Freedom!

by John Holbo on April 23, 2013

A couple weeks back the Mercatus Freedom In The 50 States Index came out and there was much bemusement to be had by most. Matthew Yglesias may be wrong on dragons but he was right, I think, that the exercise holds promise chiefly as a solution to a coalition-building problem: how to “simultaneously preserve libertarianism as a distinct brand and also preserve libertarianism’s strong alliance with social conservatism.” Regular old freedom-loving folk, by contrast, will tend to be left cold.

I thought I would add a footnote to this, and give the CT commentariat an opportunity to weigh in. It might seem that the footnote to add is one of the woolly ones, from Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts of Liberty”:

Negative liberty is something the extent of which, in a given case, it is difficult to estimate. It might, prima facie, seem to depend simply on the power to choose between at any rate two alternatives. Nevertheless, not all choices are equally free, or free at all. If in a totalitarian State I betray my friend under threat of torture, perhaps even if I act from fear of losing my job, I can reasonably say that I did not act freely. Nevertheless, I did, of course, make a choice, and could, at any rate in theory, have chosen to be killed or tortured or imprisoned. The mere existence of alternatives is not, therefore, enough to make my action free (although it may be voluntary in the normal sense of the word). The extent of my freedom seems to depend on (a) how many possibilities are open to me (although the method of counting these can never be more than impressionistic; possibilities of action are not discrete entities like apples, which can be exhaustively enumerated); (b) how easy or difficult each of these possibilities is to actualize; (c) how important in my plan of life, given my character and circumstances, these possibilities are when compared with each other; (d) how far they are closed and opened by deliberate human acts; (e) what value not merely the agent, but the general sentiment of the society in which he lives, puts on the various possibilities. All these magnitudes must be ‘integrated’, and a conclusion, necessarily never precise, or indisputable, drawn from this process. It may well be that there are many incommensurable kinds and degrees of freedom, and that they cannot be drawn up on any single scale of magnitude. Moreover, in the case of societies, we are faced by such (logically absurd) questions as ‘Would arrangement X increase the liberty of Mr. A more than it would that of Messrs. B, C and D between them, added together?’ The same difficulties arise in applying utilitarian criteria. Nevertheless, provided that we do not demand precise measurement, we can give valid reasons for saying that the average subject of the King of Sweden is, on the whole, a good deal freer today [1958] than the average citizen of Spain or Albania. Total patterns of life must be compared directly as wholes, although the method by which we make the comparison, and the truth of the conclusions, are difficult or impossible to demonstrate. But the vagueness of the concepts, and the multiplicity of the criteria involved, are attributes of the subject-matter itself, not of our imperfect methods of measurement, or of incapacity for precise thought.

The 50-state index might be thought an inadvertent proof-by-example of Berlin’s point that you can’t tot up negative freedoms in this way. (The problem is the subject itself, not our counting methods, however painstaking.) But, if you read the fine print on the box, the problem is odder. From a post by Jason Sorens, one of the authors, about “what the freedom index considers and why”:

As is the case with any index, the “freedom index” has some limitations – it cannot capture all aspects of freedom, such as freedom from depredations originating outside government.

Including freedom from threats to freedom originating from outside government, rather notably. Private regimes of power and all that.

That is, the freedom index is not, as one might have suspected from the name and the results, a failed attempt to index freedom. It is not an attempt to index freedom at all – not in an ordinary sense, or even in a classical liberal sense. The freedom index is an attempt to index the degree of, or degree of burdensomeness of, government regulation. This leads to fresh sets of imponderables, akin to those Berlin raises. You can’t just count the number of laws passed and assume the jurisdiction that passes least governs lightest. You have to judge the results holistically, and in a more fine-grained manner. Which laws are the ‘good’ one, i.e. non-threatening to freedom – perhaps even freedom enhancing? But, at a more basic level, the problem isn’t that degree of regulation, or its burdensomeness, can’t be quantified. It’s that the value of this measure, as a proxy measure of negative freedom, is hardly self-evident.

{ 86 comments }

1

Donald A. Coffin 04.23.13 at 4:53 pm

Not being fammiliar with that particular index of “freedom,” I don’t want to comment on it. But I am familiar with the Heritage Foundation’s index of economic freedom, and it is an ongoing source of amusement/outrage to me that, while it includes government spending (more is worse) and taxes (higher is worse), there is *nothing* in the index that measures access to education or to health care–both of which are, it seems to me, very important in determining an individual’s freedom, economic or otherwise. (Of course, to the extent that government pays for education and/or health care, then increased access would show up as a negative factor for freedom…)

2

b9n10nt 04.23.13 at 5:05 pm

An elitist, bourgeois account of individual freedom takes it as given that our needs for physical health and social inclusion have been met. The freedom to produce goods for exchange (including intellectual goods) is secondary to a biological imperative for physical health and social inclusion. Any true account of freedom must first begin wtih the embodied, real, visceral, biological freedom that we are compelled to seek. As blindingly obvious as this is, this awareness creates a tension with the elitist account of freedom. As social beings (again, a biological observation of the our species), our true freedom is a product of social cooperation. The elitist account of freedom spectacularly ignores the communalist basis for freedom. This makes sense, given that elites took these communal goods as given. But for this very reason the ideology of bourgeois freedom must ceaselessly be argued for so that those who are only marginally free, in the true sense, will be indoctrinated to the point that the basis of our social inclusion becomes the practice of a religion: the elite account of freedom.

3

geo 04.23.13 at 5:06 pm

OP: hardly self-evident

To put it more kindly than I would have thought possible (or necessary).

4

R. Porrofatto 04.23.13 at 5:13 pm

The freedom index is an attempt to index the degree of, or degree of burdensomeness of, government regulation.

And as such, their methodology is ridiculously ad hoc and subjective, to the point of useless bogosity, IMO. A representative sample from their 2009 index:

Gaming laws are worth one-thirtieth of the overall personal freedom index, and within this category, we rated all types of gaming permitted as five-ninths, whether “aggravated gambling” is a felony as two-ninths, legalization of Internet gaming as five-twenty-sevenths, and laws prohibiting social gaming-which are prima facie highly intrusive but we suppose almost never enforced-as one-twenty-seventh of the total. At the next tier from the bottom, we include two other fairly low-saliency categories: alcohol regulations and sundry mala prohibita, each worth 50 percent more than gaming laws.

5

Mike Huben 04.23.13 at 5:19 pm

Libertarian notions of freedom invariably are one sided, and this illustrates it perfectly. Count only the costs of government, none of the benefits.

Freedom to walk the high wire without a safety net. Notice that they include motorcycle helmet laws?

But the true measure of freedom for Koch-funded Mercatus is how much it benefits the ultra wealthy and corporate citizens. Sure, they throw a number of sops to conservative home-schoolers to pretend they are concerned with freedoms of the little people too, but the aim is the continuous propaganda drumbeat of freedom for corporations to privatize wealth and socialize costs.

6

Rich Puchalsky 04.23.13 at 5:33 pm

I laughed at their goofball map of the United States. Where are the two most “unfree” places? California and New York — the places where people actually want to live. Where are the “free” ones? They include North Dakota and Oklahoma, which as everyone knows are huge magnets for population. I guess that libertarians are literally supposed to be hicks and rubes.

7

BruceJ 04.23.13 at 5:46 pm

” The freedom index is an attempt to index the degree of, or degree of burdensomeness of, government regulation to white property-owning males in power.”

There, FTFY.

This wasn’t even a reasonable index of the burden of regulations. It was akin to a frat-boy party index of various schools claiming to be academically rigorous.

You might ask the dead firefighters in West, Texas about the “burdens of government regulation.”

Oh wait, you can’t ’cause they’re dead, because the ‘burden of regulation’ like telling the government, and hence, first responders, you have 270 tons of explosives on site, or ‘putting a fertilizer plant with 270 tons of explosives on site may not be a good idea in a residential neighborhood’ is just a terrible,terrible tyranny on the noble business owner free upstanding libertarian male, and so not required in that bastion of freedom, Texas.

In a nutshell, THAT is “Libertarianism” and why people don’t like it, because it is ENTIRELY concerned with protecting, preserving and extending ‘regimes of private power’, also known under it’s classical moniker: “Might makes Right”

8

Sandwichman 04.23.13 at 5:50 pm

Free dumb!

9

Jason 04.23.13 at 5:53 pm

I thought about finding out if North Korea and Somalia ranked highly using Mercatus’s spreadsheet, but realized that it would take too long to do for how unsure I was of the conclusion. I assume they’d be at the top of the list because Somalia has no functioning government regulations and North Korea has really low taxes.

I recently did a road trip through North Dakota and imagined it was what North Korea feels like if you replaced Kim Jong Un pictures with anti-abortion propaganda: desolate and bossy.

10

Huck Finn 04.23.13 at 6:10 pm

“hicks and rubes.”

f- you too

11

RSA 04.23.13 at 6:38 pm

According to a 2005 Tax Foundation study, four out of the five freest states also get a good deal more money from the federal government than they pay out. (For example, North Dakota, #1 on the freedom list, received $1.68 in federal spending for every $1.00 collected in federal taxes in 2005; South Dakota, #2, $1.53.) Hmm…

12

mjfgates 04.23.13 at 6:51 pm

I like it that these guys always count taxation and government spending as two separate, freedom-reducing things. They’re saying we’d all be more free if if the government taxed us and then burned the money, or if it decided to go the Weimar/Zimbabwe route and just run the presses full blast. Either idea is utterly ridiculous, of course, but that’s why it’s fun to see them advocate for them.

13

Kieran Healy 04.23.13 at 7:18 pm

There’s a modest but quite discernible relationship between “freedom” and economic productivity. It’s just not the one Mercatus might have liked.

14

Rich Puchalsky 04.23.13 at 7:37 pm

I’m sure that people have probably commented this to death already as well (including BruceJ at #6), but the Mercatus map fails even as a portrayal of negative rights against government. What if you want to have an abortion? Or not have the government prevent you from marrying your gay partner? Then you surely don’t want to leave California / New York and make a beeline for North Dakota or Oklahoma.

15

Substance McGravitas 04.23.13 at 8:14 pm

the exercise holds promise chiefly as a solution to a coalition-building problem: how to “simultaneously preserve libertarianism as a distinct brand and also preserve libertarianism’s strong alliance with social conservatism.”

Convince yokels it’s the best of all possible worlds.

16

Ben Alpers 04.23.13 at 8:36 pm

Also worth noting, again, that according to Mercatus, regulation of, e.g., abortion doesn’t count as regulation, since abortion is “controversial.”

17

B 04.23.13 at 8:45 pm

Why is it that the states I most want to live in are the unfree states? For some reason, the unfree lifestyle I can live in California, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Washington, etc. is hard to resist. But why don’t I want to live a life of glorious freedom in Oklahoma, for example?

Maybe some people just don’t like freedom.

18

SamChevre 04.23.13 at 8:57 pm

A quibble on #11.

I’m not aware that the government of any state forbids you from marrying a same-sex partner. (It may not be a marriage of which the government takes any notice, but your local UCC church will marry you and the government will do nothing to stop them.) It’s only the “government will do something” part of marriage that is missing.

19

Ed 04.23.13 at 9:00 pm

Aren’t you overthinking this again? Just list the states in order of Romney’s percentage of the vote in the last presidential election and you’re done.

20

Alan 04.23.13 at 9:25 pm

What distinguishes libertarians from all other psychopaths is that they want their particular psychopathology to become a system of government.

21

Katherine 04.23.13 at 11:30 pm

I wonder what the results would be if you applied this method to the states of the world.

22

John Holbo 04.24.13 at 12:17 am

I might as well complete the thought of the last few sentences of my post. An index of heaviness of government regulation is not an index of freedom. And, in order to be able to construct the former, you would probably have to have a workable version of the latter, so you can’t even work up to the latter by constructing, first, the former.

23

Rich Puchalsky 04.24.13 at 2:22 am

“It’s only the “government will do something” part of marriage that is missing.”

Yeah, yeah, I hear something like this every time libertarians talk about governmental discrimination. They don’t care about a negative right not to be discriminated against in the provision of governmental services or benefits. So, for example, if the government was giving out loans to white people but not black people, they wouldn’t care. They’d just say that the government shouldn’t give loans to anyone. Similarly, the libertarian solution to governments giving marriage benefits to straight but not gay people is to say that governments shouldn’t give marriage benefits to anyone at all.

24

John Holbo 04.24.13 at 2:27 am

Late last year Jason Sorens make a post, proposing an ‘inflammatory’ analogy between labor unions and the mafia.

http://pileusblog.wordpress.com/2012/12/17/right-to-work-an-inflammatory-analogy/

He imagines that the government could give its stamp of state approval to mafia strong-arm tactics, in much the way that the Wagner Act supports unions. The idea is that this would be a bad, freedom destroying sort of arrangement. Repealing government support for the mafia would be best. Second best would be ‘right to work’ laws, even if they were somewhat imperfect.

Ironically, I think the correct answer, freedom index-wise, would be to get the government just to step back and let the mafia do its private work. So long as it’s no longer the government, it will stop constituting a threat to freedom. Presumably, you could increase freedom by gradually ceding more and more responsibility for regulating social order to the mafia – so long as the mafia never became ‘the state’.

I suppose Sorens would respond that the mafia’s violence was still impermissible. True, but not to the point. If the mafia says pay up or we burn down your store, and you pay up, a property crime has been threatened – although not committed – but no infringement of freedom, per se, has taken place. So long as the government isn’t involved. The trouble for Sorens is that if he were to try to close this obviously silly loophole, it would just draw attention to the possible existence of many such. The mafia is just one private group, exerting potentially coercive power. If the government stepping in to stop that could be a net gain for freedom, then, in principle, we need to consider more cases. If the mafia, why not social Jim Crow? If social Jim Crow, why not employers who try to use leverage to … Any socially disadvantaged group may, in effect, be in the position that lone shopkeepers are to the mafia. Even if the social sanctions that powerful, private agents or groups are able to leverage are not violent, per se, they may be effective. And that is enough to make them threats to freedom, potentially.

25

Anarcissie 04.24.13 at 3:37 am

I think the libertarian question is, for what purposes the use of coercive force (‘violence’) is legitimate. Maybe original coercive force, since everyone thinks self-defense is all right. Maybe some other word instead of ‘legitimate’ which implies a notion of law, which already implies government — the monopoly of the aforesaid coercive force. Just because some libertarians are stupid (vide supra) doesn’t mean they all are. Necessarily.

26

maidhc 04.24.13 at 3:51 am

I remember reading a review of a book on the topic of freedom that came out a couple of years ago, although I don’t remember the author or title. One point was that 100 years ago minimum wage laws and union contracts were commonly looked upon as a restriction of freedom — the freedom to take a job at starvation wages. Whereas freedom of speech was not thought of as an important freedom. “I can say what I want, it’s a free country”, is something that wasn’t commonly said until around the 1930s.

27

Bruce Wilder 04.24.13 at 6:35 am

Anarcissie @ 25

Niggling about violence and coercion seems to sidestep the question of the relationship of public goods to private goods, and public power to private power. Libertarians seem to be reluctant to concede the possibility of any, but private interests and private goods; the concept of a state to manage a common wealth is more repugnant than a fist in a face.

28

Bruce Wilder 04.24.13 at 6:46 am

If your concepts of good and the good of power are essentially private, proprietary, corporate or tribal, then the political contest is essentially about who is to own the state, and in whose interest the power of the state is to be wielded. You want to take back your country from the usurping moochers, who would make you pay taxes on the product of your labor, your property and the use of your country, and prevent you from seeing your sense of morality and propriety enshrined in law and practice.

29

Collin Street 04.24.13 at 7:35 am

I may have mentioned this before, but it’s odd that the libertarian response to gay marriage never seems to include the suggestion that the government stop keeping tabs on people’s genders.

30

Mao Cheng Ji 04.24.13 at 7:50 am

“Niggling about violence and coercion seems to sidestep the question of the relationship of public goods to private goods, and public power to private power.”

Suppose, for the sake of argument, all goods are public, and all power is public (though, what does it mean, exactly?). Can this public-powered government conscript you to build a library? To invade Iraq? Public can be a bastard too. I understand that this probably isn’t the burning issue right now, but nevertheless.

31

Barker 04.24.13 at 10:20 am

“Oklahoma is mediocre on tort abuse, health insurance freedom, occupational freedom, and utility deregulation. However, its number of health insurance coverage mandates is better (lower) than average.”

I like how they have to remind me which way is “better”.

32

Randy Yale 04.24.13 at 10:58 am

Freedom and Liberty are synonymous in several ways. But in important ways (ways which I think are central to the discussion of how we govern ourselves) the two words have subtle differences.
Freedom is absolute–we all have free will and can be held accountable for heinous acts we commit “freely.” However, liberty implies a relationship and responsibility toward others. It makes sense to charge someone with taking indecent liberties with a minor or for a confidant to say she is not “at liberty” to share information someone trustingly gave. It makes no sense to call a freedom indecent or argue that one is not free to share any information.
While this may seem like semantic hair-splitting, it should be central to any political discussion. Rand Paul is actually correct in his “extreme” argument that business owners should be free to exclude others from their establishment based on race. But of course they shouldn’t be at liberty to impose their personal prejudices (and using the coercion of police power to enforce the business owner’s freedom puts lie to the argument that individual freedom existed in the first place).
In many ways all the political uses of the word free (e.g. Live Free or Die, Vote Freedom First) are about the emotional impact of language. No one really wants total freedom–that only exists in a state of nature, which is chaotic and violent.

33

Rich Puchalsky 04.24.13 at 11:20 am

Anarcissie: “Maybe original coercive force, since everyone thinks self-defense is all right. “

Libertarians (in the U.S. meaning of that word, of course) like to dwell on this distinction between original force and response to force, because it allows them to recommend any kind of coercion they like. Every use of force is in response to something (real or imagined), so this is a distinction without a difference. If someone steals a loaf of bread from your shop, and you shoot him, then you were only responding to his prior use of coercive force. If you throw a woman who had an abortion in jail, well, she initiated force first. Protestors in public spaces? Certainly using force to keep people out, so gun them down. And most serious political conflicts are supported by years-old, decades-old, or centuries-old claims that the other side started it first and you’re only defending yourself.

So I think that “for what purposes the use of coercive force (‘violence’) is legitimate” is the wrong question. And in any case U.S.-libertarians (i.e. propertarians) have one of the worst answers that I’ve heard. They’d get rid of every part of the state *except* just the parts that keep poor people from sleeping under privately owned bridges and the parts that allow the U.S. to go to war worldwide on whim.

34

Nemo 04.24.13 at 11:34 am

I laughed my head off when I saw that North Dakota came out first in this libertarian survey.

Fact 1: The only grain elevator in ND is state owned. It was created in 1922 because the ND farmers were dissatisfied with the privately owned grain elevators (in other words because of a failure of capitalism). While there is apparantly no prohibition against creating a privately owned grain elevator, there is apparantly no need for this because the state owned one (which is the biggest one in the USA) is so satisfactory. More info here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Dakota_Mill_and_Elevator

Fact 2: ND has a law prohibiting corporate ownership of agricultural land. Other states have similar laws, but I believe ND’s is the strictest. More info here:

http://celdf.org/anti-corporate-farming-laws-in-the-heartland

Fact 3: ND has a state owned bank, which essentially functions as a central bank for ND.
It is the only state with such a bank, although Puerto Rico has something similar.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bank_of_North_Dakota

35

roger gathman 04.24.13 at 12:05 pm

I think one has to distinguish existential from proprietary freedom. They are of course entangled, but they are certainly distinct. The libertarians basically align with expanded proprietarial freedom for the wealthy and diminished existential freedom for the wage class – in other words, the rich should pay low taxes and low wages.
Interestingly, when a nation does achieve a high degree of existential freedom, it pisses the libertarians off. There was a recent drive by piece in the NYT about Denmark’s “excessive” welfare system. It frustrates the libertarian right because Denmark is wealthy and, by most measures, extraordinarily happy in doing what economists piously say they are all about: creating a society in which the majority claim to be happy. One of the ways people are happy – and this is where the proprietorial and the existential cross – is in having free time. The surplus of free time in Denmark is very disturbing to the libertarian:

Denmark has among the highest marginal income-tax rates in the world, with the top bracket of 56.5 percent kicking in on incomes of more than about $80,000. But in exchange, the Danes get a cradle-to-grave safety net that includes free health care, a free university education and hefty payouts to even the richest citizens.

Parents in all income brackets, for instance, get quarterly checks from the government to help defray child-care costs. The elderly get free maid service if they need it, even if they are wealthy.

But few experts here believe that Denmark can long afford the current perks. So Denmark is retooling itself, tinkering with corporate tax rates, considering new public sector investments and, for the long term, trying to wean more people — the young and the old — off government benefits.

“In the past, people never asked for help unless they needed it,” said Karen Haekkerup, the minister of social affairs and integration, who has been outspoken on the subject. “My grandmother was offered a pension and she was offended. She did not need it.

“But now people do not have that mentality. They think of these benefits as their rights. The rights have just expanded and expanded. And it has brought us a good quality of life. But now we need to go back to the rights and the duties. We all have to contribute.””
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/21/world/europe/danes-rethink-a-welfare-state-ample-to-a-fault.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
Of course, no experts are cited concerning the rotten state of Denmark, because in actuality it is a highly successful state with a population that works less and earns more. The story (typical for the NYT, whose foreign reporting leans right) is a good example of the sheer indignation felt by the wealthy when the economy actually works for all.

36

JerDot 04.24.13 at 1:10 pm

We know most of those who “represent” us belong to a club called: “What’s in it for me?” and another club: “Buy one get one free!”. So we know this but we still hear our “leaders” call others countries corrupt! No wonder much of the world thinks we are indeed a joke. So know our leaders are saying the internet is a great sourse for making bombs. Will they go the next step and say places that sell fireworks should do a background check on those buying these things that can be used to make weapons of mass destruction? “No they cite the second amendment. We wish people would read it carefully and it dosen’t say what our bought so called leaders are saying it does! Jerdot

37

Hector_St_Clare 04.24.13 at 1:17 pm

Re: Where are the two most “unfree” places? California and New York — the places where people actually want to live. Where are the “free” ones? They include North Dakota and Oklahoma, which as everyone knows are huge magnets for population

Uh, California and New York are both experiencing net domestic emigration (i.e. more Americans are leaving those states than moving to them). North Dakota and Oklahama both have positive migration rates (more Americans move to those states than leaving them, though that’s a very recent trend driven by the oil industry). You can argue of course, that where people move to isn’t a good indicator of where they’d like to live. But to say that California and New York are ‘huge magnets for [domestic] population’ isn’t accurate. The increase in population in states like CA, NY, MA, etc. (if New York is even increasing) is driven entirely by immigration.

Re: What if you want to have an abortion? Or not have the government prevent you from marrying your gay partner?

Gay marriage is pretty clearly a one-sided issue of freedom (the freedom to marry vs. the government denying that freedom in the name of some other value), but abortion really isn’t. You can make a libertarian argument that the freedom of the unborn child to live is more important than the freedom of the mother to have an abortion.

I’m not a libertarian, of course, so I’m not interested in making libertarian arguments against abortion (or for/against much of anything else) but they can certainly be made. In general, I think this whole line of thinking is wrongheaded: freedom is valuable because it makes other things posisble (happiness, virtue, etc.) it’s not something we necessarily need to see as the ultimate good to be maximized.

38

mds 04.24.13 at 1:33 pm

Oklahoma is mediocre on tort abuse

I’ve made this point before, but it’s interesting to me that American right-libertarians seem to have jumped on the “tort abuse” bandwagon. Once upon a time, they were in love with “stateless” medieval Iceland and its use of weregild to motivate good behavior. Right-libertarian societies in science fiction also seem to dwell on private courts and reparations as an enforcement mechanism. Their hypothetical non-FDA / non-USDA / non-OSHA world was repeatedly justified by talking up how the threat of reparations would be sufficient to keep businesses honest. Yet mysteriously, in the here and now, they seem to have decided that existing large private entities should be free from government regulations and free from any substantial threat of reparations. Meanwhile, as a non-wealthy person, I could easily be wiped out by even a comparatively small judgment that would be permissible under most versions of tort reform. Odd, that.

39

Anarcissie 04.24.13 at 1:36 pm

@33 etc. — I think you all would find it more interesting to argue with the kind of libertarians who understand that property (and similar constructions, like national boundaries) are an ‘original’ use of coercive force. In the case of your baker and thief, we have competing claims, backed up by force, to a scarce resource, a loaf of bread, which must be decided in some forceful way — physical combat, the feelings of those who happen to be standing around, tradition, laws administered by a government, or some combination of them.

The Mercatus Index sounds fairly stupid, but I suppose there are people who might feel politically freer (more able to do what they want to do, and not do what they don’t want to do) in North Dakota than in California or Denmark. It’s not totally inconceivable. I live in stop-and-frisk country myself, but I am unlikely to be stopped and frisked because of my apparent caste and class, so I’m ‘free’. I don’t know what would happen to me out in North Dakota.

40

mds 04.24.13 at 1:38 pm

Nemo @ 34: I expect to see increased agitation for abolition of those socialist and anti-agribusiness arrangements in North Dakota, as a consequence of the resource curse.

41

MPAVictoria 04.24.13 at 1:46 pm

““Oklahoma is mediocre on tort abuse, health insurance freedom, occupational freedom, and utility deregulation.”

Utility deregulation makes you more free? Who knew?

42

Mao Cheng Ji 04.24.13 at 1:50 pm

” In the case of your baker and thief, we have competing claims, backed up by force, to a scarce resource, a loaf of bread, which must be decided in some forceful way”

Scarce? Must? Nah. If they both want bread and there is none left, they could cut the loaf in half.

43

MPAVictoria 04.24.13 at 1:52 pm

“I’ve made this point before, but it’s interesting to me that American right-libertarians seem to have jumped on the “tort abuse” bandwagon. Once upon a time, they were in love with “stateless” medieval Iceland and its use of weregild to motivate good behavior. Right-libertarian societies in science fiction also seem to dwell on private courts and reparations as an enforcement mechanism. Their hypothetical non-FDA / non-USDA / non-OSHA world was repeatedly justified by talking up how the threat of reparations would be sufficient to keep businesses honest. Yet mysteriously, in the here and now, they seem to have decided that existing large private entities should be free from government regulations and free from any substantial threat of reparations. Meanwhile, as a non-wealthy person, I could easily be wiped out by even a comparatively small judgment that would be permissible under most versions of tort reform. Odd, that.”

Well said!

44

Anarcissie 04.24.13 at 2:48 pm

Mao Cheng Ji 04.24.13 at 1:50 pm:
‘Scarce? Must? Nah. If they both want bread and there is none left, they could cut the loaf in half.’

Both thief and baker are hard-core libertarians who would rather starve than beg the question.

45

Substance McGravitas 04.24.13 at 2:49 pm

The increase in population in states like CA, NY, MA, etc. (if New York is even increasing) is driven entirely by immigration.

So, uh, people want to live there?

46

Rich Puchalsky 04.24.13 at 3:04 pm

” I think you all would find it more interesting to argue with the kind of libertarians who understand that property (and similar constructions, like national boundaries) are an ‘original’ use of coercive force. “

I realize that you’re speaking from a very different point of view than Mercatus, Anarcissie, but no, I don’t think I would find it more interesting. If property and national boundaries are an original use of coercive force, then just about every use of force that we deal with is “original”. So the category is useless. All of social history becomes a big, undifferentiated pool of original uses of force which can be called on selectively to justify anything.

If you have to have an abstract justification, I think that proportionality is much more useful. You don’t shoot someone stealing a loaf of bread, if you don’t like protestors, you counter-protest or use minimal force to move them, etc. It doesn’t really matter who the original user of force is, only that your response is matched to theirs.

Hector: “But to say that California and New York are ‘huge magnets for [domestic] population’ isn’t accurate. The increase in population in states like CA, NY, MA, etc. (if New York is even increasing) is driven entirely by immigration.”

I didn’t write or imply “domestic”. But I see that to you, some people are more valuable than others. Funny how sometimes people wanting to move from one place to another shows that they want to move towards greater “freedom” however defined, and sometimes I guess that they just want to preferentially move to unfree hellholes.

But in any case “magnets for population” doesn’t mean just recent stats. California and New York have major cities; North Dakota and Oklahoma do not. People haven’t wanted to move there at any time enough to form a major city. And of course, if we’re leaving libertarian crazy thinking behind, it’s obvious that you need more regulations to run a major city than a patch of farmland.

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SamChevre 04.24.13 at 3:21 pm

Funny how sometimes people wanting to move from one place to another shows that they want to move towards greater “freedom” however defined, and sometimes I guess that they just want to preferentially move to unfree hellholes.

This doesn’t in any way follow. It’s entirely plausible that people, on average, move toward places that are more free. If immigrants come from places that are less free than New York, then it’s perfectly plausible that they move to New York, while people already in New York move out.

I think New York though is a bad example, because the finance industry that dominates its jobs and economics is particularly predatory.

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Harold 04.24.13 at 3:31 pm

Libertarians want to move violent “coercion” down from the state down to the individual level, reviving the code duello that kept Texas so polite and orderly (supposedly) or beating protestors over the head with two-by-fours (“What larks, eh, Pip!”): http://crookedtimber.org/2010/10/25/rhetorical-violence/

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Mao Cheng Ji 04.24.13 at 3:42 pm

Hector: “freedom is valuable because it makes other things possible (happiness, virtue, etc.) it’s not something we necessarily need to see as the ultimate good to be maximized.”

I dunno. One wisecracking biblical philosopher said that it’s better to be a live dog than a dead lion, but this view is controversial, to say the least…

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Hector_St_Clare 04.24.13 at 4:11 pm

Re: I didn’t write or imply “domestic”. But I see that to you, some people are more valuable than others.

Yes, that’s exactly what I meant (Rolling my eyes).

I think I made it clear that outside of the fever-dreams of ‘freedom agenda’ types, I don’t think the vast majority of people care about ‘freedom’ in the abstract, except at the extremes. Immigrants, in particular, don’t usually have the luxury of deciding which state to move to. They move to where there are jobs available (or where they think there might be jobs), where they can easily get too (e.g. California, Texas, Florida), and where they have networks of their compatriots to help them establish themselves. I *really* doubt many immigrants window-shop the policy environments of Oklahoma vs. New York City. If *anyone* moves between states based on their level of ‘freedom’, it would be Americans, that’s the reason for focusing on domestic immigration. That being said, even if you take into account foreign immigration, North Dakota is the fastest-growing state in the country. California and Oklahoma are somewhere in the middle, and New York is relatively slow growing.

None of that, of course, says a thing about *freedom*. People move out of New York State because the upstate areas are Rust Belt regions with declining economies, and because New York City is expensive, and they move to North Dakota because of the oil industry and the low cost of living. None of that has much to do with freedom or regulations, per se (except perhaps zoning regulations in New York that make housing more expensive, which are much more a class thing than a left vs. right thing).

I’m not even actually disagreeing with you that this Mercatus stuff is stupid, just making a point that, while North Dakota may have been demographically moribund ten years ago, that’s decidedly not the case right now.

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Substance McGravitas 04.24.13 at 4:21 pm

North Dakota is the fastest-growing state in the country.

When you have no people percentages are easy to move.

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Frank in midtown 04.24.13 at 4:41 pm

Yes, yes freedom. Do those Koch guys pay well? It can’t have taken more than 3 hours to list the states in the order you want and then figure out the weights to get the results in the same order. Oh, and is it just me but freedom seems negatively correlated to productivity metrics, like HH income?

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Barry 04.24.13 at 4:55 pm

“… and they move to North Dakota because of the oil industry and the low cost of living. “

“…while North Dakota may have been demographically moribund ten years ago, that’s decidedly not the case right now.”

How many people are moving there?

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Anarcissie 04.24.13 at 4:55 pm

@ Rich Puchalsky 04.24.13 at 3:04 pm (46) –
A lot of social history consists of voluntary or semi-voluntary actions and relations, rather than conflicts involving the use of coercive force (aggressive or responsive). Some people might wish to promote a polity which enlarged the former set, and reduced the latter to a minimum. If they understood the world using a classical-liberal framework, they might call themselves ‘libertarians’. In the matter of the proportionality of shooting someone for appropriating a loaf of bread assigned to another, part of reducing coercion is the principle of least sufficient reasonable force, which in the case of a loaf of bread would usually be less than shooting. On the other hand, the bread thief might be driven by starvation to deadly combat, so that community policies of charity or Welfare might be called for to prevent such a situation from arising. But shall we then shoot the bakers if they are insufficiently charitable? In general one can have a fine, structured, logical time comparing and contrasting uses of coercive force — it doesn’t seem like the mishmash you describe to me. And according to classical liberalism, the establishment of government, state and property by means of original force are at least a necessary evil, so even if it’s boring work, we have to do it.

Hector_St_Clare 04.24.13 at 1:17 pm: ‘… freedom is valuable because it makes other things posisble (happiness, virtue, etc.) it’s not something we necessarily need to see as the ultimate good to be maximized.’

Humans are willful, valuing beings, and freedom is the space in which to exercise one’s will and values; therefore, while what humans will and value differ between them, surely they must all desire the freedom to do as they will and effect their values. So it does seem like a primordial as well as ultimate good. Or am I being logical where logic does not belong?

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mds 04.24.13 at 7:17 pm

Libertarians want to move violent “coercion” down from the state down to the individual level

Not quite. Based on their obvious pining for the Gilded Age, hiring a private mercenary company a la Pinkerton’s to brutalize and kill the less powerful on one’s behalf would apparently still be fine. If the poors really needed protection from the private armies of the already rich and powerful, they could contract with their own private security firm. (There’d bound to be an affordable one, because it would be an obvious market opening.)

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dsquared 04.24.13 at 7:32 pm

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Hector_St_Clare 04.24.13 at 8:20 pm

Re: How many people are moving there?

About 28,000 between 2010-2012. Oddly, Washington D.C. has a higher growth rate right now than any state (they had about 30,000 move in in that same time period.)

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Substance McGravitas 04.24.13 at 10:05 pm

When New York gains a couple of hundred thousand people they’ll be smacking their foreheads thinking “I could have gone to North Dakota!”

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Salient 04.24.13 at 10:32 pm

When you have no people percentages are easy to move.

“Fastest-growing” is such a dubious claim.

For those half-following along feeling vaguely mystified at North Dakota’s prominence: it turns out a state’s population grows when people are born there. (Less snarkily: the statistic that Hector is terribly butchering is, as you probably already suspected, not adjusted to discount for fertility rate; North Dakota is one of the top 10 U.S. states as ranked by fertility rate. When you have no people percentages are really easy to move. 28,000 people sure as hell did not move to North Dakota in the past three years.)

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Substance McGravitas 04.24.13 at 11:02 pm

Amusing numbers from the Wikipedia:

1930 680,845 5.3%
1940 641,935 −5.7%
1950 619,636 −3.5%
1960 632,446 2.1%
1970 617,761 −2.3%
1980 652,717 5.7%
1990 638,800 −2.1%
2000 642,200 0.5%
2010 672,591 4.7%
Est. 2012 699,628 4.0%

North Dakota, now recovering from the dust bowl.

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Harold 04.24.13 at 11:48 pm

North Dakota’s population has gone up by 57,000 in 2 years. But in the same period, the Borough of Brooklyn grew by 60,000, beating North Dakota by 3,000 souls. http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2013/03/17/brooklyn-leads-new-york-city-population-boom/

http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/census/popcur.shtml

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Harold 04.24.13 at 11:49 pm

Hipsters, breeding like rabbits.

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Hector_St_Clare 04.24.13 at 11:53 pm

Just to clarify, I wasn’t trying to defend the Mercatus bit of libertarian idiocy. I brought up North Dakota simply because 1) it was mentioned in the thread, 2) I hear it commonly talked about by my unemployed acquaintances as a place to go strike it rich in the oil industry, 3) I wanted to make the broader point that people migration patterns are mostly driven by jobs and economics, not ‘freedom’. South Africa, famously, was a big center for immigration from surrounding African countries, even though it was quite the opposite of a free or equal country.

I take the point about birth rates, but North Dakota’s fertility rate is only about 25% higher than Massachusetts (which is near the bottom). It’s no doubt a contributor to the growth rate, but probbaly not the biggest one. Again, this is all a very recent trend, and probably has to do with recent oil prices and the vagaries of the oil industry.

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Hector_St_Clare 04.25.13 at 12:02 am

The point about fertility rates is an interesting one, and it bears some thinking about why it is that cultural-liberals in certain states seem unwilling to have children, but that’s not really germane to this particular thread.

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Harold 04.25.13 at 12:33 am

Brooklyn is teeming with children.

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Cranky Observer 04.25.13 at 12:59 am

Not to mention a good percentage of those children born to conservative religious families will somehow forget to come home after sophomore year at Bob Jones U and mysteriously end up in New York, Chicago, and LA. Of their own volition, that is, and quite happy to stay. The Cranky Spouse is the descendent of one such self-migration in the 1940s; its still happening back at the family farm.

Cranky

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John Holbo 04.25.13 at 1:00 am

“‘… freedom is valuable because it makes other things posisble (happiness, virtue, etc.) it’s not something we necessarily need to see as the ultimate good to be maximized.’”

Even if freedom is not the ultimate good, it doesn’t follow that it’s wrong to aim at maximizing it. You point out that people are going to the Dakotas for the jobs, that is, to become wealthy. But wealth isn’t an ultimate good either. What good is money if you can’t buy anything, or if the things you want can’t be bought? Nevertheless, there are solid reasons to want money in the bank, hence solid reasons to try to arrange things so people can have money in the bank.

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Salient 04.25.13 at 1:12 am

It may not be a marriage of which the government takes any notice, but your local UCC church will marry you and the government will do nothing to stop them.

Might not be true, actually. The government may (or at least has attempted to) step in and comprehensively revoke marriage authority from UCC pastors who attempt to skirt state law by holding ‘marriage’ or ‘wedding’ ceremonies without signing state marriage certificates. The local one is trying to get around this by calling them ‘life joining’ ceremonies, but last I heard they’re puzzling with the lawyer over whether they can even get away with that, since they have to be able to credibly claim they are confident neither party to the ceremony understands it to be a marriage ceremony. Turns out that when a state issues licenses to do something, you can’t just go and kinda-sorta do that thing unofficially. (Or at least you have to be verry careful about wording and technicalities, like alternative medicine practitioners have to be. So far as I know, the word ‘marry’ is entirely out. Might depend on the state, I guess.)

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js. 04.25.13 at 4:26 am

I love that Berlin footnote. I mean, did he really not realize that it kinda sorta totally undermined his (anyway tediously convoluted) argument? Surely he wasn’t that dense? That is what you’re kind of saying too, yes? Just to be clear, this:

The 50-state index might be thought an inadvertent proof-by-example of Berlin’s point that you can’t tot up negative freedoms in this way. (The problem is the subject itself, not our counting methods, however painstaking.)

If I’m right in supposing that the “subject itself” is negative liberty, the problem surely isn’t that we can’t list negative liberties and count them (and subtract infringements, etc.), the problem is that—as the Berlin passage makes painfully obvious—we can’t make any sense of a “metric” of negative liberty without bringing in “life-plans”, the importance of and ranking of various life projects and values, second-order desires/rational endorsements, etc. At which point, we have left the land of negative liberty far far behind. So, it’s the concept that’s fucked, not the possibility of adding up instances of it.

(Shorter: I really can’t recommend Charles Taylor’s “What’s Wrong with Negative Liberty” enough.)

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Hector_St_Clare 04.25.13 at 1:01 pm

Re: The government may (or at least has attempted to) step in and comprehensively revoke marriage authority from UCC pastors who attempt to skirt state law by holding ‘marriage’ or ‘wedding’ ceremonies without signing state marriage certificates.

I have to wonder if the flip side is going to happen. When gay marriage is legal, will their be legal or social sanctions against Christian clerics who refuse to marry too men or two women. I think not, but the point you make rather troubles me.

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Barry 04.25.13 at 3:13 pm

“I have to wonder if the flip side is going to happen. When gay marriage is legal, will their be legal or social sanctions against Christian clerics who refuse to marry too men or two women. I think not, but the point you make rather troubles me.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution

Are you really that stupid? Do you know of any cases where any denomination in the USA has been in legal trouble due to refusal to conduct marriages which violate that denomination’s principles?

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Uncle Kvetch 04.25.13 at 3:18 pm

why it is that cultural-liberals in certain states seem unwilling to have children

Citation needed.

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Uncle Kvetch 04.25.13 at 3:19 pm

Oh, sorry — you did write “seem,” so I guess you were just blowing smoke. Carry on, then.

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Tom Hurka 04.25.13 at 3:27 pm

A constructive account of the measurement of freedom is given in Ian Carter, A Measure of Freedom. It pretty effectively, to my mind, dispatches “value-based” conceptions of freedom like those of Charles Taylor, Ronald Dworkin, and in part, given the footnote quoted above, Berlin. The account isn’t, though, libertarian.

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Steve LaBonne 04.25.13 at 3:35 pm

I’m sure Hector can point us to the current regulations that force a church to marry any opposite-sex couple that walks in the door.

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Barry 04.25.13 at 3:42 pm

“I’m sure Hector can point us to the current regulations that force a church to marry any opposite-sex couple that walks in the door.”

But not to any regulations which actually exist now, in the real USA, as opposed to within his mind.

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SamChevre 04.25.13 at 5:19 pm

When gay marriage is legal, will their be legal or social sanctions against Christian clerics who refuse to marry too men or two women.

Maybe not against the clerics, but almost certainly against the churches. (Given that it’s already happening–churches have been successfully sued for not letting same-sex couples marry in their facilities (Ocean Grove).)

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Hector_St_Clare 04.25.13 at 5:22 pm

Re: Oh, sorry — you did write “seem,” so I guess you were just blowing smoke. Carry on, then.

Unkle Kvetch,

Nonreligious people tend to have about 1.5 children per woman, mainline Protestants and Catholics have about 2.0, evangelicals have about 2.4. Also, women with graduate degrees have only 1/4 the number of babies as women who didn’t finish high school.

Re: But not to any regulations which actually exist now, in the real USA,

What about England?

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Steve LaBonne 04.25.13 at 5:28 pm

Now SamChevre is just lying. He knows very well that the Ocean Grove decision was not about a church but about a tax exemption which a Methodist camp organization held on its beachfront pavilion, conditional on the pavilion being open to everyone. And furthermore it was about civil union ceremonies, not even weddings.

No church ever is or will be required to marry any heterosexual couple it doesn’t want to marry, and ditto for gay couples.

Conservatives need to stop lying. Of course, in that case they’ll have precious little to say.

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Mao Cheng Ji 04.25.13 at 6:18 pm

Hey, they did mess with Mormon marriages, didn’t they. It seems a bit far-fetched now, but in a decade it might look different. I bet most people here would’ve voted, given the chance, to revoke the tax-exempt status from a church that, for example, bans interracial marriages.

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Katherine 04.25.13 at 6:31 pm

But not to any regulations which actually exist now, in the real USA,

What about England?

Nonsense, there are no regulations in force or proposed that do or would force churches or other religious institutions to perform same-sex marriages. There was a great deal of discussion in this subject in fact, with the usual suspects getting their knickers in a twist even with a regulatory “triple lock” in place (I.e. three different safeguards).

You might I suppose be talking about the Equalities Act, which provides that people, bodies or institutions providing a service to the public may not discriminate on the basis of certain attributes. This does not apply to marriage.

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Barry 04.25.13 at 6:47 pm

Seconding Steve – see http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/judge-rules-christian-facility-cannot-ban-same-sex-civil-union-ceremony-on/

“Campbell believes the ruling was wrong on numerous grounds. Ocean Grove originally held a local property tax exemption, which required “equal access.” While the resort is open to all, he said nothing in the statute allows the public to make any use it wishes of Ocean Grove’s property. The facility has since received tax exempt status as a religious institution.

Metzger ruled that, since the facility allowed non-Christians to use its facility for marriage, it had no doctrinal limitations. But Methodists do not limit their sacramental ministry to Christians and historically do not recognize marriage as a sacrament. “

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Barry 04.25.13 at 6:50 pm

Me: “But not to any regulations which actually exist now, in the real USA,”

Katherine: “What about England?”

This reminds me of the trip to Niagara Falls with a Korean nursing student and her mother; we went through Detroit, and then stopped in Windsor to get breakfast at a McDonalds. The mother was very perplexed at the money she had received in change (that evening there was a spot of bother, because both of them were on one-time entry visas).

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Steve LaBonne 04.25.13 at 7:07 pm

I invite anyone to walk into a randomly selected church with a friend of the opposite sex and inform the minister that the church is obligated to marry you.

You’ll be invited to leave the premises. Politely, if you’re lucky.

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Barry 04.25.13 at 11:11 pm

Steve, flash a rainbow card, and tell them that you’re an agent of the UNAOP (United Nations Antichrist Obama Police). He’ll probably just keel over from fear, that he missed the Rapture.

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Katherine 04.26.13 at 9:00 pm

Barry, the statement “what about England” was not mine and should have been in italics like the previous paragraph. I was answering that question.

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