What’s left of libertarianism? (slightly updated)

by John Quiggin on August 9, 2014

The NY Times has a lengthy thumbsucker from Robert Draper, repackaging claims by Nick Gillespie of Reason that the “libertarian moment” has finally arrived. Jonathan Chait takes out the garbage on the dodgy opinion poll that is the primary factual basis for the story. Taking the implicit definition of libertarians as voters who take a hard-right line on economic issues (and are therefore Republicans or Republican-voting independents), but are liberal on drugs and sexual freedom issues, it seems to me that if anything, the chance of a libertarian moment is over. That’s because:

(i) the equal marriage fight has pretty much been won by Democrats, with libertarians mostly on the sidelines or, to the extent that they have been part of the Republican coalition, on the wrong side 1

(ii) the same will probably be true for marijuana legalisation, and broader drug law reform before long. The recent legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington follows a steady expansion of legal access under “medical marijuana” laws. Again, this has been done almost entirely by Democrats. Libertarians were more vocal on this issue than on equal marriage, but they stayed within the Republican coalition, and did nothing much to shift the position of that coalition.

Once the issues of drug law reform and equal marriage are off the table, there’s no obvious distinction between “libertarians” like Nick Gillespie and Republicans in general2. The possibility of a libertarian moment, if it ever existed, has passed.

Update Some libertarian commenters are upset that I didn’t give their side enough credit on drug law reform (no, AFAICT, has made such claims on equal marriage). But bragging rights aren’t really relevant. When equal marriage and legalisation are faits accomplis the fact that some Republicans supported them all along won’t be an important point of difference with those who are still unhappy about it.

Further update A reader on my Facebook post points to this technolibertarian event, in which Nick Gillespie, billed as a “conservatarian”, features, along with Rand Paul and racist homophobe Cathy McMorris Rodgers. Relevantly for this post, the article mentions the tactic of emphasising libertarian support for drug law reform and hiding links to the Republicans. As I’ve argued, this is a tactic which will become obsolete once drug law reform becomes a reality .


  1. There’s still a chance of a loss at the Supreme Court, in which case the issue will come down, for the medium term, to whether the Democrats win the 2016 Presidential election and the Senate, thereby getting to replace the inevitable retirements. In this context, anyone who votes Republican, whatever their views on social issues, is effectively opposing equal marriage. 

  2. On immigration, the libertarian line is much the same as that of big business. As regards scepticism about war, the same is true of the realist school associated with The National Interest (they publish me, and some libertarians as well as old-school realists). Moreover, as Iraq showed, the bulk of self-described libertarians turned out to be shmibertarians when the war drums started beating (see Glenn Reynolds). On gender issues, the libertarians are at best ambivalent (on abortion for example) but more often than not, on the wrong side. Notably, on issues like Hobby Lobby, property rights trump the personal freedom of employees

{ 237 comments }

1

Brett Bellmore 08.09.14 at 10:39 am

Well, of course, we’re not talking the “personal freedom of employees” in the Hobby Lobby case, because it’s not like the government is giving the employees any choice in the matter, at all. The government’s position is that Hobby Lobby can either give the employees the sort of insurance the government wants them to, or not give them insurance AT ALL, Hobby Lobby’s decision. And the employees are just along for the ride.

A “personal freedom of employees” law wouldn’t look like the ACA. It would be a change to the tax code, that allowed the employees to get the pre-tax status of employer provided health insurance, only for health insurance they bought themselves, or through any other organization. Then you’d have actual choices.

Government mandates DNE “choices”. That’s a fairly general rule.

2

Brett Bellmore 08.09.14 at 10:45 am

On the matter of some “libertarian moment”, I tend to agree. SSM is being achieved by judicial fiat. Nothing libertarian about that, and SSM can go away the same way, depending on the luck of the draw in Supreme court appointments, because nobody seems to have any interest in actually amending the Constitution to put it in there in the text.

Just a triumph of raw judicial power to say the Constitution magically means today what it didn’t mean yesterday, and may not mean tomorrow. To the extent libertarians treasure the rule of law as a bulwark against tyranny, a straight up defeat.

3

BenK 08.09.14 at 11:47 am

Indeed, anything like real libertarianism, classical liberalism, authentic communism, conservatism, Christianity, federalism, Buddhism, or any other coherent ism would look very different from the tyranny of the appetites married to a centralized legalism that is the present crazy state of affairs, apparently a triumph of the democrats according to Quiggen.

4

P.M.Lawrence 08.09.14 at 11:54 am

Taking the implicit definition of libertarians as voters who take a hard-right line on economic issues (and are therefore Republicans or Republican-voting independents), but are liberal on sexual freedom issue and drugs …

Well, you shouldn’t. That’s simply buying into the encroachment carried out by the likes of the Koch brothers. There’s far more to it than that, e.g. the mutualist Kevin Carson who describes himself as a “free market anti-capitalist” at his own blog and who these days mostly contributes at Center [sic] for a Stateless Society. There’s a large and thriving non-right wing strand of libertarians. Why, this very afternoon I attended a workshop on “Building a Left Libertarian Alliance” at the fourth annual Melbourne anarchist book fair at Abbotsford Convent.

For a political analyst, you make a good economist.

5

Zamfir 08.09.14 at 11:55 am

I thought libertarians were relatively in favour of action through judiciary decisions, as opposed to democratic decisions?

You often hear them talk about ‘tyranny of the majority’, ‘ a republic, not a democracy’, and similar skeptic remarks about rule through majority of votes. And on the other hand, libertarians tend to like to draw specific conclusions from high-level, abstract principles like natural rights. And they tend look favourable on using the court system to settle social debates, and skeptical on using politics for that goal.

In that light, I would have expected that libertarians see same sex marriage as a specific instance of old rights, not as something to be enacted by weight of numbers.

6

Brett Bellmore 08.09.14 at 12:20 pm

“I thought libertarians were relatively in favour of action through judiciary decisions, as opposed to democratic decisions?”

If there’s an actual legal/constitutional basis, yes, we’re in favor of constitutional guarantees being enforced judicially. However, the rule of law is very important to restraining government power, and rule by judicial fiat isn’t the same thing as a judiciary enforcing actual laws.

The government that can ignore the written law to advance liberty, is a government that can ignore written law to attack it.

Another way of putting this is, in such a moment of triumph for SSM, why didn’t John consider reviving the ERA, and getting it down in writing?

7

Abbe Faria 08.09.14 at 12:32 pm

I think John is talking complete nonsense about the impact of libertarians on marijuana legalisation and broader drug law reform.

Whatever the broader value of their ideology and whichever party allies itself closer to reform from here, libertarians have done an enormous amount of good and most the hard work in getting us where we are now. For 40 years it’s almost been their signature campaigning point; it’s something that is massively ideologically important for them, differentiates them from the main parties, and that they’ve been able to win public support over. They’ve been absolutely fundamental in getting ballot initiatives off the ground and taking the issue to where it is now.

8

Peter K. 08.09.14 at 12:37 pm

@4 ever since the Internet came online, I’ve been debating with right and left libertarians – i’m more of statist (democratically accountable that is) – working for a synthesis or towards a coalition.

The drug war, privacy rights, law enforcement, torture etc, in many ways I was a left libertarian, but found the right libertarians to be a waste of time. As Quiggin points out, Democrats are the only ones who’ve done anything worthwhile over marijuana legalization or gay marriage. All Reason and Gillespie do is complain where Democrats fall short (which is often admittedly).

And when the housing bubble and financial crisis caused an epic loss of freedom and liberty, did Reason have any second thoughts about their rightwing economics? Not at all. They’re a waste of time. And they hate Obamacare even though it’s now providing liberty and financial security to many thousands more than before.

To tie back into Quiggin’s post on Reagan, the conservative coalition is riven between two camps as everyone knows. Reagan was one who bridged them, but look a the third party candidates through the years. George Wallace against Nixon. John Anderson of the Rockefeller Republicans against Reagan. Ross Perot (was a mix) against Bush. Perot campaign on deficits and the giant sucking sound from the south. (I forget did he want to raise taxes?)

The glibertarians of the coalition need the votes of the religious, ethnic party of the South to enforce their economic legislation or else America would be much more like Western Europe.

9

Peter K. 08.09.14 at 12:41 pm

Perot pretty much wanted to run the country like a corporation with “sound finance.” So he’d probably like the Hobby Lobby decision where closely-held corporations can treat their employees as they wish without interference from government or the rest of society.

10

Damien 08.09.14 at 1:01 pm

It’s really bizarre that this poll is taken as proof of a coming *libertarian* movement when it explicitly says that people “accept the century-old consensus that government should ensure a certain basic standard of living for those who cannot find the means
to obtain it themselves and that government regulation of business is
necessary to protect the public interest. They support raising taxes to increase financial assistance to the poor, they think government should guarantee access to health care”.

74% think that the government should guarantee that people have enough to eat and a place to sleep, 69% health insurance and 68% a living wage. And when they tend to oppose redistribution, it’s because it’s framed in terms of reducing inequality rather than in terms of other more substantial policy goals, since they overwhelmingly support taxing people to provide food and housing to others.

11

Layman 08.09.14 at 1:15 pm

“If there’s an actual legal/constitutional basis, yes, we’re in favor of constitutional guarantees being enforced judicially.”

Another way to say this is that you like it when judges agree with you about what the Constitution says, and you don’t like it when they don’t. I feel the same way, and I’m not even a libertarian.

12

Layman 08.09.14 at 1:25 pm

Peter K @ 8
“ever since the Internet came online, I’ve been debating with right and left libertarians – i’m more of statist (democratically accountable that is) – working for a synthesis or towards a coalition.”

I’m wary of the efforts by liberals to find common ground with libertarians. There are a few common goals – ending the drug war, non-interventionist foreign policy, etc – but in the end libertarians want to dismantle the welfare state. I’m mindful of the example of the Republicans, who aligned with southern whites in order to win elections, and are now dominated by the rump racist core of their constituency. Lie down with dogs, so they say.

13

Anderson 08.09.14 at 1:27 pm

The classic definition of libertarianism as “fuck you, I’ve got mine” still holds good. I have more respect for most Republicans.

14

novakant 08.09.14 at 2:08 pm

the implicit definition of libertarians as voters who take a hard-right line on economic issues (and are therefore Republicans or Republican-voting independents), but are liberal on sexual freedom issue and drugs

Isn’t that definition a rather narrow one? cf.:

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

I am not a libertarian, but it’s a mystery to me how anybody who claims to be on the left today cannot be fundamentally opposed to the state when it comes to issues such as increasing curtailment of civil liberties, ever more powerful bureaucracy and ever expanding surveillance. Not to speak of the state acting in collusion with business keeping the good old military-industrial-security complex going at ever higher cost to people’s lives.

15

bob mcmanus 08.09.14 at 2:18 pm

Libertarianism survives and prospers. Quiggin’s two examples only confirm this.

The liberal consensus collapsed, or began to collapse, in 1968, liberating both conservatives and radicals. Conservatism became neoliberalism, liberalism became a conservatism seeking to protect and marginally expand to minorities the gains of 1848-1968, and radicals sought to redefine themselves with useful identities.

But the faith in incremental reformism and the inevitability of equality and liberty, or just a guarantee of improving standards of living for the masses, has been lost. Liberals, or even some reincarnation of the zombie Old Left, and the tools of the state, have proven themselves entirely useless to the people after the 2007 financial collapse.

The key to libertarianism is a lack of faith in the state and the benefits of citizenship. Gay marriage and maryjane decriminalization, effected by local option and grassroots mobilization, in direct and explicit confrontation (DOMA, for instance) with the Democratic Party and its technocracy, could only be considered a triumph of statist liberalism disingenuously.

(After Wallerstein; excluding East Asia)

16

bob mcmanus 08.09.14 at 2:19 pm

novakant at 14 covers the aspect of disillusionment with the state in security and military matters that I forgot

17

Peter K. 08.09.14 at 2:22 pm

@12
“Lie down with dogs, so they say.”

That’s not my fear. It’s just time and energy debating with them could be better spent elsewhere. You try to extend arguments of liberty and freedom to the economic sphere and they don’t want to hear it. Their minds are made up. As Krugman writes, they’re living in a fantasyland.

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/08/09/libertarian-fantasies/

The Supreme Court *did* have a pretty good unanimous libertarian recent decision over privacy rights and requiring law enforcement to get search warrants to search smart phone. So the left didn’t catch glibertarian cooties in that instance.

18

Quite Likely 08.09.14 at 2:23 pm

Does it matter that Democrats are ahead of libertarians on this stuff though? It doesn’t seem likely that the Republican base is going to give up on gay rights or the drug war any time soon, which means there would be a fairly long lasting split between Republicans who are still fighting those battles and those more ‘libertarian’ ones who have given up the ghost to focus on economic issues.

19

JHW 08.09.14 at 2:26 pm

I think it’s fairly likely that substantial bipartisan criminal justice reforms, in the area of drug law but also potentially elsewhere, are going to be put in place by coalitions by liberal Democrats and libertarian-leaning conservatives—think Cory Booker and Rand Paul. Democrats can’t do it alone because they won’t have most state legislatures or unified control of the federal government again for a long time. And the need for it is increasingly becoming mainstream.

20

Peter K. 08.09.14 at 2:27 pm

“Gay marriage and maryjane decriminalization, effected by local option and grassroots mobilization, in direct and explicit confrontation (DOMA, for instance) with the Democratic Party and its technocracy, could only be considered a triumph of statist liberalism disingenuously.”

Colorado and Washington are blue states not red states. The Democratic Supreme Court judges ruled to give Federal benefits to married couples. Roberts was looking at the state activism where blue states were legalizing gay marriage. Red states will be the last. The redest of the red Mississippi will be the very last.

What does MacManus suffer from? Democratic Party Derangement Syndrome?

21

Peter K. 08.09.14 at 2:28 pm

Well Colorado is purple but Boulder is blue. I imagine Denver is as well.

22

Tim Worstall 08.09.14 at 2:29 pm

“Taking the implicit definition of libertarians as voters who take a hard-right line on economic issues (and are therefore Republicans or Republican-voting independents), but are liberal on sexual freedom issue and drugs, it seems to me that if anything, the chance of a libertarian moment is over.”

Eh? Libertarians have largely got what you say they want as libertarians, rightie economics and more liberal sex and drugs laws. That libertarians have now got what you define them as wanting is therefore proof that the libertarian moment is over?

Isn’t that akin to stating that Obama won election therefore the Democratic Party is done and dusted?

23

Linnaeus 08.09.14 at 2:29 pm

novakant @14:

I am not a libertarian, but it’s a mystery to me how anybody who claims to be on the left today cannot be fundamentally opposed to the state when it comes to issues such as increasing curtailment of civil liberties, ever more powerful bureaucracy and ever expanding surveillance. Not to speak of the state acting in collusion with business keeping the good old military-industrial-security complex going at ever higher cost to people’s lives.

Well, there’s the rub. There certainly is a justifiable leftist suspicion of the state, especially in light of how the state’s machinery can (and has been) deployed against leftists and leftist politics, but it doesn’t follow from that that the libertarian prescription for organizing a society is necessarily better. I’m sure someone like Corey Robin can express this better than I can, but the way I see it, it would probably be more likely that business interests would collude with the state and the two would effective merge. Where they didn’t merge, it would be in cases where it wasn’t necessary because powerful private entities would be further empowered to act as they wish without the imprimatur of the state.

24

J Thomas 08.09.14 at 2:30 pm

The fundamental libertarian idea that coercion is wrong and should not be allowed, is not going to go away.

It is incomplete but still compelling.

People apply it in a big variety of ways, not at all limited to same sex marriage or marijuana.

Some people accentuate the idea that government should not be allowed to coerce people, and don’t consider as much the problem of people coercing other people.

And some people basicly figure that Mother Nature coerces people all the time, and sometimes it’s Mother Nature coercing people and not other people doing it. Like, if there is only one job available to you and you must take it or die, the person who offers you the job is not in any way coercing you to take it. Even if it’s partly his doing that there are no other jobs available, still it’s your free choice whether to take the offer or not.

These ideas about coercion are going to bounce around for a good long time, regardless of polls or specific goals like marijuana.

25

Peter K. 08.09.14 at 2:31 pm

@ 12 Layman,

I do agree with you about progressives trying to find common ground with libertarians over stuff like the UBI which Krugman discusses in the blog post above. So yeah you make a good point.

26

William Timberman 08.09.14 at 2:47 pm

I am not a libertarian, but it’s a mystery to me how anybody who claims to be on the left today cannot be fundamentally opposed to the state when it comes to issues such as increasing curtailment of civil liberties, ever more powerful bureaucracy and ever expanding surveillance. Not to speak of the state acting in collusion with business keeping the good old military-industrial-security complex going at ever higher cost to people’s lives.

This is the left’s problem, but make no mistake, it’s also everybody else’s problem as well. Social democracy can be institutionalized in a way that socialist revolutions after the Leninist model can’t be (Stalin to the contrary notwithstanding.) This makes them workable, but rickety, and easy prey to concentrated interests with independent sources of power. Movement conservatism, for example, is an odd duck, but even cobbled together as it is from a selection of monied loons like the Koch brothers and ragbags of atavist populism like the Dixie Christianists, it’s still more focused than the creaky liberal apparat in Washington left over from the New Deal/WWII/Cold War.

And yes, the institutions set up to fight the Depression were too easily repurposed to fight first WWII, and then the Communist Menace. Is anyone genuinely of the Left really surprised that those same institutions now want to fight everybody who isn’t wearing a neoliberal name tag?

This is where bob macmanus and Bruce Wilder collide, I think. Bruce, as an institutionalist, knows that you can’t get anything done with slogans. Bob, as a radical, knows that we haven’t solved the problem of the mutability of power. From each according to his ability, to each according to his need as a management problem cries out for gigantism of one kind or another, but institutional entropy is as fearful conundrum now as it ever was.

The bottom line: we’re all a bit confused. We’ll need more than a bit of luck to sort ourselves out.

27

Anarcissie 08.09.14 at 2:52 pm

I think it’s mildly funny that both ‘liberal’ and ‘libertarian’ are based on the Latin word for ‘free’, and both are, for the most part, models of authority. But nomenclature is confused, as usual. It’s noteworthy that a non-interventionist foreign policy is now considered liberal, when liberals have been interventionists (imperialists) of the most devoted sort for — centuries, one could say, and certainly until very recently, if they ever stopped. I thought Obama summed up the philosophy admirably when he said he was not against wars, but against stupid wars. In other words, smart, clever wars are OK. I think if you’re looking for anti-imperialism you need to look a little further. As for a ‘libertarian moment’, the young are being busted economically, and they know it, which does not bode well for the projection of fantasies about free-market capitalist utopias.

28

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© 08.09.14 at 2:53 pm

If libertarians don’t object to the ever-worsening police/surveillance state, what good are they?

I don’t count “Now that a Democrat is in charge of it, I have a problem.” Nor, “The Koch brothers have to pay too much in taxes, and it’s too hard for them to pollute the environment. Now for a brief word about our government’s torture program.”

So I’m fine with Glenn Greenwald criticizing the hell out of Obama. Obama deserves it. But Reason can go take a long hike off a short pier.
~

29

someguy88 08.09.14 at 3:14 pm

This post is just silly.

Wrong on the facts.

Regarding Same Sex Marriage.

http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/cato-cac-divided-groups-defend-gay-marriage-rights

and hilariously wrong regarding the war on drugs and crime.

Libertarians have been the absolute spearhead of the fight against the war on drugs. I am not even going to bother with any links. To claim otherwise is to completely flaunt ignorance. Reason – Cato – folks like Radley Balko have been in the fore front. From back in the days when it was whacky talk.

I am not discounting Progressives in that effort but too discount Libertarian from that effort is a horrible and stupid insult to Libertarians. I am conservative, so nice job, I want Libertarians to lean right. Thanks for helping.

The fight to end the war on drugs doesn’t fit nicely into any left right narrative. Plenty of conservatives support it. Soccer Moms a key Democratic base are the ones against it. Conservatives still have to periodically answer for Bill Buckley’s racism but I guess we don’t get any credit for his opposition to the war on drugs. Oh well the Liberal narrative in all it’s glory.

Besides insulting this post’s concluding logic is weird. So, once the Libertarians win and get the stuff they really didn’t want, Same Sex Marriage and end to the war on drugs, they cease to exist? Really? They are distinct from Republicans but once the distinctions end they disappear. Severe internal consistency issues.

But I guess if Crooked Timber didn’t periodically vilify Libertarians it would stop being Crooked Timber.

30

stevenjohnson 08.09.14 at 3:30 pm

Libertarianism is all about how private individuals should be able to exercise their liberties and privileges untrammeled by the state, an institution over which people without money supposedly have some influence.

Privatization of public services is a main tenet of libertarianism. Therefore…
Military contractors are libertarianism in action and it isn’t anti-imperialist.
NSA contractors are also libertarianism in action and it isn’t against surveillance.
Destruction of public schools is libertarianism in action too.

The libertarian moment in the form of a replacement of the Republican Party by the Libertarian Party may never come, but libertarianism in action has and won’t go away.
The intersection of neoliberalism and libertarianism parallels the intersection of imperialism and conservatism in neoconservatism.

31

Layman 08.09.14 at 3:51 pm

“I am not a libertarian, but it’s a mystery to me how anybody who claims to be on the left today cannot be fundamentally opposed to the state when it comes to issues such as increasing curtailment of civil liberties, ever more powerful bureaucracy and ever expanding surveillance. Not to speak of the state acting in collusion with business keeping the good old military-industrial-security complex going at ever higher cost to people’s lives.”

People can claim to be whatever they want – like GWB claiming to be a ‘compassionate’ conservative. It’s hard to credit that people like Feinstein, Clinton, or Obama are ‘on the left’. I suppose they’re left of what passes for the center these days, but Hubert Humphrey they ain’t. These days, we’re governed within a very narrow range of the poltical spectrum, which runs the gamut from P all the way to Q…

32

Ze Kraggash 08.09.14 at 3:59 pm

The feud between liberals (even the American-style liberals) and right-libertarians seems like a clear case of narcissism of small differences. What is their disagreement about, the exact scale of government authority? To the same end: to expand our freedom and ensure capitalist prosperity, right? Why quarrel and insult each other?

33

Lee A. Arnold 08.09.14 at 4:00 pm

William Timberman #25: “The bottom line: we’re all a bit confused.”

I like all of what you write here, but I want to know what the source of the “confusion” is. And to sort that out, let’s look at two confusions, the confusion of labels, then the confusion in the System.

I gave up labels a long time ago. I’ve got good, dear friends on the far left and on the far right. They know what I believe, but they don’t know how to categorize me.

Here is what I believe. I rarely write this, because I think it’s what many, or even most, people believe, so it’s kind of boring:

I think it should be possible to be opposed to “more powerful bureaucracy and ever-expanding surveillance” (Novakant #14), but while cognizant of the problems of fighting terrorism, and while in support of increased government spending to counteract increasing inequality. I think that the US and the West have created some of its own terrorist problems by being the hegemons, but I am sure that simply placating antagonists (e.g. the Palestinians) doesn’t always work. I think that capitalism is inevitably going to push more and more people out the bottom, and so government growth will be a necessary requirement. Small business is good but I think big business is also necessary, and private decision-making in it is necessary. Yet I see no reason to trust big businesses, and the notion that they are restrained by competition is a farce. Similarly, government could be better-run in theory, but the reality is that voters have low comprehension skills and some politicians are crooks. But I think less government, “minarchism”, would be an even worse mistake, because comprehension skills are up against cognitive boundaries (climate change being a notable current example).

Okay, so here is the question: What is the LABEL for this position? I don’t think I’m a libertarian, because I think that changing the existing forms of organization in the name of “liberty”, may gain you worse stuff in return. But am I on the left, or the right? Maybe neither. I don’t think I am a “centrist”, because that sounds like a defense of the System, which I think needs constant monitoring and improvement. Maybe I am an active centrist, a passionate centrist?

Anyway, it doesn’t matter. Except that there is one confusion, in the labels.

Here is the other confusion. And this gets back to your point, William.

Our system works by prices and votes. Businesses are held in check by prices, and governments are held in check by voting. Prices and votes, as Hazel Henderson once pointed out, are our two main society-wide decision-making systems. Each no better or worse than the other.

But it looks like both are breaking down. Prices and votes come up short as regulating mechanisms, due to formal limitations on individual cognition — limitations which are imposed by size and complexity, i.e. the size of our organizations, and the complexity of the exterior environmental problems.

So the problem may not be the mutability of power, which was ever thus, but a problem in the response to power, due to limited cognition (by time, by attention) in individuals.

To whom a new institution, proposed to solve a problem, just looks like another big unknowable problem.

We have to consider that we may be at the historical moment where another big organization will be deemed a failure, a sickness, beforehand — at the exact same time as individual liberty is already failing.

From each according to his debility, to leech according to his sneeze?

34

Layman 08.09.14 at 4:21 pm

“The feud between liberals (even the American-style liberals) and right-libertarians seems like a clear case of narcissism of small differences. What is their disagreement about, the exact scale of government authority?”

Liberals want social democracy, regulation of capital, and a welfare state; while libertarians want primacy of property rights, a small police force, and nothing else. It’s not a small difference.

35

Layman 08.09.14 at 4:28 pm

@ Lee Arnold

“What is the LABEL for this position? “

I’m struggling to find anything in your articulated position that would not apply to, say, FDR. So you’re a liberal. If not, why not?

36

Luke 08.09.14 at 4:35 pm

I think the relationship between libertarianism and neoliberalism is fascinating. I mean, Hayek was very influential on the broad reaction against the New Deal, including people like Rand, but your typical Randite or libertarian seems to be (?) opposed to the unlimited government intervention (so long as it is not ‘distorting’) that neoliberal doctrines sanction. On the other hand, the recrudescence of eugenics/racial science in the form of ‘evolutionary psycholgy’ and what looks an awful lot like Spencerian or Malthusian moralism, the shrill denunciations of any violation of property rights, the ‘I’ve got mine’-ism etc. seem to be important populist manifestations of neoliberal politics. Is libertarianism a kind of vulgar neoliberalism?

37

Peter K. 08.09.14 at 4:36 pm

@ 21 Worstall

“Eh? Libertarians have largely got what you say they want as libertarians, rightie economics…”

But the pendulum could be swinging back on economics. The point Chait makes is that the younger generations aren’t libertarian on the economy as the glibs’ tampered polling would have it. Obama was elected and re-elected in part by the youth vote. And Obama successfully interevened in the economy with Obamacare (which includes higher taxes) and Dodd-Frank, both first term accomplishments.

The epic housing bubble-free market cluster!@$ financial crisis means libertarians’ time could be here? The government saved the entire financial system. The strangling of the economy via austerity means libertarians’ time could be here? I don’t think so.

38

Layman 08.09.14 at 4:38 pm

“I think that the US and the West have created some of its own terrorist problems by being the hegemons, but I am sure that simply placating antagonists (e.g. the Palestinians) doesn’t always work.”

This is a small point, but we must acknowledge that the Palestinians gave up international terrorism decades ago, almost certainly because they were placated, e.g. Invited to negotiate directly, given a seat at the table, offered a two-state solution, allowed to form a government, etc.

I’m sure some Israel supporters will say that Pakestinians are still terrorists, but when was the last terrorist attack against the west organized by Fatah, or the PA? Hamas carries out some attacks against Israel, and some of those attacks are terrorist attacks; but Hamas is much more an Islamist organization than a Palestinian one; and in any event their targets and motivation are local, not global.

39

The Temporary Name 08.09.14 at 4:44 pm

Gary North received the “Murray N. Rothbard Medal of Freedom: In recognition of significant and wide-ranging libertarian leadership, as a scholar or public intellectual” – from the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

He thinks people should be killed for blasphemy.

40

Lee A. Arnold 08.09.14 at 4:53 pm

Layman #33: “So you’re a liberal. If not, why not?”

If you mean “US liberal”, maybe I am, though I am less certain (though I don’t know FDR’s inner thoughts) that most people can understand enough to make democracy work in the case of an imprecisely predictable external threat. Climate change is a case in point, though the Axis powers in WWII might qualify and demonstrate what FDR would do in that case, although they were more than an imprecise threat. So maybe some more weather problems will tip the scales.

If you mean “Western (Enlightenment) liberal”, then I might be, except that I am not nearly as anti-government, and do not have as much faith that people will take the lessons of science, and I do not have as much faith that science can explain everything for the illumination of morality.

So maybe I’m a “post-liberal” (in either sense of “liberal”) or “post-modern liberal” but I think that misses the extreme quality of attention that we should be giving this problem, since I always think of post-modernism as being lazy.

41

Lee A. Arnold 08.09.14 at 5:11 pm

Layman #36: “I’m sure some Israel supporters will say that Pakestinians are still terrorists, but when was the last terrorist attack against the west organized by Fatah, or the PA? Hamas carries out some attacks against Israel, and some of those attacks are terrorist attacks; but Hamas is much more an Islamist organization than a Palestinian one; and in any event their targets and motivation are local, not global.”
I think this is almost entirely true. I have been taking loads of guff for saying the same thing. I further think that Israel, as the one having the upper hand and presumably attuned to Western Enlightenment values, should devise policies that start to divide the Palestinians into the warmongers and the peacelovers, which might start to drive a wedge into the Israelis too, between the peacemakers and the far right.

I am not so sure about the second part of this. From ISIS in Iraq/Syria we are hearing calls for a worldwide Caliphate, and this must have enormous religious resonance on the dispossessed (Sunnis) everywhere.

42

PatrickinIowa 08.09.14 at 5:12 pm

Layman #33: “So you’re a liberal. If not, why not?”

The Civil Rights movement. Vietnam. Jamie Dimon. Robert Kennedy approving wiretapping MLK. Welfare Reform. The Iraq invasion vote. The Patriot Act. John Roberts as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The ERA. Kyoto. And on and on and on. Liberals came around, some of them on some things, but almost always late in the game. I think “Letter from the Birmingham Jail,” explains it quite nicely.

J. Thomas at #23

“The fundamental libertarian idea that coercion is wrong and should not be allowed.” That’s what they say, but American libertarians usually mean, “The fundamental libertarian idea that government coercion is usually wrong and usually should not be allowed.” They don’t seem to be able to even perceive other threats to liberty, much less object to them: http://www.cnet.com/news/judge-rejects-324-5m-wage-fixing-settlement-struck-by-apple-google-others/.

43

Layman 08.09.14 at 5:13 pm

‘If you mean “US liberal”, maybe I am, though I am less certain (though I don’t know FDR’s inner thoughts) that most people can understand enough to make democracy work in the case of an imprecisely predictable external threat. Climate change is a case in point, though the Axis powers in WWII might qualify and demonstrate what FDR would do in that case, although they were more than an imprecise threat. So maybe some more weather problems will tip the scales.’

This brings to mind Churchill’s quip about democracy. Undoubtably an authoritarian regime would be more able to respond to vague threats – and keep the trains running on time – but it is not at all clear to me they’d be better at seeing them. As to climate change, it seems to me that it’s the absence of liberals in power which causes the inaction here.

Liberals of FDR’s generation would have responded to the Great Recession by nationalizing (briefly) the too-big-to-fail banks, and regulating them back into their safe boxes; would have funded labor programs to ease unemployment; and would have taken advantage of historically low interest rates to fund an entire generation’s worth of infrastructure improvements. Since that’s what we need, we need views like theirs.

44

Layman 08.09.14 at 5:26 pm

“I am not so sure about the second part of this. From ISIS in Iraq/Syria we are hearing calls for a worldwide Caliphate, and this must have enormous religious resonance on the dispossessed (Sunnis) everywhere.”

Are there dispossessed Sunnis everywhere? It’s my impression that there are few Muslim countries where Sunnis don’t control the reigns of power. Iran is an exception, as are Iraq (now) and Syria.

That aside, we really must stop seeing existential threats everywhere. ISIS is a threat to Shi’a Iraqis and the Shi’a-dominated government of Iraq. They’re clearly bad people, but they wouldn’t last 5 minutes if Iran took a hand. Why us? Doesn’t that just exacerbate the ‘hegemony’ problem you raised? The libertarians are right on this matter, though I suspect they’re right in the same way a broken clock is occasionally right.

45

J Thomas 08.09.14 at 5:27 pm

Okay, so here is the question: What is the LABEL for this position?

You are a pragmatist. You flirt with various ideologies but in each case you look for practical actions even when the nice-sounding ideologies appear to demand something that won’t work.

Rejecting ideologies in favor of what you think will work, is a clear, easy-to-explain position in the abstract. But for specific issues it does not say what you will champion because it does not say what you think will work, as opposed to what somebody else thinks will work.

46

Layman 08.09.14 at 5:30 pm

Patrick in Iowa, my question did not mean “why not be a liberal”, but “how are the views you espouse distinguishable from liberalism”. Sorry for the imprecision, and thank you for that excellent list of examples demonstrating the ills of representative democracy!

47

Lee A. Arnold 08.09.14 at 5:50 pm

Layman #42: “It’s my impression that there are few Muslim countries where Sunnis don’t control the reigns of power.”

And the religious Sunnis are happy in these countries? It is my impression that this is distinctly not the case, and the rulers are having an increasingly hard time keeping the lid on it.

This may not mean anything at this very moment, but it could mean a lot in the future. Palestine, though a local problem at this moment, has future potential as one of several rallying-cries. It looks like a general battle-cry is one of the few things that Hamas is hoping to keep alive.

What is “seeing existential threats everywhere”? Should we stop seeing an existential threat in climate change? I thought this conversation would stay in the real world.

ISIS poses an immediate danger to Kurdistan, and everybody who loves liberty (presumably, libertarians) ought to be concerned. The Kurds treat the other people the best, and I am glad to see that Obama is making that an explicit tenet of foreign policy.

Iran’s abilities are limited to infantry and inaccurate air support. I think their air support is already involved. But Iran couldn’t defeat Saddam’s army, and Saddam’s military leaders are directing ISIS. That is a main reason ISIS is far succeeding. ISIS has figured this out.

I think entry of US into this is unfortunately unavoidable, unless it wants Iran to control all the oil fields on the way to Mosul. Yes, of course it exacerbates the hegemony, and invites more blowback and terror.

48

David 08.09.14 at 5:53 pm

Indeed, this is the narcissism of small differences. Liberals and libertarians have converging (though not identical) agendas in the creation of the perfect market and the perfectly non-discriminatory society. They converge in the creation of an utterly homogeneous society where the only activities are maximizing economic and social freedom. But since neither a perfect market nor a perfectly non-discriminatory society are actually feasible, the fight in each case will have to go on indefinitely, albeit about smaller and smaller issues. Certainly in Europe the success of the gay marriage lobby has not slowed the social liberal agenda – if anything it’s encouraged it, with new targets to do with family law and “gender-neutral” education, for example.
In any event, both of these tendencies are political movements, and they can no more rest on their laurels than a cyclist can come to a dead halt without falling over.

49

Layman 08.09.14 at 6:15 pm

“What is “seeing existential threats everywhere”?”

Invading Iraq in the first place to stop them from destroying America with their nuclear weapons. Staying in Iraq after we found no WMD, because we had to fight ‘em over there rather than fight ‘em over here. Now we’ll be sucked back in because of the ‘clear and present threat’ of ISIS.

“Should we stop seeing an existential threat in climate change?”

Nope.

” But Iran couldn’t defeat Saddam’s army”

…which no longer exists.

What should we do to defend Kurdistan (whatever that is) from ISIS? And when that doesn’t work, what then?

50

Abbe Faria 08.09.14 at 6:17 pm

“Colorado and Washington are blue states not red states.”

Yeah, but legalisation was through popular ballot initiative – which is a strategy libertarians have run and focused on since at least 1972. I really think people are trying to write out of history libertarians role in this. What’s happening now is the culmination of a very long running strategy, once reform happens this is be a big libertarian success.

51

mrearl 08.09.14 at 7:26 pm

Dammit, if I hear “existential threat” one more time I’m going to fwow up.

52

John Quiggin 08.09.14 at 7:47 pm

Anyone can claim credit for a ballot initiative. But the hard yards on drug law reform were done by states allowing “medical” marijuana (well understood to be quasi-legalisation). That was done almost entirely by Democrats. I’ve updated the post to reflect this.

In any case, bragging rights are largely irrelevant. When equal marriage and legalisation are faits accomplis the fact that some Republicans supported them all along won’t be an important point of difference with those who are still unhappy about it.

53

John Quiggin 08.09.14 at 7:52 pm

Layman @11 wins the thread!

54

bob mcmanus 08.09.14 at 8:11 pm

In 1984 the Berkeley School Board passed domestic partner legislation, I’m sure by mostly Democrats, but I don’t think credit should accrue to Tip O’Neill and Robert Byrd.

That Washington and Colorado decriminalized marijuana largely in the face of resistance from Washington Democrats is I think a more important indicator of political trends than any collapse of organized right libertarianism. That on many policy implementations Democrats in Washington are moving to state’s rights or local options, independence and autonomous implementation and control by smaller political units denotes a devolution of liberalism that the Party of the Civil Rights Era would not recognize. Medicare and Equal Housing and EPA weren’t done this way.

55

LFC 08.09.14 at 8:36 pm

Layman:
Now we’ll be sucked back in because of the ‘clear and present threat’ of ISIS.

No, I don’t think so. Obama has made clear he has no intention of reintroducing U.S. ground forces (the several hundred American mil. personnel currently there are in an advisory/training mode). Not every single use of force by a (or in this case, the) major military power is *automatically* illegitimate, and at the moment this seems like a case of humanitarian intervention (I know that phrase can be and has been abused) backed by selective air strikes. Given ISIS’s extremely unsavory character and recent successes, I would say the current moves are justified. The more difficult questions will arise if it turns out that the Kurds and the Iraqi army, following the formation of some kind of hoped-for ‘natl unity’ govt in Baghdad, remain unable to check ISIS’s advance. I don’t think ISIS/ISIL (or whatever acronym is correct) presently represents an ‘existential’ threat to very much beyond the region, but I wd incline to be somewhat more concerned about it, from a narrow threat perspective, than about al-Shabab, AQ in the Maghreb, Boko Haram, AQ in the Arabian Peninsula, etc.

56

LFC 08.09.14 at 8:43 pm

p.s.
or prob the Afghan or Pakistani Taliban, for that matter (though one might debate that, I suppose).

57

roger gathman 08.09.14 at 8:44 pm

I imagine that the starting point for the left, as opposed to liberalism, is to refuse to credit the legal distinction between the state and the private corporation as a fundamental one: from the leftist point of view, statist policies are carried through by, among other things, corporations, just as capital carries through the policies that engross its power through the state. They interpenetrate. From this point of view, libertarianism is an extreme form of mystification. Practically, however, I suppose libertarian activists could be valuable in struggling against the drug war or warmongering in general. It is just that in America, at least, libertarians are pretty much a very tiny minority, just like leftists. Ironically, it is a minority financed mostly by corporations mainly in the petroleum sector, which are so obviously dependent on the state (can you say interstate highway system) and have been majorly important in developing postwar american foreign policy – with its petroleum biases – that the libertarians mostly come off as dispensable pawns. When, occasionally, they get pure and come out against, say, the government supported export import bank – http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2014/06/ex_im_bank_and_koch_brothers_the_libertarian_campaign_to_kill_the_export.2.html

the gop gets pretty upset. Money quote from the slate article:

“It’s unfortunate that we have to do this in an election year,” says Christopher Wenk, senior director of international policy at the Chamber of Commerce. “This really is an inside-the-Beltway game that’s being played right now. We’re in a difficult place right now, but we’re pushing. I don’t sense that there’s a massive grassroots opposition to Ex-Im. I sense there are groups in town that feel really strongly about Ex-Im.”

58

LFC 08.09.14 at 8:49 pm

@ r gathman
Ex-Im Bank issue splits some groups that are otherwise aligned on some things. Is the Club for Growth a libertarian group? They’re opposed to Ex-Im.
http://howlatpluto.blogspot.com/2014/06/more-evidence-of-business-populist.html

59

engels 08.09.14 at 9:22 pm

My favourite Brett Bellmore objection to gay marriage is the one about how he is now forced to clarify, when telling people he is a married man, husband, or whatever, that he’s not gay. Well worth Googling (would do myself if I had 5 mins).

60

Bruce Wilder 08.09.14 at 9:37 pm

Brett’s not teh gay!???

61

engels 08.09.14 at 9:40 pm

Re US ‘libertarianism': I found out the other day that Reason magazine wrote in support of apartheid SA in the 80s and published a special edition, in 1976, devoted to Holocaust denial:

http://pando.com/2014/07/28/as-outrage-grows-reason-editor-rejects-proof-denies-that-magazine-denied-the-holocaust/

62

engels 08.09.14 at 9:49 pm

The thread ended with the suggestion that he have ‘I AM NOT GAY,’ tattooed on his forehead, if memory serves. The internet does not record whether or not he took it up.

63

Bruce Wilder 08.09.14 at 10:24 pm

David @ 48: Liberals and libertarians have converging (though not identical) agendas in the creation of the perfect market and the perfectly non-discriminatory society.

Conservative libertarians have stolen the rhetorical vocabularies of liberalism and socialism (especially the anarchic variety) to create the illusion of a shared agenda and make the Left stupid and impotent. Liberals in the American sense of weak-tea social democrats do not share any kind of agenda with conservative libertarians, which is why libertarians rarely show up to back any liberal desiderata, and when they do show up, it is usually an attempt to pour sugar in the gas tank or stick a banana in the tailpipe.

As a political strategy, it works really well. Historically, during the 1950s Cold War, liberals were pressured by the Right into marginalizing the socialist and communist left. When the Cold War began to fade away as a concern in the late 1960s, they came up with the ” ‘classic’ liberal” rhetoric of Milton Friedman, and Friedman drew the liberals into the deathgrip of the sterile dialectic between neoliberals and conservative libertarians, with which we are so familiar today. Liberals, hopeful of a dialogue, will happily concede that “the debate” is over, say, the size of government, never noticing how accepting a libertarian’s framework numbs the mind. It’s learned helplessness at a mature stage now, as evidenced in the liberal hand wringing over “inequality” — as abstract, bloodless and toothless a framing as could possibly be imagined.

64

Bruce Wilder 08.09.14 at 10:34 pm

engels @ 61

Years ago, Colorado had a voter initiative that made it unconstitutional for local municipalities to enact non-discrimination protections for gays and lesbians. I have forgotten the exact wording, but it fell sufficiently afoul of the 14th amendment’s equal protection clause that the U.S. Supreme Court struck it down. I had not followed the controversy, wasn’t particularly interested, but by chance channel-surfing, I stumbled onto Virginia Postrel being interviewed on my local CableTV public affairs channel. I knew her slightly, so I listened. (Virginia was a long-time Reason editor and contributer — fiercely smart.) Postrel was aghast that the Supreme Court would enforce the 14th amendment. It was a real light-dawns-on-Marblehead moment for me, as I realized that her freedom rhetoric was just a smokescreen for authoritarianism.

65

Bruce Wilder 08.09.14 at 10:40 pm

LFC @ 55: Obama has made clear he has no intention of reintroducing U.S. ground forces (the several hundred American mil. personnel currently there are in an advisory/training mode).

We’ve never heard that one, before.

I understand from Obama, we “tortured some folks” with the best of intentions.

Did you have a special form of lobotomy? Was it covered by the health insurance you liked and kept?

66

Layman 08.09.14 at 10:46 pm

“Look, man, I ain’t fallin’ for no banana in my tailpipe!”

67

Abbe Faria 08.09.14 at 11:08 pm

“Anyone can claim credit for a ballot initiative. But the hard yards on drug law reform were done by states allowing “medical” marijuana (well understood to be quasi-legalisation). That was done almost entirely by Democrats”

No they weren’t. In the overwhelming majority of states the law was changed though ballot initiatives or outside the legislature.

The people who can claim credit for ballot initiatives are the people who wrote them and campaigned for them, libertarian hands have been all over this for ages. For the record, the first state level legalisation of medical marijuana was in California Proposition 21 in 1996 written by Steve Kubby the 1998 Libertarian Party candidate for Governor of California. Both the big campaigning organisations NORML and MPP are heavily libertarian.

“In any case, bragging rights are largely irrelevant. When equal marriage and legalisation are faits accomplis…”

Well, there’s still a long way before drug legalisation.

68

Collin Street 08.09.14 at 11:09 pm

> I understand from Obama, we “tortured some folks” with the best of intentions.

Obama’s training/background is, as I understand it, as a “community organiser”, which — as I understand it — largely involves getting people to change their behaviours without realising that they’ve done so.

What he’s done on torture is perfectly congruent with “community organiser trying to stop torture by getting buy-in from the torturers”, and I’m not seeing any reason to think otherwise.

[we can distinguish here the torture case from the bank-bailout and drone-murder cases, where it's reasonably clear that Obama's on the wrong side of history.]

Tactically you could argue that his approach is a bad choice here. I would agree.

69

Bruce Wilder 08.10.14 at 12:05 am

we can distinguish here the torture case from the bank-bailout and drone-murder cases

I guess I’m not seeing the distinction, because hiring John O Brennan as CIA director looks a lot like staffing Treasury with Goldman Sachs and Citibank alums.

Obama acts like the sort of Community Organizer, who took his tin cup to the local real estate developer mogul on the same day as he visited the home of some drunk used-to-want-to-be-a-steelworker, and, after smelling the drunk’s children and seeing the offices, decided he was in the wrong business.

70

LFC 08.10.14 at 12:08 am

BWilder @65
I don’t quite undertstand yr comment, unless you’re referring to O’s statements about Afghanistan during the ’08 campaign, which as I recall were on the equivocal side but didn’t preclude the course (in retrospect, prob. mistaken) that he took in Dec 09 when he announced the Afghanistan ‘surge’. I don’t recall that he broke campaign promises re Iraq — promised to draw down and withdraw US forces, and did. One shd never say never, but my guess is it wd take something more than the current sit. by far to get US ground forces reintroduced in Iraq.

I am critical of the drone use, the Asian pivot, and various other aspects of O’s for. policy, but I assume it’s your irrational hatred of Obama and all his works that has driven you to the level of insult here.

Your quote from him about torture is less than relevant, since it’s acknowledged that the worst abuses in that respect took place during the GW Bush admin, and since the issuance of the exec order banning torture on the 2nd day of Obama’s first term my impression is that ‘enhanced interrogation’ has no longer been a regular practice — tho of course I’m not privy to classified or other such info. The failure to close G.Bay is a reasonable ground for criticism, tho much of the blame for that has to be laid at Congress’ door.

Otherwise I’m assuming you view statements of US presidents as simply tissues of lies and deceit on all subjects at all times, and assimilate all of them to the standards of RMN. Which I don’t. So I wd be careful about throwing around accusations of having been lobotomized: glass houses, and all that.

(Oh yes, one last thing: my health insurance is none of your ******* business.)

71

LFC 08.10.14 at 12:12 am

The “tortured some folks” remark was Obama on the recent Senate Cte report, which AIUI covers the Bush pd. Though Obama regrettably has apparently waffled on the issue of redactions etc.

72

Brett Bellmore 08.10.14 at 12:13 am

“Postrel was aghast that the Supreme Court would enforce the 14th amendment.”

That, I very much doubt. That she was aghast that the Supreme court would so interpret the 14th amendment, THAT I can believe.

There’s a school of thought that the Constitution should just be interpreted to mean whatever is thought to be good, without regard to text or history. I guess it’s understandable that people who approach the Constitution in this manner would conflate not agreeing that the Constitution means some thing, with believing that something isn’t good.

But that’s only to say that one mistake begets another.

73

LFC 08.10.14 at 12:15 am

C Street
Obama’s training/background is, as I understand it, as a “community organiser”, which — as I understand it — largely involves getting people to change their behaviours without realising that they’ve done so

This is nonsense, as a summary of his “training/background,” which encompasses more than that, and even more as a description of community organizing.

74

Collin Street 08.10.14 at 12:28 am

W’ev. Point remains that Obama’s words are about what you’d expect someone to say who was trying to build a consensus against torture that included people who tortured.

So it’s reasonable to think that he’s trying to build a consensus against torture that includes people who tortured. Which is what I think he’s doing. I don’t think this is a good strategic choice — I think the intelligence agencies should be pressured until they fold or launch a coup attempt — but I think it’s what he’s doing.

75

Lee A. Arnold 08.10.14 at 12:42 am

Bruce Wilder “64: “the liberal hand wringing over “inequality” — as abstract, bloodless and toothless a framing”

It isn’t even a framing though. It is barely inchoate. Neoclassical economics identifies like around 6 (?) different major causes of inequality, never mind the minor, so the next question is, how is this to be thought about, in 25 words or less? Because that’s all most people will allow from you, before their attention is diverted.

“I understand from Obama, we “tortured…”

Might that remark play out as a token of honesty in international diplomacy? That is certainly not something we hear from Presidents everyday. Of course they all know in private that things are hideous. But what are you willing to admit to publicly is a moral intention to consequences too (just look at how both sides are lacking in the Palestine problem, once again…)

Obama would also be thinking of setting-up the best possible rhetorical positions for his successor, and betting on it heavily being Hillary.

76

Lee A. Arnold 08.10.14 at 1:15 am

On John Quiggin’s top post and previous one, I agree that libertarianism is finished, except as goofy hot slogan from Rand Paul. Which is part of its current PR positioning I suppose.

And not only is the mishmash of general libertarianism gone past its sell-by date. Also the more pointed and toxic “market” libertarianism is on shaky legs.

It is true that Thatcher and Reagan were just the opportune symbols for a larger global resurgence of the economic elite, but rhetoric has its consequences too. In the US, attachment to Reagan’s speech ideas sent the Right off into 30 more years of fantasizing about the virtues of free-market numbskulleries, all the while denying the growth of inequality under the deregulated plutocracy.

It seems to me now that Reagan was the beginning of the end, because he was so unlucky to be the “great man” who relied intellectually upon the phony hidden-bubble economics.

The US right in the future will find itself forced into accommodation to avoid unrest and violence in the streets of the homeland, and the welfare state is going to get bigger.

77

LWA (Liberal With Attitude) 08.10.14 at 1:45 am

Was it the libertarian argument of being left alone that led to victory in the same sex marriage battle, or was it the communitarian argument that marriage had a positive effect on society, whether the couples were same or different sexes?

78

The Temporary Name 08.10.14 at 2:00 am

There are more than two decent arguments that are winning the same-sex marriage battle, “why can’t he/she have what I can have” being a good’un.

79

Meredith 08.10.14 at 2:38 am

“Liberals want social democracy, regulation of capital, and a welfare state; while libertarians want primacy of property rights, a small police force, and nothing else. It’s not a small difference.” Layman’s comment here raises what strikes me as the most puzzling thing about libertarianism, its complete and utter lack of any real theory of property (as far as I can tell — someone correct me if I am wrong). Property is a social construct, dependent on institutions (a good deal more than a small police force) that enable its coming into being as well as its maintenance. Meum and tuum depend, finally, on a notion of nostrum. Libertarianism seems to rest on a massively naive notion of what a human being is, of what human beings are.

80

engels 08.10.14 at 3:02 am

“We tortured some folks.”

81

godoggo 08.10.14 at 3:23 am

Hey, just like Maxspeak!

82

engels 08.10.14 at 3:40 am

And I would have gotten away with obvious-joke-plagiarism if it wasn’t for you meddling kids!

83

godoggo 08.10.14 at 4:24 am

Damn Kamasi tore it up last night.

84

Bruce Wilder 08.10.14 at 7:13 am

Lee A. Arnold:

It isn’t even a framing though. It is barely inchoate. Neoclassical economics identifies like around 6 (?) different major causes of inequality, never mind the minor, so the next question is, how is this to be thought about, in 25 words or less? Because that’s all most people will allow from you, before their attention is diverted.

Your comment sent me off on a long ponder concerning what constitutes “neoclassical economics” and what “it” can be said to say.

I think you could make a pretty good case that neoclassical economics is the doctrine of a kind of secular, civic religion and what it says about the distribution of income and wealth tends to be more legitimating than explanatory in a scientific sense, but the same analytic apparatus — or one very much like it — could be used to construct a de-legitimating doctrine, as well. Marx did that with the classical economics of Ricardo to great effect.

What matters is whether you can hypnotize people, and create potent emotional associations with key concepts or terms. If you have embedded the framework hypnotically, then you can use slogans of very few words to evoke the emotional resonance and motivate coordinated political action. Very simple, iconic or archetypal stories may make a strong impression; they don’t have to make much sense, just be emotionally potent.

One difficulty is that a de-legitimizing doctrinal analysis of inequality deals in unpleasant emotions: fear, resentment, paranoia, isolation, vulnerability, insecurity, impotence, a sense of living in an arbitrary, dangerous and unjust world. A politically powerful analysis has to be not only brief, but offer, as positive reinforcement for accepting a particular understanding, a way forward, a way to relieve unpleasant tensions and experience hope and even a sense of mastery that one is passing toward a more secure or just world.

In this light, we might consider the common piety that education and “skills” justify higher incomes. Economists talk of skills-biased technical change, and recommend social and individual investment in education. It’s pious and legitimating. The rich are smarter — that’s why they’re rich — but if you, or your children, get smarter and better educated, you will also get richer — mastery of a hazardous world, packaged and delivered!

An alternative truth might, arguably, be that the rich are rich, because they have greater political power, and they exercise that political power to dominate and exploit their employees. Employers organize to hold down wages and prevent workers from organizing to press wage demands. Producers organize to suppress competition and increase prices, limit liability and externalize costs onto the poor, who lack the political organization to fight back effectively. It would not be difficulty to turn such an explanation into futility, resignation, cynicism and distrust of authority; it might be hard to turn it into effective and confident action.

85

Chris Bertram 08.10.14 at 7:36 am

Though I’m generally reluctant to stand up for libertarians, John, I’d like to pick up your point about immigration because I don’t think it is quite right. You say that

“Once the issues of drug law reform and equal marriage are off the table, there’s no obvious distinction between “libertarians” like Nick Gillespie and Republicans in general.”

and then say in a supporting footnote that

“On immigration, the libertarian line is much the same as that of big business.”

First, I’d note that one statement does not support the other, since “Republicans in general” are a different group to “big business” and in general much more hostile to immigration than big business is. Second, “big business” is much more friendly to its own right to hire whoever it wants than it is to immigration reform more generally. Third, the libertarian camp is split on the issue, there are those who support an open borders policy and others who support some kind of collective right of exclusion – these people argue with one another about whether the other side can be considered genuinely libertarian.

FWIW, I’ve found the libertarians around Bleeding Heart Libertarians, OpenBorders.info, people like Bryan Caplan and Mike Huemer to be useful and principled on the issue, even though they push a utopian line which has little chance of getting past the electorate and is hence anathema to mainstream Republicans.

86

John Quiggin 08.10.14 at 7:58 am

@Chris I guess to be more precise, I’d say that mainstream Republicans are divided on the issue, as are libertarians, and that there’s a fair bit of overlap between business republicans and libertarians.

In the context of the broader post, I don’t see the libertarian position on immigration being distinctive enough within the Republican coalition to attract a lot of support from people who care about reform,. They will continue to see the Democrats as their best hope of progress.

That said, I agree with you that some have taken a good line on this issue

87

Ze Kraggash 08.10.14 at 9:17 am

@34 “while libertarians want primacy of property rights, a small police force, and nothing else”

In the same spirit of caricature: they want a small police force and a church-financed soup kitchen, and you want a bigger police force and a taxpayer-financed soup kitchen. Technicalities.

Seriously, you’re fighting idealists in your own ranks, your right-wing deviationists. Your real opponent is the christian right, but that thing is already as good as dead and will be off the train soon enough. It’s a victory – and a sad state of politics, indicative of stagnation.

88

J Thomas 08.10.14 at 12:17 pm

#79 Meredith

Layman’s comment here raises what strikes me as the most puzzling thing about libertarianism, its complete and utter lack of any real theory of property (as far as I can tell — someone correct me if I am wrong). Property is a social construct, dependent on institutions (a good deal more than a small police force) that enable its coming into being as well as its maintenance.

I think that libertarians generally have a more mythic concept of property.

Property starts when one man claims his land and fights off all contenders. Like songbirds. One man and his arsenal. Mine. This land is mine, God gave this land to me.

But one man has to sleep. To make it work, property depends on a man and his armed friends. He helps them defend their land and they help him defend his. Because they all agree about their property rights, and together they will fight off anybody who disagrees.

And if a bigger, better-armed force comes along and defeats them? Pushes them off their land or enslaves them? This happened a lot in the old days. Like the Iliad. Victors and victims. It’s morally wrong for that to happen. It happens especially because government.

If somebody conquers my people that’s *wrong* but it can happen. We must be strong and practice with our weapons.

It’s easy to think about property as *tribal*. Me and the people who agree with me. When you look at military details — that so far armies have worked best with strict hierarchies and people who strictly obey orders with little individualism involved — that’s an uncomfortable topic. Back in the old days the Roman army conquered all the libertarian paradises and settled veterans on the land that was left over after many of the men were killed and the women enslaved. Right-libertarians who face that square on get to either argue that modern technology can change it, or that we need armies to fight other armies but otherwise not much government.

A few idealists can argue that when an invading government-run army comes in they can preach to the soldiers and convert them to libertarianism and after the army falls apart the government will learn not to send more armies which will only make libertarianism stronger when they are converted too.

89

mw 08.10.14 at 12:34 pm

If you wander over to look at the current ‘issue’ of Reason online, they seem to have a fair amount to talk about other than drug legalization and gay marriage:

http://www.reason.com

I’d say that, in general, right now the strongest emphasis seems to be on police militarization, prosecutorial abuses, and the surveillance state (4 of their top 5 “Most Visited” stories are on these themes). And I know that at least some CTers are familiar with the work of Radley Balko:

http://crookedtimber.org/2006/07/18/balko-on-swat-raids/

90

Sancho 08.10.14 at 1:33 pm

Sort of bemused by this claim that cannabis legalisation is a libertarian victory. Wanting The Man to get out of the way between me and my pot is an arch-liberal position extending back to the sixties, and so it remains.

To be sure, “libertarians” back the idea in theory, but nine times out of ten it’s simply a low-stakes argument adopted by a yesteryear neocon to prove that really, truly, they’re not just a standard-issue Republican who wants to avoid association with the George W. administration.

Internet libertarians are adamant that pot should be legalised, but it’s clear that if full drug liberalisation would raise the taxes of Koch et al by even a dollar, they’d be calling for a full James Cameron remake of Reefer Madness and demanding harsher sentences.

91

Layman 08.10.14 at 1:44 pm

“In the same spirit of caricature: they want a small police force and a church-financed soup kitchen, and you want a bigger police force and a taxpayer-financed soup kitchen. Technicalities.”

Caricature only works if it’s based in reality. Libertarians don’t ‘want’ the church-financed soup kitchen. They’ll tolerate it; but they know there won’t be enough church-financed soup kitchens, and some people will starve, and they think that’s as it should be.

92

Ze Kraggash 08.10.14 at 2:29 pm

Layman 91, why are you saying these things? Sorry, but could you possibly believe it? Go read Capitalism and Freedom or something. IIRC, it has a chapter on alleviation of poverty.

Sancho 90, dude, ever heard of Gary Johnson?

93

StevenAttewell 08.10.14 at 2:41 pm

“As a political strategy, it works really well. Historically, during the 1950s Cold War, liberals were pressured by the Right into marginalizing the socialist and communist left. When the Cold War began to fade away as a concern in the late 1960s, they came up with the ” ‘classic’ liberal” rhetoric of Milton Friedman, and Friedman drew the liberals into the deathgrip of the sterile dialectic between neoliberals and conservative libertarians, with which we are so familiar today.”

That’s not really where the historical literature is any more – liberal anti-communism was well established by the end of the 40s, and it emerged as much from liberals’ bad experiences with Communist foreign policy as from pressure from the left; likewise, Milton Friedman’s political rhetoric a. was based on “classical liberal” thought developed from the 30s through the 60s, and b. had really little to nothing to do with the woes of political liberalism, which had much more to do with Vietnam, the backlash against civil rights and social liberalism, and the collapse of Keynesian economics in the 70s.

94

Marc 08.10.14 at 2:45 pm

Libertarians reject the social contract in the US context. They have aligned themselves with the reactionary Republican party. They reject science, such as climate change, that conflicts with their dogma. I find talking to libertarians to be roughly the same as talking to old school Communists: tons of jargon, lots of dogma, and bizarre and uncritically accepted axioms.

I see little or no common ground. Letting the poor suffer is not an acceptable trade for concern on NSA spying. And a movement that can’t accept the reality of pokitically inconvenient science isn’t one that I have intellectual respect for.

95

MPAVictoria 08.10.14 at 2:47 pm

“Was it covered by the health insurance you liked and kept?”

Bruce, at some point you are going to have to admit that Obamacare is actually working pretty much as promised. It will be embarrassing but in the end it will be a positive development for you as an individual.

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Layman 08.10.14 at 2:56 pm

“Layman 91, why are you saying these things? Sorry, but could you possibly believe it? Go read Capitalism and Freedom or something. IIRC, it has a chapter on alleviation of poverty.”

Because I observe them to be true. The two most politically prominent libertarians I’m aware of are Paul Ryan and Rand Paul.

Ryan’s trick is to propose new social welfare programs to replace the existing ones, where the new program either provides substantially less social welfare, or it won’t ever be funded. This is true of his Medicare fix, where he replaces Medicare with much less Medicare; and of his poverty plan, where he proposes a more expensive program centered on counseling while ignoring the additional expense. Think he’d vote to raise taxes to pay for it? And he says poor people need Jesus more than they need government help.

Paul’s poverty plan is apparently to cut taxes on the ‘job creators’. That, and to tell women to close their legs.

Maybe you should give them a reading list?

97

Anarcissie 08.10.14 at 2:58 pm

J Thomas 08.10.14 at 12:17 pm
‘… I think that libertarians generally have a more mythic concept of property.
Property starts when one man claims his land and fights off all contenders. …’

Most of the libertarians I have discussed property with seem to believe it is inherent in the structure of the universe, and call it ‘Natural Law’. So, for Locke and his disciples, property was an inalienable right, and was omitted from Declaration of Independence only because the writers feared its explicit mention might lead some of the have-nots to demand some from the haves.

Recall that from very early on, until very recently, property included property in other human beings, under various constructions: chattel slavery, marriage, concubinage, the family, etc. If the master fell asleep, his slaves might run away or kill him. He needed allies or loyal subordinates. This situation is connected with land and agriculture, since nomads find it difficult to keep slaves. Once one can stay in one place for a long time, one forces slaves to till the fields, and one builds fortresses, jails, pens, storehouses, and produces the State.

98

Layman 08.10.14 at 3:14 pm

Ze Kraggash @ 92,

I link here to the platform of the Libertarian Party, which is entirely consistent with what you call my caricature of libertarians. Perhaps you should read it?

http://www.lp.org/platform

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bianca steele 08.10.14 at 3:43 pm

A certain number of libertarians have absorbed the classically liberal idea that people are naturally good, and believe things will work out, reach equilibrium, evolve darwinistically, whatever, and in any case interference with how things work out naturally causes terrible things to happen. Logically, many of these will conclude that food kitchens shouldn’t exist.

Other libertarians have been persuaded that the classically liberal idea is incomplete, and that people need culture and tradition (Will Wilkinson is good on this, specifically, on his old blog) so that things will work out, attain equilibrium, and so on, so that interference with how people born into a tradition behave causes terrible things to happen. These people may think food kitchens are okay. They may also think food kitchens only arise when poor people are separated from traditional communities and living in cities and so on.

Most actual libertarians probably shift back and forth between those two. In both cases, though, they think adult humans are fully formed members of a sustainable, reasonable community, if they’re only left alone, so they should be left alone.

100

Bruce Wilder 08.10.14 at 3:59 pm

MPAVictoria @ 95: Bruce, at some point you are going to have to admit that Obamacare is actually working pretty much as promised.

Let’s say that’s after some point in the future. After the Medicaid expansion (the best part, imho) applies to the whole country. After the annual increase in premiums is less than the inflation rate. After a regulatory apparatus actually limits the ratio of profit to health services. After the “sincere religious beliefs” of the owners of corporations no longer qualify them to unilaterally determine wages and benefits. After the mandate on “small” business in the law is actually enforced. After people have the experience of filing their income taxes and paying the fine, or having their subsidy “adjusted”. After people have some experience with bronze plan deductibles. After people have some experience with in-network restrictions. After the websites — state and federal — which took 4! years to build — actually work reliably. After the Courts decide whether people, who used the Federal website qualify for the subsidy. After the system operates year-around (open enrollment period? wtf!) After a regulatory apparatus exists to audit and enforce the law’s nominal limits on health insurance profits.

Maybe after news stories like this one, from the LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL:

For Kynell and Amber Smith and their five children, the Nevada Health Link has been a six-month nightmare with no end in sight.

“I have spent countless hours on the phone trying to get this resolved,” said Kynell Smith, an aircraft parts salesman. “I have contacted and pleaded with elected officials to help and was told I may have to sue to get this resolved. What kind of answer is that?”

The family’s troubles began in February, when Amber Smith delivered daughter Kinsley five weeks prematurely. Kinsley spent 10 days in Summerlin Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit, and Amber’s 40-day hospital stay included two surgeries.

The Smiths bought insurance from Anthem Blue Cross through Nevada Health Link in October and made two premium payments in January. Yet the claims are being denied because Amber’s birth year is listed incorrectly on the family’s insurance identification cards, Smith said. It’s one year off — written as 1978, when it should be 1979.

Nor has Smith been able to get baby Kinsley added to the family’s insurance, despite “dozens of calls” to Nevada Health Link and Anthem. So despite never missing a $1,300 premium payment, the Smiths are on the hook for all of Kinsley’s follow-up care. What’s more, some of Amber’s specialists have unexpectedly abandoned provider networks, leaving the family with unexpected out-of-pocket expenses, he said.</blockquote

The family’s grand total? Roughly $1.2 million.

The Smiths are the latest in a line of consumers reporting technical problems with Nevada Health Link, the Xerox-built marketplace through which Nevadans can buy subsidized health insurance to comply with the Affordable Care Act. Las Vegan Larry Basich ran up more than $400,000 in uncovered bills in February after Xerox’s system couldn’t figure out which insurer he signed up with. Basich got coverage in March, after a flurry of media attention.

For-profit health insurance should be a felony. Funneling more billions through a health insurance industry, which makes money by denying coverage, skimming cash and conspiring with corrupt providers, to fund a health care system that costs twice as much as that of any other developed country, and delivers less than mediocre results to more than half the country, and requires sick people and their families to fight epic battles with faceless bureaucracy, is going to work as promised. Real soon now.

I believe! I believe! I’m clapping as hard as I can. Really! Clap-clap-clap!

And because a man, whose personal ethics and expertise as a Constitutional law professor forms no barrier to his conviction that he has the authority to murder people is my hero. A guy, who has prosecuted almost no one in the wake of the greatest financial crisis in 70 years, despite daily revelations in civil settlements that the big banks were engaged in large-scale criminal conspiracies and routinely violated laws against fraud and money-laundering — that guy is going to tame the health insurance sector.

101

Lee A. Arnold 08.10.14 at 4:02 pm

May be we should try to make a comprehensive list of the different reasons identified (and sometimes measured) by standard economics for inequality.

Standard economics texts have little or nothing to say about the inherent, systemic reasons for inequality. Economists seem to prefer to discuss the reasons for CHANGES in inequality, such as the increasing inequality at this time.

REASONS FOR INHERENT SYSTEMIC INEQUALITY
One-to-many shape of organization and institution (topology)
Private ownership of mass production accelerates financial accumulation

REASONS FOR INCREASING INEQUALITY AT THIS TIME
International trade not compensating the losers in each country
Trade policy puts only lower-skilled workers in international competition
Relative growth of financial sector
Unequal receipt of capital gains
Central-bank anti-inflation policy increases unemployment
Bad fiscal policy
Skills-biased technological change
Capital-biased technological change (automation)
Wealth inheritance
Political capture

VARIOUS FORMS OF POLITICAL CAPTURE
Anti-union policy
Less anti-trust enforcement
Less fraud prosecution
Extended patent and copyright protections
Preferential tax policies

102

Ze Kraggash 08.10.14 at 4:14 pm

Layman, they say: “The proper and most effective source of help for the poor is the voluntary efforts of private groups and individuals. We believe members of society will become more charitable and civil society will be strengthened as government reduces its activity in this realm.”

See: reduces, not ceases. Like I said: small differences, technicalities.

Here’s what German commies (I think this is probably a translation from GegenStandpunkt) have to say about the state and its activities:
http://www.ruthlesscriticism.com/yourfriend.htm

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Brett Bellmore 08.10.14 at 4:36 pm

“Bruce, at some point you are going to have to admit that Obamacare is actually working pretty much as promised. It will be embarrassing but in the end it will be a positive development for you as an individual.”

Probably involve him dropping a lot of acid, too, or maybe a closed head injury. Because I don’t recall anyone promising that it would make my premiums go up, the level of coverage I get go down, or involve massive portions of the law being arbitrarily unimplemented one election cycle after another to stave off negative electoral consequences.

104

William Timberman 08.10.14 at 4:59 pm

Following this debate has been a little like sitting on a couch that has fleas in it, and wondering why my conversational focus is constantly being interrupted by the urge to scratch. I think my discomfort here has something to do with the subtexts that have threatened to surface at this point or that one, but somehow never fully emerge.

I would have thought that the fact that most libertarians are shmibertarians in JQ’s sense is so well established as to be non-controversial — except of course for the truly committed, who can detect liberal pheromones at a great distance, and are never very far from their running shoes and their bullhorns. Apart from them, though, I wonder at those who genuinely can’t see beyond the tissue of lies erected by the defenders of what once may have arguably been a liberal state, but has since become an almost unrecognizable metastasis of ambition, self regard, and genteel mendacity. Obama the beleaguered defender of the downtrodden still soldiering on against the forces of right-wing misanthropy? The ACA, victory snatched from the jaws of defeat? What in the name of all that’s holy are you folks imbibing these days? Lethe itself never produced a drug so potent.

105

bianca steele 08.10.14 at 5:11 pm

William @ 104

Do they even see the state, though? When pressed, as Meredith and others suggest, they say “property derives from natural law,” but most of them surely don’t. Pick up any novel written before 1900–where is the state? Pick up any novel written after 1900–where is the state, except occasionally (Saul Bellow’s first novel, about a man who’s been drafted, comes to mind) as something that disrupts the ordinary lives of ordinary individuals? Those of us who recognize that libertarianism is a theory about states, where did we get that recognition? To those who don’t ever think about the state, on the contrary, the idea that this means the state shouldn’t exist comes naturally.

106

MPAVictoria 08.10.14 at 5:16 pm

Bruce no major government program has ever been implemented problem free but. obamacare so far seems to be working. The number of uninsured is down and the cost curve appears to be be bending in the right direction. This is a HUGE success and if you were intellectually honest you would admit this. Unfortunately your hatred for President Obama blinds you to this and so your respond with anecdotes and sarcasm. It is a little sad.

/Read Krugman please.

107

William Timberman 08.10.14 at 5:36 pm

bianca steele @ 105

I usually try to give libertarians a wide berth, much as I do teenagers, mostly because it’s their planet as much as mine — more even than mine, me being old and all. That said, they absolutely do not understand how, and more importantly, why states have come to exist, or, why, having existed since the Pharaohs, they now appear to have evolved into a Ding an sich with characteristics as inscrutable as those of natural phenomena like hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, and tidal waves. Libertarians are connoisseurs of the ahistorical, and as such, ill-equipped to analyze anything having to do with genuine human interactions. No doubt they have their uses — as gadflies, perhaps — but then so do astrologers and ufologists.

108

Bruce Wilder 08.10.14 at 5:37 pm

Lee A Arnold @ 101: May be we should try to make a comprehensive list of the different reasons identified (and sometimes measured) by standard economics for inequality.

Maybe. But, keep in mind, my strong qualification: that standard economics is more a legitimating doctrine than an explanatory doctrine. If we’re going to make a comprehensive list, it seems to me, to make sense of our list, we’re going to have separate the legitimating doctrines from the explanatory ones. Within the terms economics itself lays down, this entails a distinction between normative and positive economic analysis.

As to your first point, economics focuses on “change”, because its first and primary explanations for inequality are differences in prior endowment. Economics has no state of nature, as a ground for its critique of income and wealth distribution. The endowments of talents, familial nurturance, cultural inheritance, institutional inheritance, wealth claims and property ownership are not something economics seeks to explain or to criticize, though the consequences of prior endowments for an equilibrium-seeking process can be examined.

It might seem almost schizophrenic to propose an analytic theory organized around the emergence of equilibrium-seeking systems, and marry it to an unexplained endowment, but that’s what economics does. Economics is an attempt to apply an ergodic analysis to a non-ergodic phenomenon. Put like that, it probably does not seem sensible, but equilibrium thinking is powerful stuff and it does produce insights. It does mean that the analytic focus — the equilibrium analysis — exists on a kind of well-lit proscenium stage, where the functional relationships of the equilibrium process can be examined in detail, while the results of the unexamined dynamics enter from behind a curtain or, magically, through the fourth wall. Observed results of the unobserved dynamics are given awkward names — “skills-biased technical change” — but just like prior history, they can not be examined critically within the equilibrium framework, at least not easily.

Some aspects of inequality have been examined and criticized though. Veblen’s conspicuous consumption, applied as it was to the Gilded Age, deserves mention. Robert H Frank, more recently, has written about conspicuous consumption and what he calls the positional arms race of competition for relative status. These are not explanations for inequality, per se, but they are explanations for why inequality is wasteful, and why interventions to reduce inequality might be construed not to harm anyone.

Anyway, my point is that we cannot just list the explanations, we have to sort them out a bit. Equilibrium analysis can yield some interesting insights on what’s legitimate — Franks on the positional arms race in consumer status competition — but equilibrium analysis may also tend to apply a blanket legitimization to whatever emerges “exogenously”.

“Skills-biased technical change” isn’t an explanation. Economics does not have a theoretical analysis of the dynamics of technical change from which to generate an explanation. It’s a fairy tale attached to an unexplained, emergent phenomenon. So, it serves a legitimating function, but I would challenge its claim to explanatory power. At base, it isn’t that different from attributing inequality to prior endowments; it’s acceptance of a “given” exogenous to the analysis.

109

Bruce Wilder 08.10.14 at 6:07 pm

A very simple model of wealth distribution might be similar to a model of the distribution of heat in a gas. As the molecules of gas bump into one another, heat is transmitted. You just need a rule that determines how heat wealth is transmitted, given the wealth endowments of the colliding molecules.

Think of it like the collision in the parking lot in Fried Green Tomatoes: whoever has more insurance wins!

Investigation of that kind of kinetic exchange model has been a preoccupation of so-called econophysics. It has high explanatory potential, but low legitimating application. I don’t imagine those kinds of ideas have made it into many introductory textbooks.

Still, should be in the hopper.

110

Lee A. Arnold 08.10.14 at 6:55 pm

Bruce Wilder #108: “…its first and primary explanations for inequality are differences in prior endowment.”

Indeed this is one of the libertarian’s bedrock hypotheses.

But, in regard to the endowment of “talent”, observe that the first and primary explanation in economics insisted that it is NOT the case:

“The difference of natural talents in different men, is, in reality, much less than we are aware of; and the very different genius which appears to distinguish men of different professions, when grown up to maturity, is not upon many occasions so much the cause, as the effect of the division of labour.” –Smith, Wealth of Nations, book I, chapter 2, penultimate paragraph.

Again: “the difference of…talents…is…much LESS than we are aware of”

We can exclude certain genius, e.g. Mozart, and at the other end of the scale, unfortunates with obvious deficits, and in Smith’s time society placed women and some other races beneath white male abilities.

Smith’s point is that it is the entry into the division of labor which causes the APPEARANCE of differences in talents.

And I imagine he would have extrapolated that the division of labor is also largely responsible for the differences in familial nurturance, wealth claims, etc. — most of the rest of the list — which today’s economists keep exogenous.

If the structure of the division of labor has only few positions of management/ownership at the top, then it cannot an “equilibrium” to begin with (except by positing an unreal amount of competition).

A huge inequality has ensued, which APPEARS to be based on differences in endowments. Or else it is blindly, nervously explained away by economists as caused by education or skills bias.

Further, if Adam Smith was right about the primary cause being the division of labor, then changes to the process of production by automation etc. may change the general, false psychology of expectations about talents and just deserts.

The increasing number of people who have begun to entertain the idea of an historical breakpoint of this kind, could be an early signal of that change.

111

jkay 08.10.14 at 8:14 pm

I should warn you that right Libertarians are the worst liars in conservative-land, even worse than Reaganomics or warloving neoconism. I’ve spent decades on tthe Internet, so have had LOTS of experience. Radical rightie libertarianism is as much an impossible lie as Communism, mostly dead now for that reason, only a mirror.

Both Pauls regularly vote Big Pentagon and only are for freedom to oppress, and cater to Nazeis and racists regularly, and have done no votes or bills against drugs or drones; most rightie libertarians are like that,

Radley Balko must be a leftie.

But I was forgetting Sonny-Boy Paul’s the perfect, popular liberal whom’ll
clearly be our next President.

112

Layman 08.10.14 at 8:18 pm

Ze Kraggash:

‘Layman, they say: “The proper and most effective source of help for the poor is the voluntary efforts of private groups and individuals. We believe members of society will become more charitable and civil society will be strengthened as government reduces its activity in this realm.”’

Somehow you managed to miss the two sentences immediately preceding, which are more direct & modify the meaning of the two you chose:

“Retirement planning is the responsibility of the individual, not the government. Libertarians would phase out the current government-sponsored Social Security system and transition to a private voluntary system.”

In other words, they mean to end social security over time, and as government reduces it’s role (due to the transition), the expect people to be more personally charitable. In the end, no SS, just personal responsibility and private charity.

113

bianca steele 08.10.14 at 8:21 pm

William Timberman @ 107: “[states] now appear to have evolved into a _Ding an sich_ with characteristics as inscrutable as those of natural phenomena like hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, and tidal waves.”

I’m not sure I’d go that far, but it’s interesting what would happen to libertarianism (and anti-libertarianism) if it did. Would they oppose the actual laws of nature, believing them to be inventions of the state? Or would they pretend legal and social structures are entirely natural? Might they even oppose explicit state institutions, believing them to be pathological attempts to reify something as inhuman as the weather? It might depend on the person. (There are those libertarians who seem really, truly to believe that there’s a law of nature that ensures “moochers” are self-haters who always get their comeuppance, and that mean people won’t be able to live with themselves, and all this happens regardless of anything anyone does, individually or by government, but I think they are very confused.)

114

Layman 08.10.14 at 8:25 pm

“Because I don’t recall anyone promising that it would make my premiums go up, the level of coverage I get go down”

Brett Bellmore, I don’t believe you. I don’t believe your premiums have increased by more than the historic trend in premium increase in your state; and I don’t believe your coverage has declined in any way not predictable from pre-ACA trends in coverage changes. I thing your claim is hogwash, and I invite you to demonstrate your claim.

115

LFC 08.10.14 at 8:47 pm

@B Wilder 65
Was it covered by the health insurance you liked and kept?
Despite the inconveniences and hardship for some that the ACA has no doubt led to, it has also resulted in a great many people (I forget the exact figure) having coverage who previously had none, and in that respect, it seems to me, must be counted a success.

@B Wilder 100
I believe! I believe! I’m clapping as hard as I can. Really! Clap-clap-clap!
And because a man, whose personal ethics and expertise as a Constitutional law professor forms no barrier to his conviction that he has the authority to murder people is my hero. A guy, who has prosecuted almost no one in the wake of the greatest financial crisis in 70 years, despite daily revelations in civil settlements that the big banks were engaged in large-scale criminal conspiracies and routinely violated laws against fraud and money-laundering — that guy is going to tame the health insurance sector.

This is just rhetorical hand-waving. Obama is not “my hero.” Nor is the issue w ACA
whether it replaced the private ins. system w something totally different — obvs. it didn’t. It can still represent an improvement over what came before.

116

William Timberman 08.10.14 at 9:18 pm

bianca steele @ 133

It’s always a bit presumptuous to make unqualified generalizations, but it does seem to me that people who are ignorant of history make unreliable political theorists. It doesn’t stop them from plaguing the Intertubes with their political theories, of course, and maybe it shouldn’t — it doesn’t hurt to know, surely, just how dysfunctional our political interactions are down at the roots as well as up in the topmost branches.

I wonder, for example, if libertarians who despise unions, but take their weekends for granted, would be astonished to learn that people in the not so dim past actually died so that they didn’t have to work seven days a week. Would some Christian fundamentalists be astonished to learn that when I was a kid the phrase Under God wasn’t part of the Pledge of Allegiance we said every morning before classes started? Are the people who hold up signs warning the government to keep its filthy hands off their Medicare to be taken seriously? As a threat to all that’s bright and beautiful in our liberal paradise, I suppose they should be, but not as political thinkers.

If, in short, you want to lecture people about how things ought to be, it helps to have at least some idea about how and why things got to be the way they are — if you expect anybody to take you at your word, that is. Unhappily, for reasons obvious and not so obvious, this sort of belligerent ignorance seems to be more common in the U.S. than in the rest of the world these days, with the possible exception of areas ruled by Wahabists. I’d like to think that for at least part of our history we did better, but maybe I’m disposed to think so only because I still have a few illusions of my own that need dispelling.

117

LFC 08.10.14 at 9:19 pm

William Timberman @104
I wonder at those who genuinely can’t see beyond the tissue of lies erected by the defenders of what once may have arguably been a liberal state, but has since become an almost unrecognizable metastasis of ambition, self regard, and genteel mendacity. Obama the beleaguered defender of the downtrodden still soldiering on against the forces of right-wing misanthropy? The ACA, victory snatched from the jaws of defeat? What in the name of all that’s holy are you folks imbibing these days? Lethe itself never produced a drug so potent.

To me this passage suggests that it is you who might have taken a dip in the waters of Lethe. Anyone acquainted with the basic structure of the U.S. polity and specifically its increasingly dysfunctional character as a governing system did not expect Obama to produce a revolution when he took office in Jan ’09 (at least, I didn’t). Obama ran as a slightly left-of-center Democrat, which (given the American political spectrum) means that in terms of domestic policy (putting foreign policy aside for the moment) he has governed pretty much (not exactly, but pretty much) the way one would have expected. There is definitely room for criticism on domestic ec. policy, esp during the first term. On trade and related issues (e.g. removing tax breaks for corporations that outsource jobs and don’t repatriate profits), I didn’t expect Obama to break much w the neoliberal consensus and on the whole it seems he hasn’t.

On the plus side, however, there are some environmental actions (e.g. the proposed EPA rules on power-plant emissions); the ACA, which on balance seems to have been an advance; and civil rts and crim. justice issues (e.g. Justice Dept lawsuits vs state voting ID laws; efforts at sentencing reform; LGBT issues), where the admin. has been fairly good on balance, it seems to me. Not a record to crow to the rafters about, to be sure, but also not reducible to a distillate of “ambition, self regard, and genteel mendacity.”

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William Timberman 08.10.14 at 9:20 pm

@ 116 was a reply to bianca steele at 113, not 133. Obvious now, I guess, but later in the thread it might look a little strange.

119

William Timberman 08.10.14 at 9:25 pm

LFC @ 117

We really do disagree on this point. No doubt about it, and no way around it. Since I won’t be around long enough to bear witness to the judgment of history, I’ll let it go at that.

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John Quiggin 08.10.14 at 9:49 pm

Radley Balko is great. But he’s about the only libertarian I hear of on these issues. Against that, you’ve got the great mass of shmibertarians (Reynolds, the Volokhs etc) who backed Bush all the way on torture, denounced Snowden etc. My view, as implied by the OP, is that once marijuana is legal, the great majority of rightwing “libertarians” will become law and order fans.

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bianca steele 08.10.14 at 9:51 pm

On trade and related issues (e.g. removing tax breaks for corporations that outsource jobs and don’t repatriate profits)

Eh, I was–not expecting, but audaciously hoping–that he’d do something on this, having read the first 75 pages or so of his book. By the election, I think, it seemed more likely that he wasn’t going to be willing to go very far to do anything about it himself. Recognizing the problem is more than most national politicians have done. But it began to seem obvious pretty quickly that he was only going to act on what he believed was a nonpartisan consensus. Health care reform basically had that kind of consensus, already, so it happened. Putting pressure on employers would have required Obama to put pressure on those he saw as opinion-makers, who generally probably didn’t believe it was a problem solvable from the top-down (to put it briefly), so it didn’t happen. You see it a little in the book where he says the whole “sit down and have a drink with the other side” thing doesn’t work anymore, but he really laments it, he seems to believe it would be better if it did. “Hope” could mean a lot of things but it doesn’t necessarily mean believing the triumph of your own views is guaranteed.

122

John Quiggin 08.10.14 at 9:57 pm

I’m no Obama fan, and Obamacare was a kludgy compromise, but it seems silly to deny that it’s working better than most people expected.

123

LFC 08.10.14 at 11:13 pm

Bianca S. 121
well, he did talk about it (the tax breaks) during the campaign; I haven’t followed the issue v. closely and he may early on have tried to get some legislation into a larger bill, but it didn’t go anywhere I don’t think. On trade (e.g. TransPacificPartnership and large deal w EU under negotiation), the line has been pretty clear.

I confess to not having read either Dreams from my Father or The Audacity of Hope (or whatever it’s called). I gather Dreams is the one to read; the other basically a campaign document. That’s hearsay, but that’s what I’ve heard (or read, or something).

124

Consumatopia 08.10.14 at 11:30 pm

I can think of some issues–like government surveillance or cryptography–in which it isn’t clear to me which is the “left” side. There there is intellectual property, which seems to divide libertarians, liberals and leftists alike.

I do not claim that any of those issues could lead to a “libertarian moment”, but if it’s unclear what’s Left of Libertarianism, sometimes that might be because the left doesn’t have a clear position that libertarians could side with.

125

Mircea Popescu 08.11.14 at 12:01 am

What’s left of libertarianism? Bitcoin, which is pretty much all that matters of libertarianism anyway.

126

MPAVictoria 08.11.14 at 1:27 am

“but it seems silly to deny that it’s working better than most people expected.”

To be fair a lot of people expected it to work exactly how it is working, fairly well with some glitches.

127

Sebastian H 08.11.14 at 7:35 am

I don’t understand the dismissal of the initiative process on drug reform. In neither California nor Colorado could the initiatives be seen as Democratic Party reforms. In each case they have been wacky Democrats joining forces with wacky libertarians to the horror of the mainstream party members on an issue that resonated far more with the public that either party elite.

And Reason has been the go to source on it since well before any of the major left periodicals–literally decades. If plowing the soil is important, they were the ones who toiled to move the debate enough that even wacky Denocrats could talk about it. Mainstream Democrats were still all for marijuana criminialization as recently as eight years ago. (See Clinton or Clinton or Obama). Same on same sex marriage and gay rights. I’m thrilled that the grass roots win in the issue, but when did Hillary Clinton first offer support to ending don’t ask don’t tell? She didn’t support its end in 2007. I can’t find her first change on it but that puts it after the presidential campaign of less than six years ago.

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John Quiggin 08.11.14 at 8:47 am

@Sebastian To restate the argument of the OP, libertarians (in the Draper-Gillespie sense) have remained within the Republican camp, and have got nowhere in shifting Republican opinion. The most recent example was the House vote to defend DOMA in the Supreme Court, passed with one(1) Repub in opposition.

Ballot initiatives make it a bit harder to count heads, but you only need to look at the map to see which side of politics is driving reform.

These issues are going to be resolved soon, and the Republicans are going to be on the wrong side of history, as are those self-described libertarians who decided that it was more important to defend the Bush tax cuts than to worry about human rights.

129

James Wimberley 08.11.14 at 10:44 am

J Thomas in #88 on the tribal myths of libertarianism. Do adherents mourn the expropriation of the Native American tribes? They seem to fit the ideal far more than British colonial redcoats, Custer’s bluecoats, or Jackson’s mixed bag but still statist forces.

130

mw 08.11.14 at 11:10 am

“Radley Balko is great. But he’s about the only libertarian I hear of on these issues.”

Then you must not really be looking. Balko doesn’t write for Reason anymore, but Reason remains full of similar coverage. Searching for ‘SWAT’ on Reason.com pulls up a couple of dozen pieces on police militarization during just in the last couple of months.

http://goo.gl/BNsQuX

131

Sancho 08.11.14 at 11:56 am

That’s pretty encouraging, mw.

Now Google police + militarization. Top links are Huffpo, ACLU, and Salon. Left, left, left. Or centre-left, left, left, at least.

That’s because Reason’s position on the warrior cop represents only a tiny portion of the people who call themselves libertarians, but represents the vast majority of liberals.

No one’s denying that committed, consistent libertarians exist, but they’re a rump. The title itself now belongs to Tea Party conservatives.

132

Ed 08.11.14 at 12:55 pm

The problem with these labels is that they all get co-opted eventually.

liberal = bureaucratic
libertarian = corporatist
progressive = conservative
conservative = fascist

Each time there is a co-option, the True Scotsmen have to come up with another label to differentiate themselves, which gets co-opted. The term “liberal” has stood for both “libertarian” and “progressive” at different points in its history.

133

Anarcissie 08.11.14 at 1:19 pm

The tribes and their totems remain much the same, but the needs and intentions of the tribes change as conditions change, or because of the inscrutable wills of the gods.

134

PGD 08.11.14 at 1:45 pm

As regards scepticism about war, the same is true of the realist school associated with The National Interest (they publish me, and some libertarians as well as old-school realists).

I think this underestimates the impact some libertarians have made on public views of the national security state and imperial aggression. This is an issue that Ron Paul was consistently good on and played a role in legitimizing in the national debate. Cato was/is also good on it. They were more important than the (odious) Glenn Reynolds of the world, and also more important in the public discussion than the academic realists who are for the most part obscure academics.

135

PGD 08.11.14 at 1:51 pm

131: when I google “police militarization” half the first page hits are from libertarian right wingers — two from Radley Balko, one from the Rutherford Institute on Huffpo, one from Fox News.

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mw 08.11.14 at 1:52 pm

“Now Google police + militarization. Top links are Huffpo, ACLU, and Salon. Left, left, left. Or centre-left, left, left, at least.”

But also on the first results page I’m also seeing the Wall Street Journal the sometimes libertianish Washington Post (current home of Radley Balko) and even Fox News. Which is all to the good. After all it seems pretty clear that it’s the libertarian and not leftist influence that’s responsible for pushing this stories into places like WSJ and Fox.

137

lemmycaution 08.11.14 at 6:51 pm

Here is Gillespie against “The Defense of Marriage Act” in 1996:

http://reason.com/archives/1996/12/01/wedding-bell-news

Not too shabby.

138

GeoX 08.11.14 at 7:33 pm

I don’t totally understand the point of this argument. So, some percentage of self-described libertarians are against police brutality and bad drug laws and pro-gay-rights. Fine, I guess, and to whatever limited extent they’re able to influence public policy, it’s all to the good. And yet, there are WAY more lefties than libertarians who hold these views, and the lefties have the EXTRA ADDED BONUS of not ALSO supporting horrible economic policies. Why am I supposed to be so excited about libertarians in this context? Do they want half a cookie for only being half awful?

139

Bruce Wilder 08.11.14 at 8:10 pm

A libertarian’s preoccupation with violence and authoritarian oppression by the state might have to do with the imaginative drama that sometimes fuels a libertarian’s passionate fear and loathing of the state.

I think a liberal’s view of the state is likely to be far more complex, so there’s more of a sense of having to strike a complex balance.

Libertarians often imagine that simply limiting the power of the state, limits the power of the state to do harm. While the liberal or social democrat, interested in a wider variety of public goods, may worry that limiting the power of the state limits the power of the state to do good.

It is easier to be passionate and absolutist in your rhetoric, when your worldview is simpler and sure of a simple solution.

A libertarian has a simple solution: limit the power of the state, free private actors and interests from state control. The liberal or social democrat wants something else: a state democratically responsible, and rational in its choice of ways and means — oriented toward universal rules and general purposes or public interest, and power enough to counter and constrain private interests.

As a liberal, I am always a little suspicious that the libertarian agenda points toward a private authoritarianism, an unleashing of the power of money and property. I admire the crusade of someone like Radley Balko. But, when I come to the cases, I expect my judgment is based less on my confidence in high principle — I am relatively sure of a few principles, but I’m not sure how far they can get you — and more on a sense of empathy for people caught up in situations where they are powerless.

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Abbe Faria 08.11.14 at 8:15 pm

GeoX, the reason I think it’s interesting is that drug reform is really the only libertarian success. You’re right that the rest of their program is mad, and isn’t even close to being enacted, but their drug reforms are a genuine humanitarian achievement – frankly against very large odds.

Secondly, libertarians have actually driven reform both by proposing ballots and by tactically campaigning for legalisation, like using medical marijuana as the thin end of the wedge, because they’re ideologically in favor. The left just hasn’t taken that approach to the same extent, just because ideologically and tactically it’s main concerns are civil rights and social justice, so they’ve mostly tacitly accepted the status quo and aimed at things like police reform.

Thirdly, certainly with marijuana reform, most support is from voters who don’t identify with a party. Unaffiliated voters outnumber those who identify democrat about 2:1, and both support reform roughly the same extent. So this is coming both from outside the party system and outside core voters. Sure, there are only a small number of libertarians, but they’re effectively leveraging the politically indifferent to get reform. Whatever Quiggin says, Democrat politicians are very scared of being tarnished as soft on drugs, democrat supporters don’t have the leadership of numbers to have accomplished this.

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The Temporary Name 08.11.14 at 8:40 pm

Libertarians often imagine that simply limiting the power of the state, limits the power of the state to do harm.

What’s weird is the acceptance of harm outside that, for instance in the ability to starve to death. Limiting the power of the state is not about harm in that case, but about removing distortions of justice.

142

Meredith 08.11.14 at 10:02 pm

Apparently, the way to solve the challenges of improving education in the U.S. (I say improve, not rescue — there is so much that is working that all the scare talk is ridiculous) is to have each parent decide between charters and regular publics and privates and so on (all underwritten by the whole community’s taxes, magically), but the clincher: it will all require fewer resources because the BEST teachers will teach via digital media to everyone. So Rand Paul (according to a Salon piece I cannot find at the moment — sorry). After a while, I don’t give a damn what supposed “political philosophy” is promulgating such nonsense. After a while, I don’t believe any political philosophy is promulgating it. It’s the product of individual ego riding a wave of similarly minded egos. A nearly universally commonly denominator here: male. More specifically, males stuck in adolescent fantasies. In Rand’s case, propped up by some kind of warped natural philosophy. (Cf. Paul Ryan, an RC, whose “natural philosophy” isn’t exactly in line with the pope’s, but what does the pope know about such matters?)

I’ve just finished Jill Lepore’s The Name of War: King Philip’s War and the Origins of American Identity. I highly recommend it. Relevant to, and informative about, just about everything going on today in the U.S (and anywhere the English have left their mark, which is just about everywhere). Including the invocation of natural philosophy, as convenient.

143

Bruce Wilder 08.11.14 at 10:26 pm

Lee A. Arnold @ 110

Adam Smith, as a classical economist, explained the distribution of income, by adversion to the differences between labor, stock, and land, and their respective revenues: wages, interest and rent. He didn’t seem to take much notice of management, per se. He hurries from his division of labor to the need to trade for consumption, which is consequent upon narrow specialization in production. The market enables specialization. There’s no mention of a supervisor in the famous pin factory. His masters were providers of stock; their role was to advance the tools and materials, workman needed to produce goods.

Smith is quite clear that it is bargaining power that determines the distribution of income. Smith, as a classical economist was criticizing the large fraction of income drawn off, through no merit beyond mere passive possession, in rent. His heroes were, as Brad DeLong points out, the improving landlords, involved in developing the country and making everyone better off.

Management and bureaucracy in business enterprise is a recent historical phenomenon. In Adam Smith’s day, the only such enterprises were the international trading companies — prominently, the East India companies (English and Dutch) — and the London insurance companies (though not Lloyd’s). As I recall Smith was skeptical of the efficiency of the insurance companies. It was not until the railroads began to operate on a large scale in the 1840s that bureaucracy of any great size was commonly known to business. The railroads started hiring military engineers, both for their civil engineering skills and also their familiarity with hierarchy. The real growth of bureaucracy in business started in the U.S. in the 1870s and 1880s, as the railroads proved Smith right about specialization (and, by implication, scale) being limited by the extent of the market. The creation of a continental market by the decline in rail rates that accompanied the change to cheap steel rail drove the creation, first, of the great Trusts, and, in the 1890s, of corporations listed on the N.Y. Stock Exchange, led by the consolidation of the Edison interests into General Electric in 1892. 1892 also marked the Homestead strike against Carnegie Steel, which was prompted by changing organization of the shop floor, as craft gave way to professional and scientific management.

Today, in the U.S., without looking for the exact figures, I believe that about 15% of the labor force is self-employed, while half of the workforce, works in organizations with more than 500 employees.

The proportion of what used to be called “direct labor” in the production of anything has declined to such a small proportion of unit costs, that conventions of managerial accounting, which once proportioned overhead as indirect costs to direct costs, as the bulk of variable costs, have been overturned. I’m not smart enough to see what it all means, I am sorry to say, but I’m sure it means something.

As I look around, it seems to me that an enormous part of the economy is not just overhead, but b.s. The b.s. economy combines with the relentless pursuit of returns on “capital” to create a predatory environment, in which the larger part of the population is fed upon, with no value returned.

Climate change, peak oil and other resource limits may well push large numbers of people toward subsistence. I think this development — not religion — is what is driving the unrest in Ukraine, Syria, Libya, Egypt, Thailand, Venezuela, Guatemala and Honduras, etc. It will spread.

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Bruce Wilder 08.12.14 at 2:39 am

Lee A. Arnold @ 110: The increasing number of people who have begun to entertain the idea of an historical breakpoint of this kind, could be an early signal of that change.

Just one additional note — a subtle shift in the demographics might contribute to a change in consensus opinion about a lot of things. For a long time, the Boomers have been the largest cohorts in the population, but by 2020 the three largest half-decade cohorts in the population will be the 20-34s

Culture shifts are often accelerated by even tiny demographic bulges like that.

145

John Quiggin 08.12.14 at 3:58 am

@Abbe Faria The numbers I found (not the same poll) said 55 per cent of Dems favor legalization, 51 per cent of Independents, while party ID is 42 per cent Ind, 31 per cent Dem.

So, the pro-legalization majority consists of 21 per cent Ind, 17 per cent Dem and about 8 per cent Rep.

The interesting question, I guess is whether legalization support is stronger among D-leaning Inds or among R-leaning Inds (a group that would encompass most libertarians, but also lots of moderate conservatives).

146

John Quiggin 08.12.14 at 4:05 am

Wow, this is striking. Although 70 per cent of libertarians support marijuana legalization, 59 per cent oppose equal marriage

http://publicreligion.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/2013.AVS_WEB.pdf

Note that libertarianism here is imputed, and the scale includes drug law reform but not equal marriage. Still, the item set is a pretty good fit for the typical libertarian.

147

John Quiggin 08.12.14 at 4:06 am

Also, libertarians less warm towards immigrants than Americans in general

148

John Quiggin 08.12.14 at 4:11 am

Even more interesting. There’s a table at the back which includes self-ID libertarians. These look much more like liberals eg favor both equal marriage and higher minimum wages, and have much the same party ID as the entire population. Make of that what you will.

149

William Timberman 08.12.14 at 4:26 am

Bruce Wilder @ 143

Once the division of labor proceeds to its limits everywhere, whatever system governs it has to work. If the system fails in any significant way (other than war, which I’d argue is a special case regardless of how common it is) we won’t any of us have grandparents with a plot of land we can return to and help them dig potatoes enough for all of us.

This, it seems to me, is a good argument against libertarians, as the scale of management needed is global. That it’s equally an argument against central planning in the old Soviet sense of the term is irrelevant, I think. The arguments for a mixed economy are good ones, but good will, common sense, and competent management are both essential, and at the same time, beyond price. The problem we have, it seems to me, is a dearth of the first two requirements, without which the third is unattainable. How many people — at least those with any power — have to understand this world-wide before we start to make more than illusory progress?

150

Bob Roberts 08.12.14 at 6:33 am

This is a pointlessly bad exercise in “shoring up” the Democrats, which type of activity I used to do quite a bit of (what is your opinion of Al Smith, JQ?) Maybe you should be doing a sociological analysis, not airlifting good courage. The kind of American liberalism that social democrats elsewhere could look benignly upon is dead among the under 40s; Norman Lear is no more. There are libertarians, who will sweet talk you with tales of bud and kinky sex, then disquisit about how Richard Nixon was really a good chap. I swear this is commonplace; please, for the sake of your safety, do not mention non-civil unions in their presence. And there are, mirabile dictu, actual socialists, who are after years as nothing starting to figure out the mechanics of modifying public opinion and running for winnable offices. It should be an “interesting” century, like the Chinese proverb.

151

mjfgates 08.12.14 at 7:44 am

I see several people claiming that one political faction or other doesn’t care about an issue because they don’t see that faction’s website listed in Google searches. However, Google is not a valid way to try to “survey” the Web. Google tracks its users via cookies, IP address, and a few other things; the results it provides to you are tuned to what it knows of your interests. If you’ve followed links from Google to reason.com before, it will shove reason.com links toward the top of the results list for you. It’s not only unsurprising but inevitable that different people will get different results when running the same search.

If you want consistent results between different people, https://duckduckgo.com claims not to track individual users.

152

David J. Littleboy 08.12.14 at 11:08 am

“self-ID libertarians. These look much more like liberals eg favor both equal marriage and higher minimum wages, and have much the same party ID as the entire population. Make of that what you will.”

I suspect that a lot of self-ID libertarians don’t know what the word means, and are using it simply as an out to avoid getting stuck with another label and like that it sounds kind of liberal. Not understanding that a higher minimum wage is the exact antithesis of libertarianism is rather telling.

153

Richard York 08.12.14 at 11:43 pm

A short and belated observation. I usually paraphrase Von Moltke by simply pointing out that no ideology (or “ism”) survives its first encounter with human beings.

154

P.M.Lawrence 08.13.14 at 12:18 am

People here may find this food for thought.

155

Bruce Wilder 08.13.14 at 1:16 am

a higher minimum wage is the exact antithesis of libertarianism

I presume any minimum wage would be anathema to a libertarian. Is this not so?

156

Anarcissie 08.13.14 at 3:03 am

Some things might be more ‘anathema’ than others.

157

Ze Kraggash 08.13.14 at 6:25 am

“equal marriage”

If I were an idealistic anarcho-capitalist, I would’ve certainly felt that the government has no business interfering in anyone’s sexual affairs and romantic interests. And so “equal marriage” is simply a fake issue. Should we demand from the state to institute “equal breakfast” by allowing us to eat steak in the morning?

158

reason 08.13.14 at 7:56 am

@157
Yes, you are right, Libertarians keep forgetting about the existance of non-contractual obligations (such as children for instance).

159

Collin Street 08.13.14 at 9:13 am

> . And so “equal marriage” is simply a fake issue.

You can tell libertarians are full of shit because not one gods-damned one of them has, unprompted, suggest that the State stop keeping records of what sex everyone is.

160

Martin Bento 08.13.14 at 12:08 pm

John, libertarian support for drug legalization does not matter because most of them work within the Republican Party, and they have not moved the party their way on this? Lots of people here – and I think this would include you, were you American – are progressives working within the Democratic Party who have not been able to move the party our way. Do our views then not count? If the Paulites took over the R. party and the White House, and reduced military spending and commitments along the lines progressives have long advocated, would it be fair to treat progressives as though we never held those positions because we stuck with a party that we could never get to enact them?

As the claim above that many more liberals than libertarians supported legalization, liberals have higher absolute numbers by most measures, but by percentages? I don’t believe I have ever met a libertarian prepared to defend pot criminalization. I have met a lot of liberals who were. I have never read a libertarian writer who was. Has anyone else? Can anyone identify a libertarian writer who defended the criminalization of pot? Many libertarians cared much more about taxes and such, of course, but not all liberals put the same weight on various issues either.

And it seems to me that “bragging rights” are pretty central to the Democratic Party’s entire political position. Bragging rights on SS, Medicare, the Civil Rights Act, etc. I don’t see how we are supposed to evaluate political parties and coalitions with no reference to their history.

As for the map, we have one blue and one purple state that have legalized, the purple one with less hesitation (it implemented more quickly and with fewer restrictions). The next state to get legalization on the ballot was deep-red Alaska, and chances of passage look good. And don’t tell me Alaska is anomalous, because the anomaly is precisely that it is probably the only red state where the libertarians are a strong enough faction of the Republicans to do this. Legalization has proceeded, as mentioned, largely by ballot initiative, and I believe the Libertarian Party in every state where there has been an initiative to legalize, decriminalize, or legalize medical use has endorsed that initiative, while the Democratic Party rarely has until very recently, when it became clear that the Party’s electoral bread is buttered differently now. There is, after all, a difference between coming out against segregation in 1950 and doing it in 1975.

Let’s look at some history here:

1) It was the Democratic Party that made marijuana illegal in the first place. It happened under FDR. It was done through a dishonest catch-22 tax law because it was feared that the conservative Supreme Court would throw out straightforward prohibition.
2) Though the White House may be the central font of blowhardry, the War on Drugs was always primarily legislative. For the most part, it was not that the executive went beyond the law, nor that the judiciary interpreted it more expansively than intended – the War on Drugs was deliberately enacted in legislation. That means “Nixon’s” War on Drugs was passed by a Congress completely dominated by the Democratic Party, and “Reagan’s” escalation was enacted by a Democratic House and sometimes Democratic Senate.
3) The second escalation was “Clinton’s” crime bill. This was passed with a Republican House and Democratic Senate.
4) At least as early as the 80s, extremely prominent Republicans came out against the war on drugs, even while their party was majorly invested in it. This includes Milton Friedman and George Schultz. Has any Democrat comparable to Schultz done this, even now? Vance, Albright, Christopher? Well, Volcker did, a little later, so that’s something, but Volcker was a key figure in the Nixon administration, so he kind of has a foot in each party. In the last two months, Hilary Clinton has finally given an extremely limited endorsement of medical marijuana. As for Friedman, the comparable figure for Democrats is Keynes, who was dead at the time of this controversy. Not when pot was banned, though. Anyone know if Keynes took a position then?
5) I believe the first Presidential primary candidate of either major party to support medical marijuana was Pat Buchanan. Jerry Brown had reduced criminal penalties as governor of California, but stayed out of that fight as a Presidential candidate. He has recently spoken against legalization. Jesse Jackson has recently come out for legalization, but did not as a candidate.
6) I also believe the first Presidential primary candidate of either major party to support legalization was Ron Paul in 2004. In that year, Dennis Kucinich supported only decriminalization. In 2008, Republican and later Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson also supported legalization.
7) The leading organization currently opposing marijuana legalization is SAM (Smart Alternatives to Marijuana). It’s head is Patrick Kennedy, son of Teddy, a man deeply embedded in the Democratic Party elite.

I think the upshot is that both major parties were equally supportive of the prohibition and of the war on drugs generally, which never would have gotten off the ground with serious opposition by either party. But the Republican Party did have more room for dissent on this issue, even in the 80s when they were most invested in the fight, than the Democrats did. The dissent was not even limited to the libertarian wing (Buchanan did not belong to that wing; apparently, he was pandering to it, which means he found it worth pandering to). Given all the crowing about the allegedly essential authoritarian, follow-the-leader mentality of conservatives, this does seem like something liberals and the Democratic Party should be examining critically, rather than pretending that Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia.

And this is why I think this matters. It is not just a matter of giving Libertarians fair credit, though fair is fair. It is that the Democratic Party should answer for its role in the war on drugs, and the success of the Party in suppressing dissent on it for so long should be looked at very critically.

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Anarcissie 08.13.14 at 12:58 pm

Ze Kraggash 08.13.14 at 6:25 am:
If I were an idealistic anarcho-capitalist, I would’ve certainly felt that the government has no business interfering in anyone’s sexual affairs and romantic interests. …

Back in the days when I argued with libertarians and ‘anarcho-capitalists’ on Usenet, that was exactly the position of most of those writing. Marriage was just another contract, etc., and people ought to be free to make whatever contracts they like. Of course that was a somewhat different category of people than Republican-libertarians or Libertarian Party-libertarians, whom the Usenet libertarians mostly regarded as fakes or hopelessly compromised. One could say they were marginalized purists, but their ideas and attitudes were permitted to flow into those parties, whereas the Democratic Party’s attitude towards its corresponding leftish margins (socialists, anarchists, pacifists, etc.) has been largely one of exclusion and suppression,

162

David J. Littleboy 08.13.14 at 1:15 pm

“People here may find this food for thought.”

Not really. He complains that folks who don’t know much about Ayn Rand think it’s part of the Tea Party, recoil from the term libertarianism. I’ve heard Rand speak, read her novels. Real libertarians are way worse than the Tea Party. The Tea Party makes sense (not that it’s pretty, but it makes sense), libertarianism doesn’t. (Libertarianism only makes sense if you have as much money as Romney. For the vast majority of folks, things like unions, workplace safety laws, Medicare and SS are real nice. Libertarians are just nuts. Even if contracts were as nice equitable things as the libertarians claim, tell that to the folks who thought they had pensions from, e.g., Enron. They paid in, but there’s no one to pay out.)

163

Anarcissie 08.13.14 at 1:39 pm

For consistent libertarians, there is no objection to unions (a group of people combining for common economic benefit) or the closed shop (a voluntary contract). Libertarians who object to unions or the closed shop, like Rand Paul or the Cato Institute, are obviously fakes or at least intellectually deficient.

Many of you seem to not have done the reading, which is understandable: it’s mostly very tedious stuff. Reading Ayn Rand novels through to the end is heroic but vain: Rand did not like libertarians because they do not share (submit to) her philosophy so-called, and her works are not regarded as scripture except by (1) a narrow group of disciples and (2) a certain type of liberal or leftist who wants to taint the opposition with her absurdities and bad taste.

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Layman 08.13.14 at 1:42 pm

“Libertarians who object to unions or the closed shop, like Rand Paul or the Cato Institute, are obviously fakes or at least intellectually deficient.”

He’s no true Scotsman, that Rand Paul…

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David J. Littleboy 08.13.14 at 3:29 pm

“He’s no true Scotsman, that Rand Paul…”

Yep. Libertarianism is whatever the person wants to believe it is, it seems. Now Ayn Rand isn’t a real libertarian. ROFL.

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Ze Kraggash 08.13.14 at 4:32 pm

Libertarianism has its logic (and quite a simple one, which accounts for its relative popularity). And of course celebrities and politicians associated with it (as well as its ordinary followers) have their inconsistancies and different interpretations, because life is complicated. And what’s so special about that? It’s very common. No one is a true Scotsman. Marx said he wasn’t a Marxist. You can discuss shortcomings of the ideology, or you can discuss Rand Paul.

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Consumatopia 08.13.14 at 6:07 pm

Libertarianism has its logic

Which logic? Even principled, logically rigorous libertarian philosophers are going to reach very different conclusions. Robert Nozick insisted that his theories justified reparations for past injustice and regulation of environmental pollution. Someone arguing for the supremacy of markets on consequentialist grounds won’t agree with those policies. I don’t think it makes sense to say that one of these two positions is libertarian while the other isn’t.

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The Temporary Name 08.13.14 at 6:24 pm

You can discuss shortcomings of the ideology, or you can discuss Rand Paul.

The aforementioned Gary North offers the Ron Paul Curriculum: http://www.ronpaulcurriculum.com/

Presumably those home-schooled under it will be calling themselves libertarians and advocating stoning for adultery.

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TM 08.13.14 at 6:26 pm

novakant 14: Political terminology in the US has simply become meaningless. Libertarianism in the US doesn’t mean what you think it should mean. Just consider who is considered as the libertarian philosophers in the US: Ayn Rand and Hayek.

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TM 08.13.14 at 7:35 pm

In my anecdotal experience with internet libertarians, when a self-identified US libertarian looks for an example of government overreach, he will cite something like the state mandate for low-flush toilets – “outrageous, the state telling me what I can do in my own bathroom”. A left liberal looking for an example of government overreach will cite torture, surveillance, the gay marriage ban, drug prohibition etc. The self-identified US libertarian may, when challenged, assert that he opposes drug prohibition and surveillance too but it’s rarely what really fires him up to mouth-foaming tirades against government tyranny. The obvious fact is that left or left-liberal activists and publications are consistent and visible in denouncing government oppression, far more visible and consistent than most self-idenfied libertarians. The latter are mostly noticeable for attacking regulation – usually in lock-step with corporate interests.

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Plume 08.13.14 at 8:22 pm

One big problem here, of course, is that the American version of libertarianism is a pretty recent invention, and as essentially phony as the tea party. It’s right-wing ideology, created pretty much by Milton Friedman and the Austrians in order to put lipstick on the neoliberal pig. The left’s version goes back two centuries, and is far more inclusive in its battle against “tyranny.” The libertarian left doesn’t discriminate when it comes to fighting modes of oppression, and recognizes power concentrations in both the public and private sectors as problematic and worse. The right’s version, better called “propertarianism,” doesn’t even recognize that the private sector can be tyrannical.

That’s its fatal flaw. To see government, and only government, as the sole source for oppression and tyranny.

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Ze Kraggash 08.13.14 at 8:48 pm

Huh. Low-flush toilets, while nowhere near as lofty as concerns about torture and surveillance, sounds like something that affects a lot of people, ordinary people. A different sort of politics, more populist perhaps? Actual politics: this is how you recruit in Tea Party, probably. And what do you have in this department?

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TM 08.13.14 at 9:20 pm

Ze, “something that affects a lot of people” – well maybe but does it take their freedom or privacy away? Only if the freedom to waste, or the freedom to pollute (http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/08/05/phosphate-memories), is high on your list of inalienable rights – which of course they are in the right-wing universe.

Oh, and surveillance does now affect everybody.

“And what do you have in this department?” Well the minimum wage is quite popular. If your point is that liberals should engage more in populist tactics and appeal more to the self interest of its potential supporters – at least the legitimate self-interest – I don’t disagree. But libertarians are notorious for claiming to be motivated by lofty, often very abstract, ideals and principles. It is telling that what they care about is almost always some trivial restriction of their own personal freedom, rather than the actual oppression of other people.

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David J. Littleboy 08.13.14 at 10:07 pm

“Only if the freedom to waste, or the freedom to pollute (http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/08/05/phosphate-memories), is high on your list of inalienable rights”

Exactly. The thing that unites libertarians is an objection to paying for the externalities they impose on the rest of us. They don’t phrase it that way, but that’s what they mean. Liberty for libertarians is the liberty to hurt people without taking responsibility.

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Bruce Wilder 08.13.14 at 10:18 pm

William Timberman @ 149

The emergent political economy Hayek fantasized about — the competitive market economy — has all the intelligence of a slime mold spreading through a petri dish. And, that’s not as far from accurate a description of the actual economy as we might wish it to be. A somewhat esoteric YouTube favorite are time-lapse videos of slime molds reproducing rail or road networks — they do a pretty good job, suggesting, accurately, I expect, just how little intelligence survives in the political process of intellectually impoverished efforts at urban planning.

Whether the carrying capacity of the earth can handle such a population, with such prodigious appetites is an open question. The typical middle-class American household is the resource equivalent of a Roman familia astride a minor latifundia populated by a couple thousand slaves.

Whether human social cooperation can be carried on successfully at current scale is just as much an open question.

The human population of civilization is engaged in social cooperation on an enormous and unprecedented scale — every day, the human population is greater than it has ever been, and it is more than twice what it was, when you or I were born, when it was already 1000x what it was at the beginning of the Holocene. Humans had never numbered even 1 billion, before the Industrial Revolution began; projections today suggest that human population may top out near ten times its pre-industrial revolution peak, and is pretty close to that peak already in percentage terms — though no one should dismiss the potentially horrific implications of an addition to population over the next three or four decades as great as the whole population of the earth as recently as 1950.

I don’t know what changed in human nature that made it possible for the small murderous bands of pre-historic eras to form the Empires of Rome, Genghis Khan or Imperial Britain. Maybe nothing, maybe we are just that plastic in our intelligence and social adaptability. I will note that the political organism, which human sociability is capable of constructing, seems to be vulnerable to self-infecting disease. Our never-ending strategic competition with one another means that any social organization, any institutional order must struggle as it ages to construct and maintain an immune system to combat infections that debilitate it. We see it with the growth of the Internet, built by idealists with a wholly naive architecture, which has struggled against waves of “viruses” (which are just as much the constructions of people as the architecture of the system they infect).

My point is that the struggle of the political organism to become smarter than a slime mold is held back by the fact that human beings are, in relation to our own bodies politic, parasites. The same mechanisms of rationalized domination that permit great feats of accomplishment are liable to be debilitated by an authoritarian sclerosis and social paralysis, brought on by this strange hazard of self-destructiveness.

In the discussion of what Reagan wrought, I couldn’t help but think about how stupid our politics became after 1980. It was not a huge increment of additional stupid; even during the peak smart years of the New Deal and WWII we were never all that smart, and in the Kennedy-Johnson years, we clearly overestimated both our cool and our smarts. But, the U.S. did make a decisive turn away from deliberate collective choice and toward being more of a slime mold.

To handle the challenges of climate change, peak oil, ecological collapse, overpopulation, etc. will require something more intelligent than the short-term seeking after sugar of the slime mold so evident in our fracking, oil sands and bomb-Iraq-perpetually obsessions. We’d have invest in a low-energy infrastructure, while we still had the energy to do so, instead of congratulating ourselves on electing the lesser evil on the way to becoming a third-world country.

There’s an energy and resource yield dynamic, which is just beginning to overtake us. The huge surpluses that greeted the feeble early technologies of the Industrial Revolution as Europe expanded across the globe are gone, and we face not just the spectre of diminishing return, but the accelerated crumbling of a crisis of the commons combined with the multiplying hazards thrown into the environment by the very technological advance so many seem to think will magically save us.

Humans are capable of great bursts of intelligence and rapid advances in understanding, as clearly in evidence in the continuing advance of technologies. What people on the other thread are mentioning in passing about manufacturing technologies is just astonishing. But, what we understand about the architecture of political economy has scarcely advanced at all since Adam Smith; that parasitic infection of ourselves, by ourselves, for what I cannot quite figure out, dominates and stupefies the very thing we need to understand most, right now.

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Bruce Wilder 08.13.14 at 10:24 pm

I apologize for the editing failure on my last comment. My cut-and-paste skills in re-arranging a narrative sequence to make sense do not seem to be up to standard.

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john c. halasz 08.14.14 at 12:18 am

@175:
I’ve compared it rather to a toxic algae bloom:

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Ze Kraggash 08.14.14 at 6:16 am

“It is telling that what they care about is almost always some trivial restriction of their own personal freedom, rather than the actual oppression of other people.”

Perusing our own personal interests is the essence of liberal (in general sense) politics. A low-flowing toilet probably annoys the average person a hundred times more than oppression of other people. If I were a politician, I would make it the centerpiece of my campaign, and you’d have no chance. No shit. To take care of oppression of other people (if they can’t do it themselves) you’d need a philosopher-king or something.

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Consumatopia 08.14.14 at 7:08 am

If I were a politician, I would make it the centerpiece of my campaign

You’re basically ignoring TM’s point, but even putting that aside, this is particularly silly.

Low-flow toilets work as propaganda not because the average person is obsessed with them as a tremendous burden (as if people were chomping at the bit for higher water bills), but because some people don’t understand why the government concerns itself with something so apparently trivial. Making it the focus of a politician’s campaign is therefore self-defeating.

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William Timberman 08.14.14 at 7:10 am

Bruce Wilder @ 175, 176

No apology necessary. As a meta-narrative of our possibly terminal distemper, it’ll serve well enough. In fact, my fantasy of the end of the beginning would be the look on Charlie Rose’s face after an hour spent interviewing you. Maybe it could be run right after Friedman’s interview with the President. At very least no one would then be able to claim that we weren’t warned, not with a straight face, anyway.

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William Timberman 08.14.14 at 7:47 am

Bruce Wilder @ 175

A couple of other stubborn tidbits:

1. The logic of capitalism is the logic of the cancer cell. I’m not sure anymore if anybody ever actually said this, or said it precisely this way — I could Google it, I suppose — but it’s been lodged in a stubborn neuron or two of mine for over 40 years. A subset of your slime-mold analogy, I suppose, in that it indicts not human nature, but a particular ideology/development model.

2. A successful parasite is one that doesn’t kill the host. By that measure, we’re closer as a species to Ebola than to the common cold, and far from ready for a symbiotic relationship with the rest of creation analogous to the far simpler symbiosis that permits the formation of coral reefs.

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Anarcissie 08.14.14 at 12:47 pm

Layman 08.13.14 at 1:42 pm @ 164 — In ideological (as opposed to tribal or practical) politics, you are what you say.

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Ed 08.14.14 at 1:28 pm

Bruce @175, excellent comment.

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Brett Bellmore 08.14.14 at 2:07 pm

“One big problem here, of course, is that the American version of libertarianism is a pretty recent invention, and as essentially phony as the tea party. “

I would say one big problem here, is that lot of people on the left talk about diversity, but don’t really believe that people can have diverse viewpoints. All opposition to them has to be phony, astroturf, and so forth, because nobody can REALLY disagree with them.

Yes, libertarianism is as phony as the Tea party. Which is to say, genuine.

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Consumatopia 08.14.14 at 2:32 pm

@182 “Libertarianism” is defined by what a “libertarian” says, not the other way around. Note which word is the root of the other.

I’m not sure you’re even right about closed shop–if you ask a libertarian “taking the Wagner and Taft-Hartley Acts as given, should unions be allowed to use their government granted protections to negotiate closed shop contracts?”, I don’t think logical consistency would force them to say “yes”. The problem here is that libertarianism and libertarians don’t really consider second-best policies–the pure libertarian view is that all labor regulations should be repealed. If everyone else refuses to accept that policy, and the libertarian is asked to consider one regulation while leaving all the others in place, formal theories of libertarianism don’t point in one direction or the other. Libertarianism theory describes the libertarian utopia, but it doesn’t tell you which of two non-utopia states should be considered more free. Probably because once you start talking about which of two non-utopia states are more free, you might go back and ask whether your supposed utopia is really as free as you thought it was. The kind of logic that right-to-work supporting libertarians employ–that government granted privileges should sometimes be restrained by government–is exactly the kind of logic that liberals frequently use to condemn the propertarian utopia.

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engels 08.14.14 at 2:33 pm

One big problem here, of course, is that the American version of libertarianism is a pretty recent invention, and as essentially phony as the tea party.

This cannot be stressed too often. It’s a product of the lab, like a Zedonk or Molly the sheep. I wonder if it wasn’t rammed people throats by think tanks and political philosophy departments it might have died off some time since.

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Barry 08.14.14 at 3:05 pm

Brett Bellmore 08.14.14 at 2:07 pm
” Yes, libertarianism is as phony as the Tea party. Which is to say, genuine.”

Yes, the Tea Party. Which blossomed into outrage and mass protests riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight after the GOP lost the White House.

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Anarcissie 08.14.14 at 3:23 pm

engels 08.14.14 at 2:33 pm @ 186 –
What ideology is not an artifice?

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Ze Kraggash 08.14.14 at 3:57 pm

“the American version of libertarianism is a pretty recent invention”

And here’s the EU version:

Euthanasia might be needed for poor people who cannot access palliative care, the new Lithuanian Health Minister has suggested. Rimantė Šalaševičiūtė was sworn earlier this month, but already she has made waves by backing an open discussion of the legalisation of euthanasia.

Without making any specific proposals, she told local media that Lithuania was not a welfare state with palliative care available for all and that euthanasia might be an option for people who did not want to torment relatives with the ‘spectacle’ of their suffering.

The minister has also raised the idea of euthanasia for children. She noted that this option had been approved for Belgian children after a long public debate.

http://www.nationalrighttolifenews.org/news/2014/07/euthanasia-could-be-option-for-poor-says-lithuanian-health-minister/

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Brett Bellmore 08.14.14 at 4:02 pm

Yes, the Tea Party. Which a simple Google search can confirm existed long before the 2008 election.

Sample search results

Seriously, the left may not have noticed the Tea Party until it had a Democratic President to criticize, but it came into being as a reaction to Bush, not Obama.

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Consumatopia 08.14.14 at 4:10 pm

@188 What other ideology depends as strongly as libertarianism on it’s supposedly non-contingent, first-principle, natural law, platonic nature? Liberals or conservatives tend to claim broader intuitions and/or experiences in support of their views, so historical contingency doesn’t undermine them the same way it undermines many libertarian arguments.

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Bruce Wilder 08.14.14 at 4:18 pm

Ze Kraggash @ 189

Re: your link to euthanasia for the poor, I’m not sure which scares me more, the libertarianism or the Catholicism.

Neither wants to deal with the underlying causes of poverty or make the world a better place. The libertarians do not want social insurance, because it would remove the opportunity to profit from usury. The Catholics want palliative care, because they think the suffering of the poor and sick is good for the soul, but oppose effective birth control, because it might enable too much pleasure.

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The Temporary Name 08.14.14 at 4:57 pm

“Libertarianism” is defined by what a “libertarian” says

No, it’s defined by what a libertarian DOES. They can talk all they like about liberty but will fall on the anti-liberty side in a dispute between one employer and ten thousand workers.

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Anarcissie 08.14.14 at 5:00 pm

Consumatopia 08.14.14 at 4:10 pm @ 191 — engels @ 186 was not criticizing the content of libertarianism but its practices, and from the outside. He could have gone on and added that they do not do as they say, but he didn’t. Nor did he support his assertion with evidence. My (equally unsupported) opinion is that, far from being entirely a con game, libertarianism is the fundamentalism of liberalism, a taking-literally of principles most people take with grains of salt or crossed fingers behind their backs, and thus is rather widely if thinly distributed among non-elite types who do not understand the Byzantine subtleties of the pros.

Such people can be conned, but so can be and are many other sects of liberalism. The liberal anti-war movement, for instance, was conned into being a mere instrument of Democratic Party politics during the years of Bush 2, and turned off when the Democrats got their man in.

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TM 08.14.14 at 5:31 pm

Ze Kraggash 178, for clarification, are you trying to caricature libertarian views or do you identify as libertarian and actually hold these views? Do you really think that anybody is genuinely annoyed by low-flush toilets? Why – and are those same people also annoyed by government regulation insisting that dwellings must have plumbing and toilets in the first place (which undeniably infringes on their “liberty” to “choose” not to have a toilet)?

My guess is you are fooling around. Just for the record, I was not fooling around – the examples I gave in 170 are genuine.

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Consumatopia 08.14.14 at 5:39 pm

@Anarcissie, there doesn’t seem to be any relationship at all between what you just wrote @194, and the posts @171 and @186, or your question @188. And my response said @191 still stands.

The trouble is not whether libertarians or liberals are more prone to being “conned” or hypocrites. The trouble is that libertarianism itself is a con.

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engels 08.14.14 at 6:01 pm

libertarianism is the fundamentalism of liberalism, a taking-literally of principles most people take with grains of salt or crossed fingers behind their backs

If this is right, I don’t think it’s inconsistent with my opinion. It’s a wrinkle-freequasi-mathematical construction for technicians and hobbyists, which relates to genuine ideologies like liberalism in much the same way that a computer programming language relates to English.

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Anarcissie 08.14.14 at 6:04 pm

Consumatopia 08.14.14 at 5:39 pm @ 196 — While it’s clear that anyone who disagrees with me is either a fool or a crook, and therefore wrong, I prefer to differentiate between the two types.

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Consumatopia 08.14.14 at 6:54 pm

Something doesn’t become less of a con just because fools start believing it.

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Ze Kraggash 08.15.14 at 8:28 am

Yeah, libertarians are you, but here’s your real ideological enemy, the super-popular PM of Hungary:

Instead, Orban looked to non-Western models, proclaiming: “a trending topic in thinking is understanding systems that are not Western, not liberal, not liberal democracies, maybe not even democracies, and yet making nations successful. Today, the stars of international analyses are Singapore, China, India, Turkey, Russia.”

http://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/trend-lines/14001/hungary-s-orban-a-threat-to-liberal-democracy-and-eu-norms

This might be the next big thing, as a push back against neoliberalism (which is also you).

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Brett Bellmore 08.15.14 at 10:47 am

“Do you really think that anybody is genuinely annoyed by low-flush toilets? “

Well, I sure was. I was building my house in notoriously drought prone Michigan [/sarcasm], when the law went into effect, and the really nice regular toilet I’d ordered got banned, and they shipped me one of the early low-flush toilets. A real piece of junk.

Which took several flushes, and more total water, to do the job. Which was just as well, because my septic field needed the water to function, anyway, it just being me in that house. But at least each individual flush was less water, and that’s what was important, right? Not how much water I actually used, or whether I really needed to conserve it on a well, with a septic field.

The low-flush toilet mandate makes a pretty good example of mindless regulation. Low-flush toilets make sense in some places, less sense in others, and in some places are an actual problem. But they got mandated everywhere.

Now, of course, I live in the S.C. Piedmont region, where there actually ARE droughts occasionally, and I have a newer low-flush toilet, which actually works, and I don’t mind it a bit. Because I was never opposed to low-flush toilets.

I was opposed to mindless, one size fits all, regulations. The low-flush toilet mandate just happened to be a perfect example of those, that caused a lot of people serious problems.

“Something doesn’t become less of a con just because fools start believing it.”

Doesn’t become more of a con because other fools believe in some other con.

Seriously, liberals need to get used to the idea that people genuinely have different opinions. Stop treating every viewpoint but their own as some kind of false consciousness imposed by diabolical mind control rays. You know how silly you come across when, for instance, you insist the NRA is astroturf?

People actually have genuine disagreements. Different starting premises. That’s one of the reasons government needs to do less: Because there are only so many subjects where most people agree, and once you get beyond those, the government can’t act without stepping on a lot of toes.

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Consumatopia 08.15.14 at 1:21 pm

Unless you delight in human suffering, low flush toilets should be mandatory in areas where water shortages are a problem. (No, the free market should not have the power to decide who loses access to water.) Note that most of the country has, at the very least, occasional droughts. If there is any area of the country that has literally never had a drought, you could make an exception, but that means you have to enforce the regulations at the point at which toilets are installed rather than when toilets are sold, which is harder. It also means manufacturers would have to keep making two kinds of toilets, which means they wouldn’t put as much design time into the low-flush models, and everyone might still be complaining today that they still don’t work.

I’m not talking about false consciousness, and this is why Anarcissie’s dichotomy of crooks and fools is nonsense. It’s not that someone necessarily tricked you into pretending that private power is freedom. You probably just sympathized with private power or the people holding it. It’s not false consciousness, it’s rationalization.

It’s libertarianism that denies the legitimacy of other points of view. Libertarianism force people to accept feudal propertarianism and call it “freedom”. If you resist private power, libertarians are perfectly happy having the police kill you. Let me translate libertarian speak: “People have genuine disagreements. Different starting premises. That’s one of the reasons that bosses and landlords should be free to coerce people.” The most important disagreement we have is on whether the power of government created and enforced property over human beings should be absolute.

If you manage to get the regime you want, Brett, you had better drastically expand the military and the police. I promise you that you will need it.

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Consumatopia 08.15.14 at 2:12 pm

Today, the stars of international analyses are Singapore, China, India, Turkey, Russia.

Singapore being on that list complicates your liberal = libertarian = neoliberal claim.

https://www.google.com/search?q=libertarian+singapore

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TM 08.15.14 at 6:19 pm

“The low-flush toilet mandate makes a pretty good example of mindless regulation. Low-flush toilets make sense in some places, less sense in others, and in some places are an actual problem. But they got mandated everywhere.”

Ok, so some early low-flush toilets were poorly designed. Blame the government, not the private companies making them! I recently lived in an apartment with an old, poorly designed high-flush toilet (not sure that’s a proper use of language). I blame the government too: the city should not tolerate such substandard appliances in rental apartments (neither should it tolerate leaky windows and and and). I guess you would disagree. You would probably blame me for voluntarily entering into a contract with a slumlord (I would counter that the “free market” didn’t give me that much choice).

Anyway, I’m gratified by my low-flush toilet example having provoked so much debate but still, are you really not getting the point or just pretending? Yes, some regulation is less than optimal. Some is in fact counterproductive or outright stupid – no liberal will deny that, although we might come up with different examples for what we consider stupid regulation. But that problem cannot be solved by not having any regulation. “the government can’t act without stepping on a lot of toes”, true, but neither can it NOT act without stepping on a lot of toes.

What always amazes me is the lack of a sense of proportion in libertarian complaints. We are all annoyed or maybe aggrieved by certain government policies that we disagree with but most of us recognize the difference between “the government not acting as I would like” and tyranny. There are plenty of cases when genuine fundamental rights – by most people’s standards – are violated by the state, but in my experience, as explained in 170, it is rarely those that right-wing libertarians get worked up about, and it is mostly the so-called “big government” liberals who can be found working to rectify those genuine excesses.

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Anarcissie 08.15.14 at 7:41 pm

‘… What always amazes me is the lack of a sense of proportion in libertarian complaints. We are all annoyed or maybe aggrieved by certain government policies that we disagree with but most of us recognize the difference between “the government not acting as I would like” and tyranny….’

The libertarian complaint is not about bad government. It is that government is evil, and that even if it is a necessary evil, it should nevertheless be minimized. The beneficial acts of the government are thus worse than the irritating or destructive ones; the first deceive, the latter instruct.

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Plume 08.15.14 at 7:59 pm

The libertarian complaint against government is a strange one, for a host of reasons. It wants it to guarantee these mysterious “natural rights” that supposedly preexist the human condition, but it also doesn’t want the government to use force. Trace back every private property transaction in America and you’ll get to a place where the land was stolen from someone, by force. Our military did it, our police, our warlords, our robber barons. In every case, there is an origin of theft and violence. And there is violence in keeping that land (and other possessions), if others make claims to the same property.

So, it wants the body it otherwise sees as “tyrannical” to impose arbitrary “rights” to protect its arbitrary ideas of personal possessions which wouldn’t exist in the first place without governments — for good or ill. And it’s often the latter.

Honestly, why would we ever want to limit the function of government to minarchy? To the protection of personal property? That’s just a fancy way of saying “police state.” The only thing that really makes government at all palatable is when it works collectively, on our behalf, to improve quality of life for all. It’s nothing but an official thug for the rich if it does nothing but protect the status quo property arrangements. I’d rather have no government than a minarchy.

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Consumatopia 08.15.14 at 8:01 pm

even if it is a necessary evil, it should nevertheless be minimized

“minimized” doesn’t make sense. If you minimize the parts of government that regulate private property, the power of the government to define and enforce property becomes much more significant.

This isn’t hard to understand, suppose the government just hands over all the land in the country to a single individual, then says “See, now we don’t make any decisions at all. We are minimized, and your freedom is maximized.” That’s libertarianism–not the destruction of power and coercion, but handing over of power and coercion to whoever happens to hold the deeds.

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Brett Bellmore 08.15.14 at 8:05 pm

“Ok, so some early low-flush toilets were poorly designed. Blame the government, not the private companies making them!”

I don’t blame the private companies for making them, because the private companies didn’t force me to buy them. The government forced me to buy one, despite the fact that it made no sense for me to use one.

You think that’s fine, because it’s more convenient for the government to force everybody to use low flush toilets, even the people who don’t need them. And, how could the market possibly handle selling both regular AND low flush toilets?

Perhaps this decendant of plumbers, who can sweat pipes together, and install toilets, should explain something to you: The nation is chock full of existing infrastructure, household plumbing and sewers, which was designed to function with a certain minimum amount of water per turd. It malfunctions with less water per turd.

It has to do with the angle the pipes are sloped, apparently something too hard for regulators to have asked plumbers about…

209

Anarcissie 08.15.14 at 8:27 pm

If you want to argue with libertarianism, you’ll have to get some real libertarians in here. Which I guess leads to the No True Scotsman problem. However, it would probably be better than just making things up.

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TM 08.15.14 at 8:43 pm

I get your point but it proves too much. Would you agree that there should be no product, no building regulation at all? No requirement that wiring, plumbing, etc. adhere to certain standards, no requirement that there needs to be plumbing and toilets in the first place? No safety standards whatsoever on cars, airplanes, drugs? I don’t think any libertarian seriously takes that view – you would frankly just appear as a lunatic. But if you don’t take that radical view, then our positions don’t differ in principle – nobody claims that all regulation is always good. Everybody agrees that some regulations should be changed or abolished (although of course there is no agreement on which those are). The standard libertarian way out is some variant of “let’s minimize regulation”, but that is just hand-waving. People disagree on what the “minimum” should be and there simply is no a priori principle that would allow you to say, “this is the minimum that is consistent with libertarian philosophy and anything in excess is too much”. Just like it’s impossible to pinpoint a “minimum” tax rate that is justifiable and anything in excess is too much. I’m not aware of any US rightwing libertarians that really consistently advocate abolishing state power (as anarchists do), what they are advocating is a preference for certain kinds of state power (e. g. police, courts, enforcement of property rights) over others (e. g. economic regulation, social welfare). It is fine of course if you have these preferences, what I find dishonest is the claim that these preferences are more consistent with liberty (“libertarian”) and “small government” than, say the preferences of left-wing liberalism.

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TM 08.15.14 at 9:01 pm

“nobody claims that all regulation is always good”, and of course, nobody believes that more regulation is always better, although libertarians always have a field day batting down that particular “big government” strawman.

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J Thomas 08.15.14 at 9:14 pm

Would you agree that there should be no product, no building regulation at all? No requirement that wiring, plumbing, etc. adhere to certain standards, no requirement that there needs to be plumbing and toilets in the first place? No safety standards whatsoever on cars, airplanes, drugs?

In all fairness, there are various private organizations that create standards, and some of them have standard methods to create standards that tend to work reasonably well. It doesn’t have to be a government doing it. Sometimes governments wind up enforcing the privately-created standards because those standards appear to work. Sometimes people mostly follow the standards even without government enforcement because it just makes sense to.

It’s an open question how well we could do without government regulation. I expect we’d have more problems than we do now, but how much more? Would it be something we can live with? I can’t really predict that.

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Bruce Wilder 08.15.14 at 10:57 pm

I complain a lot about the way economics, as a social science discipline, neglects the whole business of hierarchy and rules in organizing the political economy. Libertarianism derives a lot of its legitimacy from the models of a competitive market economy arriving at an optimal general equilibrium — a decentralized economy is perfectly coordinated by market price and there’s minimal need for a centralized authority making and enforcing rules, providing insuring or providing public goods. Economists know, in principle, that the world is more complicated than that, but they frame it as exceptional — government interventions may be justified in the case of identified market failure, not otherwise.

As a vision, it’s a total crock. But, we don’t give it up, and it never gets replaced.

Our common-sense tells us that we take direction all the time. Our common experience is taking direction, following rules. Half the labor force works in giant bureaucracies — it’s how we work, how we live. But, we don’t have a college course, to hang an overarching understanding of what those rules are all about, and what makes for better rules, why governments are involved, why private organizations get involved. What is control? What’s it for?

The economists tell us we live in a market economy, but most people never personally encounter an actual market in the course of a week. The closest most get is to see a brief report on financial market activity. But, we all deal with, and many working people inhabit, bureaucracies.

It takes a lot of studied ignorance to keep an ideology like libertarianism alive and well.

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Carl 08.16.14 at 7:48 am

The “I’ve got mine” complaint is baffling.

Are you saying that what is theirs isn’t actually theirs, but yours?

Or that it is theirs but it’s awfully mean of them not to share, and so they WILL share whether they like it or not, and you will decide how much they share and who gets what?

To complain about “I’ve got mine” suggests a property claim which is never substantiated.

As usual, the left wishes to live off corporate wealth without the unseemly trouble of having to earn it. Win/win.

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Carl 08.16.14 at 7:50 am

Who will make sure plumbing is done correctly if not the politicians!?

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Brett Bellmore 08.16.14 at 9:37 am

TM: Michigan doesn’t have a water shortage. (This should be obvious at the moment.) Southern Florida doesn’t have to cope with snow loads on roofs. In Wisconsin they hardly ever experience hurricanes.

Why would somebody, having decided that building codes were necessary, conclude they needed to be uniform across the country? It doesn’t make sense to build homes in Wisconsin to survive hurricanes, why do you think it makes sense to build homes in Michigan to conserve water, as though they were located in a drought prone area?

The point is, not only were there people who were really annoyed by the low-flush mandate, (And don’t get me started about shower heads that just drool on you…) a lot of them, they had good reason to be annoyed. A regulation which made sense in some parts of the country was imposed nation-wide. Imposed on a nation full of infrastructure it wasn’t really compatible with. The cost has been immense, and is ongoing.

And yet, objecting to the low-flush mandate is considered among liberals to be mindless regulation bashing?

I’d like to introduce you to a concept I think more liberals need acquaintance with: Diminishing returns. Just because a little bit of something is beneficial, doesn’t mean a huge heap of it will be.

Ever stop to think that government and regulation might be subject to the law of diminishing returns, and that you might just have taken your love affair with government and regulation too far?

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Ze Kraggash 08.16.14 at 12:44 pm

“suppose the government just hands over all the land in the country to a single individual”

I don’t think the govt is supposed to do that. It only validates and upholds the claims, and makes sure all transactions are voluntary. Like in the wild west, the judge and and the sherif is all the govt you need. The rest is all private interests. What’s interesting is that i don’t think this construct has to be proprietarian necessarily. I don’t think it needs any laws. If the judicial system is jury-based, then it’s just the best judgement of the local community: one village may have strong proprietarian leanings, and the next one down the road might refuse to accept any property claims at all.

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J Thomas 08.16.14 at 12:57 pm

#214 Carl

The “I’ve got mine” complaint is baffling.

Are you saying that what is theirs isn’t actually theirs, but yours?

I don’t say it’s mine, but I say usually their claim is morally weak.

Let’s say your great-great-great-grandfather owned a lot of land because he pushed the Indians off of it. Did he deserve to own that land? Do you deserve to own it today?

OK, let’s say my great-great-great-grandfather was both a surveyor and a lawyer, and he used the law to take that land away from your great^3-grandfather. Did he deserve to own that land? Do I deserve to own it today?

Let’s say John Quiggen’s great-great-grandfather made a fortune selling rotten beef to the Union army during the civil war, and that was the base of a fortune which has passed down to John. Did he deserve that fortune for cheaply supporting a corrupt autocratic government in its successful efforts to oppress people who were trying to be free of it? Does John?

Today, most of “what’s yours” or “what’s mine” is either stolen outright or it’s a case of receiving stolen property. If you provided fair value for money when you sold to a thief, do you really deserve the rewards? But if are an American and you don’t sell to the US government or to people who work for the US government or people who sell to it, then you probably don’t have much at all.

In theory, people ought to be able to own their own stuff that was always theirs or that they earned from other people. But today pretty much everything that you have, you have because the government gave it to you, or the government paid you to do stuff the government wanted, directly or indirectly, or at the very least the government set up corrupt laws that let you prosper in place of somebody else who would have prospered with other laws.

No, you have no particular right to the wealth the government handed to you. When you create your wealth from scratch after the government is gone, without coercing anybody, you’ll deserve that wealth.

In the meantime, what the government hands out, the government can take back. And you can’t stop them until you find a way to stop them.

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Consumatopia 08.16.14 at 1:25 pm

What’s interesting is that i don’t think this construct has to be proprietarian necessarily. I don’t think it needs any laws. If the judicial system is jury-based, then it’s just the best judgement of the local community: one village may have strong proprietarian leanings, and the next one down the road might refuse to accept any property claims at all.

I don’t think juries alone are enough to accomplish that, as one dozen of people might not necessarily agree with the next dozen of their neighbors, but, sure, in principle some system like that could probably be made to work.

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Consumatopia 08.16.14 at 2:17 pm

Michigan has had water shortages in the past.

There are clearly some areas of the country in which the government needs to regulate water use. The question is whether its worth fine-tuning the regulations to only apply to those areas. You make a reasonable case that they should, but given that weather patterns are variable (Michigan doesn’t have a water shortage now…) and uniform regulations are easier to administer (easier to regulate toilet sales than toilet installations), there’s a reasonable case to make that they shouldn’t. Making exceptions to the law for every case in which its suboptimal is also a process with diminishing marginal returns.

Bottom line, we’re talking about many millions of gallons of water a day. It might mean that some people have to flush twice or scrounge up antique toilets, until they change pipes. That doesn’t seem like a terrible trade.

Also, you completely ignored TM’s point, I don’t think he’s defending low flow toilets. I am, though.

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J Thomas 08.17.14 at 12:33 pm

“What’s interesting is that i don’t think this construct has to be proprietarian necessarily. I don’t think it needs any laws. If the judicial system is jury-based, then it’s just the best judgement of the local community: one village may have strong proprietarian leanings, and the next one down the road might refuse to accept any property claims at all.”

I don’t think juries alone are enough to accomplish that, as one dozen of people might not necessarily agree with the next dozen of their neighbors, but, sure, in principle some system like that could probably be made to work.

Currently we try to base our judicial system on precedent, with the idea that the law should be the same for everybody. We assume that people in the past, who knew less about the world and had less experience, knew better how to handle the problems than we do today.

If we go with a judicial system that depends on what juries think, the man with a lot of friends should do very well. Unpopular people, not so much.

If you are unpopular, or if you belong to a small unpopular minority, you’d better lobby for a uniform justice system. If you have enough friends or relatives to be reasonably sure of at least one person on your side on the jury, then push for letting any one juror stop a judgement.

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Ze Kraggash 08.17.14 at 12:54 pm

“If you are unpopular, or if you belong to a small unpopular minority”

In the real world this is of course a complicated issue, but in a hypothetical ideal world, if you find yourself unpopular and minority, why would you want to stay in that community? It would make sense to either assimilate or leave and join a more suitable one.

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engels 08.17.14 at 1:08 pm

If you have enough friends or relatives to be reasonably sure of at least one person on your side on the jury, then push for letting any one juror stop a judgement.

Oh dear

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J Thomas 08.18.14 at 2:18 am

“If you have enough friends or relatives to be reasonably sure of at least one person on your side on the jury, then push for letting any one juror stop a judgement.”

Oh dear

Well sure, the rules of the game are designed to reduce that some.

So if the defendant is black, it makes sense to try not to have any blacks on the jury. If he is Jewish then try not to have anybody you think might be Jewish. If he is a university professor then you don’t want any university professors, if he’s an engineer you don’t want any engineers, etc.

The lawyers on each side will try to avoid letting anybody onto the jury who is predisposed to support the other side.

But if you have enough friends, particularly people who are biased in your favor but are willing to lie about it, then you have an advantage you would not otherwise have.

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Collin Street 08.18.14 at 2:37 am

In the real world this is of course a complicated issue, but in a hypothetical ideal world, if you find yourself unpopular and minority, why would you want to stay in that community?

In my hypothetical ideal world there wouldn’t be any unpopular minorities.

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P.M.Lawrence 08.18.14 at 6:27 am

Collin Street wrote:-

In my hypothetical ideal world there wouldn’t be any unpopular minorities.

Unfortunately, there have traditionally been two ways of arranging that: no unpopularity and no minority. Guess which has been tried more often, sometimes effectively.

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J Thomas 08.18.14 at 8:37 am

#225

“In the real world this is of course a complicated issue, but in a hypothetical ideal world, if you find yourself unpopular and minority, why would you want to stay in that community?”

In my hypothetical ideal world there wouldn’t be any unpopular minorities.

Yes, same here. I might like a world where everybody agreed to be the same kind of libertarian and there were no unpopular minorities. I don’t expect to see one.

In the meantime I prefer trying to get along than suggesting unpopular minorities should move elsewhere. That’s how we go Utah, after all.

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Collin Street 08.18.14 at 10:28 am

Unfortunately, there have traditionally been two ways of arranging that: no unpopularity and no minority. Guess which has been tried more often, sometimes effectively.

In the real world you are of course correct.

This being an ideal world I think we’re entitled — obliged! — to presume ideal solutions.

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Ze Kraggash 08.18.14 at 10:51 am

In the perfectly ideal world there are no humans, and therefore, as Stalin once noted in a different context, there are no problems. What I had in mind was more like the ideal world of John Lennon, a world with no countries. Hippies.

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Brett Bellmore 08.18.14 at 10:58 am

“Yes, same here. I might like a world where everybody agreed to be the same kind of libertarian and there were no unpopular minorities. I don’t expect to see one.”

This is why the idea of sea-steading is so popular in libertarian circles. The idea of communities composed entirely of like-minded volunteers on land that wasn’t expropriated has an obvious appeal. Maybe libertarianism and other isms will get a fair trial once we start colonizing space in a big way.

Who knows, maybe even Plume’s ideas could work, with the right people, and six months’ travel time through vacuum to take the place of a Berlin wall.

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J Thomas 08.18.14 at 11:32 am

Maybe libertarianism and other isms will get a fair trial once we start colonizing space in a big way.

If space colonization works, I definitely want some of my grandchildren to be up there.

Because if it comes to a war where some people in space participate, and they can drop rocks at high speed on earth, this will definitely not be a good place to live.

On the other hand if you’re in space with no good place to hide, that might not be any good either. Maybe we’re just screwed.

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ZM 08.18.14 at 11:36 am

News from Nowhere was a libertarian utopia. Any takers?

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Brett Bellmore 08.18.14 at 11:49 am

I figure that, in space, the people running away should have the advantage over the oppressor. (But only if colonies can be self-sufficient.) After all, mass ratio is exponential relative to delta-v, making round trips enormously more expensive than one way trips.

The oppressor has a hard time chasing you down, and bringing home the loot, and making it pay. And you can see them coming, and run away.

Kuiper belt colonies are the future, I think.

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P.M.Lawrence 08.18.14 at 12:08 pm

Brett Bellmore, the oppressor doesn’t have to chase you down, bring home the loot, or make it pay. The oppressor only has to stop enough people getting out from under that enough don’t even try and end up contributing far more than the cost of sending missiles one way after the few who do try anyway. And you can’t see them coming and run away, not if they use the old trick of negotiating a limited autonomy for a few at the price of those few policing the rest, like Maroons who escaped from slavery or Cossacks who were never enserfed; that’s because the freed have all the same resources and locations as the would be free, plus some further help, and so they plug the free ecological niche, so to speak (they don’t have to come back; in fact, it would defeat the object if they tried).

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Lee A. Arnold 08.18.14 at 12:46 pm

#216: “… objecting to the low-flush mandate is considered among liberals to be mindless regulation bashing?”

Especially mindless.

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Brett Bellmore 08.18.14 at 1:22 pm

I’m not asserting that proliferation of independent colonies is guaranteed in a space colonization situation. Just that there are factors that make it more feasible than here on Earth. (Where there’s nowhere you can go that’s far enough away from existing governments to matter.)

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Jorge X Rodriguez 08.18.14 at 1:34 pm

Can anything which has led to so much discussion and so much derision justly be called “mindless”?

Actually, this is the kind of issue which the more philosophical libertarians can carry on about at interminable length. Is it appropriate to use force to limit the amount of water per flush? Who will determine how much water you need? Should not market forces like the price of water be brought to bear? Who owns the water, anyway?

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