions have been taken, and which reliably puts one on the wrong side of any pending issue. Really, it seems like the evidence suggests it: whatever a whole lot of intellectual-aiming conservatives say is right about the issue of the day, do the opposite, and the chances are good that you’ll come out on the side of decency and humanity.

(The heuristic becomes essentially perfect if you include “centrist” Democrats. Anything that the Heritage Foundation and the DLC agree on is wrong, while either one might be right by itself.)

14

Bruce Baugh 05.26.10 at 5:40 am

It’s not just the tendency to wrongness, by the way, but also how hard this kind of outlook makes doing the right thing. It shouldn’t be a struggle to say “this kind of discrimination isn’t acceptable in commercial life”, any more than it should be to say “people of every sexual orientation and gender identity deserve the full, equal protection of the law, access to necessary services, and like that”, or “basic health should never depend on the short-sighted whims of for-profit enterprises”, or even “aggressive wars on false premises are wrong and the instigators should be exposed and punished”. And yet conservative thought makes all of these things hard. One of the basic tests of an ethical system, I think, is whether it supports and reinforces virtuous tendencies, and it’s here that the failure is most interesting and stark to me.

Nobody should have to agonize over these things.

15

praisegod barebones 05.26.10 at 5:43 am

Being an analytic philosopher, I guess I’m not really supposed to diss thought experiments; but I’m really not sure what I’m supposed to be imagining when I’m asked to imagine a society with Jim Crow but without the history that led up to it.

It seems like many of the oractices and attitudes involved in Jim Crow were what they were, both sociologically and morally because of the history that informed them.

16

John Holbo 05.26.10 at 6:10 am

“Being an analytic philosopher, I guess I’m not really supposed to diss thought experiments.”

Taking food out of your own children’s mouths, you are. Breaking the iron ricebowl of thought, I call it. This will lead to dogs and cats living together in peace and harmony, mark my words.

But seriously. I really don’t see that this particular thought experiment is problematic. Just suppose you have a caste system like Jim Crow, in broad outlines, but not as the result of slavery. “Now, the Star-Belly Sneetches had bellies with stars/ The Plain-Belly Sneetches had none upon thars … “

You are just being asked to look at the situation and decide what bothers you about this. Is it the sort of thing that is wrong in itself in a Rawlsian ‘basic structure’ sort of way? Or is it ONLY wrong if we know the history of how it came to pass that all the weenie-roasting material and prime, illuminated beachfront property passed into the possession of the starbellies. I think some people will say you HAVE to know the history. That is, just looking at the ‘tyranny of starbelly society’, as Mill might say, you can’t tell whether there is any injustice here without knowing whether there is now, or has been, tyranny of the starbelly magistrate, per se. Other people will say there is potential injustice either way, and it really depends on how serious and comprehensive the social deprivation is. A few private sneetch beach weenie roasts may not be grounds for fundamental complaint, but …

17

alex 05.26.10 at 7:40 am

@15, 16 – it really isn’t hard, you just need to go back in time beyond the modern, to when it was pretty darn normal to assume that people weren’t equal, and could be divided into groups distinctive by their relative inferiority to the really top-notch people. After all, the British aristocracy were pretty cool about the whole taxation-without-representation-and-fuck-you-yankee-doodle thing. The really interesting question is why the French aristocracy, who really did live lives of legally-consecrated privilege, atop a society where most people lived in shit and were stuck there, took to American liberty so eagerly [though more fool them, as it turned out].

18

Andrew Callaghan 05.26.10 at 7:56 am

Well, obviously a de jure discrimination against people of African descent for no reason other than their skin color is a grave injustice. If we were talking about racial profiling because of a rash of terrorists from a particular ethnic group or tens of millions of Mexican nationals illegally crossing the border, then that would be a different story.

I think praisegod barebones’s point is that a Jim Crow-esque state might be justified based on some past history. Of course, if the history simply isn’t available (as it is, in the thought experiment), we would have to judge it based on what is available. But really, if one is a Christian (or subscribes to a consistent moral and philosophical code), this system would fall into a kind of ‘basic structure’ category of wrong. That is, the system is inherently unjust, regardless of history. That is my understanding of it, at any rate.

19

Henri Vieuxtemps 05.26.10 at 9:46 am

@12 (Lemuel Pitkin), the flaw in libertarianism isn’t (just) an intellectual one, it’s its complete inapplicability to the real world

I don’t think this is a particularly good critique. Sure, libertarianism is an idealistic vision that doesn’t work in the real world, but it certainly affects the real world. It doesn’t work as a policy, but it does affect policies. You probably won’t sneer at the idealistic visions you sympathize with, so why should you sneer at Nick’s?

Unless, of course, it’s somehow hideous, hideous on its face. Well, is it? That is what Nick is asking in #10. And I too would like to know: if you’re a liberal, then was the Title II a cut-and-dried, “must have” sort of thing?

20

Pete 05.26.10 at 10:21 am

“Well the actual Jim Crow was the product of loads of coercion, both legal and illegal. So there was certainly plenty of kinds of Government intervention that was justified.”

Maybe I missed something that someone else posted, but I just don’t understand how this argument is meant to work for libertarians. Usually they’re the last people to buy into the idea that the solution to government failure is more government. This is sensible, because they’re also usually pretty good at coming up with creative arguments for why any given bad social phenomenon is, ultimately, the result of government coercion.

If they’re prepared to buy into the principle that government broke it so government should fix it in this particular case, then how are they going to limit the principle? Because it looks to me like you could take out “Jim Crow” in that first sentence, and plug in “the financial crisis”, “unemployment” or “Saddam Hussein” and come up with a justification for a lot of very un-libertarian policy.

21

kid bitzer 05.26.10 at 11:19 am

can you conceive of a pervasive system of bias and oppression that has lasted so long that its historical origins are invisible to us? one in which the oppression does not seem to be the result of any particular governmental arrangement, and is sometimes even thought to arise from consensual arrangements on the part of the oppressed?

man. none of us dudes here can conceive of such a thing. we could ask the girls, i guess, but they’re kinda stupid. i dunno, john; how ’bout you ask belle and see if she has any thoughts?

22

Bruce Baugh 05.26.10 at 11:48 am

Kid Bitzer, I re-watched Aliens just the other night, and now in my head you suddenly sound like Bill Paxton. “Game over, man!”

23

Doctor Science 05.26.10 at 11:54 am

If Jim Crow laws existed socially since time immemorial without coercive imposition, in an institutional regime that otherwise supported individual rights for all, then who exactly are the people finding it ugly?

I believe this is called “separate but equal”. And the thing about Separate But Equal is that it may work as a thought experiment, but in reality, as Rocky J. Squirrel would say, that trick *never* works.

Yes yes, SBE can work for trivial matters. But whenever the area of life covered is actually important, it fails — and its failure on major issues infects any trivial application of SBE to make it a failure there, too.

For instance, it’s theoretically possible to have SBE water fountains, and for them to be actually identical — as in the regular-height/wheelchair-or-child-height paired fountains you often see, which are the same fountain at different heights. But if the separate water fountains correlate with a distinction that is truly important to the society, they will not be equal: even trivial segregations will take on the character of the larger one.

So the question for you philosophers is, when does a thought experiment become a lie?

24

alex 05.26.10 at 12:09 pm

@20 – or then there’s capitalism…

25

praisegod barebones 05.26.10 at 12:16 pm

John, alex, kid:

I didn’t say that I couldn’t think of some kind of caste-based system coming about without being the result of slavery, or without us knowing how it came about. That would be, as you so rightly point out in your different ways, silly.

What I said was that I couldn’t imagine *Jim Crow* apart from its own partıcular history. In other words, that it was a very particular form of oppression, tied to a particualr time and a particular place, and with a particular history.

Now, I’m quite prepared to agree with John and say – looking at that particular form of oppression, what strikes me as objectionable about it is the effect that it had on the lives and opportunities of the people living under it; and not that it was the historical reflection of something even more horrendously oppressive. (Mind you, I am, as kid bitzer so delicately hints, a white European male. Ask someone who actually lived under and fought against Jim Crow, and they might have something more complex and nuanced to say. )

But I’m inclined to say, when invited as I was by John to imagine ‘something just like Jim Crow, but without the same history’, that my judgment that this would be terrible is a reflection of that belief, rather than something that proiveds independent support for it. Because, as I’ve said, if I’m invited to imagin that in any detail, I don’t really know where to start.

So look, maybe this was a bad place to bring this up; because I’m really not all that much in favour of defending libertarianism. I’m really trying to say that I don’t find appeal to thought experiments of this sort terribly illuminating. And, while I suspect that Rand Paul may be arguing in bad faith, I don’t think its absurd for someone’s response to Jim Crow should depend on its having the history that it did. (Of course, the next question I’d ask a libertarian who thought like that is: do you feel the same way about the expropriation of Native Americans -ie that its a stae perpetrated injustice which the state can legitimately be called upon to undo.)

26

John Holbo 05.26.10 at 12:17 pm

“i dunno, john; how ‘bout you ask belle and see if she has any thoughts?”

She’s kinda busy in the kitchen right now. I’m here in my man cave doin’ thought experiments.

27

Rich Puchalsky 05.26.10 at 12:23 pm

Nick asks what’s wrong with his position (that being, as far as I can tell, doctrinaire libertarianism). Nick can take the thought experiment of a non-governmental Jim Crow and describe it as “without coercive imposition […] a consensual order […] unless there was actually something coercive about it.” That’s because to libertarians, there can only be governmental coercion: other forms of coercion do not exist. Which makes most of government intervention incomprehensible, would cause many living people to die quickly if implemented, and is a cover, in the American case, for overt racism. The other libertarians aren’t any better than Nick, they are just writing under their real names, therefore hypocrites.

Let’s take age discrimination as an example — a libertarian in another thread mentioned it. Should the government interfere in private business decisions in order to act against age discrimination? Yes, it should. But there’s no history of slavery there, no need for libertarians to preen in their half-century-after-the-fact acceptance of black civil rights. So they will oppose it. Their set of proposed exceptions to their own scheme count for nothing, in every relevant real-world case.

Sebastian brings up the death penalty. Well, of course the death penalty is something the government does, therefore wrong to libertarians. Not that they have any *moral* argument against it, as Sebastian says. Which combines evil and stupidity in one stinking package, but I guess I that I should still point out that the death penalty, worldwide, has become less and less acceptable. Is that because of libertarians? Libertarian sentiment? No, because libertarians really exist only in the U.S. It’s because distrust of governmental action is not specifically a libertarian idea, no matter how much libertarians say that it is. The victories against the death penalty have been won by people who e.g. hold to universal human rights — which concept is essentially a liberal one. Here, I’ll quote from the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights at random: “Article 24. Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.”

Thanks for nothing, libertarians.

28

praisegod barebones 05.26.10 at 12:26 pm

Ah, what you need to do is turn round so that you’re looking at the fire rather than the shadows.

29

John Holbo 05.26.10 at 12:28 pm

But seriously: one problem with the focus on history is 1) it’s not like libertarians are all into historical grievance-mongering; but the only effect of reaching back into history to find out whether it was all on the up-and-up then, so it can be all on the up-and-up now, is to monger grievances because 2) you aren’t going to find pristine cases in which the arrangements were all on the up-and-up and squeaky-clean. It’s always going to be a big of government, a bit of informal social sanction, going back eventually to caveman days when the two hadn’t even turned into two separate things yet.

I have to say that I don’t really find the whole ‘imagine this, but with a different history’ to be so mind-bending, however. It’s not like I asked you how history might have been changed if W.W. II had been fought before W.W. I or something like that. I guess maybe the objection is to ‘toy’ examples. Baby-simple cases, to make a point. But I think that’s ok as long as you keep decent perspective on it. You use it not to answer real questions about real situations, which are always more complicated but just to ask: look, which thing matters to you THIS or THAT?

30

John Holbo 05.26.10 at 12:32 pm

ooo, good idea, praisegod.

31

Nick 05.26.10 at 12:58 pm

LP:

“Don’t you ever wonder, in a proper Burkean spirit, why almost no one shares your view of the world? or where’s the libertarian paradise? Why is it every rich country—and especially every rich and democratic country—has a big and growing public sector? Are we all just stupid? brainwashed? what?”

People get sufficiently rich that they can put up with a larger state. This happens after the institutions of free trade and the rule of law have made everyone a lot richer anyway. It is not worth their bother to oppose its growth. I am content to help curb the excesses of powerful states rather than reject them utterly, through things like constitutional government and constantly renewing the seperation of powers.

Anyway, why would I be interested in agreeing with everyone? How could I help change the world for the better and freer without taking a radical and consistent position that puts me on the edge or outside the mainstream now and then? For example, it is pretty much impossible for mainstream elected representatives to talk about legalising drugs (Rand Paul, again) even though that is probably one of the biggest civil rights issues currently going. When they are eventually legalised, it will become one of those things that EVERYONE important was against before suddenly they were in favour. Or perhaps sound money policy, putting an end to inflating fiat currencies that silently robs people of their labour. These important things just don’t get discussed enough by mainstream liberal theorists. Libertarianism has that critical bite for me. I don’t need to be on the winning team all the time.

And we get pay-offs occasionally. The neo-liberal revolution inspired by libertarian thought helped make much more prosperous those who were part of it: http://www.themoneyillusion.com/?p=5164

RP: I hate to break up your cozy view of libertarians but:

1. I am not American.

2. I believe there are things besides Government coercion. Government action is legitimate in order to curb private coercion. But freedom is association is not coercive, and asking someone to act in a weird and deferent manner before they can associate with you is not coercive (it is just really ugly). That is why I would have supported aspects of the CRA that addressed problems of coercion (people being violently denied the right to vote) and denied people equal and fair access to public services and courts.

The bit you quoted from was about a thought experiment so wasn’t perfectly relevant in the real world case.

32

Dan 05.26.10 at 1:05 pm

It’s because distrust of governmental action is not specifically a libertarian idea, no matter how much libertarians say that it is.

Well, to some extent this is true: liberals sure are distrustful of government action when the other guys are in charge, but it’s funny that as soon as their man gets in, they’re all of a sudden (with a few honourable exceptions) very amenable to the exercise of effectively unlimited executive power. Compare: liberal outrage directed against the President’s newly-arrogated power to kill anyone anywhere at any time with no due process, and that directed against Rand Paul for daring to come out against a small (and by now, probably fairly ineffectual) part of the CRA. I know which one seems worse to me! But then again, maybe it’s just my priorities which are out of whack.

33

Walt 05.26.10 at 1:11 pm

You realize, Dan, that you could have done absolutely anything with your free time. And yet you’ve chosen to spend it trolling this comment section. Is it raining where you are, or something?

34

kid bitzer 05.26.10 at 1:25 pm

“I’m here in my man cave doin’ thought experiments.”

with power tools and petrol engines! and a lotta loud banging and swearing! it’s so masculine!

“okay, fred, now hitch up the noeto-meter to the back o that difference-engine and see if we can kick the torque up a bit. that possible world is a fair distance away, so we’ll need to crank up the gain and stomp on the gas! yeehaw!”

35

praisegod barebones 05.26.10 at 1:28 pm

John @ 29

No, I’m not quite sure that I’ve got this right but I think the good idea is outside the cave; but if you look at it directly you get dazzled, or something like that.

36

ajay 05.26.10 at 1:45 pm

sound money policy, putting an end to inflating fiat currencies that silently robs people of their labour. These important things just don’t get discussed enough by mainstream liberal theorists.

Not so. For one: Paul Krugman, who I would say is mainstream, liberal and a theorist, has published several blog posts and articles discussing the subject of ‘sound money policy’ and reiterating the (correct) point that it is total nonsense.

People get sufficiently rich that they can put up with a larger state. This happens after the institutions of free trade and the rule of law have made everyone a lot richer anyway. It is not worth their bother to oppose its growth

This is fairly extraordinary. So the state is not in fact vitally necessary to a modern, prosperous nation, but just a sort of superfluous and unnecessary antler or tumour that feeds on prosperity. And people just go along with it because they can’t be bothered to do otherwise. Even though it’s eating up between a quarter and a half of their total wealth, not to mention doing all sorts of (ex hypothesi) oppressive and unnecessary things.

That’s a pretty poor view of your fellow citizens. You’d think that more people would have realised the full awful truth and would be rallying for the abolition of the parasitic and unnecessary NHS, police, fire service and state school system. You’d think that even if they can’t be bothered to rise in revolt, they’d at least be voting for parties that promised to cut the state down. But they aren’t. Enlightenment seems to have been restricted to a small vanguard party, while the rest of the population labours on under false consciousness…

37

roac 05.26.10 at 1:53 pm

Here’s that guy running out onto the field of play again. Isn’t someone going to taser him?

38

Henri Vieuxtemps 05.26.10 at 2:02 pm

Should the government interfere in private business decisions in order to act against age discrimination? Yes, it should.

You really do believe that the government is your best friend, huh. But another solution might be for the government to end its union busting, and let the employment issues be settled that way.

39

Nick 05.26.10 at 2:04 pm

ajay:

I hadn’t realised Paul Krugman was discussing it. Obviously we are having some impact:)

People are rationally ignorant of politics. There is very little chance of any one person being able to determine or effect the outcome of a policy debate or election even if they had discovered their own interests. So whats the point in them going out of their way to discover their interests? They would be better off spending more time shopping for the best mobile phone or holiday (which at least they can definitely choose for themselves) than educating themselves about the nuances of the best way to provide collective goods. So when people vote or agitate politically, it is usually on sentiment.

So to say that people are ignorant of the best policies for them (limited government and robust free market economy), is not to denigrate them. It is specialised knowledge that most people are better off not taking the trouble to find out. Fortunately, in a democracy, people seem to get enough of the taste of policy outcomes such that something like a market economy gets sufficient support to be maintained, allowing continued prosperity despite the depredations of the state.

40

Earnest O'Nest 05.26.10 at 2:06 pm

Phritz is caught by the moderatrix! They can sure be funny when they don’t want to :-)

41

ajay 05.26.10 at 2:14 pm

I hadn’t realised Paul Krugman was discussing it. Obviously we are having some impact:)

Frequently. Just go to his blog at krugman.blogs.nytimes.com and search for “gold bug”. He’s discussing it not because it’s an interesting idea but because, to be blunt, “sound money” keeps being suggested as a policy by people who are ignorant of the damage it has caused and would cause again.

Fortunately, in a democracy, people seem to get enough of the taste of policy outcomes such that something like a market economy gets sufficient support to be maintained, allowing continued prosperity despite the depredations of the state.

That’s interesting reasoning there.

42

Steve LaBonne 05.26.10 at 2:14 pm

Obviously we are having some impact:)

It’s the impact of foreheads against desks, though. Was that the kind you were looking for?

43

politicalfootball 05.26.10 at 2:20 pm

Rich @26 notes the non-contribution of libertarianism, but Nick @30 tells us:

When [drugs] are eventually legalised, it will become one of those things that EVERYONE important was against before suddenly they were in favour.

And it’s true! When fiat currencies are abolished, the economy collapses, the globe heats up and we all reside in sweaty, segregated hovels, the armed-to-the-teeth survivors will have libertarianism to thank for the fact that they can ingest all the drugs they want to.

In all seriosity, Nick is right that the drug war is a huge social problem, and that the libertarians really have stood up for social progress there. So that’s one thing.

44

chris 05.26.10 at 2:30 pm

The really interesting question is why the French aristocracy, who really did live lives of legally-consecrated privilege, atop a society where most people lived in shit and were stuck there, took to American liberty so eagerly [though more fool them, as it turned out].

I thought it was generally “whatever is bad for the English sounds good to us”? Hadn’t England and France been traditional enemies for several centuries at that point? (And IIRC had fairly recently fought a proxy war in their respective American colonies.)

If you take the view that America was (at the time) an undeveloped, sparsely populated country of no particular importance that was an inconveniently long way from any place that really mattered, then the French would have been likely to see the American Revolution as primarily an issue that affected French-British relations by weakening the British, which was good for the French.

I don’t think they could have expected an aristocracy-less society (or even one that paid lip service to being aristocracy-less, which is more accurate).

P.S. Are there any examples of separatism being practiced by groups that *haven’t* recently practiced slavery, conquest, colonialism, or something similarly odious against the groups they subsequently refuse to associate with? If my grandfather stole your grandfather’s land, my refusal to allow you to work in the factory I built on it has rather questionable moral standing, even though in a short-term view I may have personally done nothing wrong aside from exercising my freedom of association. Or maybe Nick would argue that the correct remedy there is not nondiscrimination law, but something else, like reparations?

45

Nick 05.26.10 at 2:41 pm

“Frequently. Just go to his blog at krugman.blogs.nytimes.com and search for “gold bug”. He’s discussing it not because it’s an interesting idea but because, to be blunt, “sound money” keeps being suggested as a policy by people who are ignorant of the damage it has caused and would cause again.”

Sound money does not necessarily involve gold (and certainly does not involve the intrernational gold standard which was tied to major problems). As for Krugman’s scorn, sound money’s value as a policy might be true, but just not yet ‘in the true’ as the po-mo’s sometimes put it.

46

ChrisJ 05.26.10 at 2:41 pm

ajay @37 gets to the heart of the matter for me. Perhaps it’s my basically sunny view of human nature, but it does seem to me that, over the long march of the centuries, better ideas tend to win out. So why isn’t libertarianism steadily gaining ground? Is it all the bread and circuses we get from the government that deludes us?

47

Nick 05.26.10 at 2:49 pm

“So why isn’t libertarianism steadily gaining ground?”

I don’t go in for that kind of historical inevitability, but I think libertarianism as an ideology and philosophy is perhaps stronger than it has been ever before. Compare even mainstream liberal discourse with the collectivist progressivism of a few decades ago, and you’ll see much more emphasis on individualism than before. There is an increasingly widespread acceptance that people usually know their own interests from day-to-day better than other agencies. Sensible people think that markets should provide even fairly essential goods. People are generally more sceptical of Government than before.

48

chris 05.26.10 at 3:05 pm

Libertarians and conservatives share a key premise that an awful lot of the good stuff, liberty, equality, prosperity etc.. were created by human actions, but not human design. The institutions that generated these outcomes were not intended to do so. Sometimes it is not even clear who instituted them.

I find this assertion remarkable.

Since you’re a libertarian, I assume that by liberty you mean negative liberty. But negative liberty is defined by the absence of infringements on it, so it’s initially hard to see how an institution can generate that outcome; they can either infringe on liberty or not, right? There is a third possibility, namely preventing other institutions or people from infringing on liberty (e.g. law enforcement vs. the KKK — the KKK would clearly infringe on liberty, if law enforcement didn’t stop it from doing so). But it seems ridiculous to say that this is unintended — laws and law enforcement were created to prevent the kinds of private-sector liberty-infringing that we generally lump under the heading of “crime” (even before they started being coopted to keep the currently powerful in power by defining sedition and heresy as crimes).

Well, let’s move on to equality, then. Institutions that promote equality are few and far between — there are vastly more institutions that promote inequality, such as corporations that pay different amounts to different employees, or laws that give people born on one side of a border rights that people born on the other side of the border don’t have, or the whole concept of inheritance and the way it is enshrined in law. Hell, the whole concept of *private property* and the way *that* is enshrined in law. (Historically, we can add laws that create and support aristocracies and slave classes.) In the rare cases when an institution does promote equality, it was probably founded or modified for that specific purpose (e.g. the 14th amendment).

That leaves prosperity. The primary behavior that creates prosperity is technology, which isn’t exactly an “institution” per se. But people who advance technology are usually doing so to improve prosperity — at least their own, if not necessarily that of society. An institution closely related to the advance of technology is education, which is of course designed expressly for the purpose of improving the student’s ability to create and deploy technology (in a broad sense that includes methodology), generally in order to improve their prosperity. The publicization of education was explicitly intended to promote the prosperity of society by improving the productivity of students whose parents were too poor to make that investment themselves.

The fact that some forms of creating prosperity on a small scale also, when aggregated, create prosperity on a large scale is probably the best positive-unintended-consequences argument we’re likely to get, but in order to get there we have to overlook people who seek their own prosperity as robbers, burglars, con artists, etc. (they, of course, have to be kept down by institutions which are created for the deliberate purpose of stopping them) as well as a host of negative externalities and tragedies of the commons (ditto, but although libertarians sometimes support Pigouvian taxes in theory, they generally find some reason to be against them in practice).

49

Sebastian 05.26.10 at 3:07 pm

“When [drugs] are eventually legalised, it will become one of those things that EVERYONE important was against before suddenly they were in favour.”

Isn’t that how most important social changes play out? You start out with a very small group talking/complaining/working against what they see as an injustice. They get mostly ignored for a long time. At some point their arguments resonate with a much larger percentage of the population (often because of some ridiculous action that really drives their point home). There is more contentiousness and political struggle, often with this original small group and some of their more moderate sympathizers. Something really nasty happens (often provoked or directly caused by a fairly large group that agrees with the present social norm). This pushes just enough people to oppose the current situation that change can happen. Fifty years later, a much larger group of people pretend they always felt that way.

Since we are talking about slavery, abolition was much like that. I don’t think it ever had a clear majority until after the war. It isn’t clear that Lincoln would have abolished it without the South forcing his hand. And the small group actually opposing it isn’t particularly associated with what you would think of as ‘liberalism’ now. They were radical Christians for the most part who took the idea of the equality of God’s creations very seriously and who never had much political power themselves.

So if libertarians fill that role in drug legalization, GREAT. The fact that everyone else came around eventually (and some of them will radically change positions and pretend to have always thought that way) doesn’t change any of what I just discussed.

50

alex 05.26.10 at 3:09 pm

“People are generally more sceptical of Government than before.” You do realise skepticism is sometimes the result of stupidity and ignorance, don’t you? Something in which the USA, with its amazing ability to not educate millions of people properly, is a world leader. Twenty-first century technology has allowed more and more people to shout ‘fuck you’ at the world louder and louder; some bizarre collective delusion has allowed some Americans, and a very few people anywhere else, to believe that ‘I’ve got mine, fuck you’ is a viable political philosophy for anyone not already a billionaire. But that’s pretty much all.

This: “people usually know their own interests from day-to-day better than other agencies”? Har-har-de-harhar. Why did so many of them borrow more than they could afford on their homes, then? I should have thought that the lesson of economc practice over the last decade is that no pattern of behaviour is too dumb and short-sighted not to be adopted if the sales-pitch is right.

Unfortunately, government is made up of people almost as dumb as the ones that voted for them, I’ll grant that that’s a problem, but if people were less dumb, they’d also be less willing to listen to allegations that it was the government misleading them when they signed that loan agreement.

And the whole pitch you’re making about only being a little bit libertarian, you can have it if you want it; everyone’s entitled to be dumb about something.

51

djw 05.26.10 at 3:11 pm

People get sufficiently rich that they can put up with a larger state. This happens after the institutions of free trade and the rule of law have made everyone a lot richer anyway. It is not worth their bother to oppose its growth.

The similarities between Marxism and libertarianism are sometimes quite astonishing. This is Lenin on trade union consciousness, redux.

52

ajay 05.26.10 at 3:17 pm

why the French aristocracy, who really did live lives of legally-consecrated privilege, atop a society where most people lived in shit and were stuck there, took to American liberty so eagerly

LAFAYETTE: I expect, mon ami, you’re wondering why I, a terrifically rich landowner whose vast farms are worked by thousands of brutalised, starving labourers, kept in their place by an oppressive legal system that guarantees me and my kind immense privilege, am so keen to support you? What could we possibly have in common?

JEFFERSON: …uh…

53

chris 05.26.10 at 3:17 pm

Sensible people think that markets should provide even fairly essential goods.

But not *unregulated* markets — anyone who suggests outright abolishing, say, the FDA is regarded as a lunatic. (And if you look at the history of food contamination before regulation, you can see why. The market notably failed to solve this important public safety problem.) And we all saw what happened to California with deregulation of the energy industry. Etc.

Other essential services it’s now essentially settled that the market can’t provide them effectively (road networks and similar infrastructure, law enforcement), or that they need to be provided even to people who can’t afford to buy them (education, and in most countries, health care).

The working-out of a Hegelian dialectic can’t fairly be claimed as a victory for either side, IMO. “Pure” libertarianism is left in the dust today precisely because most of society has already settled on a variety of happy mediums. (Pure totalitarianism is even more disregarded, except by dictators. But ISTM that dancing on its grave has little relevance to modern political disputes, precisely because it *actually has* been left in the trash heap of history and the modern “statist” side of a real debate will be nowhere near totalitarianism.)

54

ajay 05.26.10 at 3:20 pm

I think libertarianism as an ideology and philosophy is perhaps stronger than it has been ever before.

Not really true if you look at a bit of history. Vast chunks of the US (and any other) government were condemned at their outset on libertarian grounds as unforgivable infringements on personal liberty and/or free markets, and are now generally accepted. The FDIC, Medicare, the US Army, the EPA, the Civil Rights Act, the income tax, the FDA…
This would imply that, in fact, libertarianism is in retreat before the triumphant advance of statism.

55

belle le triste 05.26.10 at 3:21 pm

(phritz reads awful like the Troll of Sorrow: just sayin like)

56

chris 05.26.10 at 3:21 pm

So if libertarians fill that role in drug legalization, GREAT.

But they don’t, unless you mean liberaltarians. Most US libertarians are in political alliance with the party that demands more prisons and more crackdowns. The fact that this is a very un-libertarian position is often pointed out, but the non-liberal libertarians don’t have much of a response AFAIK (at best, “we consider other issues more important”, which is widely derided as code for “lock up as many poor people as you want for reasons I admit are bad, as long as you cut my taxes”, because that seems to be the tradeoff they are making in practice).

57

Uncle Kvetch 05.26.10 at 3:22 pm

“People are generally more sceptical of Government than before.” You do realise skepticism is sometimes the result of stupidity and ignorance, don’t you?

You keep your gummint away from my Medicare!

58

ajay 05.26.10 at 3:25 pm

Not to mention that this

libertarianism as an ideology and philosophy is perhaps stronger than it has been ever before…Sensible people think that markets should provide even fairly essential goods. People are generally more sceptical of Government than before.

is actually contradictory to Nick’s earlier argument that

people are ignorant of the best policies for them (limited government and robust free market economy)

Which is it? Either people are (forgivably) ignorant of the merits of libertarianism, or they aren’t.

59

Sebastian 05.26.10 at 3:27 pm

“And we all saw what happened to California with deregulation of the energy industry. Etc.”

This is a really bad example for your side. California specifically outlawed the use of long term energy contracts to smooth the price out over time. Instead it mandated buying at the spot price every day. No electricity provider would have ever gone to 100% spot pricing on their own. Regulators were so worried about getting screwed in the long term contract that they screwed themselves even more by prohibiting the use of any long term pricing contract. Now did Enron take advantage of this fact from outside the state? Yes. But if California had permitted the most routine market mechanism for long term supply contracts, the whole debacle wouldn’t have been possible.

60

Uncle Kvetch 05.26.10 at 3:29 pm

But they don’t, unless you mean liberaltarians. Most US libertarians are in political alliance with the party that demands more prisons and more crackdowns.

But of course. It really can’t be pointed out enough that 90% of self-described “libertarians” in the US aren’t Sebastians, but Glenn Reynolds’ and Megan McArdles — i.e., bog-standard conservative Republicans with just enough of a contrarian twist to appear “thought-provoking” to people who don’t know how to think.

61

Rich Puchalsky 05.26.10 at 3:31 pm

And libertarians as the vanguard against the drug war is nonsense too. There are a whole lot more liberals against the drug war in the U.S. than there are libertarians against it. Why? Well, in part because there are a whole lot more liberals than libertarians. So a subset of liberals is still a larger number of people than the whole of libertaria.

Why, then, hasn’t there been any significant movement against the drug war in Democratic administrations? Because anti-drug-war sentiment as a whole is still a minority position in the U.S., even if a good chunk of liberals support it. Obama didn’t ask his base whether he should dismantle the drug war any more than he asked us whether he should start assassinating people, or whether he should start offshore drilling up everywhere.

That’s a problem, certainly, but it’s not one that’s going to be solved by libertarians. After all, their record with pushing the Republicans in that direction is even worse. And their philosophy, with its connection to racism, encourages the drug war, because the drug war in the U.S. always was a mechanism for racial oppression.

62

Sebastian 05.26.10 at 3:37 pm

“Most US libertarians are in political alliance with the party that demands more prisons and more crackdowns.”

As opposed to the Democratic party in New York and California (together about 1/5 of the population of the US) where they demand more prisons and more crackdowns? The state of the drug war is an indictment of both conservatives and liberals. And this isn’t just a case of ‘your side does it too’ where I can find some small similarity. This is a case where the policies are largely identical.

63

ChrisJ 05.26.10 at 3:45 pm

“People are generally more sceptical of Government than before.” (Nick@48)

As others have said, I don’t think the history of the past couple of centuries shows this at all.

What also troubles me is the odd way it presents human actions: that we are somehow increasingly unwilling to let government tell us what to do and how to do it, but yet are perfectly content, even eager, to have our ever-larger corporate entities tell us exactly that. That’s an illogical view of human nature.

So control of what we do becomes less of a philosophical issue and more of a starkly political one. Libertarianism, whatever it is, seems to have been captured by the right wing for its own purposes.

64

politicalfootball 05.26.10 at 3:46 pm

I think, ajay, if you look at Nick’s 48 again, you’ll see that he’s saying that libertarianism is “perhaps stronger” than it has been more because rhetoric and attitudes have changed, rather than there being a huge substantive policy impact.

You can see this new skepticism in the recent U.S. healthcare debate, when opponents of reform demanded that the government keep its hands off Medicare.

65

Sebastian 05.26.10 at 3:50 pm

“And libertarians as the vanguard against the drug war is nonsense too. There are a whole lot more liberals against the drug war in the U.S. than there are libertarians against it.”

Rich, you are being far to liberal triumphalist here. Name ONE liberal with even the small influence and focus of libertarian Radley Balko. Just one. Thanks.

“Well, in part because there are a whole lot more liberals than libertarians. So a subset of liberals is still a larger number of people than the whole of libertaria.”

Your liberals aren’t very loud. I can’t hear them at all. And I’m pretty sure that vanguards are almost never the majority.

Name the liberal Radley Balko. Or hell even the liberal with the prominence and similar drug legalization openness of Andrew Sullivan.

Your same criticism would have applied to slavery abolitionists.

(BTW I think the closest you can come is probably Mark Kleiman. Who isn’t really for legalization, but I’d give you him anyway. But he isn’t nearly as read as Balko. And a large part of his early prominence came from links from Megan Mcardle, who I’m pretty sure isn’t one of your favorite libertarian leaning people either.)

66

Henri Vieuxtemps 05.26.10 at 3:52 pm

There’s nothing stupid or illogical in telling the government to keep its hands off Medicare.

67

politicalfootball 05.26.10 at 3:57 pm

Sebastian @65 and Rich @63, I think it’s fair (for the purposes of this discussion) to judge libertarians and liberals by their philosophies rather than by the politicians who represent them.

Liberals and libertarians are opposed to the drug war. Politicians and individuals who favor the drug war are acting illiberally, and not in accordance with libertarian views.

Rand Paul the racist is behaving consistently with libertarian views. Rand Paul the drug warrior is not.

(None of this is intended to dispute Rich’s point that it’s also relevant to judge an ideology by the outcomes that are generated by its favored policies.)

68

ajay 05.26.10 at 4:08 pm

Name ONE liberal with even the small influence and focus of libertarian Radley Balko. Just one. Thanks.

Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat deputy prime minister of the UK.
http://act.libdems.org.uk/group/liberaldemocratsfordrugpolicyreform/forum/topics/current-liberal-democrat-drug?xg_source=activity

Admittedly he doesn’t have a blog. But offline he’s quite well-known.

69

Sebastian 05.26.10 at 4:33 pm

I don’t think it is at all clear even philosophically that the drug war is particularly illiberal. It follows a fairly long tradition in liberalism of trying to stamp out bad self harming personal behavior. The temperance movement and progressives were closely linked for most of their history in the US.

70

Nick 05.26.10 at 4:49 pm

Ha, Nick Clegg! Don’t make us laugh. Laying off users is certainly a start, but it is not about legalising the trade itself (which is where the real benefits will be derived). Treating drug use as an intrinsic “public health” problem is also wrong because for a lot of users, it isn’t really a problem at all, just a lifestyle choice.

On history, I take my understanding of the development of free institutions more or less from Deirdre McCloskey: http://www

Basically, there was a core notion of respect for the individual that came as a reaction to various abuses of arbitrary power. This reaction developed a set of institutions (seperation of powers, a right to trial by a jury of one’s peers) that generated something akin to a space for negative liberty. Then something relatively unintended happened. People became incredibly rich and prosperous but also more moral.

71

politicalfootball 05.26.10 at 4:58 pm

Sebastian @73, I suppose that in some sense, anything that involves government action could, in some theoretical sense, be labeled liberal. So you could call, for instance, restrictions on gay marriage “liberal.”

But, of course, that’s a pretty strained reading of the term. Civil liberties in general have been a preoccupation of liberals, as has drug law liberalization. I have no direct knowledge, for instance, of whether the medical marijuana movement in California was spearheaded by liberals or conservatives, but I’ve got a pretty strong intuition about which of the two was more responsible. Am I wrong?

(And further to Rich’s point in 63, are you really prepared to argue that libertarian legislators have been more prominent in the medical marijuana movement than liberal ones?)

72

roac 05.26.10 at 5:29 pm

Henri Vieuxtemps asked, way back at no. 18:

And I too would like to know: if you’re a liberal, then was the Title II a cut-and-dried, “must have” sort of thing?

Well, since for a black person travel through the South during the ’40s and ’50s was difficult bordering on dangerous, since the great majority of hotels wouldn’t house rent you a room and the great majority of restaurants wouldn’t feed you, I guess my answer would have to be “yes.” If you doubt that this was the case, Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin is one source you can look into. (The coverage of Title II, as a rapid glance will make clear, was tailored to address this particular problem.)

I would really like to hear the argument that this was not a festering sore requiring urgent treatment, and/or the argument that treating it was not within Congress’s commerce clause power.

73

Bruce Baugh 05.26.10 at 5:40 pm

Since Nick brought her up, I want to note something about Deirdre McCloskey: She’s transsexual. She had the wealth and job security to make her transition without fuss and remain a productive, respected member of her chosen field. Most transsexuals don’t. Right now there’s debate about the terms of a broadening of non-discrimination law to cover sexual orientation and gender identities, so that someone who happened to share McCloskey’s gender dissonance but not her wealth or status wouldn’t have to condemn themselves to a life of third-class status, poverty, greatly increased exposure to violence (including official; half of transgendered people who die violent deaths do so at the hands of cops), and the like.

No libertarians I’m aware of approve of anything like ENDA. But then I don’t know any poor or middle-class transsexual people who think much of libertarians, either.

The poorer you are, the more every bit of marginalization hurts, because you start off with fewer options and have fewer alternatives when any of them is taken away. There’s a reason so many transsexual people end up spending time in the sex trade, and it’s generally not a love of that work above all others. It’s that there they can find the money it takes to address their medical needs and maybe then see about getting on with any other life. In countries where transsexual identities are given medical attention, even second-rate attention, that happens a lot less, unsurprisingly. Just another gift from the advocates of laissez-faire to the rest of the society.

74

Substance McGravitas 05.26.10 at 5:52 pm

Name ONE liberal with even the small influence and focus of libertarian Radley Balko.

Kos.

75

Steve LaBonne 05.26.10 at 5:52 pm

Well, Bruce, that’s why propertarianism is a club for well-off white males. All it really amounts to, as we see endlessly, endlessly repeated in their laughable attempts to make arguments a 5 year old would have trouble refuting, is “I’ve got mine, fuck you”.

76

Substance McGravitas 05.26.10 at 6:02 pm

I’m still interested in whether or not libertarians agree with the Von Mises senior fellow that “The spirit of non-discrimination ends you right up in compulsory bisexuality.”

77

By the Way 05.26.10 at 6:04 pm

Who’s Radley Balko?

78

novakant 05.26.10 at 6:14 pm

Treating drug use as an intrinsic “public health” problem is also wrong because for a lot of users, it isn’t really a problem at all, just a lifestyle choice.

You don’t know anything about substance abuse and addiction.

79

alex 05.26.10 at 6:15 pm

Who is Radley Balko? /snark

Meanwhile, dear, sweet, stupid Oxonian Nick, who learnt his history from an economist, thinks that “Then something relatively unintended happened. People became incredibly rich and prosperous but also more moral.” So moral that they reinvented slavery for the industrial age, designed workhouses to imprison the indigent, and carved up the globe at the barrel of a gun. So, so moral, really. I assume, that is, you’re talking about the rise of the bourgeoisie; you seem to be. If you’re actually talking about something more recent, then I’ll just go back to laughing so hard I can hardly see straight.

80

Mitchell Rowe 05.26.10 at 6:37 pm

novakant 81:
I haven’t agreed with Nick on much in this thread but on this he is 100% right. It is a mistake to treat all drug use as a “public health problem”. Many people use drugs, of all types, recreationally without any major problems.

81

chris 05.26.10 at 6:50 pm

@80: Well, first of all, most people’s sexuality isn’t a public accommodation. The CRA doesn’t force you to invite black people to dinner in your home, either.

Aside from that, though, society and I think the law are more willing to give a pass to sex discrimination that has some reasonable basis; separate but equal restrooms are pretty much the norm, for example, or differential treatment of maternity and paternity leave/accommodations/etc.

74: Basically, there was a core notion of respect for the individual that came as a reaction to various abuses of arbitrary power. This reaction developed a set of institutions (seperation of powers, a right to trial by a jury of one’s peers) that generated something akin to a space for negative liberty. Then something relatively unintended happened. People became incredibly rich and prosperous but also more moral.

This seems wildly unlike the history that actually happened. Your “core notion of respect for the individual” is coextensive with slavery and with marriage customs tantamount to slavery, for example. But respecting only certain individuals is aristocracy in practice.

More fundamentally, though, you’re attributing the fruits of technological progress to a set of political institutions? I’d draw the arrow of causality the other way: printing leads to cheaper books, which leads to more people learning to read, which leads to more interchange of ideas and public discourse (at least among the middle class and petty nobility), which leads to pressure to liberalize (in the classical sense) political institutions. Clearly the Magna Carta didn’t create Gutenberg (for one thing, he was in the wrong country). Heck, the whole concepts of bourgeoisie and proletariat rely on technological change driving greater urbanization and a shrinking fraction of the labor force engaged in agriculture.

The fact that you can’t keep out technology (it’s too useful and too easy to smuggle and if you succeed in spite of both of those, you’ll probably be conquered/overthrown by a less Luddite neighbor/revolutionary who will bring in the technology anyway) explains why the societal trends were contagious if technology was driving them. But if you consider technology the dependent variable, why does everyone else follow suit when they can just buy or plagiarize the technology and stay monarchic? (If the answer to this is that technology enables things like Bastille-storming, then we’re back to technology being in the driver’s seat.)

82

Hidari 05.26.10 at 6:58 pm

‘Basically, there was a core notion of respect for the individual that came as a reaction to various abuses of arbitrary power. This reaction developed a set of institutions (seperation of powers, a right to trial by a jury of one’s peers) that generated something akin to a space for negative liberty. Then something relatively unintended happened. People became incredibly rich and prosperous but also more moral.’

Yes there’s a piece in yesterday’s Slate magazine about the ‘new morality’ that made ‘us’ all ‘incredibly rich’.

‘But conspiracy theories die hard. Is the State Department response setting the record straight, or is it just a coverup? Though most of Perkins’ book may be pulp fiction—we’ll probably never be able to verify his tales of payoffs, espionage, and sexual escapades—one of his claims just received unexpected confirmation from a group of serious scholars. New York University researchers Daniel Berger, Bill Easterly, Shanker Satyanath—together with Harvard economist Nathan Nunn—have analyzed Perkins’ “economic hitman” theory—that is, the theory that the U.S. government has used the CIA to promote American corporate interests abroad. (The economists prefer the term “political influence hypothesis” to “economic hitman theory.”) Based on information from declassified documents detailing covert CIA operations during the Cold War, the social scientists find that Perkins’ claims are backed up by the numbers: Countries targeted for CIA political interventions started importing more U.S. products, a sign of American economic imperialism at work….

The authors put together a list of the years that the CIA was active in each of 156 countries, using recently declassified documents detailing the agency’s clandestine operations around the globe during the Cold War, when American intelligence was trying to thwart the spread of Soviet influence. (The KGB was similarly engaged in countering the specter of American capitalist imperialism.) The CIA’s activities ranged from active interventions, like operatives blowing up dams or “neutralizing” opponents, to the softer touch of handing out propaganda pamphlets and providing funds or expertise for the campaigns of U.S.-friendly politicians. (One shocking fact the researchers mention in passing—fodder in itself for conspiracy theorists—is that the CIA operated secretly in nearly a third of the countries on earth at some point between 1947 and 1989.) They match up this history of CIA interventions to data on imports and exports between the United States and each of its trading partners over the same time span to see whether trade was affected by CIA operations. Indeed it was: In years the CIA was active in a country, the United States enjoyed a boost in exports to that country of about 13 percent. Over a few years, this adds up to a lot of extra business for U.S. companies. For example, the authors estimate that the multi-year commitment of Helms and his successor to support Pinochet may have translated into a doubling of exports to that country by 1988, relative to what they would have been in the absence of CIA involvement….

How did the CIA persuade these friendly governments to “Buy American”? A pair of additional analyses in the study provide some answers. First, the researchers find that the boost to imports came from CIA operations that helped to install or maintain U.S.-friendly dictatorships—it seems that the will of the people in democracies was effective in counteracting CIA influence. So U.S. exports didn’t benefit from “softer” interventions like the ones in postwar Japan or failed attempts at regime change, as in Syria, for example. (This may explain why CIA operations so often promoted dictatorships at the expense of democracy, a finding that a subset of the same authors report in a separate study.) ‘

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Substance McGravitas 05.26.10 at 7:02 pm

I haven’t agreed with Nick on much in this thread but on this he is 100% right. It is a mistake to treat all drug use as a “public health problem”.

Who treats all drug use as a public health problem? I’m inclined to think novakant’s correct in identifying Nick as a know-nothing.

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Nick 05.26.10 at 7:03 pm

“I’m still interested in whether or not libertarians agree with the Von Mises senior fellow that “The spirit of non-discrimination ends you right up in compulsory bisexuality.””

I would say he was extrapolating a little too far in that instance.

Bruce – the state should concentrate on punishing those (including its own officials) who attack transexuals, and ensuring that services it claims to provide are available equally to transexuals. I don’t think it either should nor is it necessary for it to tackle discrimination by private actors. Attitudes towards transexuality are already changing rapidly, but if some individuals are really all that bothered by transexuals (if they can even spot them), I don’t think they should be forced to associate with them.

Apart from that, the lazy snarks:genuine critique ratio is getting a bit poor now, so I may bow out. But its been fun with some of you.

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Greg B 05.26.10 at 8:04 pm

Nick:The state should concentrate on punishing those (including its own officials) who attack transexuals, and ensuring that services it claims to provide are available equally to transexuals. I don’t think it either should nor is it necessary for it to tackle discrimination by private actors.

I can’t figure out a useful distinction between ‘discrimination by private actors’ and ‘attacking transsexuals’. The only way I can make sense of it is if the former means something like ‘not having transsexuals over to watch TV’ and the latter means something like physical violence, but from what I know of reality there are far more possible interactions with all kinds of consequences, rapidly blurring the line between ‘private discrimination’ and ‘attacking’. I raise the point (a) because I think it parallels the Jim Crow discussion and (b) I think it is at the core of many libertarian positions, upon which libertarianism founders (i.e. the ‘non-initiation of force’ principle and how it can’t deal with ‘soft’ coercion or influence, economic force, and so on).

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bianca steele 05.26.10 at 8:14 pm

By “public health” I thought Nick meant to refer to things like educating schoolkids about drugs and their dangers, maybe also things like providing methadone (done by NGO’s around here though I think, I suppose with government grants), not randomly arresting people in certain neighborhoods on a pretext that people who look and dress like them are more likely to be in the drug trade. If he instead means things like this “contention” from the founder of a big US anti-drug program “that the present generation had already surrendered to drug dependency,” I don’t know what to think, because I can only assume either the guy who said this either was on drugs himself or is in need of some other kind of drug (say, Risperdal?).

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MorningStar 05.26.10 at 8:28 pm

Government is a necessary evil….that is not the problem….it’s controlling government so that freedom can prevail for us. To be against government, in any form, is not logical.

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piglet 05.26.10 at 8:28 pm

Most US libertarians are in political alliance with the party that demands more prisons and more crackdowns.

Of course they are, and it is absurd to deny that fact.

Look up the voting record of GOP vs DEM legislators wrt drug legalization, for example medical marijuana laws. It is true that you can dig up drug hardliners in both parties but I’m pretty sure that Dems are way way more likely to support some sort of legalization than Republicans. In other countries, there is no question whatsoever that left and green parties support legalization and conservative parties support hardline stances. NORML in the US, though marginal, is clearly a liberal as opposed to a libertarian group (although they won’t reject libertarian support when they get it). I live in a liberal town surrounded by an ocean of conservatism. My town passed a marijuana low priority ordinance with 60%+ support. To the surrounding, “small government” right wingers, we are a liberal aberration. The organizer of the ordinance campaign now works for the campaign of a left-liberal democratic candidate. Show me some comparable examples on the conservative-libertarian side.

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chris 05.26.10 at 8:35 pm

I raise the point (a) because I think it parallels the Jim Crow discussion

It does; Nick is taking the position analogous to the one Rand Paul first took and then backed away from, that if everyone just happens to not want to hire a certain group of people, serve them lunch, let them use public* restrooms, etc., that may be lamentable but it’s certainly not something government should get involved in.

* In the sense of open to the public, not owned by the public (the latter would make them government facilities, which Rand Paul and Nick do favor nondiscrimination policies for).

@Phritz: Occasional attempts to out-Herod Herod notwithstanding, it’s clear where the pressure against non-“tough” approaches to the drug issue is coming from. A substantial number of liberal non-politicians support legalization of at least some drugs or some other kind of dialing down the fearmongering (e.g. more treatment less jail), but don’t discuss it much because they know the issue is politically DOA.

Also, I can’t believe anyone would seriously hold up DiFi as an example of liberalism. She’s practically the Platonic form of DINO (now that Lieberman isn’t a Democrat even in name) and the liberal wing of the party constantly talks about primarying her (although I don’t know if they’ve actually attempted it, not being from CA myself).

The fact that in heavily blue states many of the local politicians (including some decidedly non-liberal ones) are Democrats is really not that surprising, especially given the purging of the Rockefeller Republicans. Local officials still have to follow federal criminal law and sentencing, though, regardless of their own political beliefs. Although I think it would be cool to see massive civil disobedience by local law enforcement in the form of refusal to enforce the drug laws, I’m not dumb enough to think that’s a _plausible_ scenario. Even the states that have tried to pursue legalization (all of them blue) have been beaten down by federal coercion (and where was Rand Paul then, I’d like to know — seriously, this would be a great question to ask defenders of states’ rights, and I really don’t know how he would answer it).

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Henri Vieuxtemps 05.26.10 at 8:58 pm

@76 (roac),
there is a pragmatic argument that, all things considered, perhaps it was an overreach. Suppose in an alternative universe the CRA is passed without the Title II. Humphrey wins the 1968 election, he ends the war. The realignment, Southern Strategy doesn’t work to the extent it did. A completely different history, and, most likely, a much better one. Instead you got quickly desegregated lunch counters, with most of the beneficiaries still lacking the means to buy the damn lunch.

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Bruce Baugh 05.26.10 at 9:00 pm

Greg B: Yes, exactly. Sufficiently intense and pervasive hostility to a group, manifested purely through private means, can nonetheless amount to small-scale genocide, even if the actual organs of the state were all to be available on equal terms to the group and the rest of society. At this point there are two options:

#1. The law imposes significantly on every bigoted member of the privileged population, compelling them to associate peaceably with people they find scary, abhorrent, or whatever, and also imposes noticeably on the entire privileged population with a burden to understand the consequences of their choices toward others and sometimes to take corrective steps.

#2. The law allows every member of the non-privileged group to face risks ranging from embarrassment and the denial of otherwise available opportunities up to violent death, with the only relief being the individual purchase of escape via wealth or status.

This is another no-brainer, to me. When a group is getting abused badly enough, I’ve got no problem imposing corrective measures on the surrounding society.

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michael e sullivan 05.26.10 at 9:03 pm

Well the actual Jim Crow was the product of loads of coercion, both legal and illegal. So there was certainly plenty of kinds of Government intervention that was justified.

So I could have wholeheartedly have endorsed Titles I, III, IV, VI, VIII, IX

If the whole act were presented as a bundle, it would be a touch choice.

This is the part that amazes me. Really? It would be a tough choice? You consider yourself a libertarian, and would like to avow *liberty* as the primary focus of your political philosophy, correct? And yet, the potential problems with public accomodation non-discrimination law are loom so large in your mind that given a forced yes or no on the whole package, you’d really have to think for a second about whether it was a net win for liberty?

I can only hope that this is the result of a colossal ignorance of what Jim Crow was actually like for people of color.

And the extent to which discrimination in public accomodations was *also* supported by various subtle and not-so-subtle means that could put a very large dent in the freedom-to-associate of anyone who didn’t share the values of the community. I have a hard time imagining a world in which some version of Title II isn’t necessary but which would still be identifiably equivalent to Jim Crow.

But even if you really believe that the assault to freedom-of-association of racist whites in Title II is on balance worse than what would still happen to PoC without such a law, it is just impossible for me to fathom that you consider it an evil worth comparison to the extant pre-Civil Rights act Jim Crow system.

Unless you really are blinded by privilege.

And don’t give me the “we could have voted down the civil rights act, and then tried to pass another without Title II” line. Because we could also have passed it, and then sought to repeal or restrict Title II in future legislation (not that I would agree with such repeal or restriction, but that’s another argument).

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piglet 05.26.10 at 9:05 pm

“Even the states that have tried to pursue legalization (all of them blue) have been beaten down by federal coercion (and where was Rand Paul then)”

– and “federal” mostly meant GOP-controlled. Also, I raised the point before about Reagan forcing states to raise the legal drinking age. Where were the “states rights” crusaders then pray tell?

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roac 05.26.10 at 9:05 pm

So your hypothesis — just to be sure I understand — is that backlash against Title II, specifically, is what swung the 1968 election in favor of Nixon? I find that quite implausible. I would be interested in a show of hands, if anyone else is listening.

And “lunch counters” is a cheap and misleading figure of speech for “the great majority of restaurants and hotels in a huge swath of the country.”

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Clod Levi-Strauss 05.26.10 at 9:11 pm

This arguments on this thread are is as shallow as those on the last one.
And I say that as a leftist who has more sympathy for social conservatives than economic liberals or libertarians. But in this case the libertarian policy is the correct one:

For Immediate Release
May 25, 2010
Independence, Ky. – The Libertarian Party of Kentucky strongly condemns the hurtful comments of Republican senate candidate Rand Paul. [“hurtful” sounds like a dodge doesn’t it?]
Rand Paul belongs to the Republican Party of Kentucky, an association which he makes of his own free will. Dr. Paul’s sole libertarian credentials come from Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, former adversary Republican Secretary of State Trey Grayson, and many in the mainstream media. In an effort to clear our good name, we make this public statement.
Rand Paul is not a libertarian. There are clear differences between the Libertarian Party, including the philosophy upon which is it based, and the philosophy and campaign rhetoric of Rand Paul. While the Libertarian Party shares some stances traditionally associated with the Republican Party, the LP also shares common ground on positions traditionally associated with the Democratic Party, and not always for the same reasons. We are an alternative to the two party system, not constrained by the model that defines both major parties.
Libertarians want a complete repeal of the PATRIOT Act, closure of Guantanamo Bay, and an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Rand Paul has stated that he wants to continue military detentions at Guantanamo Bay, a retroactive official declaration of war by Congress, and has denied that he seeks to overturn the PATRIOT Act.

It goes on a bit more.

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Uncle Kvetch 05.26.10 at 9:23 pm

This arguments on this thread are is as shallow as those on the last one. And I say that as a leftist who has more sympathy for social conservatives than economic liberals or libertarians.

So it is Seth Edenbaum! I knew it!

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Substance McGravitas 05.26.10 at 9:26 pm

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engels 05.26.10 at 9:29 pm

I say that is a leftist who just _happens_ to hate practically everybody on the Left but who is a big fan of (eg.) Maureen Dowd.

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Jonathan 05.26.10 at 9:31 pm

“The fact that you can’t keep out technology (it’s too useful and too easy to smuggle and if you succeed in spite of both of those, you’ll probably be conquered/overthrown by a less Luddite neighbor/revolutionary who will bring in the technology anyway)”

Only if the overall political environment is fragmented. In both China and Japan prior to the nineteenth century significant technology, including military technology, could be and was suppressed.

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Uncle Kvetch 05.26.10 at 9:36 pm

are you perhaps upset someone’s dissin’ AIPAC boss gal Dame Feinstein Kvetchster?

Assuming I’m correctly understanding your rough approximation of written English: no.

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Uncle Kvetch 05.26.10 at 10:04 pm

Hmmm, how to put this…

Dianne Feinstein is a wretch — absolutely awful on every level. A shining example of the Democratic Party at its worst.

You, on the other hand, are a lunatic.

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Clod Levi-Strauss 05.26.10 at 10:26 pm

Uncle Kvell.
No I’m not seth edenbaum. He yells much more than I do.

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Sebastian 05.26.10 at 10:52 pm

“Look up the voting record of GOP vs DEM legislators wrt drug legalization, for example medical marijuana laws. It is true that you can dig up drug hardliners in both parties but I’m pretty sure that Dems are way way more likely to support some sort of legalization than Republicans.”

Piglet, I’ve got to think you are projecting what you wish were true onto this. Look up the voting record of GOP vs DEM legislators with respect to drug legalization and you’ll be lucky to find a 1 or 2% of either party supporting it. So your ‘way more likely’ may or may not be true, but whatever the actual number is it would be much more accurate to just say “essentially zero”.

So in this case, it isn’t that I have to drag up “drug hardliners” in each party. They both *really really really* suck on the issue. You can sometimes find the occasional Democratic legislator who wants to soften up on punishment a little bit, but that is the best you can hope for.

In California–the place where drug legalization has made it the furthest in the states–the Democratic party has essentially nothing to do with it.

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Lemuel Pitkin 05.26.10 at 11:32 pm

In California—the place where drug legalization has made it the furthest in the states—the Democratic party has essentially nothing to do with it.

Is this really true, tho? When Tom Ammiano (D)’s bill legalizing marijuana passed the Assembly Public Safety Committee in January, three of the four Democrats on the committee voted in favor, and two of the three Republicans voted against. And my sense is that anywhere you find legislation moving in the direction of legalization, that’s the kind of partisan breakdown you see.

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piglet 05.26.10 at 11:34 pm

“Look up the voting record of GOP vs DEM legislators with respect to drug legalization and you’ll be lucky to find a 1 or 2% of either party supporting it.”

Sigh. If you look for legislators supporting outright legalization, you won’t find any because it would be political suicide for any career politician to be “soft on drugs”. Nevertheless there are meaningful differences between state legislators voting for or against medical marijuana laws for example. Now don’t tell me there’s no difference between the parties. Let me also remind you that by your theory, “small government” conservatives should be expected to be more sympathetic to drug legalization than “big government” liberals. The fact that reality is exactly the opposite of what you claim it is doesn’t make any difference to you does it? The fact that most individuals who speak out against the war on drug are squarely in the liberal camp doesn’t matter I guess. That Oakland city council has voted to endorse the California taxcannabis proposition is – what – an outlier, or would you describe Oakland as a libertarian stronghold? Shall we mention the Netherlands, that hotbed of libertarianism? Once again, you are DENYING that liberalism is characterized by concern for individual rights. It is your claim that liberals tend to sacrifice the individual on the altar of “social engineering” or whatever BS you are inventing. Then try explaining why societies governed by liberal consensus tend to have more, not less individual rights than exist in the US.

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Sebastian 05.27.10 at 12:01 am

“The fact that most individuals who speak out against the war on drug are squarely in the liberal camp doesn’t matter I guess. “

That isn’t even a fact. MOST of them are quite libertarian. And the number of prominent Democrats is darn near zero. I still haven’t seen any reference to the Democratic equivalent of libertarian Radley Balko. (And I mean *even* the mild level of prominence of Balko, as I’m fully aware that calling him prominent is probably pushing it.)

And where did Tom Ammiano’s bill go in the Democratic dominated Assembly?

Nowhere.

Why did it go nowhere? Because the Democratic Party is not in fact anywhere near being pro-legalization.

“The 4-3 vote by the Assembly Public Safety Committee was the first in the nation by a legislative body supporting recreational use of the drug. But several of the lawmakers who voted for the plan said they did so only to extend debate.

“I do not support marijuana. I don’t use it, I don’t want my kids to use it, I don’t want anyone’s kids to use it,” said Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, who voted in favor. “

First in the nation. So it has happened exactly once.

And it didn’t go anywhere.

I never said that no liberal anywhere in US was pro-legalization. I said that the push is coming from libertarians. And it is. It is most certainly not coming from the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party is in charge lots of places in the US. Hundreds.

“That Oakland city council has voted to endorse the California taxcannabis proposition is – what – an outlier, or would you describe Oakland as a libertarian stronghold?”

Jesus Christ. Do you know what the word outlier means? Of course it is an outlier. It isn’t like you can point to a bunch of cases. One committee in California.

This seems to me like just a case of pretending that everything good that happens or might happen is ‘liberal’. The word has no meaning at that point. At the very least, you have to admit that banning drugs isn’t illiberal–it fits quite well with a paternalistic strain that has no problem functioning in liberal philosophy.

There is an amendment on the ballot to effectively legalize pot in California. It is getting almost no support from the Democratic Party. If it passes, are you going to claim that as a win for liberals?

Really?

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logern 05.27.10 at 1:37 am

Interesting, is the ACLU full of libertarians?

http://www.aclu.org/drug-law-reform/against-drug-prohibition

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Substance McGravitas 05.27.10 at 1:57 am

I still haven’t seen any reference to the Democratic equivalent of libertarian Radley Balko.

Should I mention Kos again?

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Martin Bento 05.27.10 at 2:21 am

Substance and Bianca, it does seem to me that the Clegg in the linked article is treating drug abuse almost entirely as a public health problem and not at all like a legitimate lifestyle choice (with the exception of a brief mention of medical marijuana). When Nick said for some it was a lifestyle choice, novakant replied that he did not know what he was talking about. I don’t see any way of reading novakant’s comment than as a rejection of the notion that drug use can be a legitimate lifestyle choice. If you agree with that, fine, but neither of you seem to, yet seem to be taking novakant’s side. Why?

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Substance McGravitas 05.27.10 at 2:39 am

I read the policy statement and it seems pretty obvious to me that it’s the addict that’s the target if the “public health” idea, and I’m fine with that. It seems pretty clear to me that recreational use is not a target, as in “Adopting a policy of not prosecuting possession for own use, social supply to adults or cultivation of cannabis plants for own use.” Also “Ending the use of imprisonment for possession for own use of illegal drugs of any
class.” I notice no provisions for pot or ex clinics.

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Dr. Hilarius 05.27.10 at 3:07 am

Libertarians were a lot more entertaining when they were planning space colonies at L5.

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Martin Bento 05.27.10 at 3:26 am

Regardless of the Clegg memo, what Nick said is that drug use could be a lifestyle choice, and novakant said that he didn’t know what he was talking about. If you think Clegg agrees with Nick, fine, but that doesn’t make novakant right.

Additionally, Clegg is still talking about going after dealers. And that is what Nick characterized as distinct from the Libertarian position, which is correct. But if recreational use is not a target, why should not the trade, rather than just possession, be legalized? After all, other than medical use, which doesn’t even apply to all illegal drugs, it is all recreational use, right? So “going after dealers” and “not targeting recreational use” do not seem consistent positions. Is not the purpose of going after dealers to prevent recreational use?

I should say that I think we should go slow with drug legalization, so I actually wouldn’t favor an absolutist Libertarian line. That said, letting the users off and going hard after the dealers is the current Mexican approach, and I would not call it a great success so far, although, to be fair, their trade mostly services a foreign market, which has distorting effects.

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bad Jim 05.27.10 at 3:52 am

Logern (147): the ACLU describes itself as civil libertarian.

It’s my impression that most of the states which have decriminalized marijuana use or legalized medical marijuana or instituted gay marriage are reliably blue states.

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Substance McGravitas 05.27.10 at 4:10 am

what Nick said is that drug use could be a lifestyle choice

No, this is what he wrote:

Treating drug use as an intrinsic “public health” problem is also wrong because for a lot of users, it isn’t really a problem at all, just a lifestyle choice.

That reads to me like a sentence from someone who just doesn’t know what he’s talking about, which is what I figured novakant meant, so I’ll admit to doing some mindreading. My position then is that Nick doesn’t know what he’s talking about and hadn’t read the link with care.

I don’t think I’ve fully formed my ideas on all drug policy, but I’m pretty sure the casual user should never ever face jail for wanting to get messed up at a party. I’d be happy to see dealers of pot go out of business due to availability – although I assume conversation would go downhill fast – but I fear the result of the same policy for coke and speed.

(I don’t know that I’d worry about Mexico as a drug policy example…unless it’s to note the demand problems and hypocrisies of its Northern neighbour.)

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Sebastian 05.27.10 at 4:35 am

Would you mind linking a few posts from Kos on drug policy?

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Sebastian 05.27.10 at 4:36 am

Sorry that isn’t just cite trolling, I looked and had trouble finding any, but part of the problem is that I couldn’t think of an easy way to just limit the search to him, and a rather prominent website shares his name.

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novakant 05.27.10 at 5:07 am

When Nick said for some it was a lifestyle choice, novakant replied that he did not know what he was talking about. I don’t see any way of reading novakant’s comment than as a rejection of the notion that drug use can be a legitimate lifestyle choice.

At least be honest: Nick didn’t say “for some”, but “for a lot of users”.

Of course you can always find “some”, which can refer to any number greater than one. And even if we assumed that e.g. obesity might be a conscious lifestyle choice “for many”, that doesn’t make it any less of a public health problem.

You should also be aware that addiction and choice are concepts rather at odds with each other, and if you deny the fact that “for many” substance abuse involves addictive behaviour, than you indeed don’t have a clue what you’re talking about.

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Substance McGravitas 05.27.10 at 5:12 am

Well, I’m not much of a Kos reader, but the most recent thing I can think of is that in his complaints about Arizona he’s all for reforming ridiculous drug laws, calling them “drug prohibition”.

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Martin Bento 05.27.10 at 9:48 am

Here it comes down to who precisely we are talking about. Most street drug users are potheads – marijuana is all they use on a regular basis (at least in the US, though I would be surprised if this were different in Europe). None of those are addicts in any strict sense, and their behavior is a lifestyle, though one with drawbacks for heavy use. So I would say that “most” covers “a lot”. Some “hard” drugs are also not addictive, e.g., mushrooms and Ecstasy. And even the addictive drugs also have casual users. For example, over a third of heroin users are classified as “casual”, as opposed to “heavy” users. Even stipulating that all the heavy users are addicts, that’s a significant minority, and this ratio is skewed towards addicts by virtue of being a snapshot. Addicts generally continue using heroin longer than casual users, so the cumulative percentage of casual users will be considerably higher than this. I would call that a non-trivial value of “some”. None of that denies the public health aspect, but I think saying that it is not a public health issue “for a lot of users” implies there are those for whom it is, although it is sloppy phrasing.

I don’t even know who Balko is. But figures and institutions like Milton Friedman, George Schultz, The Economist, The Cato Institute, and the Libertarian Party have all called for drug legalization. I’ve seen no opinion leaders of comparable stature on the Left do this. I think this is largely because the drug war was initially targeted at least as much as the counterculture as at racial minorities (Nixon was explicitly at War with the hippies, and Reagan’s initial major target was the pot growers of Humboldt county), and the counterculture has been associated with liberals, to liberals’ dismay. If Milton Friedman advocates drug legalization, no one imagines it is because of a personal interest. Let Barbara Boxer do this, and the media will fill with salacious speculation about her misspent youth in the hot tubs of Marin. So that’s why, in my view. Nonetheless, I think liberals have been somewhat cowardly on this. To be fair, it is possible to oppose drug legalization from a liberal view, whereas it is hard from a libertarian one, precisely because the liberal view allows for more weighing of conflicting values, and drugs do cause a lot of harm.

It feels a little odd to be defending Nick on this point, as I’m not sympathetic to his general argument at all.

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bad Jim 05.27.10 at 10:14 am

Crap. States with a generous, which is to say liberal, approach to drug use are generally those which are comparably generous, which is to say liberal, concerning sexual practices. It’s astounding to find anyone considering this controversial.

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Martin Bento 05.27.10 at 11:41 am

Oops, misread a digit in my cite. Should be slightly under a third. Really, about a third, since these are clearly round figures.

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novakant 05.27.10 at 12:31 pm

The fact that you only seem to consider addiction a purely physiological phenomenon and disregard the psychological aspects shows that you don’t know what you are talking about. There simply is no clear line between the two aspects of addiction and concluding that because a a drug is less physically addictive or it is used less frequently, its users aren’t dependent on it and therefore don’t qualify as addicts in “any strict sense” is preposterous.

Instead of speculating about the real or perceived motives of the people proposing various policy approaches, you should do some research on the matter itself and listen to what addicts or those who treat them have to say.

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Substance McGravitas 05.27.10 at 12:54 pm

It feels a little odd to be defending Nick on this point

What point?

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Mitchell Rowe 05.27.10 at 1:23 pm

novakant 123:
So you are saying that the vast majority of pot users are addicts? What about coffee drinkers? Wine drinkers? Come off it. You have no idea what you are talking about. Many people use drugs of all kinds on a casual basis and never become addicted in the pejorative sense of the word anymore than you are addicted to your morning coffee or your nightly glass of wine.

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bianca steele 05.27.10 at 1:27 pm

Martin Bento:
You usually seem like a reasonable person, so I’m surprised that you are able to read my comment as agreeing with Novakant that Nick doesn’t know anything about substance abuse. I can’t quite figure out precisely what point either of them is trying to make; neither of them was very explicit. Nick left two points open: what moral judgment he thinks should apply to a “lifestyle choice,” and what kinds of drug use he thinks fall into that category. At least it seemed so to me. It seems Novakant thought he was pretty specific, though, and s/he made an objection that one seems to most often hear from people associated with Alcoholics Anonymous: that the line between addictive behavior and normal, proper behavior should be drawn about where the line is drawn between people who are and are not subject to Original Sin. I have no idea whether or not Novakant intended to mock AA by doing so. And I find it puzzling why you would say I agree with Novakant merely AFAICT because I made a criticism of the same person he did–as I already said, what both Nick and Novakant said seems to me to be too vague to draw that conclusion.

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bianca steele 05.27.10 at 1:30 pm

I haven’t had a chance to look at the Clegg article. In the US, I think, “public health problem” sounds to social conservatives like a dismissal of the seriousness and certainly of the moral nature of a problem, and to libertarians like a nanny state imposition.

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Sebastian 05.27.10 at 3:07 pm

” States with a generous, which is to say liberal, approach to drug use are generally those which are comparably generous, which is to say liberal, concerning sexual practices.”

This is confusing a bunch of things together all at once. They are also states (see especially California) where libertarian philosophy has seemed to have quite a bit of resonance. Some of them are also the states with much of the nastiest history in drug criminalization (see especially California where the SWAT team was invented and routinely used for aggressive drug investigation).

It really isn’t controversial that Democrats don’t have much to do with drug legalization in the US. The fact that quite a few of you seem to need to insist that they do, and reach for basically ineffective one offs as your evidence (Oakland city council, a single Assembly committee that didn’t go further than a single recommendation to open investigation and whose members explicitly denied actually wanting to legalize, and pretty much nothing else) suggests that something strange is going on here. But I honestly have no idea what.

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novakant 05.27.10 at 3:51 pm

Bianca, I have no idea what you’re talking about, but FYI I believe neither in Catholicism nor in the teachings of AA. I simply pointed out that the lines between psychological and physiological addiction aren’t clear cut, which is quite obvious if you actually look at the mechanisms involved, e.g. dopamine production in the brain.

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piglet 05.27.10 at 3:58 pm

Sebastian, moving goal posts and not responding to direct challenges. Game over. I don’t need to repeat myself from 105.

Martin Bento: “But figures and institutions like Milton Friedman, George Schultz, The Economist, The Cato Institute, and the Libertarian Party have all called for drug legalization. I’ve seen no opinion leaders of comparable stature on the Left do this.” Chomsky? Nader? Ehrenreich? The Green Party? Can you point us to ANY prominent left liberal intellectual of stature who publicly supports the drug war? The fact that the drug war is a failure is so commonplace among the left that you won’t find much debate about it, precisely because there is really no disagreement about it. There is certainly some debate about the degree to which legalization is desirable but there is virtually no debate about the need for some degree of legalization.

Btw did George Shultz publicly advocate drug legalization while he was a member of Reagan’s cabinet? I don’t think so.

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piglet 05.27.10 at 4:15 pm

Addendum. It has been said that democratic officeholders are not doing much against drug prohibition. To this I answered that 1. Dems are at least more likely than Reps to advocate less hardline positions, 2. that the political climate largely dominated by conservatism in the US makes it suicidal for liberal candidates to advocate strong legalization even if they personally are in favor.
3. and perhaps most important, however, is the fact that the US Democratic Party is not a liberal party, it is by most standards a center-right party only gradually more liberal than the GOP. The US electoral system makes it impossible for a truly liberal party to have political relevance. The Green Party would be the closest approximation but of course it is politically marginal, even though it represents way more citizens than the Libertarian Party. This is why it is instructive to look to other countries, where liberal positions do have a chance to become politically expressed. There is a clear correlation between the strength of political liberalism and drug policy both within the US and internationally. If you wish to dispute this fact then please be specific. No more hand-waving.

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roac 05.27.10 at 4:16 pm

I am not going to research the claim that very few officeholders who are members of the Democratic party have publicly supported drug legalization. But I’ll bet the number is higher than the number of officeholders who are members of the Libertarian party who have done so.

In other words, Sebastian is comparing apples and oranges (a cliche, but exactly apposite to the situation).

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bianca steele 05.27.10 at 4:31 pm

novakant:
I was referring to your earlier comment and had not had a chance to read what you posted after Martin Bento’s comment. As for “Catholicism,” (1) IIRC Protestants also believe in original sin?, and (2) it was a metaphor for “pretty damned far over to one side.”

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Sebastian 05.27.10 at 4:33 pm

Ahh, piglet is of the “no true liberal” variety. I guess I can’t argue with that.

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bianca steele 05.27.10 at 4:51 pm

@113
One of those “blue states” OTOH is Massachusetts, which infamously is now a “used to be blue” state, though I don’t know whether the recent ballot initiative counts as decriminalization: I think it applies only to possession, not use, of small amounts, (possibly) to first offenses only, and involves a ticket/fine and mandatory drug education. And it does go on your record, not a small thing if you might have visa issues. I don’t remember who supported it, but some of those opposed were inner city leaders who thought it was a good thing to punish harshly young people caught with any drugs.

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politicalfootball 05.27.10 at 5:34 pm

As the wise man used to say, libertarians are just Republicans who want to do drugs.

The idea that the drug war is driven by liberals is absurd, but for someone like sebastian it’s a necessary fiction, and no matter how many times you provide the correct information, he’s going to tell you that you didn’t.

Similarly, the libertarians often tell us that a free market with no government coercion would have sorted out Jim Crow expeditiously.

These are silly things to believe, but beliefs like this solve an important problem: How can one vote for drug warrior racists without admitting to being one.

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Sebastian 05.27.10 at 6:10 pm

“The idea that the drug war is driven by liberals is absurd”

Huh? When Democrats were completely in charge under Clinton (first 2 years) we didn’t see any pull back on the drug war, and in fact saw entrenchment. Throughout the 8 Clinton years we saw the same.

The drug war is one of the most classic bi-partisan efforts around. Denying that is just silly.

You believe in global warming at least, right?

137

mds 05.27.10 at 6:27 pm

Can you point us to ANY prominent left liberal intellectual of stature who publicly supports the drug war?

Bill Clinton, Tom Foley, and George Mitchell. At least by Sebastian’s standards of argumentation.

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Uncle Kvetch 05.27.10 at 6:56 pm

The drug war is one of the most classic bi-partisan efforts around.

“Bi-partisan” and “driven by liberals” are two different things, Sebastian. Never mind the fact that Bill Clinton’s “liberalism” is debatable in the extreme.

But having said that, I agree with you on the larger point. There are right-libertarians and left-libertarians advocating an end to the WoD within their respective parties, but in both cases they’re marginalized — the broad mainstream of both parties is either solidly supportive, or passively acquiescent.

Them’s the facts, folks.

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Sebastian 05.27.10 at 7:09 pm

““Bi-partisan” and “driven by liberals” are two different things, Sebastian. “

Absolutely. But “driven by liberals” was just other people putting words in my mouth. My claim was that the main thrust of the push against the war on drugs comes from libertarians in both parties, not from the liberals in the Democratic Party nor the conservatives in the Republican Party.

Then we had a bunch of people trying to pretend that oh no, it really is a liberal project–some of them even suggesting that the libertarian push isn’t even the big deal, that is MAINLY a liberal project. Which is just crazy. You can argue that the libertarian push is small and ineffective, but you can’t argue that the main thrust of it has come from liberals.

That’s all I’m saying. I think some see that as an attack on liberalism, but it only should seem so if you believe that all good things have to originate from liberalism.

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chris 05.27.10 at 8:00 pm

the main thrust of the push against the war on drugs comes from libertarians in both parties, not from the liberals in the Democratic Party

Many of the libertarians in the Democratic Party *are* liberals in the Democratic Party. I’d ask if you had ever seen the term “liberaltarian” except that it’s, y’know, in the title of this thread and all.

ISTM that liberaltarians that actually push for legalization are more numerous and influential than right-libertarians *that actually push for legalization* (as opposed to only supporting it in the abstract) because, as already pointed out on this thread, the majority of right-libertarians are in alliance with the right and don’t want to rock the boat (and/or don’t care that much about civil liberties in the first place as long as their taxes are low). But we could go count members of NORML or something if you want. I bet we find more hippies than Norquistians.

The nonlibertarian right is the primary source of the political pressure to keep drugs illegal, but since that position has achieved broad support in the electorate, most people actually running for office tend to bow to it. (Or, equivalently, people who don’t bow to it tend to not be elected to office.) This includes the Clintonian centrist wing of the Democratic Party (although technocrats recognize that on a pragmatic level the current approach is failing, if they’re centrist technocrats they’re unwilling to buck the consensus by advocating outright legalization). Since Obama is basically a more-charismatic Clinton, it includes him too.

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piglet 05.27.10 at 8:17 pm

It’s a neat trick to just define anybody opposing the war on drugs as “libertarian”, and then to conclude that only libertarians oppose the war on drugs. Enough already. There is really no debate here, only obfuscation.

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jack lecou 05.27.10 at 9:40 pm

Yeah, this is pretty silly. I’m not even sure what a “left libertarian” who isn’t a liberal is supposed to look like.

AFAICT, the libertarian position on drugs would be “the govt. oughtn’t have a say in what I buy or put in my body. Period.”

In my experience though, most liberal anti-WOD folks’ position includes something like, “we shouldn’t have this prohibition because it is harmful on net — the damaging effects of moving the trade into the unregulated black market, the disparate impact on the poor and minorities, the huge opportunity cost of prisons and law enforcement, etc., etc.” In other words, a typical example of the liberal balancing act. Concerns about personal liberty wrt to the government are certainly part of that mix, but they’re also weighed together with concerns about other kinds of liberties, not to mention concerns about equality, justice, policy practicality, public health, etc.

To the extent there is even something superficially resembling the libertarian position mixed in there, it is something like, “some drugs actually aren’t as dangerous as other things that are legal ,and many drugs CAN be used safely by many people, so the intrusion and cost of prohibition isn’t justified.”

But there’s an implicit acknowledgement in there that IF drugs really were net evil, and nothing else worked, government intrusion WOULD be necessary. That doesn’t seem like a libertarian position AT ALL.

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chris 05.28.10 at 2:23 pm

But there’s an implicit acknowledgement in there that IF drugs really were net evil, and nothing else worked, government intrusion WOULD be necessary.

You forgot “and if government intervention *did* work”. The ease of creating black markets in drugs and the highly harmful side effects of such black markets weigh pretty strongly against government intervention regardless of any of the other considerations. Government intervention that worsens already-bad outcomes is not necessary or justified even if nothing else would improve those bad outcomes.

Also, it’s difficult to define “net evil” in this context. Many people derive considerable enjoyment from recreational drug use (I include the currently illegal in the US drugs as well as alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine). It also has recognized dangers. But doesn’t that make it analogous to dangerous hobbies like motorcycling or skydiving? They also have recognized dangers and no utilitarian function, so could be considered a “net evil” if you ignore subjective enjoyment, but we allow people to participate in them for fun (with perhaps some safety standards).

“Smoking a joint does you more harm than good” is not a statement that can be evaluated without an *inherently subjective* weighing of the various effects. IMO, strictly speaking, it’s not even truth-apt as written.

I wouldn’t smoke a cigarette, and (even in the absence of the legal restraints) I’m not sure I’d smoke a joint, but I see no sufficiently strong reason to quarrel with people who want to do either. (And yet I do see a reason to quarrel with unregulated mortgage lenders, oil companies who disregard and falsify safety standards, etc., and I think society *and* most individuals within it would be better served by a higher return to labor and lower return to management and capital, so I’m still a liberal on those types of issues.)

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chris 05.28.10 at 2:28 pm

P.S. To combine this thread with another, I think the reason Sebastian and his fellow-travelers seem to have so much trouble believing people with views like the ones expressed in my post 143 and jack lecou’s 142 exist is precisely *because* most conservatives don’t do, or read, Liberals in the Mist journalism. So (many) conservatives actually believe in the straw-liberal who thinks the answer to every problem is more big government, that government can do no wrong, etc. Obviously, if that’s what liberals believe, then jack lecou and I must be something else, and not liberals at all!

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politicalfootball 05.28.10 at 3:02 pm

So (many) conservatives actually believe in the straw-liberal who thinks the answer to every problem is more big government

To be fair, many conservatives have a much more nuanced view, and are fully aware that in addition to big government, liberals also support high taxes.

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jack lecou 05.28.10 at 3:43 pm

You forgot “and if government intervention did work”.

Right. I suppose what I meant was “if a WOD-type intervention were actually a net benefit somehow and nothing else would work.”

Obviously it’s not even close in this particular situation, but I think the ‘if’ is still in there (if the threat were really dire enough and if this type of intervention was effective enough). The point is that the liberal judgement is fundamentally about weighing tradeoffs rather than applying rigid principles. Different facts could theoretically lead to different conclusions.

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chris 05.28.10 at 3:48 pm

@146: So, basically, you’re saying liberals are basically utilitarians and libertarians are basically deontologists? No wonder it’s so difficult for them to have rational discourse or understand each other!

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roac 05.28.10 at 3:58 pm

I would love to catch a libertarian and ask him a series of questions designed to find out if he is a deontologist or not. One of the questions that I have ready is this: Is there a difference between the government forbidding you to putting salt on your french fries, and the government forbidding you to eat broken glass? Or to put it abstractly, is Freedom an absolute and incommensurable good, or does its value depend on whether the right interfered with is one you, or anyone, would ever actually want to exercise? But I think the actual libertarians who were here have left the building, so I will save it.

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jack lecou 05.28.10 at 4:30 pm

I’m not sure I’d go that far. For one thing, I think it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between truly adamantine deontological rules and very durable but ultimately utilitarian “rules of thumb”. A lot of liberals probably at least seem pretty deontological about say, human rights, to the point where there’s no practical distinction.

Likewise, I think a lot of ‘libertarians’ might say that they are simply very skeptical of government, and that their ‘principles’ are actually something more like not-quite-inviolable rules of thumb. Sort of liberal with their “distrust of government” knobs turned up to 11 (and maybe a bunch of others turned all the way down to 0 or 1).

So maybe it’s more about the number of principles. Liberals tend to have a lot of factors they consider important, and they inevitably conflict to some degree. Even fairly deontological liberals have to be comfortable doing a balancing act and living with some inconsistency. I.e., it’s fundamentally about weighing tradeoffs.

The promise of libertarianism, on the other hand, is that the principles are very simple, and supposedly completely consistent and utopian. You just need to apply them.

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chris 05.28.10 at 6:00 pm

A lot of liberals probably at least seem pretty deontological about say, human rights, to the point where there’s no practical distinction.

And yet the same liberals were willing to deny even the most basic human right to Terri Schiavo, simply because she had irreversibly lost brain function and therefore had no further use for her human rights.

In fact, I think that case is an excellent acid test — the *real* deontologists were the ones arguing that the sanctity of human life has nothing to do with whether brain functioning is continuing or not, it just *is*.

I think that if you’re doing balancing acts you’re not a deontologist as I understand the term, because your rules are more like suggestions. A real deontological system, if it had multiple rules, would have to have meta-rules for resolving conflict between the first-order rules — something well-defined and not just “whichever feels right”, because that exception is going to swallow the rulesystem in practice. Maybe it’s not a coincidence that a very similar problem often confounds libertarians trying to put *their* principles into practice.

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roac 05.28.10 at 6:35 pm

Yes. That was what I was intending to get at in 148. The goal was to bring the discussion back around to Title II of the 1964 Act, where it started,* and to wonder why libertarians are still upset about it, since hardly anybody to whom it applies would want to discriminate on the basis of race any more — the statute having been a very clear win-win in utilitarian terms.

* Because I actually know a lot about Title II, unlike most of the subjects that come up on this blog, where any post by me is a tightrope walk over a bubbling lava pit of ignorance.

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jack lecou 05.28.10 at 8:11 pm

A real deontological system, if it had multiple rules, would have to have meta-rules for resolving conflict between the first-order rules—something well-defined and not just “whichever feels right”, because that exception is going to swallow the rulesystem in practice.

The first part is probably technically correct, I’m just not sure there’s much practical difference between a sufficiently complex yet still-technically-deontological system and an equally complex ad-hoc-but-generally-consistent one. Depending on what you mean by “whichever feels right” I think you could just as well look at the process as something like noting down the fine tracery of deontological meta rules and conflict resolutions as circumstances arose. You can assume it’s all there, just that you hadn’t worked through all the implications of the system beforehand.

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jack lecou 05.28.10 at 8:34 pm

And yet the same liberals were willing to deny even the most basic human right to Terri Schiavo, simply because she had irreversibly lost brain function and therefore had no further use for her human rights.

There may be some good acid tests out there, but I’m not sure that’s it.

The debate in that case was not over whether someone ever ought to be denied life, the debate was over whether or not the “someone” in question was already just a warm corpse on a ventilator.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 05.29.10 at 8:21 am

Roac, 151: The goal was to bring the discussion back around to Title II of the 1964 Act, where it started

I’m not a libertarian, but I’ll play. I find your explanation in 72

Well, since for a black person travel through the South during the ‘40s and ‘50s was difficult bordering on dangerous, since the great majority of hotels wouldn’t house rent you a room and the great majority of restaurants wouldn’t feed you, I guess my answer would have to be “yes.”

unsatisfactory. The “restaurants wouldn’t feed you” bit is silly. I myself used to travel for weeks without being fed in restaurants (albeit voluntarily); there’s nothing to it. Go to a food store and feed yourself; nothing difficult or dangerous about that.
Now, about staying in hotels: why such a great concern about people with money to stay in hotels being inconvenienced? Surely there were millions of people of all races all over the country who were unable to rent a room (or buy food, for that matter) and whose lives were “difficult bordering on dangerous” for reasons totally unrelated to racial animosity?

I mean, if they were ready to use power of the government to attempt a radical transformation of the social order, something that happens once in a hundred years, why not go with something like this instead?

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mds 05.29.10 at 5:05 pm

I myself used to travel for weeks without being fed in restaurants (albeit voluntarily);

That’s quite a set of muscles on that parenthetical. Which would be expected, given all the heavy lifting it’s doing.

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Sebastian 05.31.10 at 8:46 pm

“Many of the libertarians in the Democratic Party are liberals in the Democratic Party. I’d ask if you had ever seen the term “liberaltarian” except that it’s, y’know, in the title of this thread and all.”

Maybe so, but they aren’t pushing for drug legalization. Which brings us back to my original and correct formulation. Drug legalization has had almost nothing to do with the Democratic Party. I’m sorry it just hasn’t. You can take high levels of generalization about left leaning libertarians and suggest that they overlap with liberal Democrats in the US, but if you actually look, the Democratic Party has pretty much nothing to do with it.

That is just a fact. Spin all you want.

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chris 06.01.10 at 2:24 pm

“Maybe so, but they aren’t pushing for drug legalization.”

“They” the liberaltarians are, but realize that it is practically futile at this time. “They” the party establishment are not, for reasons already explained. Do you have some kind of perceptual disorder that prevents you from seeing nuance?

In any case, the Republican Party has a lot to do with drug legalization — namely, they’re vociferously against it and demonize anyone who even vaguely hints that throwing addicts in prison isn’t the most helpful possible response. The US political system being what it is, some people are going to opt for the lesser evil and there’s really no doubt which major party that is.

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