Oh noes! The lefties are mocking us!

by Chris Bertram on March 7, 2012

Julian Sanchez has a post up complaining about all us horrible lefties who are deriving great enjoyment from the fact that, in the Koch/Cato bunfight, shills for the rights of private property are being stiffed by those same private property rights. Corey Robin has a pretty good reply, so go read Corey.

Sanchez:

when it comes to the ongoing Koch/Cato conflict, there’s a bafflingly widespread round of herp-derpery rippling through blogs on the left and the right, wherein people imagine it’s clever to point out the supposed irony of libertarian scholars failing to enthusiastically embrace a couple billionaires’ putative property rights over the institution. This is just strange. …I’m not arguing that Congress should intervene somehow. I’m arguing that exercising those rights as they seemingly intend to is a bad idea; that their direct control would, in itself, be damaging to Cato’s credibility; and that I’m not interested in working for the Republican talking-point factory that all evidence suggests they envision. Like rain on your wedding day and other infamous Alanisisms, that’s kind of crappy, but not “ironic” in any recognizable sense. I realize progressives think libertarianism is just code for uncritical worship of rich people, but as that’s not actually the case, the only irony here is that people think they’re scoring some kind of gotcha point when they’re actually exposing the silliness of their own caricature.

Well of course Sanchez is correct. Libertarians are as free as anyone else to criticize people for the way they exercise their rights, they just don’t think the state should coerce people to act in various ways. They can deplore Scrooge like selfishness just as sincerely as any leftie, they just think it would be wrong of the state to force Scrooge to be be nice to the poor. So it goes.

No doubt there are some soft and cuddly propertarians out there who insist on the rights to private property (and hence oppose enforceable positive duties) but who privately devote their time, money and other resources to helping the global (and local) poor. To those libertarians, I apologise in advance. However, to those libertarians who have spent ink and energy arguing that not only would it be wrong to force to rich to help the poor but also that it would be pointless or counterproductive I do not. And then there are those libertarians who don’t even both with pointless or counterproductive but who argue that the strong helping the weak is just wrong, namely the Randians. So, pure-in-spirit rights-defenders (of whom Julian Sanchez may be one): just take it on the chin for now and spend some time arguing with the wealthy that, whilst they have a perfect right to spend their money funding Cato (or Heritage, or the AEI) they really could make better use of their rights by sending their cash to the sub-Saharan poor or similar. (See also, this very old post of mine ).

{ 162 comments }

1

Robert 03.07.12 at 11:29 am

Propertarians are all for the state to coerce people to act in various ways. If my neighbor leaves his door unlocked, the police may still show up if I raid her refrigerator. And propertarians, such as Nozick, are all for that. (The propertarians who think property (not just possession) is compatible with anarchy are just confused.) Let’s not pretend that those who make a point of comforting the comfortable have an intellectually coherent idea.

2

Chris Bertram 03.07.12 at 11:39 am

That’s quite true Robert, but it is also why I concentrated on the libertarian rejection of enforceable positive duties (i.e. not the negative ones you mention).

3

Geoffrey de Ste. Croix 03.07.12 at 11:40 am

“The protean nature of libertarianism causes problems for critics in open debate. There is no single basis which can be argued: you need to rebut a half dozen or more sets of assumptions, which pseudo-intellectual libertarians mix and match with a delightfully inconsistent abandonment of rationality”.

- Mike Huben

4

Josh Jasper 03.07.12 at 12:03 pm

It’s not just code for worship of wealth, but it is the vast majority of the policy they push. I’m thankful for Cato’s brief in Lawrence V Texas, but they people they have influence over tend to ignore that sort of thing. Cato makes a much bigger deal out of tax increases than it does traditional conservative political gay bashing.

5

Jamie 03.07.12 at 12:07 pm

Hm. So, what Julian is saying is true. And it is entirely consistent with his own libertarian principles. Still, he shouldn’t say it because… instead he should be persuading people to give money to famine relief?
It’s so rare to find a self-styled libertarian with actual principles and who isn’t a jerk. Julian also happens to have brains. I think he should be praised for his conditional resignation, myself.

6

C.P. Norris 03.07.12 at 12:11 pm

I never really understand why there’s always such a pissing contest between lefties and libertarians in a world where governments hurt poor people so damn much. The continued existence of the US death penalty ALONE should be enough of a cause for unity.

7

Chris Bertram 03.07.12 at 12:21 pm

Since many libertarians support the US death penalty, unity might be a problem:

http://mises.org/daily/4468

8

Neil 03.07.12 at 12:27 pm

“I never really understand why there’s always such a pissing contest between lefties and libertarians in a world where governments hurt poor people so damn much”

Possibly because the libertarian response is to say that individuals can hurt poor people much more efficiently than governments?

9

Platonist 03.07.12 at 12:53 pm

Chris Bertram @2,

I don’t think Robert’s post @1 concerned negative duties. Requiring the police to show up and requiring taxpayers to pay for the salaries of policepersons is the enforcement of positive duties. I may have a duty to not raid your icebox, but I don’t have a duty to pay to prevent others from raiding your icebox.

More importantly, since there cannot strictly be “enforcement” of negative duties (you can’t force me to *refrain* from raiding my neighbor’s fridge, you can only stop me after I *fail to refrain* from trying to do so), this means there can be negative rights only through the enforcement of positive duties. For example, to encourage people from refraining from raiding others’ fridges, we have to throw fridge-raiders in jail as a disincentive. And that, beyond requiring police to work and taxpayers to fund, requires a whole host of positive duties implied by the existence of a legal system, a prison system, and so on.

So, to extend Robert’s point: let’s not pretend that those who speak of enforcing only negative duties have a coherent idea.

10

Jonathan H. Adler 03.07.12 at 1:03 pm

Of course this post conveniently overlooks that those on the political right tend to have higher rates of philanthropic giving than those on the left, and that this is true even when one controls for religion. While it was not always the case, in recent years those on the secular right (a rough proxy for libertarians) donate more than those on the secular left, and the propensity to give of those on the right is less elastic than those on the left (that is, patterns of giving are less responsive to changes in economic conditions). It also appears this pattern holds for rates of volunteer work and blood donations.

JHA

11

John 03.07.12 at 1:18 pm

Since many libertarians actually praise Ebeneezer:

http://mises.org/daily/3952/

12

dsquared 03.07.12 at 1:24 pm

I think the hilarious thing here is that Julian Sanchez (and all the other principled libertarians) are basically in the position of someone who has applied for a job at Bernard Matthews Farms Ltd, in the capacity of “Senior Turkey” and are now acting all surprised at his plans for Christmas.

13

Marc 03.07.12 at 1:26 pm

@10: People who reject the social contract are not terribly likely to spontaneously volunteer to help others financially (I’ve got mine Jack and all that). I know that conservatives give a lot of money to churches; can you provide a cite for the claim that non-religious conservatives give more than non-religious liberals?

14

dsquared 03.07.12 at 1:30 pm

Of course this post conveniently overlooks that those on the political right tend to have higher rates of philanthropic giving than those on the left, and that this is true even when one controls for religion

Note that for the purposes of the study you’re implictly citing here, Charles Koch’s funding of the Charles Koch Foundation (later renamed the Cato Institute) constitutes “philanthropic giving”. And now he’s volunteering time to run it too!

15

dsquared 03.07.12 at 1:35 pm

@10: People who reject the social contract are not terribly likely to spontaneously volunteer to help others financially

it’s simpler than that. The old give more charitable donations than the young.

16

Jonathan H. Adler 03.07.12 at 1:36 pm

@12 There’s quite a bit of research on this. A quick non-academic summary of some of the findings is here: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/21/opinion/21kristof.html
Much of the data was collected by Arthur Brooks for his book on the subject. The data is sound. Brooks’ explanations for the patterns are a bit speculative.

@13 some of the data would include gifts to 501(c)(3) political organiations as charitable giving, but this cuts both ways. e.g. it would include gifts to Cato, but also to most major environmenalist groups, etc. As for the Kochs, according to published reports, neither Charles nor David Koch has given anything to Cato of late, and together they are only responsible for a tiny share (~5 %) of Cato’s funding since its founding.

JHA

17

Chris Bertram 03.07.12 at 1:50 pm

Jamie @5

Well not really. Or rather “not-necessarily P” does not entail “not P”

Sanchez is relying on the fact that libertarian insistence on rights does not entail, as a matter of philosophical principle, shilling for the rich. And that’s true. But as a matter of sociological and political fact the libertarian think-tank industry, for which Sanchez is a paid operative, is about shilling for the rich (and is financed as such). So it is either self-deceiving or disingenuous for Sanchez to rely upon the strict principle in his whining about finger-pointing lefties.

18

Alex 03.07.12 at 1:51 pm

19

Shane Taylor 03.07.12 at 1:54 pm

I doubt anyone has made Robert’s point in #1 as forcefully as the late Robert Lee Hale. In fact, Robert himself had a great post on Hale, which is here.

20

Chris Bertram 03.07.12 at 1:54 pm

Jonathan Adler: note that the figures you quote are about “conservatives” and not about “libertarians”. Unless you can disaggregate, your have no point to make here (even allowing for the points about “philanthropic giving” made above. It is unsurprising that lots of Christian conservatives give to charity, after all, their gospel commands them to. Most of them aren’t libertarians though.

21

Michael Bernstein 03.07.12 at 1:57 pm

I think glee about the Cato/Koch fight is less about the finer points of property rights/contract law, and more about the simple schadenfreude of seeing an organization that devoted itself to shilling for the super rich getting a taste of its own medicine. Of course, unlike most victims of libertarianism, the Cato folks should have a fairly easy time finding a new job, where they can continue to advocate on behalf of the powerful.

22

ajay 03.07.12 at 2:29 pm

in recent years those on the secular right (a rough proxy for libertarians)

Good grief.

23

Marc 03.07.12 at 2:30 pm

@16: Thanks for the article. Note that it says

“It’s true that religion is the essential reason conservatives give more, and religious liberals are as generous as religious conservatives. Among the stingiest of the stingy are secular conservatives. According to Google’s figures, if donations to all religious organizations are excluded, liberals give slightly more to charity than conservatives do. But Mr. Brooks says that if measuring by the percentage of income given, conservatives are more generous than liberals even to secular causes.”

More to the point, liberal policies do amount to advocacy for spending on the poor – by all of us. I’ve voted for tax increases on myself (for example, school levies.) There is actually an important philosophical point here: there are things that I believe should be the responsibility of all of us, and they are not the appropriate vehicle for private charity. I don’t want to take up a collection for someone who got hit by a car; I want to live in a society where everyone has health care.

24

Miracle Max 03.07.12 at 2:47 pm

A Koch takeover would be unfortunate because Cato is more anti-imperialist than about 80% of the Democrats.

25

C.P. Norris 03.07.12 at 2:54 pm

A Koch takeover would be unfortunate because Cato is more anti-imperialist than about 80% of the Democrats.

That too. Who are the other strong anti-imperialist voices in DC?

26

rea 03.07.12 at 3:00 pm

But as a matter of sociological and political fact the libertarian think-tank industry, for which Sanchez is a paid operative, is about shilling for the rich (and is financed as such).

Sanchez comes across as a reasonable guy, for a libertarian, and not particularly a corporate shill. But, as he’s about to find out, that leads to being an unemployed libertarian.

27

Watson Ladd 03.07.12 at 3:09 pm

@Marc: I’m not sure how that follows. Saying “I’ll only give if you give” seems to me to be less charitable then “I’ve already given, you should to.”

Furthermore, I’m not sure the thrust of the main post works. If I argue that spending on some social services is inefficient, I’m not arguing that said spending is not morally required, but rather that its particular form may not be. Does the earned income tax credit count as less social spending then giving students school lunches? Are we required to endorse foolish giving on the basis that at least it is giving, instead of asking how best to give? And if charity actually is counterproductive in some forms, are we still obligated to support those forms?

28

jake 03.07.12 at 3:11 pm

I realize it’s not to the (fascinating) point, but what the hell is “herp-derpery”?

29

yabonn 03.07.12 at 3:36 pm

28 : what the hell is “herp-derpery”?

It’s a way to signal that you’re not the boring old kind of fuck-the-poors, but rather the hip, new, meme-aware and shit kind of fuck-the-poors.

30

Marc 03.07.12 at 3:37 pm

@27: Let’s take health insurance as an example. As a moral matter I believe that there is a level of health care that a decent society provides to all, and that providing this publicly is a moral issue. This is less “I’ll give if you give” and more “this is the cost of our common social contract.” If you want a blunter take, people who benefit from public goods (such as universal education, roads, air traffic control, military defense, and so on) have no moral standing to act as parasites by refusing to pay their share; and we decide on what counts as a public good by democratic means.

Private charity suffers from a severe free rider problem: businesses, for example, can cut costs by treating employees badly, and rely on others to provide charity to their desperate employees. In the limit of a bad economy this can be a very successful model.

31

Substance McGravitas 03.07.12 at 3:40 pm

And then there are those libertarians who don’t even both with pointless or counterproductive but who argue that the strong helping the weak is just wrong, namely the Randians.

Give give give!

32

JulesLt 03.07.12 at 3:43 pm

The remarkable thing about the Randians is that (and I admit this is a gross stereotype) they largely seem to be the kind of people who wouldn’t do that well in a Randian world – i.e. they are largely talkers, rather than doers, who largely survive off the largess of the powerful, and whose roles would not exist in the state they argue for.

The same is also true of most members of the various Western Communist Parties – they’d be first up against the wall in any dictatorship of the proletariat, as most revolutions have proven.

But with the Randians, there seems a particular hubris. Why aren’t they as succesful as Warren Buffet or Bill Gates or Steve Jobs – or at least able to point to a Randian on that level of success? Or are they claiming that, to a man, they are being held back by the state and high taxes. That’s just weak! What kind of superman is that?

33

William Timberman 03.07.12 at 3:45 pm

Now that the brothers Koch have delivered Cato’s entire staff of self-righteous libertarians to us already neatly plucked and trussed up, will somebody please pass the gander sauce? I haven’t had a laugh like this since the Argentine Firecracker went wading in the Tidal Basin.

34

mds 03.07.12 at 4:32 pm

That too. Who are the other strong anti-imperialist voices in DC?

Cato was a strong anti-imperialist voice? Huh, I must have missed the big impact they had on our foreign policy. Here I was, under the impression that they primarily went to the wall over taxation and government regulations, with civil rights, drug legalization, and even fiscal responsibility filling the role of right-libertarian figleaves, on which no substantive action is forthcoming or expected.

“I realize progressives think libertarianism is just code for uncritical worship of rich people, …”

Oh, heavens, no. I think American right-libertarianism is just code for uncritical worship of extremely right-wing rich people, the ones who sign their paychecks. As for our wacky herp-derpery in general: Given that Mr. Sanchez will have some downtime before moving on to his next cozy sinecure funded by extremely right-wing rich people, I invite him to indulge in auto-eroticism with a George Soros figurine.

35

C.P. Norris 03.07.12 at 5:13 pm

Given that Mr. Sanchez will have some downtime before moving on to his next cozy sinecure funded by extremely right-wing rich people, I invite him to indulge in auto-eroticism with a George Soros figurine.

You know he’s written for The Nation, right?

36

politicalfootball 03.07.12 at 5:20 pm

Of course this post conveniently overlooks that those on the political right tend to have higher rates of philanthropic giving than those on the left, and that this is true even when one controls for religion.

This has been disposed of in a couple of different ways, including by the original poster, but I’d like to add that the original post quite clearly contemplates the possibility that some unspecified number of libertarians might indeed donate oodles of money to the less fortunate. The passage was quite plain, and ended thus:

To those libertarians, I apologise in advance.

So, even if we equate libertarians to conservatives and refuse to differentiate between types of charitable giving, what’s Jonathan’s gripe?

37

Uncle Kvetch 03.07.12 at 5:22 pm

Here I was, under the impression that they primarily went to the wall over taxation and government regulations, with civil rights, drug legalization, and even fiscal responsibility filling the role of right-libertarian figleaves, on which no substantive action is forthcoming or expected.

I labored under similar delusions, mds. Guess we stand corrected.

And for the record, there are no “strong anti-imperialist voices in DC.”

38

Substance McGravitas 03.07.12 at 5:39 pm

Of course this post conveniently overlooks that those on the political right tend to have higher rates of philanthropic giving than those on the left, and that this is true even when one controls for religion.

The people who want to destroy pensions and medical care and education and labour standards and environmental standards are the real givers here.

39

Nine 03.07.12 at 5:41 pm

What is an “infamous alanisism” ? It didn’t even google.

40

Kenny Easwaran 03.07.12 at 5:41 pm

Maybe there’s an opportunity here for George Soros or someone else to arrange a left-libertarian takeover of Cato, aided and abetted by the current management, who would prefer management that forces them to talk about the left-allied views of libertarians, rather than making them work for the current Republican party.

41

Substance McGravitas 03.07.12 at 5:44 pm

What is an “infamous alanisism” ?

Alanis Morissette is a popularizer of the “irony=bad things” formula.

42

Nine 03.07.12 at 5:47 pm

Ok, never mind. Though finding its meaning did no good to the schadenfreude level.

43

Substance McGravitas 03.07.12 at 5:53 pm

The Volokh post Sanchez linked to in his preresignation letter helped mine.

44

Miracle Max 03.07.12 at 6:01 pm

25: In Washington DC, there isn’t much. The Institute for Policy Studies mainly. Center for Economic and Policy Research does some foreign policy. The liberals are caught between the impulse to do good and the impulse not to support something that ends up blowing up a lot of innocent people. They usually come down somewhere in between.

45

Consumatopia 03.07.12 at 6:14 pm

There’s nothing inconsistent about being a selfish leftist. The selfish leftist would keep their income to themselves, because they selfishly value their own consumption over giving aid to others, even when others would gain more utility from aid than the selfish leftist would gain from consumption–to the selfish leftist, their utility matters more.

But when called to the ballot box to support a redistributive policy, the math changes. Now the selfish leftist weighs ALL the good done by all the aid collected from all taxpayers. The selfish leftist is sorry to see their own money taxed for aid, but is happy to see everyone else’s money taxed for aid–this happiness may outweigh their own sadness at paying additional taxes, in which case they would support the tax.

There’s nothing hypocritical about this position. The selfish leftist does not claim everyone is obligated to help the poor–they claim that democratic government has the right to tax people to help the poor.

The selfish leftist is probably wrong–most of us would say that we are, indeed, obligated to help the poor. But if the selfish leftist is wrong, that actually supports leftism–the selfish leftist behaves more ethically in the ballot box than he does in the marketplace. (Similar to how corruption among conservative politicians supports conservative arguments for smaller government.)

46

Simon Gyrus 03.07.12 at 6:21 pm

When all is said and done, Cato is just a bunch of NIMBYs when it comes to their own philosophy. The Princes of the Boardroom can take over some other think tank, but not precious Cato.

47

Henri Vieuxtemps 03.07.12 at 6:29 pm

I don’t think a consistent leftist should care about helping poor, because a consistent leftist shouldn’t believe in rich and poor in the first place.

48

Barry 03.07.12 at 6:36 pm

True.

In a sense, this is highly analagous to standard corporate practices. Senior management as Koch Conglomerate, Inc, have become aware of a small firm they own (CATO, Inc). That firm was producing a product which was far from optimized (in the eyes of top management). It was wasting money on being cool, and producing good products which were not profitable. So they decided to take charge and restore economic efficiency.

The worker Julian Sanchez is young, single, childless, and has a good work reputation. He can leave, and not be harmed that much. Julian Sanchez Prime (40 years old, married, with two children) is not in such a good position, and will either knuckle under, or take an economic hit from which he won’t recover.

In normal circumstances, Julian Sanchez would be quite unconcerned with Julian Sanchez Prime’s predicament, offering a bunch of market pablum, and possibly also pointing out the JSP has been using other people’s property for his own purposes, and so has no reason to complain.

49

Barry 03.07.12 at 6:37 pm

The ‘true’ was not for Henri’s post, but for a previous post.

50

Barry 03.07.12 at 6:42 pm

Because statements like ‘I don’t think a consistent leftist should care about helping poor, because a consistent leftist shouldn’t believe in rich and poor in the first place.’ don’t make sense at all.

51

piglet 03.07.12 at 7:17 pm

Substance 31, thanks for the link. I wouldn’t otherwise have thought to read this:

“Since 1977, Cato scholars have been influential in a range of policy debates, including

Social Security reform
Medical savings accounts
Term limits
Welfare reform
Fundamental tax reform
Free trade
Role of the Constitution in the courts
School choice
And more”

Nothing there about anti-imperialism, not even civil liberty or drug policy. No fig leaves at all. Naked.

52

bexley 03.07.12 at 7:37 pm

@ HV

I don’t think a consistent leftist should care about helping poor, because a consistent leftist shouldn’t believe in rich and poor in the first place.

Huh? Surely a lefty can believe that there will be no rich and poor once end state leftism is reached but still accept that there are actual poor people now who need help until end state leftism can be implemented.

53

mds 03.07.12 at 7:38 pm

You know he’s written for The Nation, right?

You know what “sinecure” means, right?

But yes, he’s written for The Nation, he’s liberty-minded on certain social issues (unlike a great many of his putatively libertarian brethren), his Tenth Doctor Hallowe’een costume was absolutely adorable … and he shills for a world in which it’s great if you’re young, single, healthy, and repeatedly employed by rich sugar daddies, while everyone else should suck it up, because liberty. When the Kochs decide to buy state governments and hand them pre-written legislation to enact, that’s simply democracy in action, nothing to see here. When they decide to assert control over Cato, that could have a chilling effect on independence and diversity of opinion in the public sphere. Perhaps he could write another article for The Nation explaining the difference.

So, even if we equate libertarians to conservatives and refuse to differentiate between types of charitable giving, what’s Jonathan’s gripe?

That Medicare and Medicaid recipients can’t yet freely return to the halcyon days of yesteryear, in which they could obtain their health care entirely from private philanthropy, thanks to meddling liberals who don’t give enough to charity?

54

Sebastian 03.07.12 at 7:49 pm

“Possibly because the libertarian response is to say that individuals can hurt poor people much more efficiently than governments?”

Zoinks??????

Surely even leftists don’t believe that uncritically. Maybe I’m misunderstanding, but doesn’t pretty much everyone, left, right, center, anarchist, libertarian, and socialist, realize that the government can hurt poor people much more efficiently than individuals?

Are you trying to say that libertarians are more willing to risk harm [than you are] from individuals *because* they are so [too??] worried about the intense amounts of harm that everyone realizes governments can dish out?

It seems weird how much time leftist spend worrying about libertarians, who are not now and don’t seem likely to be in power any time soon, instead of trying to find at least temporary common cause with them over completely insane right-wing politicians who overhype the war on terror to ‘leagally’ defend killing of citizens without trial well off the battlefield. (Oh, sorry that would be Obama.)

55

Sebastian 03.07.12 at 7:51 pm

I also note that in direct contradiction to the recent discussions about how freaking amazingly great an informal gift economy is as opposed to money and debts, we’ve rediscovered the problems of charity and informally relying on the aid of others.

56

Henri Vieuxtemps 03.07.12 at 7:58 pm

Surely a lefty can believe that there will be no rich and poor once end state leftism is reached but still accept that there are actual poor people now who need help until end state leftism can be implemented.

Sure, but I don’t think he would be a consistent lefty: helping the actual poor people now only delays the end state leftism.

57

Watson Ladd 03.07.12 at 8:11 pm

Marc, public goods are public goods because they are non-excludable. We can’t wave our hands and say medical care is non excludable. (You could argue that public provision is a good idea, but that doesn’t make it a public good in the economic terms). “I’ll give if you give” is exactly the basis of social contract theory.

Consumatopia, at the ballot box he weighs the good of everyone’s money against the bad of just his money, or everyone else’s money as well? Your hypothetical leftist doesn’t get a pass on his using other people just because he does so through government.

To put the point more sharply: if it takes the fear of the government to compel you to give, that means that is legitimate to force you to give. But that means there is a moral obligation to give irrespective of whether you are forced to.

58

Barry 03.07.12 at 8:16 pm

Piglet @ 51 – ‘Social Security Reform’ means ‘destroy Social Security, loot it, and leave us all FUBAR’.

59

bexley 03.07.12 at 8:28 pm

Sure, but I don’t think he would be a consistent lefty: helping the actual poor people now only delays the end state leftism.

Aah – I get what you’re saying now. Although I don’t see that it would be inconsistent if you don’t value reaching end state leftism above every other concern. Or if you think reaching end state leftism would be quicker if you helped the poor (if the poor are too concerned with surviving day to day then maybe they don’t have time to organise the revolution that ushers in end state leftism!).

60

Consumatopia 03.07.12 at 8:37 pm

Consumatopia, at the ballot box he weighs the good of everyone’s money against the bad of just his money, or everyone else’s money as well? Your hypothetical leftist doesn’t get a pass on his using other people just because he does so through government

He weighs the good of the poor receiving the aid, the bad of the taxpayer paying the tax, and the bad of himself paying the tax. Because he’s a leftist, the first outweighs the second–possibly by enough that it’s worth it for him to pay the tax. (By selfish, I mean that he values his own utility disproportionately, not that he doesn’t value anyone else’s utility at all.)

On the other hand, when he’s considering his own donations, he weighs the good done by his donations alone against the bad of himself making the donation. The good done by his own donation is much smaller than the good (he believes) is done by the redistribution policy.

To put the point more sharply: if it takes the fear of the government to compel you to give, that means that is legitimate to force you to give. But that means there is a moral obligation to give irrespective of whether you are forced to.

I’m not sure I understand. The leftist assumes from the beginning that it is legitimate for voters to force taxpayers to pay for projects the voters like. In the absence of the voter’s will, it’s not legitimate for the government to force taxpayers to give up the money.

61

Henri Vieuxtemps 03.07.12 at 8:38 pm

Although I don’t see that it would be inconsistent if you don’t value reaching end state leftism above every other concern.

Well, then you probably are not a consistent lefty. Incidentally (#1), a consistent propertarian, like David Friedman, wouldn’t accept a public police force, so they can be consistent too.

62

Dragon-King Wangchuck 03.07.12 at 8:59 pm

Corey Robin has a pretty good reply, so go read Corey.

Sound advice.

Sure, but I don’t think he would be a consistent lefty: helping the actual poor people now only delays the end state leftism.

Absolutely. All consistent lefties are only interested in forwarding their ideology and actually caring about the folks you advocate for is intellectually dishonest.

My thoughts on the presignation in case anyone cares-

Note that Sanchez’s argument isn’t about whether the Koch’s contractural property rights exist or are good/bad. It’s about, and I quote, exercising those rights as they seemingly intend to.

The Koch’s have stated that they have no intent to takeover Cato and turn it into (more of) a GOP propaganda arm. They have clearly stated that their intent is for Cato to continue being the staunch defender of freedom and liberty (for those who can afford it) that it has always been. Exactly as Sanchez wants. That despite the fact that Julian Sanchez does not buy into the Koch super-villain caricatures that are trotted out whenever the Koch’s want to do anything that doesn’t directly impact Julian Sanchez – the Koch’s are now lying and acting with deeply nefarious ulterior motives.

Anyways, that bit of apparently-not-ironic-in-the-least-bit filler aside, his argument isn’t that the Koch’s shouldn’t be allowed to do this – just that it’s a bad idea.

Why? Because it’ll reduce the credibility of Cato? I’m of the opinion that that ship sailed a long time ago, but even if we entertain Sanchez’s delirium that Cato is widely considered an objective and respected institute – it still doesn’t make any difference. How is taking over going to be a “bad idea” for the Koch’s? Julian Sanchez might value the idealized dream institute he thinks he works at, but no one else has to – not even the people who apparently own it lock, stock and barrel.

Unless of course, he means that the Koch’s would benefit more from Cato pretending to be independent while shilling for their wealthy owners like the mad hacks they are (IOW, the status quo).

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Dragon-King Wangchuck 03.07.12 at 9:11 pm

Shorter Julian Sanchez

But we at Cato have already welcomed our megabillionaire overlords ages ago! And I would like to remind them that as trusted think tank experts, Cato has already been quite helpful in rounding up moochers and parasites to work in their Tea Party flavoured GOP voting mines.

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Watson Ladd 03.07.12 at 9:21 pm

Consumatopia, I think democracy confers legitimacy only within certain bounds. I’m still not convinced by the argument presented: he’s treating himself differently from all the other people paying the tax, and I’m not sure that’s justified in the moral reasoning being employed.

The problem isn’t the legitimacy of agreeing to use democracy and the state to solve particular problems of collective action, it’s that there have to be benefits that come with the state being involved to make the difference between taxation being a prudent idea and charity not.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 03.07.12 at 9:28 pm

All consistent lefties are only interested in forwarding their ideology and actually caring about the folks you advocate for is intellectually dishonest.

That’s right. What may also be inconsistent is making fun of poor propertarian’s inconsistencies, while defining a ‘lefty’ as someone who cares about all kinds of things. It should be ‘flexy’ or something.

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Dragon-King Wangchuck 03.07.12 at 9:38 pm

What may also be inconsistent is making fun of poor propertarian’s inconsistencies, while defining a ‘lefty’ as someone who cares about all kinds of things.

Except in this case, I’m defining the inconsistent lefty as only really caring about reducing the suffering of the poor. I suppose that “all sorts of things” do fall into that category but there is some sort of consistency to it. And I suppose too that the poor propertarian is totally consistent if you just add the caveat that “property rights” mean his property rights – but I suspect that’s not what you’re trying to argue.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 03.07.12 at 9:47 pm

Caring about reducing the suffering of the poor is nowhere near to being a lefty. That’s Mother Teresa’s shtick.

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Alex K. 03.07.12 at 10:31 pm

” even the people who apparently own it lock, stock and barrel”

The Kochs do not own a majority stake in Cato.

The dispute is about what should happen to the shares of a deceased original shareholder.

The current non-Koch shareholders claim that the widow of the original shareholder should own the shares. There is a clause in the by-laws to the effect that if a shareholder wants to sell his shares he should first offer to sell to Cato or the individual shareholders. Presumably the Kochs want to outbid the other shareholders. However, the clause does not make provisions for what happens to the shares in the case of the death of a shareholder. So they all go to court.

In essence, this is a dispute about where the property line between two neighbors (and associates) should be.

Apparently, there is a long and complicated story that links property line disputes to the moral imperative that libertarians should give more money to the poor of sub-Saharan Africa.

I’m afraid I don’t follow that story, so I don’t see any higher principle behind the various manifestation of schadenfreude.

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Patrick 03.07.12 at 10:46 pm

I didn’t think the irony came from the fact that Koch was attempting to exercise its property rights over Cato. I thought the irony came because the people at Cato were perfectly happy enabling Koch when it was only other institutions that were being manipulated, and when the propaganda produced by those other institutions was buttressing the points that Cato was trying to make. That Cato defended Koch and suggested that liberals who saw Koch as a propaganda machine were just overreacting or being paranoid.

The tragedy is only now apparent to Cato, but to people on the outside it was a classic case of tragic irony. The audience saw an actor sowing the seeds of his own destruction, but the actor was blithely unaware of the consequence of his actions.

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C.P. Norris 03.07.12 at 10:59 pm

It seems weird how much time leftist spend worrying about libertarians, who are not now and don’t seem likely to be in power any time soon,

Yeah. It’s kind of an Internet phenomenon. Whatever anyone thinks is wrong with US policy, I can pretty much guarantee it’s the fault of Republicans or Democrats. But the libertarians got to Usenet early and pissed everybody off and now they get treated like a big deal on the Internets.

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Marcus Pivato 03.07.12 at 11:05 pm

Watson Ladd @57:

Marc, public goods are public goods because they are non-excludable. We can’t wave our hands and say medical care is non excludable. (You could argue that public provision is a good idea, but that doesn’t make it a public good in the economic terms).

Actually he never said that. If you read Marc’s message, his list of public goods was universal education, roads, air traffic control, military defense, and so on). Unfortunately, this was two sentences after discussing public health insurance, so your mistake was understandable.

But you are right that health insurance is not a public good. It is a different kind of market failure, due to asymmetric information. First, there is a principal-agent problem (doctors and hospitals often have a much better understanding of a patient’s health needs than the patient themselves). Simultaneously, there is inadequate risk pooling due to adverse selection. The inability of markets to efficiently provide health insurance has been understood since the work of Arrow (1968).

There is also, of course, a social justice issue: a patient’s medical prognosis should not depend on her wealth. Symmetrically, people who have worked hard and saved money and played by the rules for their whole lives shouldn’t be economically wiped out because they have the misfortune to suffer a serious accident or some random disease requiring expensive treatment.

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bexley 03.07.12 at 11:07 pm

@ Alex K well Cato prez Ed Crane’s rhetoric is all about bemoaning a possible hostile takeover and how Mr. Koch’s actions in Kansas court yesterday represent an effort by him to transform Cato from an independent, nonpartisan research organization into a political entity that might better support his partisan agenda.

That doesn’t sound like him talking about where the property line is drawn. Surely a Libertarian can’t be complaining about hostile takeovers? And given the libertarian glib reply of “just quit and find another job if you don’t like it” when confronted with the idea of employer abuse of employees it’s a bit rich to be whining that the Kochs might interfere in the running of Cato if they get their way. I mean couldn’t he just quit and find a new job/found a new hacktank if he didn’t like it?

Plus there’s the amusement arising from his characterisation of the Cato Institute as “nonpartisan”.

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Merp 03.07.12 at 11:09 pm

Alex K.

If there were no court intervention, the Koch’s would have a majority ownership in Cato, right?

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Alex K. 03.08.12 at 12:09 am

“If there were no court intervention, the Koch’s would have a majority ownership in Cato, right?”

No, that’s false.

” Cato prez Ed Crane’s rhetoric is all about bemoaning a possible hostile takeover”

So? If I own Apple stock and Microsoft initiates a hostile takeover, then I can complain as much as I want about the “dangerous change of direction” in Apple — whether I’m a libertarian, socialist, or a member of the United States Marijuana Party.

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snuh 03.08.12 at 12:22 am

Obviously Cato has an institutional viewpoint, and I wouldn’t have been hired in the first place if my views on the topics I write about weren’t pretty reliably libertarian. But when it comes down to specific issues and controversies, nobody tells me what to write. If my honest appraisal of the evidence on a particular question leads me to a conclusion that’s not “helpful” in the current media cycle’s partisan squabble, or that differs from either the “official” libertarian line, or from the views of my colleagues, I can write it without worrying that I’ll be summoned to the top floor to explain why I’m “off message.”

i can’t tell if people like alex k are being deliberately obtuse or not. the above is what julian sanchez believes. i’m happy for julian that he has such a great job, where he enjoys these freedoms. i’m happy for him also that he’s a good enough writer that if he quits his current job over the potential loss of these freedoms, he’ll likely find some other equivalently paying writing job elsewhere, where he will also enjoy these freedoms.

meanwhile, we live in a world where employees of target can get fired if they dare advocate union membership to co-workers. and in that world, all strands of the libertarian movement (including cato) think that this is the right and proper way to organise a society and will fight tooth and nail any attempts to change it.

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geo 03.08.12 at 12:47 am

@71: a patient’s medical prognosis should not depend on her wealth. [Likewise], people who have worked hard and saved money and played by the rules for their whole lives shouldn’t be economically wiped out because they have the misfortune to suffer a serious accident or some random disease requiring expensive treatment

Would any libertarians who may be tuned in care to endorse, reject, or qualify this formulation?

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Salient 03.08.12 at 1:31 am

If I own Apple stock and Microsoft initiates a hostile takeover, then I can complain as much as I want about the “dangerous change of direction” in Apple

The phrase “I can complain” is distinct from “I can make a reasonable appeal to ethical grounds for complaint that are coherently and directly derived from my political philosophy.”

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Consumatopia 03.08.12 at 2:22 am

@Watson Ladd

I’m not saying the selfish leftist is moral, I’m saying the selfish leftist is rational. They’re making both their charitable contributions and their votes with selfish intent.

Maybe numbers will help. The selfish leftist values his own pleasure ten times more than he values other people’s pleasure. He believes in diminishing marginal utility of income, so if he donates to the poor, the poor will receive twice as much pleasure as he sacrifices. That’s not good enough–10x is more than 2x, so he keeps the money.

Now the he steps into a voting both. There’s a proposal to tax everyone, including the selfish leftist, and give the money to the poor. Assume a population of 1000. The selfish leftist values that loss at 999 for everyone else, plus 10 for himself, for a total of 1009. He also values the gain by the poor at 2000. So he supports the tax.

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Marcus Pivato 03.08.12 at 2:28 am

Geo@76: The paragraph about Arrow’s (1968) analysis of market failure in health care provision might be relevant to libertarians, since it falsifies their dogma that the free market is already always and everywhere perfectly efficient. But I expect that the paragraph about social justice will only be interesting to morally developed human beings.

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Alex K. 03.08.12 at 2:51 am

The phrase “I can complain” is distinct from “I can make a reasonable appeal to ethical grounds for complaint that are coherently and directly derived from my political philosophy.”

A worker’s cooperative engaged in the dissemination of socialist ideas would have members with the same problem as Julian Sanchez — the members that would be outvoted as to the direction of the worker’s cooperative.

What are their grounds of complaint that are coherently and directly derived from their philosophy?

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Norwegian Guy 03.08.12 at 3:23 am

Are not left-wing politics to a large extent about the selfish interests of common people? If you’re poor, being selfish can be a reason to be leftist.

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Alex K. 03.08.12 at 3:34 am

a patient’s medical prognosis should not depend on her wealth. [Likewise], people who have worked hard and saved money and played by the rules for their whole lives shouldn’t be economically wiped out because they have the misfortune to suffer a serious accident or some random disease requiring expensive treatment

Would any libertarians who may be tuned in care to endorse, reject, or qualify this formulation?

A libertarian would perhaps point out that the asymmetric information problems are not so large as to justify the cutting out of consumer choice from the market for medical services. Certainly there are no theorems that eliminate the possibility that there exist well targeted regulations which alleviate the problem, while keeping consumer choice in the system. (e.g Massachusetts has a “lemon law” which allows a car buyer to return the bought car if he discovers significant defects, which alleviates an asymmetrical information problem)

A libertarian may also point out that the absence of much of a price system in medical services (a consequence of the elimination of consumer choice) leads both to inflated prices (there is no reason why any consumer would choose to pay more than one hundred dollars for a blood sample extraction, nor are there any significant informational asymmetries that would justify eliminating the consumer’s right to choose where to have his blood extracted) and to weird shortages (there is a significant shortage of various generic drugs, because the prices for those drugs are set by some sort of committee, and it’s not profitable for drug companies to make the drugs at those prices)

Except in the imagination of general equilibrium fetishists and perhaps in the imagination of some market socialists, you can not substitute the trial and error price setting of a market with prices set by a committee.

And any libertarian in agreement with what Hayek says on healthcare would be able to fit just fine into his ideology some state provision for medical care both for the poor and for various cases that somehow fall through a more market-oriented system.

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GiT 03.08.12 at 4:04 am

@30, 57, 71

Isn’t insurance a sort of club good?

Isn’t health care, given the moral/legal requirements for some degree of emergency care, a common pool resource/common good?

Fuse those together and… you have a sort of frankenstein public good. Non-rivalrous in some respects, non-excludable in others.

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Niall McAuley 03.08.12 at 10:35 am

Back in the 80s, there was a smog problem in Dublin, because people were burning cheap smoky coal. Some people seemed to think that you could only bitch about the smog if you were paying the extra for smokeless fuel, but I never saw it.

This was a large scale problem: me blowing my cash on smokeless fuel couldn’t help the problem in any measurable way, it needed a regulatory solution. In 1990, the minister made an order banning the sale and distribution of smoky coal in the city, and the problem disappeared.

I never saw anything strange or hypocritical about burning the cheaper smoky fuel at exactly the same time as bitching about the smog and supporting Government regulations to get rid of it.

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Pete 03.08.12 at 10:38 am

moral/legal requirements for some degree of emergency care

The main reason US healthcare is such a mess is people, many of whom claim to be Christian, attacking the idea that there is a moral requirement for care. This includes blaming everything on “poor choices” and attacking women’s reproductive healthcare.

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engels 03.08.12 at 11:37 am

Shorter Henri: There’s nothing wrong with being inconsistent. You must admit this, on pain of inconsistency!

Norwegian guy: no, they are about the rational, legitimate interests of ‘common people’.

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Alex 03.08.12 at 12:24 pm

This was a large scale problem: me blowing my cash on smokeless fuel couldn’t help the problem in any measurable way, it needed a regulatory solution. In 1990, the minister made an order banning the sale and distribution of smoky coal in the city, and the problem disappeared.

“Just another collective action problem”…

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Niall McAuley 03.08.12 at 1:45 pm

Tedra had another of these recently, where she wants better public schools, but doesn’t want to subject PK to the current crappy local ones.

Likewise, it’s perfectly reasonable to advocate that the Government should tax and spend on health, but keep your wallet in your pocket when someone collecting for a new hospital wing buttonholes you.

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mds 03.08.12 at 2:19 pm

And any libertarian in agreement with what Hayek says on healthcare would be able to fit just fine into his ideology some state provision for medical care both for the poor and for various cases that somehow fall through a more market-oriented system.

Indeed, instead of the nightmare of completely socialized medicine, Cato could take the lead in advocating for, say, a system of exchanges in which private insurers are directly or indirectly subsidized in their provision of affordable health insurance coverage for the poor, perhaps along with a requirement to cover the pre-existing conditions that would otherwise fall through a more market-oriented system. Of course, to be fiscally responsible, this partial state provision of medical care would have to be paid for, so there would unfortunately have to be some sort of additional taxation. Maybe one could choose between paying additional taxes directly to the government and buying insurance from one of those private insurers in order to spread the costs. Private health insurance would naturally still be available through this more libertarian alternative.

There might need to be some tweaking done around the margins to the above, but that’s presumably why Cato has all those talented staffers. They could even call the result the Care Act to Trump Obama, if they wanted to be cute about it. Thanks, Hayek!

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Marcus Pivato 03.08.12 at 2:23 pm

Alex K. @82

A libertarian would perhaps point out that the asymmetric information problems are not so large as to justify the cutting out of consumer choice from the market for medical services. Certainly there are no theorems that eliminate the possibility that there exist well targeted regulations which alleviate the problem, while keeping consumer choice in the system….

…A libertarian may also point out that the absence of much of a price system in medical services (a consequence of the elimination of consumer choice) leads both to inflated prices… and shortages.

Yes, absolutely. The fact that there is a market failure does not mean the only alternative is c0mmunism. It just means that some form of government intervention is required. Ideally, this will take the form of (intelligent) regulations and/or (minimal) public provision, while still keeping the market as private and competitive as possible.

Personally I favor a system where health-care and health insurance are provided by largely private and competitive markets (with suitable regulations), but where everyone receives a voucher from the government which is sufficient to purchase a minimally acceptable health insurance plan. The minimal plan might involve co-pays or deductibles (to encourage consumers to use the system efficiently). It might also include financial incentives for cost-effective preventive measures (e.g. vaccinations, regularly scheduled checkups). What exactly should be covered by this minimal plan is obviously a reflection of society’s values, and should be decided democratically (with some guidance from health-care experts). Presumably it will cover the treatment of serious or life-threatening illnesses, but not necessarily cover cosmetic surgery. It may or may not cover astronomically expensive heroic measures to incrementally extend the life of terminally ill patients. Ultimately, these are trade offs which must be decided by social consensus. Of course, patients are always free to pay extra money (on top of the voucher) to purchase more comprehensive care.

(e.g Massachusetts has a “lemon law” which allows a car buyer to return the bought car if he discovers significant defects, which alleviates an asymmetrical information problem)

Except I don’t think a lemon law would work for health-care, because by the time you realize that you have been screwed by your insurer or health-care provider, you are usually either bankrupt or dead. (The American solution to this problem —a multibillion dollar industry of malpractice lawsuits —creates more problems than it solves, by requiring doctors and hospitals to buy huge amounts of malpractice insurance (which ultimately is paid for by their patients), while performing a lot of unnecessary tests and interventions to preemptively deflect any accusation of malfeasance. In the end, the only winners are the lawyers. As usual. This is part of the reason why American health-care is so idiotically expensive, compared to most other industrialized countries.)

I should also point out that your response doesn’t address one of the other major problems with private health insurance, which is inadequate risk-pooling due to adverse selection and cherry picking. Adverse selection means that, given a choice, healthier people (who anticipate fewer health problems) will buy less (or no) insurance, while sicker people will purchase more. This drives up the expected costs for insurance companies, causing them to raise their premiums, which further increases the tendency of healthy people to drop out of the system, which further drives up costs, etc. (This is the reason for the much-reviled universal mandate). Cherry picking means that, given a choice, insurance companies will prefer to exclude people with identifiable health problems (or charge them much higher premiums). Ideally, insurance companies would like to only insure people who will never get sick. Both adverse selection and cherry picking undermine the basic purpose of insurance, which is risk pooling. It is situation where more freedom (for consumers and providers) leads to less efficiency. Government intervention is required.

And any libertarian in agreement with what Hayek says on healthcare would be able to fit just fine into his ideology some state provision for medical care both for the poor and for various cases that somehow fall through a more market-oriented system.

This may be true, but unfortunately I have met very few libertarians like this. In my experience, most libertarians assert that:

1. People should be 100% responsible for paying their own health-care costs. If poor people suffer and die because they can’t afford treatment, that is because they deserve it, because they are stupid and lazy. If hardworking middle-class people are financially wiped out and have to remortgage their house because they didn’t read the fine print on p.153 of their insurance contract which said that it didn’t cover certain supplemental costs in the treatment of adenoid cystic carcinoma, then that is their own stupid fault for not performing due diligence.

2. Medicine should be completely deregulated. Anyone should be allowed to hang a shingle on their house and claim they are a doctor. Anyone who wants to can put a chemical in a bottle and claim it is an effective drug. Because the market is perfectly efficient, consumers will quickly and easily sort out who is providing high-quality care and who is just a crackpot.

3. Because freedom.

I grant you that this caricature does not cover all self-described libertarians. (Libertarian is a somewhat amorphous category. In particular, this caricature probably doesn’t cover Julian Sanchez, who I have always thought is a pretty thoughtful and intelligent guy.) But it covers a lot of them.

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Uncle Kvetch 03.08.12 at 2:36 pm

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bexley 03.08.12 at 3:47 pm

If hardworking middle-class people are financially wiped out and have to remortgage their house because they didn’t read the fine print on p.153 of their insurance contract which said that it didn’t cover certain supplemental costs in the treatment of adenoid cystic carcinoma, then that is their own stupid fault for not performing due diligence.

This is one of those viewpoints that makes the CATO brouhaha so amusing for us non-libertarians. If you are one of those libertarians who think contracts are the answer to pretty much every problem then CATO is an instructive case study. Even the superawesome libertarians at CATO are running into problems due to not carrying out enough due diligence/lack of foresight when the thinktank was created.

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kdog 03.08.12 at 4:04 pm

mds @89 hurrah!

Marcus P @90, you’re on the right track when you talk about adverse selection, but you seem a little lost above that para. Here’s a little bit of commentary:

First off, the adverse selection problem *is* the lemon problem, *by definition*. (BTW, I recommend reading Akerlof’s seminal article on the subject, which is delightful.)

Second, bad insurance companies aren’t the lemons – sick people are! WTF kind of lemons law does Alex have in mind? Making it easier for insurance companies to disenroll people when they get sick?

Third, to get back to Alex’s original contention, the information problems in this market are absolutely devastating, in every direction. They are not a minor inconvenience to the private market – they are absolutely debilitating to the functioning of the market. Current day right wingers are delusional on this subject.

Fourth, I think we might need to agree to disagree on the actual goal here. For me (and, I believe, the vast majority of folks including those who vote Republican), the goal is to have a system in which sick people can receive medical care. I’m not convinced that the Cato types agree with that. It’s infeasible in a private market to care for chronic injuries, birth defects, and most major diseases. And solving the “asymmetrical information” problem (where only sick people know that they are sick) only exacerbates this difficulty. We need to get our heads around the fact that, in order to achieve our goal, we need a system which transfers wealth from healthy people to sick people. Everyone who can’t get with that is irreconcilable to the mainstream.

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kdog 03.08.12 at 4:07 pm

One piece I wanted to add to the hypocritical/inconsistent lefty/righty discussion.

Didn’t Hayek himself move to the US in order to get publicly provided healthcare?

95

Sebastian h 03.08.12 at 4:16 pm

Shorter crooked timber: when our lives make us seem to bend our principles, it proves we care. When libertarians do it they are monsters.

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Substance McGravitas 03.08.12 at 4:28 pm

When libertarians do it they are monsters.

I don’t think it’s monstrous to slip on a banana peel. Unless you’re a monster slipping on a banana peel.

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Consumatopia 03.08.12 at 4:50 pm

@95, when our lives make us seem to bend our principles, that’s just further evidence that we’re right about collective action problems and externalities.

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Dragon-King Wangchuck 03.08.12 at 5:04 pm

when our lives make us seem to bend our principles

Maybe I’m the obtuse one – but is this “bend our principles” thing the same as the criticism that lefties are somehow being inconsistent when they act like bleeding heart liberals? Because that doesn’t seem to make much sense.

Also too, re: lock, stock and barrel. Patrick handled the “irony” part of it, but I just want to clarify something. Sanchez conceded the ownership point in his post – I was addressing him based on the parameters he outlined. But even still – even if we return Sanchez the favour and consider the case where Ed Crane’s position wins out – so what? That the Koch’s only control 50% of Cato’s shares… Uh, yeah that totally changes things.

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b.mit 03.08.12 at 5:24 pm

Maybe it’s because I’m Canadian, but what’s the nightmare of socialized medicine supposed to be again? I pay CAD64 a month, for coverage of everything except non-essential cosmetic procedures, eyecare, and dental work. Perhaps the nightmare is that dental work isn’t covered?

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kdog 03.08.12 at 5:25 pm

Sebastiah @95

LOL. OK, you had a shot to take and you took it.

But let’s make a distinction between individuals and institutions. I find myself sympathetic to the travails of the former. Nonetheless, when I get the letter from Cato saying, “I may have been wrong,” I promise to lower the schadenfraude level and be gentle in my agreement.

(dreaming)
Yes, you were wrong, Cato! But you’re not a hypocrite because you’re changing your view. Now let us slay the fatted calf. . .

(I awake to a cold splash of lucre)

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Nine 03.08.12 at 5:51 pm

“when our lives make us seem to bend our principles”

So is it really admitted that libertarians are breaking from their first principles ? I think the argument being made by CATO & friends is that they are still fully within bounds of the Laws.

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Salem 03.08.12 at 5:59 pm

“Didn’t Hayek himself move to the US in order to get publicly provided healthcare?”

No, he did it so he could get a quick divorce and remarriage.

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Sebastian 03.08.12 at 6:00 pm

Schadenfraude is very human. And schadenfraude with respect to out-groups for situations that would evoke sympathy with respect to in-groups is very normal too. But after the laughing is done there are points which remain.

People who thought like Tedra used to think, regularly vote for and throw government support for institutional structures that trap poor parents in situations vis-a-vis their kids that as we’ve seen are unacceptable for middle class parents. This is true at least as much as ‘libertarians’ have been supporting whatever property principle you think is being violated by CATO complaints now. And really it is even more so for liberal supporters of the status quo school institutional structures, because they are a full throated half of the two party structure in the US, while libertarians have never been more than a loud sideshow in US politics.

I’m not saying that recent converts to school vouchers are/were evil or anything. I think it is great that she is coming around to that. But maybe it is just because I’m not part of the in-group that it seems so jarring to see the sympathy for Tedra immediately before the “coming home to roost” thing here. I’m pretty sure that a coming home to roost style comment with respect to Tedra’s situation would be rightly seen as vicious, mean-spirited, lacking in compassion, and a general black mark on the speaker’s name. The spirit of this post and the comments after that seem much of the same vein to an outsider.

Libertarians don’t have much influence in US politics. They really don’t.

People who want to deny poor people options with respect to their current schools so it doesn’t undermine the hope of good public schools at some hazy point in the future not only have a lot of influence but *they have in fact won that debate* for most of the past thirty years.

[Again this is not a criticism of Tedra. I’m very happy that she’s come to what from my point of view looks like an excellent realization on the reality of public schools.]

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Consumatopia 03.08.12 at 6:34 pm

Did Tedra’s post actually support vouchers?

On the issues relevant to the Cato situation, Libertarians have gotten their way. They argued that the influence of the Kochs wasn’t so bad–well, now they have even more. They argued that money in politics should be unregulated, even that there should be more money in politics. Now we have Citizens United and more money than ever.

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Alex K. 03.08.12 at 7:02 pm

@Marcus Pivato
Personally I favor a system where health-care and health insurance are provided by largely private and competitive markets (with suitable regulations), but where everyone receives a voucher from the government which is sufficient to purchase a minimally acceptable health insurance plan.

Here is Michael Cannon of Cato Institute:

“For Americans covered by Medicare, Congress should give enrollees a voucher and let them choose any health plan available on the market. To ensure that all beneficiaries can afford a basic health plan, Medicare should give larger vouchers to poorer and sicker seniors and smaller vouchers to healthy and wealthy seniors, using current health-risk-adjustment mechanisms and Social Security data on lifetime earnings.”

Now it’s true that Michael Cannon only wants this voucher system for a part of the population — but when a mainstream libertarian ends up with the same plan as you for a critical part of the population, then perhaps you should reconsider your caricatures of what a libertarian is or is not.

Except I don’t think a lemon law would work for health-care, because by the time you realize that you have been screwed by your insurer or health-care provider, you are usually either bankrupt or dead.

Yes, the “lemon-law” was just an example to prove the point that well-targeted regulation can alleviate an asymmetrical information problem. In the case of health-care an obvious place to start would be more price transparency and more information on the relative effectiveness of various treatments. That price transparency is something one needs to actually argue for shows just how screwed up and non-market like the US system is.

Here is Peter Orszag (a non-libertarian) on price transparency:

“Workers may demand less efficiency from the health system than they would if they knew the full cost that they pay via forgone wages for coverage or if they knew the actual cost of the services being provided. Making the underlying costs associated with employment-based insurance more transparent might prove to be quite important in containing health care costs.[…] If transparency increases and workers see how much their income is being reduced for employers’ contributions and what those contributions are paying for, there might be a broader change in cost-consciousness that shifts demand.”

And reading further on Orszag’s testimony, I can’t abstain from quoting an illustration of the poor incentives in US health-care (resulting from lack of consumer choice):

” Currently, the added clinical benefits of new medical services are not always weighed
against added costs before those services enter common clinical practice. And newer, more expensive services are sometimes used in cases in which older, cheaper alternatives could offer comparable outcomes for patients.
[…]
The Medicare program has not taken costs into account in determining what services are covered and has made only limited use of data on comparative effectiveness in its payment policies; but if statutory changes permitted it, Medicare could use information about comparative effectiveness to promote higher-value care. “

I should also point out that your response doesn’t address one of the other major problems with private health insurance, which is inadequate risk-pooling due to adverse selection and cherry picking.

Yes, I did not solve the entire health-care problem in one post — I just pointed out some areas where a more or less libertarian approach could be an improvement over the status quo.

Personally I tend to agree that some form of (near) universal compulsory payment is needed — but only on the condition that health-care consumption would be strongly biased in favor of consumer choice, perhaps borrowing some ideas from Singapore’s cost-sharing implementation.

I also think that it would be a bad idea to take the US health-care system as it is and just argue for more government involvement. Without major reforms in how health-care is consumed, it is a delusion to think that the puny savings from enrolling more people in the system would compensate for the horrendous moral hazards in the US system.

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Alex K. 03.08.12 at 7:13 pm

They could even call the result the Care Act to Trump Obama, if they wanted to be cute about it. Thanks, Hayek!

Yes, because the Obama plan — forged under the constraints of a dysfunctional political system, within the legacy of a monstrous health-care system and in the shadow of the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression — has an excellent chance to be optimal point in the enormous space of possible health-care systems.

107

Substance McGravitas 03.08.12 at 7:21 pm

Libertarians don’t have much influence in US politics. They really don’t.

Is it really true that libertarians are nothings and nobodies and don’t matter at all and nobody reads those silly Cato reports? Because that would be sad for people who are trying oh-so-hard.

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roger 03.08.12 at 7:23 pm

I’m a little sympathetic to Sanchez, myself. Rights is one thing, integrity is another – to ask that Koch respect the integrity of a think tank that represents a belief system he obviously doesn’t have doesn’t strike me a contradictory.
On the other hand, let’s face it, when you compare the libertarian party platform of 1972, or of 1980 (Eugene McCarthy addressed the libertarian convention in 1979), you can see the distance that the libertarians have travelled. It hasn’t been a good thing. On issue after issue they’ve retreated or caved in pursuit of a constituency that has taken them over. Libertarians used to make the case for abolishing the government monopoly given to doctors to prescribe drugs – and now they make the case against the free use of malpractice suits to whack doctors. Regulating suing is like the end of libertarianism. And then there were the glibertarian groups that endorsed Bush’s war on terror.
I don’t find it ironic so much as sad. I think there are a lot of libertarian ideas from 1972 are still fresh – like dejailing America. The libertarians of 1972 didn’t think that the Warren court went far enough in curtailing police power. For instance, back in 1972, the libertarians believed that if the state prosecuted you for some crime and you were declared innocent, the state should pay you damages – contrast that with libertarians now. Ask them whether they think OJ Simpson, for instance, should have collected damages from the state. They’d be astonished at the very idea…
Koch’s takeover is shameful, but then again, Cato has been shameful for decades.

109

Miracle Max 03.08.12 at 7:37 pm

107: Is it really true that libertarians are nothings and nobodies and don’t matter at all and nobody reads those silly Cato reports?

No, it is not.

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Uncle Kvetch 03.08.12 at 7:42 pm

Is it really true that libertarians are nothings and nobodies and don’t matter at all

I heard somewhere that there was actually one writing for the Atlantic, but that must have been an urban legend.

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Tim Wilkinson 03.08.12 at 7:42 pm

Negative duties are generally easier to enforce than positive duties. It’s not clear that libertarians do (or can or should) reject enforceable positive duties: They would I think confine such duties to contractual (‘voluntarily assumed’) ones though. (High libertarian theory tends to pass over the legal and constitutional detail of how different rights would be enforced – on a flat system of rights, contractual and innate rights have the same status; so either breaching contractual rights is a serious quasi-criminal matter or breaching innate rights isn’t.)

But it’s not right to see a tax liability as a positive duty. A positive duty requires some specific action or range of actions, whereas a negative duty can be discharged from one’s sickbed, (so to speak: not if it is a duty to get out if bed, obviously). Some ancillary legal duties attach to tax payment, but these apply mainly to those with accountants, and are not of themselves onerous, amounting to supplying information about personal and business finances and initiating payment from bank accounts, both activities which could be done by the tax collectors were it not thought preferable to keep these activities private.

Nozick at times gets close to suggesting that since, as he holds, property in objects and money is continuous with property in the person, negative duties might be determined as those whose corresponding claim-rights could/would be fulfilled were the duty-holder to disappear along with all her property-holdings (rather than never to have existed, etc.) Like many macro-scale counterfactuals embedded in definitions, this provides some kind of operationalisation but – fatally – would have to rely on an inchoate notion of ‘normal circumstances’ to reject the counterexamples come thick and fast as a result of recalcitrant causal chains.

Basically a duty is about what you do or don’t do as a causal unit in the world – not about what you own. Conflating rules and procedures for the disposition or determination of property with rules for individual behaviour is one of Libertarianism’s best tricks, allowing Nozick to palm off on his readers badly-designed thought experiments like you wouldn’t pluck out someone’s eye, would you?.

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bexley 03.08.12 at 7:47 pm

@ Alex K

Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t Medicare the most efficient part of the US healthcare arena? Certainly more efficient than private insurance according to the CBO. If you’re going to address inefficient health provision in the US why would you voucherize Medicare and make it more like the most inefficient bits of the system?

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Alex K. 03.08.12 at 8:24 pm

If you’re going to address inefficient health provision in the US why would you voucherize Medicare and make it more like the most inefficient bits of the system?

I went to the CBO report to extract this table:
(the first column is Medicare, the second is Medicaid, the third is “all other”, the fourth is the total)
“Table 2-1.
Excess Cost Growth in Spending for Health Care (Percentage points)

1975 to 2008 2.5 2.0 1.8 1.9
1980 to 2008 2.2 1.7 1.9 1.9
1985 to 2008 1.5 1.2 1.8 1.7
1990 to 2008 1.8 1.0 1.4 1.

Source: Congressional Budget Office.
Note: Excess cost growth refers to the extent to which the growth rate of Medicare or Medicaid spending per beneficiary—or all other health care spending per capita—exceeded the growth rate of nominal gross domestic product per capita per year, on average.”

This is the cost growth comparison that adjusts for the age distribution of the insured populations in each system. I don’t think that any conclusion as to the relative efficiency of those systems can be drawn.

But without some sort of cost reducing reforms, no option seems to be viable in the long term.

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bexley 03.08.12 at 8:52 pm

@ Alex K – I was thinking of the CBO letter to Paul Ryan:

“Medicare’s current payment rates for providers are lower than those paid by commercial insurers, and the program’s administrative costs are lower than those for individually purchased insurance. Beneficiaries would therefore face higher premiums in the private market for a package of benefits similar to that currently provided by Medicare…”

http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/ftpdocs/108xx/doc10851/01-27-ryan-roadmap-letter.pdf

p12

Your table includes uninsured and people helped by other government programs in “other”.

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Salient 03.08.12 at 9:14 pm

I’m a little sympathetic to Sanchez, myself.

…we all are, more or less. Feeling like you’re on your way to getting kneecapped is almost as bad as getting kneecapped, and in a better world nobody would have to endure that experience. I think the word “schadenfraude” actually means “express cruel amusement at someone’s misfortune, even though you’re actually feeling somewhat woundedly frustrated at their apparent inability to learn from the misfortunate experience and grow into a more worldly and empathetic state of mind, because the kind of frustration is only socially appropriate to express in the context parent-child relationships, and you are not their mom.”

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Alex K. 03.08.12 at 9:15 pm

@bexley
Your table includes uninsured and people helped by other government programs in “other”.

When the _total_ increase is lower than the Medicare increase then you can not argue that Medicare is more efficient.

We would benefit from a more detailed analysis of the claim that similar benefits have lower costs in Medicare — but this does not seem to be a good criticism of a voucher system. (perhaps it does apply to the Ryan plan)

If that is indeed the case, then the vouchers would be all spend on the Medicare (or similar) program.

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bexley 03.08.12 at 10:02 pm

1.

When the total increase is lower than the Medicare increase then you can not argue that Medicare is more efficient.

My point is that other includes uninsured therefore lower cost growth in “all other” may merely mean that the uninsured are getting less healthcare because they can’t afford it not because of the awesome efficiency of private insurers.

2.

This is the cost growth comparison that adjusts for the age distribution of the insured populations in each system.

I’m not sure it is doing that. The CBO report says they are controlling for changes in the population’s age. It doesn’t say they are controlling for the difference in ages between different populations. ie if the average age of the Medicare population rises from 67 to 70 over the course of the period being studied they will control for that in their table. If the Medicare population has an average age of 67 and the Medicaid average age is 43 it doesn’t look like they are controlling for that difference.

This is presumably why the CBO says “the differences in excess cost growth between Medicare, Medicaid, and other health care spending should not be interpreted as meaning that Medicare or Medicaid is less able to control spending than private insurers” in http://www.cbo.gov/publication/41646.

ie they are saying explicitly that you shouldn’t be trying to make the comparisons you are trying to make here.

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Alex K. 03.08.12 at 10:46 pm

This is presumably why the CBO says “the differences in excess cost growth between Medicare, Medicaid, and other health care spending should not be interpreted as meaning that Medicare or Medicaid is less able to control spending than private insurers”

Which I have not done. I merely argued that the growth in costs numbers do not support your position that Medicare is the most efficient system of them all.

The point I was originally making was that without cost control reforms in health-care –in both private and public systems– there is no chance of having a sustainable system. I also suggested some reforms along roughly libertarian lines.

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bexley 03.08.12 at 11:58 pm

Which I have not done. I merely argued that the growth in costs numbers do not support your position that Medicare is the most efficient system of them all.

Glad that’s sorted. Though I’m not sure why you brought the table up in the first place since it’s basically irrelevant to the question. Like I said my reference to the CBO was their comment that it would be more expensive to buy medical care from an insurer than providing through Medicare.

I also suggested some reforms along roughly libertarian lines.

I’m struggling to think of any really successful universal healthcare systems that operate on libertarian lines, so I’m not convinced its possible. Even Singapore (which has a lot more cost sharing than many countries) has a lot of Government intervention in the form of forcing people to save for healthcare, price controls and subsidising care. The Swiss heavily regulate the insurers who provide healthcare. Basically anywhere with a successful system seems to have a lot of Government intervention. So I’d suggest its certainly possible to reform health care to reduce costs and produce more humane results at the same time. But its not going to look very libertarian once you’re done.

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Alex K. 03.09.12 at 12:25 am

Though I’m not sure why you brought the table up in the first place since it’s basically irrelevant to the question.

Paul Krugman seems to think that cost increases are relevant in judging relative efficiency — only he brought forward tables that are not adjusted for age increase. I thought you were arguing along similar lines.

And clearly there is a huge difference from saying that you can not conclude directly from the tables that private insurance are more efficient to saying that the tables are uninformative on the question.

Even Singapore (which has a lot more cost sharing than many countries) has a lot of Government intervention in the form of forcing people to save for healthcare, price controls and subsidising care.

Healthcare spending in Singapore in about 4% of GDP and the government share in that spending is around 20%. Forcing people to save is not very libertarian, but when you get government spending on health care down to around 1% of GDP, then all libertarian ears should be promptly perked.

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piglet 03.09.12 at 12:47 am

Alex 105: “To ensure that all beneficiaries can afford a basic health plan, Medicare should give larger vouchers to poorer and sicker seniors and smaller vouchers to healthy and wealthy seniors, using current health-risk-adjustment mechanisms and Social Security data on lifetime earnings.”

Prima facie this doesn’t make sense. Why not provide health care directly?

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Sebastian 03.09.12 at 12:54 am

I’m pretty sure that Medicare/Aid isn’t a high point of efficiency since it already spends as great a percentage of the GDP as Canada/UK and more than France but only covers old people in the US.

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Marcus Pivato 03.09.12 at 1:40 am

b.mit @99

Maybe it’s because I’m Canadian, but what’s the nightmare of socialized medicine supposed to be again? I pay CAD64 a month, for coverage of everything except non-essential cosmetic procedures, eyecare, and dental work. Perhaps the nightmare is that dental work isn’t covered?

I’m Canadian too, and actually, to be honest, our public health care system is a scandal. There are six month wait times to see a specialist, and often wait times of more than a year for major surgeries. Seriously ill or injured people regularly wait 36 hours in emergency rooms before seeing a doctor. I know of one case of a young girl with a broken arm who waited in pain for six days for a minor operation to have the bone set back into position. She spent more than one of those days sitting in pre-op, only to be informed (after six hours without food or water) that the surgeons had run behind schedule again, we’re so sorry, please come back on Tuesday.

Since health-care is a provincial mandate, the details vary from place to place. But in general, cash-strapped provincial governments have been trying to do more with less in our public health care system for far too long, and the whole system is coming apart at the seams. It’s a mess.

In the U.S., if you are rich, then you have access to a much higher standard of care than in the Canadian health system. (Of course, if you are poor, then it sucks to be you.) It is embarrassing to me that in the American health care debate, conservatives could point (quite truthfully) to Canada as an example of how terrible s0cialized medicine can be. It is doubly embarrassing because it doesn’t have to be this way; the s0cialized medicine found in many European countries is much more efficient than the Canadian model.

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Marcus Pivato 03.09.12 at 2:02 am

Alex K. @105

Now it’s true that Michael Cannon only wants this voucher system for a part of the population—but when a mainstream libertarian ends up with the same plan as you for a critical part of the population, then perhaps you should reconsider your caricatures of what a libertarian is or is not.

Mea culpa. As I said, libertarianism is a rather amorphous category, and I admit that it might include some quite reasonable people who are libertarian not because they are selfish jerks, but perhaps because they sincerely (although naively, in my view) believe that unfettered free markets really do maximize social welfare, and might even recognize that this may require some degree of altruistic wealth redistribution (e.g. perhaps Cannon —although I think it is ethically indefensible to restrict these vouchers only to Medicare recipients). But I think you will admit that it the libertarian umbrella also includes rather a lot of people who are libertarian because they are selfish jerks and proud of it (e.g. Ayn Rand and followers), and people who not only aren’t interested in altruism or maximizing social welfare, but further deny that such concepts have any moral relevance (e.g. Robert Nozick). Perhaps it would be helpful if we had some finer terminology to distinguish between these groups.

As for the rest of your message: I think we are close to agreeing on many things.

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nick s 03.09.12 at 3:55 am

Since this thread is now yet another episode of “internet libertarians have too much time on their hands “, I’ll just add this quote from Mel Brooks: “Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die.”

126

js. 03.09.12 at 5:05 am

Forcing people to save is not very libertarian, but when you get government spending on health care down to around 1% of GDP, then all libertarian ears should be promptly perked.

This I love. Tells one something about the principles (“principles”?) at play.

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DelRey 03.09.12 at 5:23 am

Maybe it’s because I’m Canadian, but what’s the nightmare of socialized medicine supposed to be again? I pay CAD64 a month, for coverage of everything except non-essential cosmetic procedures, eyecare, and dental work

You most likely pay a lot more than that. “Socialized medicine” isn’t necessarily a “nightmare.” It’s just worse than a system based on markets. Socialized health care systems seem to be chronically underfunded.

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Jason McCullough 03.09.12 at 5:28 am

That this insider baseball bullshit subject – while hilarious – has gotten 126 posts in less than 24 hours says a lot about how unrepresentative the range of US political opinion online is. “Real libertarians” are, in general, uninfluential cranks, but online they’re Serious Players.

129

kdog 03.09.12 at 7:03 am

130

kdog 03.09.12 at 7:12 am

Sebastian @ 103

Libertarians qua libertarians may not have that much influence ( I don’t know, but let’s grant the point), but surely they are more powerful than Tedra Osell qua Tedra Osell.

But as you point out, Tedra has (perhaps coincidentally) joined voices with others that have been powerful.

Um.

Isn’t the whole point here that the libertarian camp, esp in its Cato manifestation, has joined voices with extremely powerful folks, often in an intellectually dishonest, cynical, or at least an opportunistic fashion? And now it is directly biting them in the petard?

131

Sebastian 03.09.12 at 7:37 am

Libertarians, as a group, don’t get their way as often as Democrats, as a group.

Libertarian thinking on schools, got a couple of pilot programs with vouchers and a handful of charter schools every now and then.

Democratic thinking on schools, got us, well pretty much exactly what we have now.

You can believe that libertarians are scary and powerful if you want. We all have our things.

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reason 03.09.12 at 11:34 am

Alex K @105

“Healthcare spending in Singapore in about 4% of GDP and the government share in that spending is around 20%. Forcing people to save is not very libertarian, but when you get government spending on health care down to around 1% of GDP, then all libertarian ears should be promptly perked.”

I think this is just silly. This is just an accounting issue. Does the government tax people than pay for their health care, or does it force people to pay for their own health directly through compusory saving. Is this 1% figure really meaningful?

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Chris Bertram 03.09.12 at 11:41 am

_Libertarians, as a group, don’t get their way as often as Democrats, as a group._

I write as a non-American, but it seems obvious that, ever since the Reagan era, this is false wrt to levels of taxation, which, after all, is the thing most self-described libertarians care most about.

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Tim Wilkinson 03.09.12 at 1:56 pm

Yes, libertarianism (libertarians themselves are indeed not scary) is an ideological, not an electoral, movement – the political equivalent of the Econ 101 mythology.

In that capacity it has been very influential, providing a set of abstract ideas and simplistic, folksy arguments and styles of argument (cf Watson Ladd with the Nozick-style stuff about charity v taxation) which have been adopted by the US right (many were there before of course – this stuff has roots in various traditions), as well as attracting followers who tend to come down on the R side at election time.

———–

@82 – you can not substitute the trial and error price setting of a market with prices set by a committee.

I’m very pleased to see the ‘trial and error’ nature of market price-setting being noted for once, rather than the version where ‘signalling’ goes on seemingly independent of what humans may or may not think about the matter. Worth noting too that (1) market prices are set by a ‘committee’ or department, ‘team’ etc., (2) if errors and correction (or dice re-roll) are good enough for the market, why aren’t they good enough under socialism?

—————

@90 The fact that there is a market failure…just means that some form of government intervention is required. Ideally, this will take the form of (intelligent) regulations and/or (minimal) public provision, while still keeping the market as private and competitive as possible.

Whatever the suitably non-committal, even wistful ‘ideally’ means here, I think it may be time to acknowledge that this is not by its standards an ideal world.

‘Market failure’ – even speaking the words is implicitly to reintroduce a public standard assessment of allocative outcomes, avoidance of which is the rationale for the whole Samuelson consensus black-box model of revealed pref., Pareto efficiency, price signalling hocus pocus.

‘We just need to tinker with the market a bit more’ is not working. (Indeed didn’t we until a few years ago hear constantly that meddling in market forces we cannot understand upsets the balance of nature and brings forth monstrosity, etc.) If the holistic mechanism of the market, which is supposed to operate by constant self-correction, doesn’t work, why suppose that some part of it, kept alive by constant (but minimal) intervention, is going to be a good idea?

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Dragon-King Wangchuck 03.09.12 at 2:42 pm

I’m Canadian too. Would I like better health care? Absolutely. And I have a very limited method of achieving that by voting for folks that are like-minded. It’s not much, but I like it better than being at the whims of the market.

Wait times. Always with the wait times. Do we Canucks have long wait times? Yes we do. So does everywhere else – it’s just that Americans don’t talk about them because short of personally opening up a new clinic, you can’t do jack about them. Sure there are a handful of procedures (notably elective surgery) where the wait times in the US are extraordinarily shorter than in Canada, but generally speaking, you can’t waltz across the border with a bag full of cash and book surgery for later that afternoon.

Six months or a year to see a specialist? Certainly possible, but not common. And while the US probably does better than Canada on average in terms of wait times, we don’t have nearly as many folks who are forgoing medical care. So considering we’re spending about half as much per capita – and a lot of the US per capita have opted out of receiving medical care for anything except life threatening conditions – Canadian wait times are incredibly short.

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Alex K. 03.09.12 at 3:14 pm

@reason
This is just an accounting issue. Does the government tax people than pay for their health care, or does it force people to pay for their own health directly through compusory saving. Is this 1% figure really meaningful?

It is very far from just an accounting issue. The majority of health-care costs are paid “out of pocked” — that is, out of the health savings account. The only redistribution allowed is between the members of a family (with some definition of what a family is).

The government has various subsidy levels, depending on the person’s income, and it runs a catastrophic insurance — this is where the 1% (today it is more like 1.3%) of government GDP goes.

The health-care market actually has prices (I’m not sure if the government forces or just encourages the publication of prices), a patient can choose between say, staying in a one bed room or in an eight beds room etc. Public hospitals are independent and compete with private hospitals. In other words, you can actually call the health-care market a market — with the exception of the typical Singaporean paternalism in how one should save and spend the health-care money.

So yes, both the 1.3% figure and the 4% figure are very meaningful.

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snuh 03.09.12 at 4:58 pm

Libertarians, as a group, don’t get their way as often as Democrats, as a group.

whether or not it is true (i think chris is right but whatevs), the assumption that underlies this statement is kind of odd. you seem to think that it would only be fair that libertarians and democrats should each get their way in equal shares or some such thing. putting to one side how this assumption ignores the merits of any policy dispute, you seem to have completely forgotten how marginal the libertarian movement is in american popular opinion, when measured by self-identification. indeed, even if you take an extremely generous measure (i.e. you ignore self-identification), there are obviously going to be a lot more democrats in america than libertarians. in any plausibly representative system of government, libertarians should be getting their way less often than democrats.

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snuh 03.09.12 at 5:14 pm

looking at it another way. since the USA green party came into existence, its gotten a broadly equivalent level of support in presidential elections as the libertarian party. you might quibble and say that a lot of people sympathetic to libertarianism are voting republican tactically or because they think the organised libertarian party is full of cranks, which yeah, but then the same would also be true of democrats and greens.

now, obviously environmentalism has been an important political tendency in the last 30 years. but it is pretty clear to me that in the USA, libertarianism has kicked the shit out of it in any fight that has mattered, in that time.

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Jason McCullough 03.09.12 at 6:04 pm

To state the obvious for clarity’s sake, Reagan didn’t push his tax cuts because he was a libertarian. The 1994 GOP agenda was not driven by libertarianism. Modern GOP crankery (straightforward reactionary, nationalist, quasi-feudal) overlaps with the libertarian ideology on size of government, but that’s just because they agree, not because libertarians have had this awesome influence on GOP intellectual trends.

If anything, it’s had the most effect on center left types like Obama.

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Tim Wilkinson 03.09.12 at 11:40 pm

http://reason.com/archives/1975/07/01/inside-ronald-reagan

If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism. I think conservatism is really a misnomer just as liberalism is a misnomer for the liberals–if we were back in the days of the Revolution, so-called conservatives today would be the Liberals and the liberals would be the Tories. The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is.

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Jason McCullough 03.10.12 at 9:07 am

Politicians are known to pander to their audiences. Calling Reagan a libertarian is ridiculous.

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Chris Bertram 03.10.12 at 9:31 am

Of course Reagan wasn’t a libertarian, but since he came to power, libertarians have done better with the part of the policy agenda they care most about (taxes) than Democrats have. That was the claim, and it is true.

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Tim Wilkinson 03.10.12 at 5:14 pm

Calling Reagan a libertarian is ridiculous

And no-one is doing so. But the new right in the mid-late 70s were certainly invigorated inspired and influenced by libertarian stuff such as Anarchy, State and Utopia. The fact that the Reagan team thought it was fine to put that quote on the record tells you something about the lack of distance between the two positions where political ideology is concerned. Maybe you are thinking of Austrian economics?

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Jason McCullough 03.10.12 at 6:11 pm

The Reagan team also felt it was fine to say things about how much aggressive evangelical religion was central to conservatism, that doesn’t make a lack of distance between the two. Unless you think they were simultaneously holy rollers and libertarians.

I’m thinking of the actual Republican politics of the period. The ideology and political success of Republicans in the 1970 period was driven almost entirely by racial backlash and integrating the south into the party. The big issues were crime (committed by black people, in their opinion), urban decay/the underclass/welfare (guess who those people are?), affirmative action and its evils, and government programs for those leeches. In the 1980s you had the anti-libertarian rise of religion. There was some overlap there, but it sure as hell wasn’t driven people reading libertarian philosophy, or getting it out of the zeitgeist of elites reading it. Domestically, it was 90% racial politics.

As to libertarian influence, only in the last couple of years have actual libertarian policies and politics, driven by something other than reactionary racism, started to show up. The only thing Republicans voters and officeholders have unambigously in common with libertarians in the period is a hatred of regulation and tax cuts on the rich. On everything else they’re either doing it for wildly different reasons or disagreeing.

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Consumatopia 03.10.12 at 6:51 pm

re: health care, it seems like a lot of libertarian ideas for reform are deeply complicated by the direction conservatism has taken lately. Since conservatives have suddenly decided that there’s a huge philosophical difference between paying a tax and buying a product to avoid a penalty, plans to replace government provided services with subsidized markets aren’t workable. Especially after the last few months with this birth control ordeal, there is no way I could ever support any Medicare privatization, even if it were made more generous. People will be objecting that they don’t want to buy plans that cover services they don’t believe in–including end-of-life services.

Singapore’s system, as I understand it, might still work–I think the base system of subsidies is government run, and you can purchase whatever coverage you want on top of that.

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Watson Ladd 03.10.12 at 7:25 pm

Tim, I wasn’t making the argument because I’m opposed to taxation to pay for public services or redistribution, but because I don’t think that “I payed taxes, so I already gave to charity” is a good argument, no matter what the tax rate is. What’s crucial to the hypothetical redistributionist being able to avoid the claim of being uncharitable is the equivalence between the two. Someone who doesn’t kill people just because its illegal isn’t a good person.

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Consumatopia 03.10.12 at 9:13 pm

A redistributionist doesn’t need to claim to be charitable or unselfish. There’s no logical contradiction between their actions in the private sphere and their votes in the public sphere. They are not revealing an inconsistent preference or anything like that. They may even be living according to their own (selfish) moral code–they insist they have the right to tax others, but don’t tell other people they are morally required to give more to charity. They are like a landlord who decides to raise rent so he can give more to a homeless shelter.

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Tim Wilkinson 03.11.12 at 7:19 pm

Jason McCullough: The Reagan team also felt it was fine to say things about how much aggressive evangelical religion was central to conservatism, that doesn’t make a lack of distance between the two. Unless you think they were simultaneously holy rollers and libertarians.

I’ve already said I don’t think the Reagan presidency was actually libertarian, and I also don’t think it was actually evangelical christian. But in fact, xian social conservatism and economic proprietarianism (‘libertarianism’) is about right, so far as the public ideology (rather than the unacknowledged, corrupt, motivations) of the post-1974 Reps is concerned. (I’d be interested to see what the Reagan presidency was willing to actually say about evangelical christianity, too, but I’m doing enough googling without doing yours for you.)

The causal/intellectual relationships are no doubt tangled, but the emergence of an ultra-free-market posture in Reaganism and Thatcherism was certainly bound up with the emergence of a new minimal-state libertarianism (in the bestselling Anarchy, State, and Utopia*, which provided a handy philosophy book to wave around (they could even read it), proving how all taxation (except to pay for bombs and batons) was strictly speaking illegitimate (so think yourselves lucky you get any other govt spending at all). It also contained little if any sex and drugs.

I’m really not sure where your conviction that all this is ridiculous comes from – I’d say that the first section of http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/the_dilettante/2011/06/the_liberty_scam.html is not far off (and a skim of the rest, on the philosophy, suggests it’s unusually good too):

The Times Literary Supplement ranks Anarchy, published in 1974, as one of the “100 Most Influential Books Since the War,” and that, I think, is underselling it. To this day, left intellectuals remember where they were when they first heard Nozick’s arguments against not just socialism but wealth redistribution of any kind. “It is no exaggeration to say,” the Telegraph wrote, after Nozick died in 2002, “that Nozick, more than anyone else, embodied the new libertarian zeitgeist which, after generations of statist welfarism from Roosevelt’s New Deal to Kennedy, Johnson and Carter, ushered in the era of Reagan and Bush, pere et fils.” Prior to Anarchy, “liberty” was a virtual synonym for rolling back labor unions and progressive taxation, a fig leaf for the class interests of the Du Ponts and the B.F. Goodriches. After Anarchy, “liberty” was a concept as worthy of academic dignity as the categorical imperative.

Nozick’s sloganistic state-of-nature theory also introduced a new beguilingly simplistic style of moralistic argumentation (that Slate article gets this quite well), which was perfectly suited to the needs of today’s busy propagandist. (Watson: I don’t consider “I’ve paid taxes, so I’ve already given to charity” a good argument either – but neither do I consider it of any interest.)

General point, in case it’s not clear – talk about the Libertarian Party or the Mises institute is beside the point; so far as the US is concerned (and libertarianism is not anomalously US-centric as a topic for CT, btw) it’s the proprietarianism within the Republican party and its electoral supporters that is relevant, e.g., randomly Googled, http://www.libertarianrepublican.net/ )

Also, Ayn Rand, Alan Greenspan, Paul père & fils etc. but that’s a rather different underpant of tropical fish.

*Let me Wiki that for you: Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974) is a minarchist book by the American political philosopher Robert Nozick. It won the 1975 U.S. National Book Award in category Philosophy and Religion,[1] has been translated into 11 languages, and was named one of the “100 most influential books since the war” (1945–1995) by the U.K. Times Literary Supplement.[2]

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Substance McGravitas 03.11.12 at 8:11 pm

The ideology and political success of Republicans in the 1970 period was driven almost entirely by racial backlash and integrating the south into the party. The big issues were crime (committed by black people, in their opinion), urban decay/the underclass/welfare (guess who those people are?), affirmative action and its evils, and government programs for those leeches.

Those were the big selling points, not to be mistaken for the program of making sure rich people get richer. So the political success sure, the ideology no. The Southern strategy was/is just that, not a goal in itself.

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Tim Wilkinson 03.11.12 at 8:28 pm

btw re: ‘bestselling’. ASU has been described as ‘a runaway bestseller – for a philosophy book’ or words to that effect. I don’t know if it ever appeared on general bestseller lists. Meant to correct that before posting.

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Tim Wilkinson 03.12.12 at 8:38 pm

Also forgotten:

The only thing Republicans voters and officeholders have unambigously in common with libertarians in the period is a hatred of regulation and tax cuts on the rich. On everything else they’re either doing it for wildly different reasons or disagreeing.

makes an excellent Greenspanism:

“With notably rare exceptions (for example a hatred of regulation and tax cuts on the rich) Republicans voters and officeholders have nothing in common with libertarians in the period, either doing it for wildly different reasons or disagreeing.”

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Jason McCullough 03.13.12 at 4:01 am

On consideration, I think this points out a better argument than I made. For the reasonable libertarians being discussed above, those two issues are one issue among many. For the vast bulk of “libertarians” out there, it’s true that they’re overwhelmingly dominating issues – but the two classes of libertarians have very little in common with each other.

All I’m saying here, I guess, is that Julian Sanchez is not remotely the kind of libertarian that has influenced the modern GOP, Reagan, or has that much in common with it ideologically in the first place. Neither is Cato, in general. So why does everyone spend so much time worrying about the ins and outs of their “movement”? They’re nice and will actually discuss things with you, unless the cranks and charlatans who actually matter?

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wetcasements 03.13.12 at 6:29 am

Libertarians are Republicans who just won’t shut up about how they aren’t actually Republicans.

They’re adorable, every one of ‘em.

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Barry 03.13.12 at 1:08 pm

“Prior to Anarchy, “liberty” was a virtual synonym for rolling back labor unions and progressive taxation, a fig leaf for the class interests of the Du Ponts and the B.F. Goodriches. After Anarchy, “liberty” was a concept as worthy of academic dignity as the categorical imperative. “

Well, after Anarchy, was *still* a virtual synonym for rolling back labor unions and progressive taxation, a fig leaf for the class interests of the Du Ponts and the B.F. Goodriches.

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Tim Wilkinson 03.13.12 at 1:10 pm

Jason McCullough – If this argument is better, that’s because it’s drastically reduced in scope so that it is now an objection only to the subjects of this post. And plenty of people here disagree with you about Cato, and provide their reasons. (Sanchez? Who he?)

No-one here is denying that there are full-spectrum libertarians who earnestly subscribe not only to the distinctively Libertarian stance on distributive justice but also have an interest in a more ordinary (and traditoinally more left wing than right) ‘libertarianism’ about individual private behaviour and the penal law.

However in my experience (admittedly my sample is biased toward relatively well-educated and in UK terms middle- and upper- middle class specimens, mostly from the UK) these are self-consciously provocative positions – more or less empty nostrums – that young right-wingers like to adopt as a grotesqueness-reduction strategy, and not generally something they’re especially committed to (e.g. campaigning for or debating S&M rights or drug legalisation) especially once it’s time to put aside childish things and get on with the serious business of the pursuit of happine$$.

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Tim Wilkinson 03.13.12 at 1:14 pm

Well, after Anarchy, was still a virtual synonym for rolling back labor unions and progressive taxation, a fig leaf for the class interests of the Du Ponts and the B.F. Goodriches.

Yeah, kinda – the idea though is that while it is still functionally tantamount to ‘rolling back..[etc]’, it has aquired a sense or mode of presentation that renders it more respectable. A less transparent figleaf.

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Uncle Kvetch 03.13.12 at 1:45 pm

Libertarians are Republicans who just won’t shut up about how they aren’t actually Republicans.

Pithy. I’m stealing that.

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Craig 03.13.12 at 4:19 pm

Kim Stanley Robinson: “That’s libertarians for you–anarchists who want police protection from their slaves.”

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Sebastian H 03.13.12 at 5:03 pm

Yes! Kind of like how progressives are Stalinists who won’t shut up about how they aren’t Stalinists.

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Eli Rabett 03.14.12 at 12:30 am

“The current non-Koch shareholders claim that the widow of the original shareholder should own the shares. There is a clause in the by-laws to the effect that if a shareholder wants to sell his shares he should first offer to sell to Cato or the individual shareholders. Presumably the Kochs want to outbid the other shareholders. However, the clause does not make provisions for what happens to the shares in the case of the death of a shareholder. So they all go to court.”

It’s not nearly so simple. Niskanen was not an original shareholder. The Widow Niskanen is the executor and doesn’t get all of the stock. She only gets a third. One of the other thirds goes the Cato Institute, another third to the Cato Institute’s lawyers. Then there is the issue of dividing 16 by 3, So they all go to court.

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Tim Wilkinson 03.14.12 at 1:52 pm

In this connection, see also the fragments of an unpublished draft chapter of Anarchy, State, and Utopia.

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Ryan Miller 03.14.12 at 4:21 pm

It doesn’t seem unreasonable to me that I (libertarian) give 80% of my charitable contributions to relief of the very poor and disadvantaged, and 20% to sources of institutional change in the U.S. (like EFF and Cato). I mean, if we adopted even a slightly more libertarian foreign policy (less bombing/invading) that seems like a huge win for the world’s poor, who tend to be on the receiving end. A decrease in the efficacy of institutions which push the U.S. in that direction seems like a bad thing for the world in the medium term.

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