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Laugh at the Libertarian

There’s a reason I really despise Libertarianism…but still find them hilariously twisted. Here’s a case of a columnist defending the science of Rick Perry. You know that evolution stuff? It’s not that important. Creationism is a waste of time and it makes Perry look “unsophisticated”…but so what? There’s a real problem here, and it is all those liberals who’ve fallen for the junk science of “global warming”.

It is interesting watching the nation’s defenders of reason, empirical evidence, and science fail to display a hint of skepticism over the transparently political “science” of global warming. Rarely are scientists so certain in predicting the future. Yet this is a special case. It is also curious that these supposed champions of Darwin don’t believe that human beings—or nature—have the ability to adapt to changing climate.

Like 99 percent of pundits and politicians, though, I have no business chiming in on the science of climate change—though my kids’ teachers sure are experts. Needless to say, there is a spectacular array of viewpoints on this issue. The answers are far from settled. There are debates over how much humans contribute. There are debates over how much warming we’re seeing. There are debates over many things.

But even if one believed the most terrifying projections of global warming alarmist “science,” it certainly doesn’t mean one has to support the anti-capitalist technocracy to fix it. And try as some may to conflate the two, global warming policy is not “science.” The left sees civilization’s salvation in a massive Luddite undertaking that inhibits technological growth by turning back the clock, undoing footprints, forcing technology that doesn’t exist, banning products that do, and badgering consumers who have not adhered to the plan through all kinds of punishment. Yet there is no real science that has shown that any of it makes a whit of difference.

It’s perfect: the author is trying to set himself up as a defender of good science, but he does it by 1) trivializing the importance of the most fundamental concept in biology, and 2) being a denialist about climate change. Scientists are certain (to a reasonable degree) about predicting the future in this case because all the data points in this direction — you have to willfully reject the evidence in order to disagree. Maybe if he were a little less blasé about evolution he’d also realize that this isn’t an issue of capacity to adapt — trust me, you don’t want to live under an intense selection regime that changes the population’s mean physiology in a few generations — but of a common sense recognition that rapid climate change will be disruptive and have a severe economic cost.

And the answers are settled. Ongoing climate change is a fact. Pretending there is a serious debate about it is what the creationists do.

I suppose one solution would be to blow up all the factories and return to a 15th century lifestyle…if we didn’t mind killing a few billion people in the process, and wanted to live lives of hard labor in squalor. I don’t see anyone on the left advocating that, though. Instead, I see advocacy for sustainable energy policies and a demand that industry factor in all of the invisible, long-term costs that they’ve been hiding — which is, of course, anathema to Libertarians who believe in giving corporations a free ride at the expense of human beings.

(Also on Sb)

Comments

  1. says

    It’s been fun reading the thread.

    A topic I sometimes bring up: One thing I often encounter with alties is some Libertarian-sounding ideals about the marketplace, where they make an appeal to the marketing success of their quackery as evidence of its effectiveness, implicitly because the buyers are self-interested rational actors with perfect knowledge of their health, and thus wouldn’t buy a product that doesn’t work.

    Of course, anyone who knows how science and medicine works can tell you there’s a very good reason real medicine tries to test its effectiveness against a placebo: People can fool themselves and rationalize the irrational.

    You know “herbal and dietary supplements”? Thanks to DSHEA, they’re nearly immune to regulation. I have yet to see any of the manufacturers perform a proper scientific test of their claims, and more often, I see them and their supporters arguing against the need for efficacy testing.

    Market forces sound good on paper, and in some circumstances, they can be powerful tools. But there are some fields where they just don’t work at all.

  2. says

    I do believe there’s a misconception in that belief, but it’s the misconception about the sellers, not the buyers: the misconception that a seller has no motivation to avoid poisoning his customers, whether knowingly or negligently

    I guess in niblick’s universe, tobacco companies don’t exist.

  3. 'smee says

    Niblick, oh fuckwit.

    People make hundreds of rational choices per day; I gave some examples. I want beer, I buy beer.

    let’s try this again.

    acting on wants is not acting rationally, unless you want to redefine rational.

    I want beer. I buy beer. I drink beer. I get drunk. I get in my car and drive drunk.

    Rational? no
    Acting on desire? yes.

    Stop being a narrow minded fuckwit and pay some attention to reality.

  4. says

    to use an example from biology, a parasite most of the time doesn’t benefit from killing its host*. However, all it needs is for the host to survive long enough until feeding, breeding, and spreading has been accomplished. After that, the survival of the host is inconsequential.
    Similarly, a business doesn’t benefit from killing their customers quickly (and/or, to a lesser degree, blatantly), because constantly replacing your customer base is expensive, and it might even turn people off your product, if they manage to connect the dots. However, if they can be kept from connecting the dots and if the death is far enough away, it simply doesn’t matter to a company whether their product is deadly or not.

    – – – – – – – – – –
    *the exceptions are for parasites that transfer by having their host being eaten by something else, a model for which I’m not able to find a parallel in human society.

  5. Niblick says

    I think Walton is talking about what I was talking about in #457. Deontological is not synonymous with arbitrary.

    I understand that perfectly: deontological ethics are based on having rules as a given; it is also not synonymous with absolutism. I take non-aggression as a given, because I just do, and I also regard it as an absolute.

    Others in this thread take other moral principles as given rules. They may or may not be absolutist about it, but they’re firm enough in their convictions to conclude that anyone who disagrees with them just is evil or deluded, because they’re just wrong, because they reject certain ethical rules which are assumed as givens.

    To the extent that you are falling back on the tautological position that “libertarianism is good because I define it as good”, rather than “libertarianism is good because this is a natural and logical way to arrange the world,”

    I also believe that non-aggression is “good” in the consequentialist sense that it leads to good outcomes, and I can argue that–and have, in fact, argued it in this thread. I also believe that it’s “good” in the eudaimonistic sense. It’s “good” according to almost every standard of ethics, the big exception being pragmatism: sometimes aggression gets results, and it a priori benefits the aggressor or he wouldn’t do it.

    I also would argue that it’s “good” in the sense that it is the only universal legal system: every other legal system makes a distinction between enforcers and/or rulers, and the rest of the population, and gives special powers to the enforcers or rulers. Government, for example, is an entity claiming a territorial monopoly on the use of force, the resolution of disputes, and the power to tax. It distinguishes between government agents, who are authorized to use defensive and aggressive force, and the ruled, who may never use aggressive force and may only use defensive force when granted the privilege by government. The ruling class then can, and does, take advantage of its special privileges to commit injustice.

    HOWEVER, none of that is objective proof that non-aggression is “right.” One may ask who gives a shit about good consequences, for example? And what about members of the ruling class, who reap considerable beneficial consequences from committing aggression? And who says eudaimonia is a value worth pursuing? And who cares whether the law is universal, or whether it creates a privileged class?

    It’s meaningless that an ethical system can be justified in consequentialist, or eudaimonistic, or pragmatic, or any other terms, because that only pushes the discussion up one meta-level: why is consequentialism, or eudaimonism, or pragmatism, a “good” standard for judging ethical systems? That discussion only exposes that you have a subjective opinion about what is the right standard for judging an ethical system. We’re no closer to objectively substantiating anything.

  6. 'smee says

    Why does libertarian polemic so often sound exactly like PoMo intellectualism?

    Shorter Niblick: blah.

  7. stevarious says

    You’re asking basically, “What is the penalty for rape?”

    That’s exactly half of my question. How is this penalty enforced? If she has no gun and no family and no money, how does she get all that money for counseling from me? If she has no gun and no family and no money, what’s to stop me from doing it again?

    In short, if she has no money, no gun, and no family, what exactly is there to stop me from just keeping her in my basement as a sex slave?

  8. says

    Hello professor Myers. I have a couple of questions. Though global warming and climate change are backed up by hard data, has the score been settled on whether these are anthropogenic? Can it be stated, beyond any reasonable doubt, that global warming and climate change have accelerated due to human activities? If this is the case, can you point out to any publications on the matter? Thanks!

    Honestly, I fail to see how this is a serious question still.

    Since the industrial revolution we have greatly increased the concentration of gases, known to cause green house events in the lab, into the upper atmosphere. This phenomena has been large in scale. Frankly, basic chemistry and physics would indicate that we should expect SOME change because we’ve added new things to the system. Since we have some idea what these gases can do, it would be frankly shocking to discover that they had no effect. Personally, I think the idea that humans AREN’T contributing to global warming demands more of an explanation and a proposed mechanism than the idea that we are. We know HOW we are, the question would be what else is happening that is counter acting that? Of course the answer is NOTHING because we are seeing the increase in temperatures that we would expect.

    To recap

    a) we know X chemical can have Y effect
    b) we pump X chemical into the environment
    c) The environment starts to show Y effect
    d) Either action B caused effect Y as predicted or fundamental new evidence has to be presented to explain why A was wrong or how B wouldn’t cause A+C as predicted.

  9. Niblick says

    acting on wants is not acting rationally, unless you want to redefine rational.

    “Rational actor” is a term that was defined that was defined before either of us were born, fuckwit. You’re trying to redefine it. I’ve actually pointed you to at least one reference that should make that clear. By invoking the term, you embarked upon a discussion of economics, and you have to use its terminology correctly. Your refusal to do so, at this point, is simply moronic.

    You realize that EVERY subject studied by English speakers has a terminology, and the terminology ALWAYS borrows vocabulary from English? Are you equally incapable of discussing ANY subject, constantly confusing its vocabulary with English? Fucktard.

  10. says

    Why should that attitude change under libertarianism?

    niblick doesn’t claim that it would, AFAICT. Instead, niblick seems to assume that racism is a static condition, or at least not influenced by changes in laws. thus, a place that is racist would remain racist even after certain changes in the legality of certain racist actions, thus rendering the law ineffective at combating racism. Which would mean that a given racist place would be equally shitty for a black family to live in regardless of whether it’s libertarian or not.

    It’s a tu quoque of a sort, except that there is some evidence that changes in law effect changes in social attitudes in some circumstances, so it’s not even a very good tu quoque

  11. SallyStrange says

    Exactly who is coercing the rapist in this regard? (this is a victim, remember, with no family or relations).

    Who will be the shining knight? Is this a governmental function?

    That would be the rape victim’s insurance company. You know, the one she hired to recoup her damages in case of being raped, since she was aware that the probability of being raped at some point was pretty high, and that she’d have no legal recourse against the rapist if that happened.

    Right Niblick?

    Remember, if I’m wrong, then it’s your own damn fault for being such a shitty communicator.

  12. 'smee says

    jadehawk:

    Similarly, a business doesn’t benefit from killing their customers quickly (and/or, to a lesser degree, blatantly), because constantly replacing your customer base is expensive, and it might even turn people off your product, if they manage to connect the dots. However, if they can be kept from connecting the dots and if the death is far enough away, it simply doesn’t matter to a company whether their product is deadly or not.

    Tobacco industry & smoking as a case in point. The free market never addressed the health issue. The massive externalities imposed by the long term damage due to smoking (passive and active) was denied and obfuscated by the industry for a long time.

    I wonder what the situation would be in a Libertarian world?

    Niblick would likely say that people will act in their own best interests, and will seek restitution for the costs of their subsequent debilitation due to tobacco… But didn’t they ingest the tobacco without coercion? Isn’t the tobacco company merely acting as a partner in a contract. The act of smoking or chawing gave the user pleasure! Surely that is enough for the industry to say they are acting only to satisfy the desires and wants of their customers. Isn’t that the Libertarian way?

  13. Niblick says

    That’s exactly half of my question. How is this penalty enforced? If she has no gun and no family and no money…

    I already discussed libertarian law enforcement at some length. The common case is for law enforcement to be subcontracted by the insurance provider. However, lots of other options exist.

    It IS possible to construct a hypothetical where a person has no recourse, but that’s because we’re talking about the real universe and not some Utopia or the land of Oz. It’s also possible to point to people in the present system who have no recourse. ALL human societies are subject to this problem by virtue of existing in the real universe.

  14. says

    acting on wants is not acting rationally, unless you want to redefine rational.

    for economists, that’s precisely what “acting rationally” means actually. That’s a very simplistic definition though, because it ignores conflicting needs/wants; and it’s also wrong in terms of realism (example: wanting a burger now vs. wanting to lose weight later; even when all conditions for being a “rational actor” are being fulfilled (i.e. having all the necessary information to make a rational decision about which of the goals is more important in one’s own estimation), most people will make the irrational choice, i.e. the one that conflicts with their actual goals)

  15. jack lecou says

    An interesting example that’s also fraught with contradiction is the recurring proposal to impose high sales taxes on fatty foods. The intent here is to force people to eat less fatty foods, and the premise is that they’re making stupid decisions and need to be forced to make better decisions. But the means! The means assumes that they are rational actors! The entire policy is premised on the assumption that if fatty food costs more, people will buy less of it. That’s very close to the definition of “rational actor.”

    Um. No.

    One of the many ways we humans are irrational is the way we treat long and short term consequences and decision making. Especially how we react to immediately observable consequences compared to more abstract or distant ones.

    Think of something simple like the price of gas. In THEORY, rational choice theory that is, when and how we pay for gas should make no difference. Assuming there is no price difference, buying gas at the pump should be no different than paying once a year and buying in bulk. In either case, a rational actor will base their driving decisions on whatever the marginal price works out to per mile.

    But in practice, that is obviously not how we work. Most people do not think “this trip to the grocery store is going to use about X cents worth of gas, Y cents worth of wear and tear, etc.” They think, if they think at all, something like, “I want some ice cream. And I’ve got a full tank of gas, so I won’t have to pay anything to get to the store.”

    I would submit to you that implementing a policy where people had to purchase gas, or amortize the price of the car, at the time of use (for example, with a credit card swipe on the steering column) would radically affect driving behavior. Even just having a numeric readout next to the odometer displaying the price of the trip could radically alter behavior. And yet, in neither case will the marginal price and benefits have changed one bit.

    Similarly, there are large discrepancies between our long term goals and our short term behavior.

    Many people do not actually want the hamburger or whatever, on the grounds that it gives only a brief pleasure, while having long term consequences in terms of health, self image and well being. It is common for people’s stated – and fervently held – long term desires to be wildly out of accord with their short term decision making.

    A measure like putting taxes on unhealthy products like junk food is a “nudge” which attempts to bring the immediate consequences more in line with long term ones, and thus make correct decisions — correct in the sense that they are actually in line with the consumer’s own goals and desires — easier to make.

    I have some doubts about whether such taxes can really be large enough to be effective, but the principle is sound enough. Note that other measures like simply clearly labeling calorie counts and nutrition information can have large effects, though they also generally require government intervention to be widespread enough to do much good.

  16. says

    @Niblick:

    Sorry, this just had to be drawn out:

    I already discussed libertarian law enforcement at some length.

    And in that post, you basically said that poor neighborhoods are fucked. Posted here a brief excerpt:

    Similarly, in a libertarian society, there will be areas that are essentially not policeable. There, as today, individuals will protect themselves as best they can.

    So again, how will a rape victim receive justice for her assault?

  17. says

    Even just having a numeric readout next to the odometer displaying the price of the trip could radically alter behavior.

    well, it certainly worked for electricity…

  18. Niblick says

    niblick doesn’t claim that it would, AFAICT. Instead, niblick seems to assume that racism is a static condition, or at least not influenced by changes in laws.

    No, not quite. Human nature is a given, yes, so a libertarian society, just like this society, will have assholes, haters, criminals, etc.

    But I never said laws can’t influence things; instead I pointed out the fallacy of folks implicitly assuming that the influence of laws is unmixedly good. It clearly is not. There can be a direct reactionary response that worsens the situation; there can also be unintended consequences. For example, the goals of the ADA are laudable, and I’m sure it hasn’t provoked any “backlash” against people with disabilities–but it has had unintended consequences that negatively impact the hiring of persons with disabilities, caused by the cost of compliance and the fear of liability should they decide the employee isn’t working out.

    That’s NOT to say that the net effect of the ADA has been negative–I have no data on that point, am not arguing it one way or the other, and am making no claims on that point. I mention it to avoid ad hominem accusations that I “don’t care about the disabled.” Not that it will help; folks like SallyStrange appear to react without actually reading.

    But sure, law can influence things .There are also other ways to influence things. I’ve mentioned successful movements based on civil disobedience, for example. I’ve also mentioned boycotts, shunning, negative media, etc. I’m certainly not a fatalist who believes that nothing will ever, or can ever, be changed. Nor am I making the absurd claim that coercion never gets results. Of course it does. If it didn’t, governments and criminal gangs wouldn’t use them: they too are rational actors, and choose effective means of pursuing their goals.

    I believe that there are non-aggressive ways of accomplishing these social goals, and that they are not only morally preferable but also more–or at least as–effective as the coercive alternatives. And I believe that those methods should be adopted, not only in a libertarian society, but now, in order to effect change.

  19. 'smee says

    Niblick:

    You realize that EVERY subject studied by English speakers has a terminology, and the terminology ALWAYS borrows vocabulary from English? Are you equally incapable of discussing ANY subject, constantly confusing its vocabulary with English? Fucktard.

    You do realize that you were discussing PEOPLE not ECONOMICS, and that from a BEHAVIORAL perspective. Form that perspective there is no such thing as a “RATIONAL ACTOR” which is the point that almost everyone has been making to you for the past twenty or so posts.

    Perhaps you need to read ALL the words, and not simply see them as triggers for your own pet theories.

    Be careful, or that invisible hand will smack you upside the head!

  20. Niblick says

    libertopia is essentially governed by for-profit insurance companies?!

    “Governed” is a dangerous term to use; are you using it purposely? For example, insurance companies are not empowered in a libertarian society to pass fugitive slave laws, or Jim Crow laws, or prohibition, and then enforce them at gunpoint. They don’t “govern” in any recognizable sense of the term.

  21. Niblick says

    And in that post, you basically said that poor neighborhoods are fucked.

    LEARN TO READ.

    I said that extremely, poor, extremely crime-ridden, neighborhoods would look similar there as they do here. If that means they’re “fucked,” then they’re equally “fucked” today. And where I referred specifically to neighborhoods at the far extremity of poverty and crime, you dropped both the “extremity” part and the “and crime” part, leaving only, “Poor neighborhoods are fucked,” as if I said that every town would have a section resembling Mogadishu.

    Does utterly distorting what I said advance the discourse in any way whatsoever? Or are you doing something other than rational discourse here?

  22. SallyStrange says

    It’s been clearly and repeatedly explained how Niblick’s “non-smuji” policies, despite being “non-aggressive” according to his weird definition of aggression, can and have led to widespread damage being inflicted on individual and/or the community.

    It seems he considers this harm to be the price worth paying for upholding his deontological commitment to non-smuji.

    Am I correct or incorrect, Niblick?

    [Allow me to guess his response: lengthy, blathering, abject denial that it is in fact the case that this harm will come to pass. That, or trying to describe some Rube Goldbergian mechanism by which libertarian policies would recoup damages for the harm caused. Nary a word about preventing the harm in the first place.]

  23. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I see Niblick is back being the most effective refutation to liberturdism there is. He is attempting to defend it, and thereby showing us the irrationality and moral bankruptcy of liberturdism.

  24. 'smee says

    Niblick:

    “Governed” is a dangerous term to use; are you using it purposely? For example, insurance companies are not empowered in a libertarian society to pass fugitive slave laws, or Jim Crow laws, or prohibition, and then enforce them at gunpoint. They don’t “govern” in any recognizable sense of the term.

    No they don’t pass laws – they merely underwrite a policy. Which means that a black man wishing insurance would need to disclose risk (will you try to eat at a white-only restaurant?) that will determine the cost of the insurance.

    No laws. Just pricing.

    Again it’s might makes right. If you are rich you can insure yourself (in multiple ways) against any contingency – including being sued for murder. If you are poor, then you need to show more restraint, since your personal risk factor will be more than you can afford.

  25. Niblick says

    You do realize that you were discussing PEOPLE not ECONOMICS…

    OK, rewind then. You say “people aren’t rational”; I reply, “So fucking what?” Libertarianism doesn’t assume people are rational at all. It doesn’t need people to be rational. That people are irrational is a given, and utterly irrelevant. Your smug little observation is germaine to nothing; it’s just a bit of elitist mental masturbation. I hope you managed to come, at least, so your efforts weren’t completely wasted.

    Back on topic, though, libertarianism does assume something about people. It doesn’t assume they’re rational, and it doesn’t care. It only assumes that people choose effective means to pursue their ends, given their options and their state of knowledge. That assumption is necessary to make libertarianism work. If you’d like to critique that assumption, have at it.

  26. SallyStrange says

    And in that post, you basically said that poor neighborhoods are fucked.

    LEARN TO READ.

    I said that extremely, poor, extremely crime-ridden, neighborhoods would look similar there as they do here. If that means they’re “fucked,” then they’re equally “fucked” today. And where I referred specifically to neighborhoods at the far extremity of poverty and crime, you dropped both the “extremity” part and the “and crime” part, leaving only, “Poor neighborhoods are fucked,” as if I said that every town would have a section resembling Mogadishu.

    Exactly: it’s a weird form of tu quoque, and pretty much an admission that libertarianism can’t solve the problems we currently have, in addition to creating new problems that we currently don’t have to deal with.

  27. jack lecou says

    I also believe that [non-aggression is] “good” in the eudaimonistic sense. It’s “good” according to almost every standard of ethics, the big exception being pragmatism: sometimes aggression gets results, and it a priori benefits the aggressor or he wouldn’t do it.

    You are being slippery with vocabulary here.

    “Non-aggression” may be good according to almost every standard of ethics, but we have already established that we are not, in fact, talking about aggression as it is commonly understood. We are talking about “smuji”.

    I believe this terminological confusion is leading you into a variation of the fallacy of composition, or something like it.

    Certainly “smuji” is a component of the more generalized forms of aggression and other bads that most standards of ethics condemn, but taking “smuji” by itself, and elevating it far above all of the others, results in perversion that those systems would probably condemn.

    It’s the same as the difference between the statements “apples are part of a healthy diet” and “apples are a healthy diet”.

  28. SallyStrange says

    Back on topic, though, libertarianism does assume something about people. It doesn’t assume they’re rational, and it doesn’t care. It only assumes that people choose effective means to pursue their ends, given their options and their state of knowledge. That assumption is necessary to make libertarianism work. If you’d like to critique that assumption, have at it.

    This is hilarious. No, Niblick, that assumption clearly does not work. People don’t always choose effective means to pursue their ends. Citations to follow later if you don’t believe it, but this is a pretty undisputed fact in the modern neurobiological understanding of how people make decisions. People have been critiquing this assumption left and right, all over the thread. Apparently you missed it though.

  29. Rey Fox says

    Exactly: it’s a weird form of tu quoque, and pretty much an admission that libertarianism can’t solve the problems we currently have, in addition to creating new problems that we currently don’t have to deal with.

    Hey, it’s all right as long as middle class whites think they might end up on top.

  30. illuminata says

    It IS possible to construct a hypothetical where a person has no recourse, but that’s because we’re talking about the real universe and not some Utopia or the land of Oz. It’s also possible to point to people in the present system who have no recourse. ALL human societies are subject to this problem by virtue of existing in the real universe.

    Way to completely avoid answering the question.

    Or is your answer “tough shit, rape victims”?

  31. jack lecou says

    I also believe that non-aggression is “good” in the consequentialist sense that it leads to good outcomes, and I can argue that–and have, in fact, argued it in this thread.

    If you have argued that, it certainly hasn’t been a very effective one.

    AFAICT, what we’ve established is that libertarianism naturally leads to — and has no safeguard against — a lot of things most people regard as very bad outcomes. Things like having to remember to buy rape insurance, or dealing with the possibility that an aggressive business competitor or angry rich guy might be able to lock you out of access to your own property.

    I would argue that this is a direct consequence of the problem s inherent in elevating “smuji” far above all other moral concerns.

  32. says

    If the punishment for rape is basically money, that would make rape essentially a petty cash matter for the very rich.

    “We’re going out, Smithers. And grab a few thousand from the Fun Money bucket, there’s a good man. I’m feeling FRISKY.”

  33. illuminata says

    It seems he considers this harm to be the price worth paying for upholding his deontological commitment to non-smuji.

    this harm is the price libertarians are willing to pay, as long as its harm to other people, and not them.

    In this fantasy, all libertarians are special white snowflakes that will be protected from the fallout their nonsense would create because of . . . . uh. . .I dunno, magical underwear or something. Or maybe they just have to clap really really hard and believe!

  34. Niblick says

    But in practice, that is obviously not how we work. Most people do not think “this trip to the grocery store is going to use about X cents worth of gas, Y cents worth of wear and tear, etc.” They think, if they think at all, something like, “I want some ice cream. And I’ve got a full tank of gas, so I won’t have to pay anything to get to the store.”

    Sort of true, but irrelevant: nobody claims that someone makes a quantitative decision each time they start their car. Instead, the process is fuzzified (technical term alert): scarcity of fuel makes the cost of a fill-up high. When deciding about an errand, one then makes a decision based on the fuzzy gas price {unaffordable, high, reasonable, cheap, free} and the size of the errand {ridiculous, far, reasonable, near, walking-distance}. They might skip a particular errand, or consolidate errands, or take the bus to work and otherwise drive normally, or any number of other possibilities. If they find themselves out of gas and out of cash one week, they make some adjustment.

    To suggest that anyone claims people go around solving optimization problems would be a straw man. “Rational actor” is defined in terms of pursuing effective, or reasonable means, not optimal means; and it’s defined in terms of the information on hand, good, bad or indifferent, not on complete, perfect or accurate information. One of the conclusions of the economic analysis is that such actors, merely by “choosing effective means to pursue their goals based on available information,” perform an iterative process of improvement that strongly resembles a hill-climbing algorithm (technical term alert). The economy as a whole (AKA, “the market”) follows a similar process of improvement that resembles a quite cool algorithm, in which the parameter space is covered by small neighborhoods (topology terms alert) and hill-climbing is applied within each neighborhood.

  35. jack lecou says

    No, Niblick, that assumption clearly does not work. People don’t always choose effective means to pursue their ends.

    Yes. This. I agree completely. In case I didn’t state it clearly enough earlier.

    The idea that anyone could think this true, in any but the tritest tautological sense (“he did that, and this happened, therefore he wanted this”) is utterly mind boggling. It betrays a frightful lack of awareness, not only of the behavior of other actual human beings, but also of oneself.

  36. Niblick says

    If the punishment for rape is basically money, that would make rape essentially a petty cash matter for the very rich.

    THAT’S TRUE TODAY.

    Why do people keep citing invariant facts about the universe we live in, as if they’re flaws of one particular social system? By definition, the rich have more options, and more options mean an increased likelihood of getting away with crimes. QED.

    Go tell OJ Simpson how, in an evil libertarian society, he will be able to go cut his wife’s head practically OFF, and getting away with it will be a simple matter of money.

  37. SallyStrange says

    THAT’S TRUE TODAY.

    Tu quoque.

    If it’s a problem today, then demonstrate how your system would solve that problem. If it can’t, then why should we be interested? Especially considering that you’re also proposing adding a whole nother set of problems to solve that we currently have taken care of. Food safety regulations, for instance.

  38. Niblick says

    Niblick would likely say that people will act in their own best interests, and will seek restitution for the costs of their subsequent debilitation due to tobacco… But didn’t they ingest the tobacco without coercion?

    More confusion from the fucktard. Nobody claims people will act in their “own best interests” as you define the term; you’re once again smuggling in your personal notion of “self-interest,” this time to redefine another term of art, “rational self-interest.” To an alcoholic, the technical term “self-interest” refers not to the health of his liver, but to the ready availability of bourbon. He will act to “better” his condition, where the technical term “better” means, “as drunk as possible, as much of the time as possible.”

    The question is, if Willy Lump Lump’s one desire is to stay well lubricated, is it proper and moral for us to forcibly dry him out, and if necessary re-educate him so he’ll stop drinking? Or is it to leave him alone, as long as he isn’t hurting anyone? Which would he consider to maximize his happiness?

  39. Niblick says

    If it’s a problem today, then demonstrate how your system would solve that problem. If it can’t, then why should we be interested?

    Death is a problem today. Any proposed improvement to the system today must demonstrate how it would eliminate death. If it can’t, then why should anyone be interested?

    Fuckwit.

  40. jack lecou says

    THAT’S TRUE TODAY.

    What SallyStrange said.

    But I would add: NO. It’s not.

    Rape culture is bad. Rapists, especially powerful ones, often get off, or never get brought to trial in the first place.

    But no, it is not merely a petty cash manner. If convicted, there are serious consequences that even the fattest bank accounts can’t make disappear.

    (As an aside, there is a whole other field of problems here with Niblick’s “insurance” and “liable only for damages” ideas. Starting with: he refers to these as more or less the way things work under libertarianism, while also admitting that a huge range of systems is in fact possible and compatible with it. There are apparently a slough of additional restrictions or assumptions going into the formulation of the one true libertarian society which haven’t been brought to light yet. Then there are the usual problems with insurance. Like adverse selection, insurance monopolies, or dealing with people who can’t afford it or don’t remember to buy it. Then there is a whole new can of worms when we start to ask, “wait a second, punitive damages exist for a reason, don’t they?” And that’s not even getting into who exactly is presiding over these trials, or the question of whether constant litigation is an especially fair or efficient way to organize these things.)

  41. jack lecou says

    Death is a problem today. Any proposed improvement to the system today must demonstrate how it would eliminate death. If it can’t, then why should anyone be interested?

    Fuckwit.

    You know, I would think the easy way to answer that would have been to explain some of problems libertarian did actually solve.

    But I suppose I understand your dilemma. As far as I can tell, the only “problem” you’ve managed to solve is the one where men with handcuffs (and GUNZ) come for you if you rape or murder someone (or maybe eveeentually come for you if you’re really, really late on paying your taxes).

    This is a “problem” that really doesn’t bother most people in the slightest. Certainly it’s orders of magnitude less worrying than other problems like, say, paying for health insurance, or what an unregulated sausage manufacturer might be getting up to while you’re not looking.

    So, what else are you offering us exactly?

  42. Niblick says

    The idea that anyone could think this true, in any but the tritest tautological sense (“he did that, and this happened, therefore he wanted this”) is utterly mind boggling. It betrays a frightful lack of awareness, not only of the behavior of other actual human beings, but also of oneself.

    You’ve failed to give examples or evidence of some sort or another, so it’s hard to know what you’re claiming. You quoted and affirmed the statement, “People don’t always choose effective means to pursue their ends.” I’m guessing that you’re now leaving out the clause, “based on what they know at the time,” and/or redefining “effective.”

    For example, based on what they knew at the time, the only treatment for certain conditions was leeches. Getting leeched was the “rational” choice based on the options and information available. Based on actual facts as we now understand them, leeches are counterproductive; getting leeched today would not be rational. In their own day, the treatment generally did not produce the desired result, but that’s not the sense in which “effective” is used here; the the best of their knowledge, the failure to produce the desired result was not a defect in the treatment, but caused by some other factor, and in any case no more-effective alternative was known.

  43. says

    It only assumes that people choose effective means to pursue their ends, given their options and their state of knowledge. That assumption is necessary to make libertarianism work.

    most succinct refutation of libertarianism ever written.

  44. says

    I also believe that [non-aggression is] “good” in the eudaimonistic sense. It’s “good” according to almost every standard of ethics

    non-aggression might be, but non-smuji isn’t. In fact, many ethical systems actively condone smuji, if committing smuji saves lives (stealing to feed starving children, for one uber-stereotypical example), while still condemning aggression. because not all ethical systems pretend that property is an extension of oneself.

  45. stevarious says

    It’s also possible to point to people in the present system who have no recourse.

    That’s not just a tu quoque, it’s a really shitty one, because here in the real world, the woman always has the option of contacting law enforcement. Will law enforcement always succeed? Of course not. But in Libertaristan, if she’s uninsured and she doesn’t own a gun, she has no options at all. She has no recourse to claim losses and no ability to prevent further incidents. I could go to her home and rape her EVERY DAY.
    Sure in the real world, there are a few people that run out of options – but they are the exception. There are police, there are women’s shelters, there are options, despite the rethuglican’s best efforts to destroy them. They are all not-for-profit, government run options, that would disappear instantly in Libertaristan. If America were converted to Libertaristan, there wouldn’t be just a few exceptions – it would be the RULE for the 25% of the population that already don’t have enough money for food, shelter, and clothing, let alone to pay for insurance paid police contractually violent mercenaries or even just a gun.
    Are you actually advocating a system of government where 25% of the population have no role except ‘victim’? Where the only punishment for rape is cash, so the super rich can rape anyone they want at any time, and just leave a check on their way out, and it’s completely LEGAL?

    As several people have already pointed out, your system doesn’t just not fix any of the problems that we have, it creates whole new ones.

    Oh, wait, it does fix ONE problem. YOU don’t have to pay taxes.

  46. Niblick says

    What SallyStrange said.

    SallyStrange is a fuckwit. When comparing A and B, it is not the tu quoque fallacy, when someone says, “B is worse because X(B),” to reply, “This does not make B worse, because X(A); A and B are on their face equal with respect to X.”

    But I would add: NO. It’s not..

    You are now saying “A is better because Y(A),” where Y(A) is, “If convicted, there are serious consequences that even the fattest bank account cannot make disappear.” I point out that you have not differentiated A and B yet, because Y(B) is also true: “If convicted [or rape in a libertarian society], there are serious consequences that the fattest bank account can’t make disappear.”

    What you MEAN, of course, is that the rapist will be caged in one case, and not caged in the other. That appears to be true: most theories of libertarian justice are restitutive, not punitive. Rape is always raised in that context (along with pedophilia, say) because all our instincts scream for punitive justice in that case. Mine too: I’ve always been a huge fan of the death penalty for rapists and murderers, and only rapists and murderers. I still am, and I still spend energy trying to construct a libertarian argument why the death penalty is acceptable for rapists. I also strongly root for armed victims shooting their rapists, since in that case libertarian law acquits them, and the rapist gets dead.

    I don’t have a full answer to that, as I said originally. On the other hand, I would point out that this does not lead to a simple conclusion that A>B, because:

    1) The jury is not in yet (so to speak) concerning the libertarian penalty for rape. This is an area of active research in libertarian law.

    2) The certainty of punishment must be considered along with its severity. If libertarian social structures can increase the certainty of punishment, this has to be factored in.

    3) Actually quantifying these factors is extremely difficult. The certainty of punishment, for example, is hard to measure in today’s system, let alone in a system that hasn’t actually been implemented. I would strongly caution against taking the position that the handling of rape in our justice system is remotely satisfactory.

  47. illuminata says

    Death is a problem today. Any proposed improvement to the system today must demonstrate how it would eliminate death. If it can’t, then why should anyone be interested?

    Fuckwit.

    chickenshit. You know you can’t answer the question properly so cower under a ridiculous evasion.

  48. says

    another point of interest: niblick keeps pointing out that something is or isn’t the case right now, as some sort of argument that it isn’t important that their version of libertarianism can’t fix those problems.

    this is quite fascinating, and would only make sense if the people niblick is arguing against were in fact supporting the status quo. I’m pretty damn certain that is not the case with anyone arguing against niblick.

  49. jack lecou says

    You’ve failed to give examples or evidence of some sort or another, so it’s hard to know what you’re claiming.

    Sure I have.

    Take a man who wants to lose weight buying a triple bacon cheese burger. When he’s not really even particularly hungry.

    Is that an effective means to his desired end? Certainly not. Given what he knows at the time? Still no.

    The only way to fudge it into place is to turn it into a tautology. He must really want to keep gaining weight, since that’s clearly what he’s doing. Or to declare that obviously cheese burgers REALLY give him a lot of satisfaction, even though he’ll tell you he doesn’t even particularly like them and he always feels like crap afterward.

  50. says

    That appears to be true: most theories of libertarian justice are restitutive, not punitive. Rape is always raised in that context (along with pedophilia, say) because all our instincts scream for punitive justice in that case.

    actually and more importantly, it’s because studies show that rapists are repeat offenders. Making it impossible for them to re-offend is the main utilitarian reason to keep rapists locked up, and the main utilitarian reason for which restitutive “justice” is a failure in the case of repeat offenders.

  51. Ms. Daisy Cutter says

    Nerd of a Redhead

    Why is this typo funny? It just is.

    (BTW, Nerd is male. Redhead is his wife.)

    On to more Niblithering:

    Finally, she’s allowed to leave anytime she wants. If I tried to restrain her, I’d be a kidnapper. Millions of years of evolution would be screaming, “There goes my chance at reproduction! AAAAK! My mate! My mate!”

    I find it interesting that the scenario of your wife walking out is described as distressing to you not because you love her and you’d miss her, but because she’s depriving you of reproductive capacity. And when I say “interesting,” I mean “creepy and objectifying.”

    We’re evolutionarily wired to react violently when someone says awful things to us, or steals our mate, or takes the last banana, none of which actually justify a violent response.

    No, we’re not. We’re really, really not. Some of us are enculturated to have this response. Not all of us are. And, before you break out the ev-psy crap again, it does not break down easily by gender.

    Everyone who has ever uttered the pejorative “redneck” is an elitist, and that’s almost everyone; it’s at least as ubiquitous as subtle racism and subtle sexism.

    There are self-defined rednecks. I think they would be amused to learn they are “elitists.”

    Classism is certainly a problem in the U.S. That said, you choose to illustrate it not with serious consequences of classism but with the word “redneck.” Which, again, is sometimes a self-descriptor. Because it has become a cultural rather than an economic identifier, it is often applied to rich people of a rural background, and it is never applied to many poor people.

    To sum up, your concern about the word “redneck,” and your implicit comparison thereof to “subtle” racism and sexism, is noted, cracker.

    Can’t be bothered to address all the economic stuff; reading the thread closely is making my eyes glaze over, and it looks like everyone else has your number anyway.

  52. 'smee says

    Niblick: It’s unsurprising that you have morphed.

    @425

    And people of any intelligence will refuse to buy your crap as a result. [...]discerning customers will demand some sort of evidence of eficacy[sic]

    @434 you responded at length

    When I see a family of NASCAR-watching mouth-breathers bowleg their way into Walmart in cowboy boots and jeans, I wonder how their brain manages to operate their lungs, let alone ambulate them about. I’m not sure I necessarily consider them sentient, let alone “rational.”

    You then redefine rational extremely narrowly:

    But they are rational in that they know, “If I keep digging these here ditches, come Friday I can afford beer,” and they keep digging them ditches, and come Friday they do have beer.

    @ 446:

    Their rational self-interest kicks in long before the guns leave their holsters. Despite the assertion of some that people aren’t rationally self-interested, most individuals comply before ever meeting the man with the gun

    @477:

    Of course the stronger usually wins. [...] And yes, if you piss off the wrong people [...] or you happen to be an innocent Afghan at a wedding party, there’s absolutely nothing you can do to defend yourself.

    @478:

    Viewing PeopleOfWalmart and sneering at the yokels, paternalistic belief that people can’t survive without being told what to do, given what they need, and “educated” on basic life skills, etc., is completely disgusting.

    @480: TL – but a couple of points

    He’s also a “rational actor” in the economic sense. If he wants beer he buys beer; he doesn’t hit himself over the head with a brick saying, “Beer! Beer! Beer!” If he has little money and wants much beer, he buys Budweiser in a can; he doesn’t buy two bottles of Dog Fish Head and attempt to breed them. If he’s hungry he puts food in his mouth, not up his ass. If he wants sex he puts his penis in his hand, or his wife if she’s willing; he doesn’t stick it in the food processor and turn it on. If he wants to watch NASCAR he turns on the TV, he doesn’t go out on the front porch and scream, “Where the fuck are the race cars!?” Given his ends, he adopts effective means of pursuing them.
    [...]
    When you call the average American “irrational,” you’re really just being elitist. You’re either condemning his ends, because they’re not what you would choose, or else you’re criticizing him for adopting means that don’t conduce to YOUR ends.

    @487:

    People make hundreds of rational choices per day; I gave some examples. I want beer, I buy beer. If you define the goal, beer-drinking, as itself irrational, then you’re swapping out the definition of rational.

    @495:

    I said acting effectively. If you desire a hamburger, and you act on your desire by drowning yourself in the toilet, that’s not effective. If you go to Wendy’s and order a burger, that’s rational acting.

    @510:

    “Rational actor” is a term that was defined that was defined before either of us were born, fuckwit. You’re trying to redefine it. I’ve actually pointed you to at least one reference that should make that clear. By invoking the term, you embarked upon a discussion of economics, and you have to use its terminology correctly. Your refusal to do so, at this point, is simply moronic.

    @527:

    OK, rewind then. You say “people aren’t rational”; I reply, “So fucking what?” Libertarianism doesn’t assume people are rational at all. It doesn’t need people to be rational. That people are irrational is a given, and utterly irrelevant. Your smug little observation is germaine to nothing; it’s just a bit of elitist mental masturbation. I hope you managed to come, at least, so your efforts weren’t completely wasted.

    Back on topic, though, libertarianism does assume something about people. It doesn’t assume they’re rational, and it doesn’t care. It only assumes that people choose effective means to pursue their ends, given their options and their state of knowledge. That assumption is necessary to make libertarianism work. If you’d like to critique that assumption, have at it.

    @541:

    More confusion from the fucktard. Nobody claims people will act in their “own best interests” as you define the term; you’re once again smuggling in your personal notion of “self-interest,” this time to redefine another term of art, “rational self-interest.” To an alcoholic, the technical term “self-interest” refers not to the health of his liver, but to the ready availability of bourbon. He will act to “better” his condition, where the technical term “better” means, “as drunk as possible, as much of the time as possible.”

    Over the course of more than 100 posts, you manage to mutate your position from one that requires intelligence and discernment, to one that expects decisions to be ‘effective’, and that somehow manages to change “rational self-interest” from a reasonable positional statement that has a COMMON SOCIETAL definition, to one which is entirely individual.

    You still do ot get it, do you.

    Libertarianism only works if EVERYONE ACTS RATIONALLY. Otherwise EFFECTIVE ACTION is only available to the rich or otherwise empowered (i.e. weaponed).

    You do know lots of words, and are more than capable of trotting out nicely accurate dictionary definitions of them – but you fail at comprehension.

    Unsurprising, really.

  53. Niblick says

    You know, I would think the easy way to answer that would have been to explain some of problems libertarian did actually solve.

    Libertarian societies don’t gas 6,000,000 Jews, or drop nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or kill 10,000,000 kulaks to collectivize their farmland, or kill hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and displace several million more. It doesn’t operate a torture camp at Guantanamo, and it doesn’t hand out trillions and trillions of dollars in bailouts. It doesn’t devalue the dollar to a tiny fraction of its original value.

    It’s incapable of doing those things, because nobody–including Bill Gates–could even afford to do them if he wanted to. Such things require coercion on a massive scale, and they also require funding on a level that implies either massive taxation, or massive debasement of the currency. If a libertarian multi-billionaire wanted to conduct his own Holocaust, he would absolutely have to set up a government first, in order to have at his disposal the necessary machinery of coercion to perform it, as well as the means–though taxation or the printing press–to fund the enterprise.

    While I’m with you 100% that it’s reprehensible if a rapist escapes justice, or doesn’t get all he has coming to him, I point out that you’re essentially saying, “Lets keep a system that caused the deaths of untold millions, in the vague hope that it’s slightly better at catching rapists.”

  54. jack lecou says

    1) The jury is not in yet (so to speak) concerning the libertarian penalty for rape. This is an area of active research in libertarian law.

    Wait. Wait. Hold the phone.

    You’re telling me libertarianism isn’t even finished yet?

    You guys don’t know, even in theory, what you’ll do with a convicted rapist?

    My apologies. I was under the impression that the only penalty available was restitution of some kind. Apparently, something that might actually work is still working its way through the thinking pipes.

    Well, let me know when you guys get all the stuff cleared out of them pipes! Take back some of the problems pointed out in this thread and load them in there too. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, and hope that when you’re finished, you might even have a system that works!

    But don’t bother coming back until you’re actually confident that you do. Why are you here now?

  55. illuminata says

    this is quite fascinating, and would only make sense if the people niblick is arguing against were in fact supporting the status quo. I’m pretty damn certain that is not the case with anyone arguing against niblick.

    Well, though this be merely antecdotal, every libertarian i’ve ever met IRL or online is white, upper-middle class, and almost always male.

    So the desire to maintain the status quo for themselves and only themselves and then act confused why no one else thinks that’s not a wonderful, earth-shattering idea is not at all a surprise.

  56. says

    And he’s pro death penalty as well

    what? where?

    It’s incapable of doing those things, because nobody–including Bill Gates–could even afford to do them if he wanted to. Such things require coercion on a massive scale, and they also require funding on a level that implies either massive taxation, or massive debasement of the currency. If a libertarian multi-billionaire wanted to conduct his own Holocaust, he would absolutely have to set up a government first, in order to have at his disposal the necessary machinery of coercion to perform it, as well as the means–though taxation or the printing press–to fund the enterprise.

    I believe we call this the Feudal/Estate system. we already tried that, it didn’t work all that well for a significant chunk of the population (and at least, back then the cities functioned on a completely different system, so there was a place to escape to if you were brave and/or lucky).

  57. Gaebolga says

    Niblick wrote:

    Why do people keep citing invariant facts about the universe we live in, as if they’re flaws of one particular social system? By definition, the rich have more options, and more options mean an increased likelihood of getting away with crimes. QED.

    [Emphasis mine.]

    Sure they do. But they also have to entertain the possibility that they won’t get away with rape and/or murder.

    I seems like in Libertopia®, it’s just a matter of money; no wealthy individual will ever have to entertain even the possibility of going to jail for rape. Just cut a check and be done.

    Kinda sounds like Libertopia® turns everyone who’s incapable (either physically or financially) of preventing themselves from being raped into de facto prostitutes for those wealthy enough to afford to pay their psychological counseling, lost wages, medical bills, and any other incidental charges that might accrue.

    So if you’re poor enough in Libertopia®, you’re a sexual victim with no possible chance that your attacker will suffer any realistic harm (especially if we’re considering the attacker to be a “rational actor” in the economic sense).

    Or am I missing something in this equation?

    Sure, most wealthy folks would probably rather take the cheaper route and use actual prostitutes, but there will always be some for whom the “thrill” of actual rape will be more than worth the expense. And as long as they pick victims who aren’t capable of physically preventing the attack, they will never have any reason to stop.

    Ever.

    But at least the government isn’t using aggressive force against the rapist’s person or property.

    That would obviously a real crime.

  58. stevarious says

    I’m forced to, at this point, agree with puppygod back in #463. I used to think that libertarians were misguided idealists. Now I realize that they are much worse. They are willing to sacrifice society itself, not to mention a large portion of the population, just so they won’t have to pay taxes against their will. They aren’t for liberty, they are just antigovernment, where government is defined as ‘any authority that acts in ways we didn’t agree to beforehand’. They insist that government unfairly collects taxes and unjustly enforces laws, then endorse a system where money (that you can’t call taxes) is paid to insurance companies (that you can’t call government) to enforce contracts (that you can’t call laws), and it’s somehow better than the system we have because all the players are openly for-profit, so the magical invisible hand of the market and the innate morality of everyone involved will make sure that everything stays fair and equitable.

    Except for the people who don’t have money. Fuck them.

    It’s a sociopathic delusion, and it should be opposed at every turn.

  59. says

    even worse part of that train of thought:

    I still am, and I still spend energy trying to construct a libertarian argument why the death penalty is acceptable for rapists.

    so in niblick’s libertarianism, stealing food, medicine, and other basic survival necessities = always bad
    state-sponsored murder = sometimes ok

    how very thoroughly fucked up.

  60. abb3w says

    I would slightly and narrowly agree with the columnist; global warming policy is not science. It is, however, engineering: using a scientific understanding of the universe to decide what choices to make.

    However, other than that, I suspect I’d wildly disagree with the columnist. He appears to have a predetermined course of choices, and thus is inclined to seek out and look favorably on any basis as good that bolsters that course. That the answers are not completely settled does not justify a refusal to work with the best models at hand.

  61. SallyStrange says

    Niblick. Are you really trying to say that being raped is as inevitable as dying?

    Maybe you should try again with a different analogy.

  62. says

    It only assumes that people choose effective means to pursue their ends, given their options and their state of knowledge. That assumption is necessary to make libertarianism work.

    I agree with Jadehawk. As a skeptic, I’m aware of how people can fool themselves and rationalize stupid and dangerous behaviors. Medicine is one example: Currently, watchdog organizations are what’s keeping medical research honest. I, like most people, don’t constantly research medicine.

    Let’s take a stuffy nose as a minor example:

    If I purchase a remedy that’s regulated by the FDA or similar organization, chances are the product is reasonably safe for me to use, has instructions on the proper dose, as well as conditions that would make it unsafe to use, and thanks to efficacy studies, it will probably provide some utility beyond subjective placebo benefit.

    Now, if I were to buy a product that wasn’t subject to safety regulations and efficacy tests, I would have no reason to believe I’d get any benefit, and I’d be taking unmeasured risks. Of course, most people are “shruggies” who aren’t aware of this sort of thing, which is why untested “supplements” (or ones tested and found to be ineffective) can still sell on testimonials. Some people get a subjective placebo “benefit” and simply assume the treatment worked, even if other explanations (like spontaneous remission, natural recovery, regression to the mean, etcetera) are responsible for the perceived improvement.

    For the unregulated products, the only way I’d be able to find out how effective it really is would be to perform my own clinical studies. Without some kind of pressure, it’s doubtful the manufacturers would see a strong enough financial incentive in my small skeptical demographic to justify performing an expensive study. It’s much cheaper and effective to advertise “all natural!” to convince the unskeptical masses.

    Now apply the same logic to every product out there that doesn’t have immediately obvious or easily measured effects. I may be able to easily tell if a car will move, but I can’t easily tell how safe it would be in a collision. I’d either have to obsessively research everything, possibly conducting my own (expensive) experiments just to know if certain subtle products even worked. Or I can treat everything as a gamble, and inevitably make unsafe purchases.

    The way I currently see it, the only safe people in Libertopia would be the supermen Marty Stu experts in everything. And a lot of them would probably be miserable from the absence of leisure time to enjoy their purchases, or be unable to find safe products, since no one’s interested in appealing to such a tiny, unprofitable group.

    In the real world, however, the range of danger is much smaller and much better known because governments can enforce product testing, or fund independent consumer protection groups to do the testing. I don’t see Libertarians offering anything equivalent to that.

  63. stevarious says

    @Bronze Dog

    Like I said yesterday. He’s under the impression that drug companies would still submit to the FDA if they weren’t forced to. He obviously has no understanding of the relationship between drug companies and the FDA, drug companies and health care providers, drug companies and insurance companies, or really anything related to medicine. It’s all dogma based on the Dunning-Kruger effect.

  64. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    Um, I gave examples of such: if Nerd of a Redhead convinced my wife to leave me, and oh, tell all the neighbors about my tiny penis, and drive by daily to flaunt her new girlfriend and her new girlfriend’s Ferrari, I would sure as hell find it devastating. I’d be tempted to violence. My limbic system would certainly go crazy, my blood pressure would explode, and I’d quite possibly stroke out right on the spot and fall down dead.

    The question is, IS IT OK TO RESPOND WITH SMUIJ? Can I kill my wife for leaving me, or kill the person who talked her into leaving, or kill her new girlfriend? Can I imprison her so she won’t leave? Can I at least give everyone concerned a nice fat lip and bloody nose?

    NO. I can’t. It’s the fucking end of my fucking life as I fucking know it, I want to fucking die (or maybe fucking kill someone), and there isn’t a fucking thing I can do about it.

    Your turn. What you got?

    Interesting window into your life but that’s not addressing what I was getting at, though I can see where you might think that it would. There are more examples of non “Smuji” “aggression” beyond personal one on one interactions. Corporations seizing and / or exploitation of public (oh noes) natural resources, discrimination by groups with power, damages to public land (assuming libertarians would even allow such a socialist plot) etc..

    Not all of these are things you can require or force restitution or even make it easy to define restitution in repayment terms under your Libertarian utopia, especially should you be a member of the disenfranchised. Using weasel word definition of “aggression” glosses over these things and allows Libertarians (as you define them) to claim that’s not what they’re talking about. You’ve done it here. It suits the Libertarian view you are trying to prop up.

    And as much as you refuse to admit it, Libertarianism is as much about Might makes Right as any ideology.

    Just depends on what is being used to measure might.

  65. says

    I also believe that non-aggression is “good” in the consequentialist sense that it leads to good outcomes, and I can argue that–and have, in fact, argued it in this thread.

    I agree that non-aggression often leads to good outcomes. But what I was discussing is cases in which the deontological non-aggression principle operates in conflict with the goal of maximising human wellbeing, such that it is impossible to reconcile the two. If initiating aggressive force towards A and seizing his property by force would allow us to save B, C and D from death by starvation, for instance, is it right to initiate aggressive force towards A? A utilitarian must say yes; a deontological libertarian must say no.

    A good real-life example is universal state-funded health care. Universal state-funded health care clearly infringes the principle of non-aggression, since it involves taxing people, by means of coercive force, to pay for the health care needs of others. A deontological libertarian thus cannot support universal state-funded health care. However, the empirical evidence suggests – and we can argue this point if you wish, but I’m just using it as an example – that universal state-funded health care leads to better health outcomes, on balance and on average, than any of the available alternatives.

    The other fundamental area of conflict is that the non-aggression principle rests on an act/omission distinction. According to the non-aggression principle, there is a categorical moral difference between killing X by a positive act (e.g. stabbing him in the head), and killing X by an omission (e.g. letting him starve to death rather than sharing one’s wealth with him). The former is an infringement of the non-aggression principle and should, according to the deontological libertarian ethic, be prevented and/or punished by the state. By contrast, the latter is expressly permitted under the deontological libertarian ethic; while a deontological libertarian might think it morally good to donate some of one’s wealth in order to save X’s life, s/he would argue that one should not be forced to do so, and that one is perfectly within one’s rights to stand back and watch X die.

    From a utilitarian perspective, this act/omission distinction is meaningless. X is just as dead whether he dies from stabbing or starvation; and, since a utilitarian morality requires us to make all our decisions according to what will best promote human wellbeing, a utilitarian cannot perceive any basic moral difference between killing X and wilfully letting X die. In both cases, we have failed to save a life which we could have saved by making a different choice.

    I also believe that it’s “good” in the eudaimonistic sense. It’s “good” according to almost every standard of ethics, the big exception being pragmatism: sometimes aggression gets results, and it a priori benefits the aggressor or he wouldn’t do it.

    No, because the non-aggression principle, rests on a major unstated assumption: the assumption

    I also would argue that it’s “good” in the sense that it is the only universal legal system: every other legal system makes a distinction between enforcers and/or rulers, and the rest of the population, and gives special powers to the enforcers or rulers. Government, for example, is an entity claiming a territorial monopoly on the use of force, the resolution of disputes, and the power to tax. It distinguishes between government agents, who are authorized to use defensive and aggressive force, and the ruled, who may never use aggressive force and may only use defensive force when granted the privilege by government. The ruling class then can, and does, take advantage of its special privileges to commit injustice.

    There’s a lot of truth to this. But again, you’re ignoring the most controversial and contestable assumption of the non-aggression principle: the assumption that people have a natural right to own property, and to use coercive force in defence of their property. You have not furnished a reason why this should be so; you’ve simply asserted it as a basic moral truth.

    Left-anarchists, like libertarians, reject the idea that there should be a ruling or governing class which is morally entitled to exercise coercive force over its subjects. However, they go one stage further: they also reject the assumption that particular persons should have private property rights over particular resources, and that these rights should be protected by coercive violence. If one objects to the state on the ground that it is built on coercive force, then it is not self-evident that private property rights – which are also built on coercive force – are legitimate.

    I mention this not because I think left-anarchists are correct – I’m not an anarchist, and I find their point of view unrealistic – but, rather, simply to illustrate that the right to private property is not a necessary incidence of a commitment to non-aggression. Libertarians cannot, therefore, claim that their moral philosophy is the only one which consistently rejects aggressive force. In fact, libertarians endorse aggressive force in one particular specific context – the defence of one’s property rights – and it is up to them to explain why coercion-in-defence-of-property is different in kind from other instances of coercive violence.

    HOWEVER, none of that is objective proof that non-aggression is “right.” One may ask who gives a shit about good consequences, for example? And what about members of the ruling class, who reap considerable beneficial consequences from committing aggression? And who says eudaimonia is a value worth pursuing? And who cares whether the law is universal, or whether it creates a privileged class?

    It’s meaningless that an ethical system can be justified in consequentialist, or eudaimonistic, or pragmatic, or any other terms, because that only pushes the discussion up one meta-level: why is consequentialism, or eudaimonism, or pragmatism, a “good” standard for judging ethical systems? That discussion only exposes that you have a subjective opinion about what is the right standard for judging an ethical system. We’re no closer to objectively substantiating anything.

    Of course. There are no objective morals. There is no self-evident a priori reason why I should base my morality primarily on the goal of maximising human wellbeing, rather than, say, the goal of propagating the influenza virus, or of promoting the welfare of fruit-flies, or of adhering rigidly to the teachings of Zoroaster. All morality is founded ultimately upon some arbitrary axiom or other. In this regard, I cannot and would not claim that a utilitarian morality is self-evidently right, or that the libertarian non-aggression principle is self-evidently wrong.

    The reason why I choose to base my morality primarily on the axiom “What is good for human wellbeing is morally good, and what is bad for human wellbeing is morally bad” is because I instinctively care about the wellbeing of other humans, and I want to live in a society in which the wellbeing of humans is paramount. Ultimately, one’s choice of moral axiom boils down to the question of what kind of society one wishes to live in.

  66. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    God fucking damnit.

    Blockquote kiss my hairy ass. That’s what I get for jumping in here today with no time.

    Um, I gave examples of such: if Nerd of a Redhead convinced my wife to leave me, and oh, tell all the neighbors about my tiny penis, and drive by daily to flaunt her new girlfriend and her new girlfriend’s Ferrari, I would sure as hell find it devastating. I’d be tempted to violence. My limbic system would certainly go crazy, my blood pressure would explode, and I’d quite possibly stroke out right on the spot and fall down dead.

    The question is, IS IT OK TO RESPOND WITH SMUIJ? Can I kill my wife for leaving me, or kill the person who talked her into leaving, or kill her new girlfriend? Can I imprison her so she won’t leave? Can I at least give everyone concerned a nice fat lip and bloody nose?

    NO. I can’t. It’s the fucking end of my fucking life as I fucking know it, I want to fucking die (or maybe fucking kill someone), and there isn’t a fucking thing I can do about it.

    Your turn. What you got?

    Interesting window into your life but that’s not addressing what I was getting at, though I can see where you might think that it would. There are more examples of non “Smuji” “aggression” beyond personal one on one interactions. Corporations seizing and / or exploitation of public (oh noes) natural resources, discrimination by groups with power, damages to public land (assuming libertarians would even allow such a socialist plot) etc..

    Not all of these are things you can require or force restitution or even make it easy to define restitution in repayment terms under your Libertarian utopia, especially should you be a member of the disenfranchised. Using weasel word definition of “aggression” glosses over these things and allows Libertarians (as you define them) to claim that’s not what they’re talking about. You’ve done it here. It suits the Libertarian view you are trying to prop up.

    And as much as you refuse to admit it, Libertarianism is as much about Might makes Right as any ideology.

    Just depends on what is being used to measure might.

  67. says

    Sorry, forgot to finish this sentence:

    No, because the non-aggression principle, as espoused by deontological libertarians, rests on a major unstated assumption: the assumption that individuals have a natural right to own property, and to use coercive force to exclude others from taking their property.

  68. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Nerd of a Redhead

    I’m sure she thinks it should be Nerd of THE Redhead.

  69. Mr. Fire says

    Libertarian societies don’t gas 6,000,000 Jews, or drop nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or kill 10,000,000 kulaks to collectivize their farmland, or kill hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and displace several million more…It’s incapable of doing those things, because nobody–including Bill Gates–could even afford to do them if he wanted to.

    Still with the tautological abstractions.

    This statement gives me nothing other than: “hypothetical societies that behave in the way I’ve defined them to behave, behave in the way I’ve defined them to behave”.

    What many people have a problem with is not just the philopsophical underpinnings of your society, but also the apparent ease with which they can find ways in which that system would unravel.

    The real question, for me, is therefore:

    Do you have good reason to expect that a Libertarian society, set up according to the principles you’ve outlined here, will resist devolving into chaos more elegantly than the society we currently have?

    [I am (hopefully accurately) paraphrasing a commenter who once said something like: "All systems will eventually fail. But we must try to make sure they fail elegantly."]

  70. Gaebolga says

    It seems to me that the biggest problem with libertarianism as expressed by Niblick is that it cannot prevent any damage, fraud, or crime, even in those cases where such damage, fraud, or crime is obviously going to occur. In fact, it even appears to ensure that it will never prevent them.

    Asimov’s First Law of Robotics states:

    A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

    The “through inaction” bit is crucial if one wishes to prevent robots from killing humans (as Asimov explored briefly in one of the stories in I, Robot).

    The spirit of the “through inaction” clause is what’s been behind most of my hypothetical scenarios involving wolverines and such. It seems that in the libertarian society proposed by Niblick, given sufficiently unequal levels of wealth, the wealthy individual can engineer scenarios in which he can both legally and inevitably steal from or kill the poor individual.

    In our current American society, there are certainly many injustices – even legal ones. But the thing about a legal system backed up by government force is that the government enforces laws, not ideal principles, and in a democracy, laws can be changed. Sure, it may be difficult, and sure, it may not even happen.

    But it is at least possible.

    But in a libertarian society that requires adherence to the principle of “non-aggressive” force by the institutions delegated (or hired) to uphold the libertarian legal scheme, there is no possible way to change the fact that the sufficiently wealthy can literally and legally do pretty much anything they want to the sufficiently poor.

    And that strikes me as a fatal flaw.

    Especially given that the only supposed improvement I’ve seen on our current system is “no taxes.”

  71. stevarious says

    there is no possible way to change the fact that the sufficiently wealthy can literally and legally do pretty much anything they want to the sufficiently poor.

    And that strikes me as a fatal flaw.

    It’s not a flaw, it’s a feature. It’s just that libertarians A: don’t want you to realize that, and B: expect to be one of the ‘sufficiently wealthy’.

  72. Mr. Fire says

    Oh. Hey sg!

    I’m sure you’ll be glad to know I’m busy mooching about and fucking up quotes from you that I’ve half-remembered.

  73. says

    It is a bad thing that people can use wealth to get away with hurting others….so we’ll fix that by making everything based on wealth and making the rich even more powerful?

    WTF?

  74. imnotandrei says

    Wow. I must commend you, Mr. Niblick, on your Sisyphean endurance.

    That said, it appears to have just as much *point* as the aforementioned individual’s labors.

    That said, two bits to pick out:

    In #514,

    I already discussed libertarian law enforcement at some length. The common case is for law enforcement to be subcontracted by the insurance provider.

    Wow. Where to start with this.

    First off, this doesn’t address my comments in re: a judicial system and disagreements about value that were, oh, several hundred posts ago. Right now, we have a way to handle this; in your system, I’m presuming you’re going to professional arbitrators designated by contractual negotiations (never mind the whole question of who arbitrates the arbitrator’s disputes ;)) — but the whole point of a for-profit insurance company is to minimize the amount it has to pay out, or pay others. What is the motivation for it to pursue a claim with vigor? If it decides you, as a victim of rape, get two $25 coupons at Therapists R’Us and your medical bill paid for the examination, what is your recourse? The insurance you bought to ensure your insurance company pays you fairly? ;)

    And in #557, where you argued that mass-murder is something only a state could manage.

    You have a point, and it’s something we anarchists tend to agree with you on.

    But, of course, that ignores the invisible suffering of millions, or billions of people under the system you propose, shorn of assistance from the government, shorn from protection by the law.

    I suspect more people would die miserable deaths under your system than even the best non-nuclear-armed government could manage. And it would all be OK, because they didn’t commit aggression, or did and were shot down for it, when they went to steal a loaf of bread to eat.

    State actions show up as mass-murders because we have someone to blame specifically. Corporate murders do not, save under rare circumstances (and even there, the corporations in question get off — viz. Bhopal, say?) And the deaths of many through neglect? Those don’t get counted, by and large, as murders at all.

    The gun will always be there. So long as there are conflicting interests, conflicting needs, conflicting desires, the gun will always be there as an ultimate decider; the question is what does the person holding it think they’re holding it for?

  75. frankboyd says

    @frankboyd,

    Again, your point? Because I don’t know whether you’re arguing for or against libertarianism.

    You might say that libertarians are to me what the hippies were to the serious Trokskyist. It’s why I urge you to read the serious thinkers, rather than judge by various online types (the internet can bring out the worst in people). Libertarians believe anything is okay, it’s up to you, while I am interested in the radical and revolutionary power of Capitalism.

    The reason I stressed the anti-Capitalist effect is because that is what “anti-Libertarianism” tends to be. To take a quote from the original post:

    Libertarians who believe in giving corporations a free ride at the expense of human beings.

    I do wonder if Myers really is this silly, or whether he’s acting out of conscious class interest. The truth is that mendacious corporations and Big Government go together like peaches and cream, to the detriment of everyone else. Take a look at China, which has government of a size that NYT columnists can only daydream about, and look at the megalith crony-socialist corporations there. To take a US example, consider the stunt that Hillary Clinton pulled in health care. She ran a demagogic populist attack on insurance companies, and the result of her efforts was to wipe out all small and middling insurance companies and enshrine in place five megacorporations who were, not coincidentally, big supporters. Bluntly, the expansion of state power exists for one reason, to destroy social mobility.

    The element of class cannot be overstated. Why is environmental silliness the privilege of upper-middle class first worlders, not to mention the ruling class? Because it serves their class interest. And I want to be clear that I am referring to enviro-silliness here. Take all these proposals to fix global warming (which is real and manmade, let’s have no silliness of that kind) – Kyoto, Copenhagen etc. None of them ever work. None of them are expected to. They are there to serve the class interest of those who fight for them.

    Take the old Ethanol guff. Ethanol – field to engine – actually causes more pollution. However, promoting it allowed the US gov to shovel huge amounts of money to various special interests. It also had the effect of causing starvation amongst the world’s poorest. This pattern – of a populist selling of measures that do nothing but entrench the ruling class in its power and privilege – is eternal.

    I have sketched the mere rudiments of the full answer here, but I do hope I have given you an incentive to investigate these matters on your own.

  76. says

    The truth is that mendacious corporations and Big Government go together like peaches and cream, to the detriment of everyone else.

    That’s often true, yes. But libertarianism doesn’t offer a satisfactory solution to this. Yes, libertarians would like government to stop protecting favoured corporations through subsidies, tariffs, corporate welfare, etc.; and they’re absolutely right on that point. But libertarians are also strongly in favour of the biggest privilege that governments grant to the rich: namely, the protection of private property rights. Essentially, private property rights amount to a decree by the state that X is entitled to exclusive control of certain resources, and that force or the threat of force will be used to exclude others from accessing those resources without X’s permission. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but like any other form of state violence, it needs to be justified.

    In itself, the enforcement of private property rights gives power to the rich, at the expense of the poor. This does not mean that the enforcement of private property rights is necessarily a bad thing: in conventional Western social democracies, this imbalance between the rich and the poor is partly (though not wholly) redressed through redistributive social programmes, public education, workers’ rights laws and the like. However, libertarians want to scrap all these things, while maintaining rigorous enforcement of private property rights. It seems inevitable, then, that the short-term effect of libertarian policies would be a growth in inequality between the rich and the poor. Whether such an approach would be good or bad, on balance, for human wellbeing is an empirical question – and it can only be answered with empirical evidence from actual economic and social history, not with trite axioms and generalizations.

    Take a look at China, which has government of a size that NYT columnists can only daydream about, and look at the megalith crony-socialist corporations there.

    This is true, but misleading. Although China is certainly a bureaucratic authoritarian state, it’s actually dismantled most of its social infrastructure in recent years; services like health and education are now mainly left to the market, and the gap between the rich and the poor is vast and growing. Your single example doesn’t illustrate that there is necessarily a correlation between the size of government and the amount of corruption and cronyism. (To prove that point, you’d need empirical evidence of a statistical trend across several countries and/or time periods.)

  77. frankboyd says

    Walton,

    Thank you for the extended and serious response. That said – do you mind if I note that I have never seen anything resolved in a blog argument? That is why I said I only sketched the outlines of a response, a place to start.

    I do think, rereading my answer that I listed at least three examples. However, in response to this:

    . But libertarians are also strongly in favour of the biggest privilege that governments grant to the rich: namely, the protection of private property rights.

    Except.

    Why is it that every society in history that has turned against property rights has been one of misery and want, of a tiny ruling class and an immiserated majority? Why is it that only with the emergence of private property that feudal lords were overthrown? And why is it that the only name for one who has no right to the product of his own work is “slave”?

    Again, I sketch the outlines of the full proof. I do hope that you will not hold it against me; internet-arguments tend to be long and tedious and uninteresting. I just wanted to give puppydog a point of reference, if he wants to look further.

  78. frankboyd says

    Ah, missed this – have to add the following, Walton

    Your single example doesn’t illustrate that there is necessarily a correlation between the size of government and the amount of corruption and cronyism. (To prove that point, you’d need empirical evidence of a statistical trend across several countries and/or time periods.)

    Well, look at those countries where we have the best ways of contrasting. As awful as China is now, contrast it with what it was like under fully fledged Communism. Contrast old China and old Hong Kong. Contrast South and North Korea. Contrast the closest thing we’ve ever had to a controlled experiment in this field, that of West Berlin and East Berlin.

    I leave the facts on the tables. The laws are easy to find, if you go looking

  79. Brownian says

    Why is it that every society in history that has turned against property rights has been one of misery and want, of a tiny ruling class and an immiserated majority? Why is it that only with the emergence of private property that feudal lords were overthrown? And why is it that the only name for one who has no right to the product of his own work is “slave”?

    Boy, that’s some serious fucking question-begging.

  80. says

    Why is it that every society in history that has turned against property rights has been one of misery and want, of a tiny ruling class and an immiserated majority?

    How is that different than living in a anarchocapitalist state?

  81. jack lecou says

    Libertarian societies don’t gas 6,000,000 Jews, or drop nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or kill 10,000,000 kulaks to collectivize their farmland, or kill hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and displace several million more. It doesn’t operate a torture camp at Guantanamo, and it doesn’t hand out trillions and trillions of dollars in bailouts. It doesn’t devalue the dollar to a tiny fraction of its original value.

    This (in addition to creepily juxtaposing bank bailouts and inflation with torture and the holocaust) seems to amount to a weird sort of slippery slope argument.

    The most obvious point to make here is that liberal democracies do not inherently commit genocide, engage in state-sanctioned torture, wars of conquest, or drop nuclear weapons on populated cities. At least two of your examples – the Jewish holocaust and the Stalinist relocations – did not occur under anything even resembling a liberal democracy.

    I do see how it would be easy to make the assumption that these are inevitable temptations. At least from a US perspective (the US has invaded, and tortured, and bombed, and committed genocide against aboriginal peoples), but I think broadening our horizons a bit, the US’ pathologies seem to be the exception rather than the rule. There are plenty of smaller, less imperialist states which do not appear to have any of these tendencies.

    (Even other major Western powers seem largely immune. At least of late – I think we have to allow some leeway a few decades back for the transition of certain colonial powers into true post-colonial liberal states, but AFAICT, even the most reactionary are not showing a tendency toward those imperial impulses recently. There are, I think, a few regrettable exceptions with regard to the torture axis — which is certainly indefensible, but I would still argue that the incidence is relatively limited, and that these are the exceptions, not the rule.)

    So I don’t think there is any strong reason to believe that war crimes
    or other atrocities are an inherent feature of states, or at least of modern liberal democracies.

    But “AHA!” you say. “That may be so, but in my libertarian system, state-sponsored atrocities are not just rare, they are IMPOSSIBLE.”

    So let’s examine that.

    (OMFG, this is getting long. Sorry everyone.)

    Alright:

    To start with, let’s observe that the way you have purportedly accomplished this is by abolishing the state. And abolishing the state, or rendering it ineffective to various degrees within its own borders, is not in and of itself either a difficult or desirable thing to do. Places like Somalia or Afghanistan also meet that criteria. I suppose it is unlikely that either of those places are in a position to be invading Iraq anytime soon. And yet, somehow, the fact that Norway has a smoothly functioning state apparatus which could, in theory, be turned toward building up a massive war machine or efficiently herding its citizens into death camps hardly seems to be a point in favor of Somalia.

    But let’s pass over that for now. Is it really even true that a libertarian society would have no institutions capable of organizing atrocities? This seems unlikely.

    You have already stated that a wide variety of state or state-like systems are in fact “libertarian compatible”. With minor changes, something resembling the structure of the current US government would be possible. I daresay that even versions of Nazi Germany or Stalin’s Russia might not be that difficult to reconstruct in an outwardly “libertarian compatible” fashion. Many other permutations are no doubt possible as well. They would, perhaps, technically lose their ‘libertarian’ status at some point – perhaps the moment they performed their first forced relocation or built their first gas chamber – but the potential and logistical capability would all be there, as with any other functional state. Such a libertarian society scores no points over a democratic one sharing similar potentials.

    So what about the hypothetical One True Libertarian society? The one with the rape insurance, and other unspecified institutions which make it somehow more libertarian than all those other libertarian societies?

    Well, this one is problematic too. In it’s initial state, government and the use of force are technically illegal – and let’s assume those rules actually manage to get themselves effectively enforced somehow, by whatever Goldbergian-arrangement of insurance companies, contracts, damage claims, arbitrators and hired mercenaries we are supposed to be imagining here.

    But while government and implied or overt violence is nominally prohibited, there are radically fewer restrictions on the accumulation of power itself. None, in fact. Even if we start with a magically leveled playing field, first-out-the-gate or random effects will quickly begin to generate winners and losers. With no countervailing forces or institutions, one would assume that the first few moderately successful individuals or corporations will be able to rapidly consolidate and leverage their positions into virtually unlimited economic power. Monopolies. Dumping. Price fixing. Vertical integration. All legal, unchecked and unrestricted. Soon, one or a handful of successful firms or individuals will be sitting on top of their captive markets, enjoying monopoly rents and effectively locking out competitors. We’ve seen this show before, though perhaps never so unrestrained or flagrant.

    Well, that’s bad, but what’s this got to do with atrocities, you ask? Libertopia may be a stagnant hellhole, citizens locked into predatory contracts with monopoly providers of essential services, all presided over by a fat and happy troupe of merchant princes (and taxes don’t look so bad anymore) but, hey, at least there’s no genocide right?

    Well, perhaps. But we’re not far away. Think about it. One of the first things the princes are going to do is take control over all those nifty “insurance” companies (that protect everyone and magically enforce the laws through the power of markets). That’s already problematic. But then they’re also going to control mercenaries, weapons manufacturers, transportation systems, etc. All perfectly “legal”, since they haven’t done anything with them, but you can see where this is going.

    How long is it before one of our lovely merchant princes decides his commitment to profit is slightly greater than his commitment to libertarian principles (a sentiment his mercenary armies fully endorse), and that his best bet is to take out the competition in a first strike before they decide to?

    Or what if he hits his head, on the edge of his solid diamond bathtub while snorting coke off the naked shaved belly of one of his captive panda bears, and decides, you know what, I’ve got the power and the weapons and the loyal followers, it’s about time somebody spoke up and finally did something about [hated minority group X].

    You get the idea. We haven’t even gone into the fantastic new opportunities for religious cult leaders and the like. Amass a couple million fervent followers, a reinforced compound the size of Rhode Island, and a perfectly legal stockpile of AK47s, high tech drones and compact nuclear weapons. Yeah, that’s going to end well.

    Nor do we know how, before it internally self destructs anyway, the state of Libertaristan interacts with its neighbors. What does L-stan do if it or its allies is faced with an apparently existential threat such as Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan?

    So. Libertarian (or at least minutes post-Libertarian) atrocities? Yeah, we’ve got that in stock. In fact, I think there’s another case or six in the back. Let me know if you want me to check…

  82. M says

    Can’t say I ever worry at all about the libertarians.

    There may seem to be a lot of them on the internet, but in the real worlds they’re a complete and utter irrelevance.

    It’s just a pet hobby of some dweeby teenagers who think they are smart, but are in fact utterly and hilariously clueless about the real world.

    When the average libertarian whines about ‘his taxdollars’ they really mean ‘my dad’s taxdollars’ and they have no idea where said taxdollars REALLY go.

  83. Dan L. says

    Libertarian societies don’t gas 6,000,000 Jews, or drop nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or kill 10,000,000 kulaks to collectivize their farmland, or kill hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and displace several million more.

    Since these paradisaical societies that Libertarians yearn for have never existed, it would be hard for them to have committed atrocities–or anything else, for that matter.

  84. Brownian says

    Even if we start with a magically leveled playing field, first-out-the-gate or random effects will quickly begin to generate winners and losers.

    In fact, given enough time, you’ll eventually have one winner.

    (Someone wrote a simulator based on his reading of the paper that you can try here.)

  85. Mattir-ritated says

    Libertarian paradise societies do so commit atrocities. Have you never heard of Somalia? No environmental regulations, no taxation, no central government, no pesky bureaucrats telling you what to do. All government is free-market contractual stuff. It’s amazing.

  86. First Approximation (formerly Feynmaniac) says

    frankboyd,

    The truth is that mendacious corporations and Big Government go together like peaches and cream, to the detriment of everyone else.

    Why is it that every society in history that has turned against property rights has been one of misery and want, of a tiny ruling class and an immiserated majority?

    That sounds like exactly what libertarians want. At least now the people get to have a say against the rich and powerful through a semi-democratic government. Yes, governments aren’t perfect and controlled at great deal by the rich as well, but they are also constrained by elections to do something for the people too. They also give the people somewhat of a voice. Under a libertarian system what’s to stop corporations from having absolute and total control? They don’t need the votes of the population.

    Hell, many workers are just above slaves in corporations now. They have to obey the orders of the boss or fear losing their job and all the benefits that come with it. They don’t even get to have a real say in the place they spend 40+ hours a week working in. How is this not the complete opposite of liberty? And before you say they’re free to leave, every other job would be pretty much the same and unemployment is hell. Most libertarians seem to only fear tyranny under the government. They don’t seem to have a problem with tyranny done under businesses.

  87. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Frankboyd is continuing the fine tradition that somebody defending liberturdism is the most vocal anti-liberturd to post here. After all, all they can show is morally bankrupt selfishness, and absolutely no concept of the common good. Which differentiates them from the highly intelligent, but empathic posters at this blog. Which is why we are liberals, not liberturds.

  88. First Approximation (formerly Feynmaniac) says

    Libertarian societies don’t gas 6,000,000 Jews, or drop nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or kill 10,000,000 kulaks to collectivize their farmland, or kill hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and displace several million more.

    Societies that recognize me as supreme ruler have not killed even one person! Clearly this is a superior form of government.

  89. stevarious says

    Societies that recognize me as supreme ruler have not killed even one person! Clearly this is a superior form of government.

    Hah! Societies that recognize ME as supreme ruler have never known anything less than perfect, all-encompassing bliss for every single subject! MY form of government RULES!

  90. Mr. Fire says

    Another issue that I have with Libertarianism is that it doesn’t really seem to apply to itself. That is to say: it should have already won out as the most rationally self-interested choice in the marketplace of ideas. But for some reason the invisible hand can’t pull the invisible finger out of its invisible ass.

    And any attempt to explain away that problem requires special pleading.

  91. 'Tis Himself, pour encourager les autres says

    ad hominum salvator #438

    A hint: anyone to the right of Adam Smith is a right-wing extremist

    There is a great myth, promulgated in part by conservatives, that Adam Smith was a free market absolutist. He wasn’t. He was closer to Marx than to von Mises. Wealth of Nations has been misappropriated down to a single false bullet-point which isn’t actually in the book.

    Smith was one of the first people to recognize that nations were not made wealthy by acquiring reserves of gold or by maintaining huge trade surpluses or by making their neighbors poor. Countries (and the people in them) are made wealthy by mutually beneficial exchange and trade and through the specialization of productive process.

    Here’s a few quotes from Smith:

    No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the greater part of the members are poor and miserable. It is but equity, besides, that they who feed, clothe and lodge the whole body of the people, should have such a share of the produce of their own labour as to be themselves tolerably well fed, clothed and lodged.

    Our merchants and master-manufacturers complain much of the bad effects of high wages in raising the price, and thereby lessening the sale of their goods both at home and abroad. They say nothing concerning the bad effects of high profits. They are silent with regard to the pernicious effects of their own gains. They complain only of those of other people.

    Whenever the legislature attempts to regulate the differences between masters and their workmen, its counselors are always the masters. When the regulation, therefore, is in favour of the workmen, it is always just and equitable; but it is sometimes otherwise when in favour of the masters.

    All for ourselves, and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind.

    All quotes taken from Adam Smith’s An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, London: W. Strahan & T. Cadell. 1776. (I own a first edition of Smith.)

  92. says

    Except.

    Why is it that every society in history that has turned against property rights has been one of misery and want, of a tiny ruling class and an immiserated majority? Why is it that only with the emergence of private property that feudal lords were overthrown? And why is it that the only name for one who has no right to the product of his own work is “slave”?

    These are all important observations, and I should stress that I’m not calling for the abolition of private property rights, nor am I arguing that private property is an inherently bad thing.

    Rather, my point was simply that the enforcement of private property rights involves the use or threat of state violence, and that this violence is most often deployed in the service of the rich (who are, by definition, those who tend to own the most property).

    This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – in fact, I agree with you that societies which recognize private property rights are, on balance, better than those which do not. But consider this: contemporary Western democracies, the effects of property rights are counterbalanced to some degree by the effects of redistributive social programmes, the welfare state, workers’ rights laws, etc., which are aimed at reducing the inequality of power between the rich and the poor. Libertarians advocate eliminating most of these programmes, while continuing rigorous enforcement of private property rights.

    So… it seems pretty clear that the result of libertarian policies, at least in the short term, would be a greater concentration of wealth and economic power in the hands of the rich. Whether this is a desirable outcome depends on your philosophical standpoint, of course. But as a utilitarian, I’d need to see some empirical evidence that this would, on balance, be beneficial to the wellbeing of people in general.

    Well, look at those countries where we have the best ways of contrasting. As awful as China is now, contrast it with what it was like under fully fledged Communism. Contrast old China and old Hong Kong. Contrast South and North Korea. Contrast the closest thing we’ve ever had to a controlled experiment in this field, that of West Berlin and East Berlin.

    True – but we’re not simply comparing authoritarian socialist economies (which, I entirely agree, have an appalling track record) with mixed economies. No one here is advocating Leninism, as far as I’m aware.

    Rather, we’re talking about the difference between a mixed economy, of the type found in contemporary Western democracies, and a hypothetical libertarian society in which government intervention in the economy is radically scaled back. (Deontological libertarians, after all, argue in principle for the elimination of all government programmes, except those which are aimed directly at protecting the citizen and his or her property from force or fraud. So that means no state-run healthcare, no welfare state, no regulation of wages or working conditions, etc.) I think it’s hard to justify, as an empirical proposition, the claim that the latter would be dramatically better for the wellbeing of its citizens than the former.

    Do you think, for example, that health outcomes in, say, the UK or Sweden would improve dramatically if those countries were to abandon their universal state-funded health care systems and replace them with free-market health care? Or if those countries were to scrap their workers’ rights and pro-union legislation, and, instead, leave wages and working conditions to be decided purely by contract between employers and employees in a free market? And if you think so, do you have any empirical evidence that would support this conclusion?

  93. says

    And why is it that the only name for one who has no right to the product of his own work is “slave”?

    this, as a criticism of more socialized, more unionized nations? BWAHAHAHAHAAA

    another datapoint to the Grand Unified Theory of Posters Named Frank

  94. Ing says

    A Man chooses a slave obeys!

    Libertarians, would you kindly take your formalized sociopathy (BTW Mr. Harris that was the word you were looking for) and go play in a lake?

  95. ad hominum salvator ॐ says

    Oh. Hey sg!

    I’m sure you’ll be glad to know I’m busy mooching about and fucking up quotes from you that I’ve half-remembered.

    I am! You save me the trouble. And you got the gist of it.

    There’s also something to be said for failing slowly, as this presents more opportunities to find a better course when necessary.

    Unfortunately the libertarians promote a quicker failure with their dogmatic resistance to inter-governmental work on climate change.

  96. ad hominum salvator ॐ says

    There is a great myth, promulgated in part by conservatives, that Adam Smith was a free market absolutist. He wasn’t.

    And so I don’t regard Smith himself to be a right-wing extremist, only those to the right of him.

  97. says

    And why is it that the only name for one who has no right to the product of his own work is “slave”?

    In addition to my observations above, I should add that private property, as currently understood in contemporary Western legal systems, does not purely consist in owning “the product of [one's] own work”. Plenty of people in capitalist societies don’t own the product of their own work, because their work is done in the course of employment by another, and they contract to their employer the right to own the product of their labour, in exchange for fixed wages. Likewise, plenty of people own properties which are not directly the product of their labour: land and natural resources are not produced by anyone’s labour, for instance, yet our society recognizes private ownership of these things. (Hence the existence of what Marxists term “rentier capitalism”, where those who own and profit from the means of production are not the same people as those who actually produce.)

    Again, I’m not saying that this is necessarily a bad thing. I’m just pointing out that private property, as we understand the term in contemporary Western societies, is not a “natural right”, and it can’t be explained by trite maxims like “you have the right to own the product of your labour”. Rather, private property rights are decrees of the state – created and adjudicated by legislatures and courts, and enforced, ultimately, by the state’s coercive power. They are not fundamentally different from any other exercise of state coercion. And, like any other exercise of state coercion, they are justified only to the extent that they serve a beneficial social purpose. I agree with you that the recognition of private property rights is a good thing; but it doesn’t follow that private property rights should be absolute or sacrosanct, or that measures which limit property rights (such as taxation and regulation) are inherently illegitimate. This is why the “non-aggression principle”, as espoused by deontological libertarians, doesn’t seem to me very convincing or useful.

  98. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    Tis I love it when you repost that.

    Reminds me to rememeber it. It will do well for me this weekend when I will encounter, DUNUN DUUUNNNNNNNN

    Catholic Ultra Right wing Brother in law.

  99. says

    Another issue that I have with Libertarianism is that it doesn’t really seem to apply to itself. That is to say: it should have already won out as the most rationally self-interested choice in the marketplace of ideas. But for some reason the invisible hand can’t pull the invisible finger out of its invisible ass.

    I’d have to disagree; I don’t think this is a conclusive argument against libertarianism. In order to support their position, libertarians don’t have to argue that individuals always act in their own rational best interests (an empirical claim which would clearly be false). Rather, they only have to argue that individuals are better arbiters of their own individual interests than of the interests of others – and, therefore, that a socio-economic system which gives individuals the power to make most economic decisions for themselves is superior to one in which most economic decisions are made and enforced by the state, whether through a democratic or a non-democratic process. These claims may or may not be true, but they are not, in themselves, self-refuting or internally inconsistent.

    Rather, I’d say the biggest philosophical weakness of libertarianism lies in its fetishization of private property rights, and in the refusal to recognize that inequalities of wealth give the rich a de facto coercive power over the poor. (A coercive power which is ultimately backed by state violence, in the form of enforcement of private property rights.) Very few deontological-libertarian writers or activists have squarely addressed this question, and those who have (Rothbard, for instance) have done so in an unsatisfactory and unconvincing way.

  100. pinkboi says

    @Walton –

    Rather, I’d say the biggest philosophical weakness of libertarianism lies in its fetishization of private property rights, and in the refusal to recognize that inequalities of wealth give the rich a de facto coercive power over the poor. (A coercive power which is ultimately backed by state violence, in the form of enforcement of private property rights.) Very few deontological-libertarian writers or activists have squarely addressed this question, and those who have (Rothbard, for instance) have done so in an unsatisfactory and unconvincing way.

    I agree. And that’s why I get called “communist” by some libertarians. There should be a distinction between that which you created and that which you merely took from nature. The latter, I say, is fair game for taxation. And mixing something with your labor makes it some amount less than 100% yours.

  101. pinkboi says

    @’Tis –

    There is a great myth, promulgated in part by conservatives, that Adam Smith was a free market absolutist. He wasn’t. He was closer to Marx than to von Mises. Wealth of Nations has been misappropriated down to a single false bullet-point which isn’t actually in the book.

    Your quotes show that he wasn’t closer to “Marx than to von Mises” (particularly since von Mises would’ve largely agreed with the quotes you provided). That’s your usual exaggeration. But I agree that he wasn’t the “free market absolutist” his worshipers tend to see him as. Even socialists were influenced by him (and Ricardo, who no one seems to talk about – is that the case even in the economics profession?) I suppose you could also say many followers of Hayek and Mises take their views to places they, themselves wouldn’t have. I’m sure Mises is rolling in his grave over the institution named after him…

  102. Mr. Fire says

    I’d have to disagree; I don’t think this is a conclusive argument against libertarianism.

    Yeah, perhaps I wanted too much for that one to work, thinking it was funny enough.

    I mean, come on: invisible fingers in invisible buttholes. If Benny Hill isn’t going to rise from the grave just to make a sketch of that – well, then I just don’t understand the universe anymore.

  103. frankboyd says

    Walton,

    Wonders never cease, an honest commentator here. Sorry if this is in no particular order

    Rather, my point was simply that the enforcement of private property rights involves the use or threat of state violence, and that this violence is most often deployed in the service of the rich (who are, by definition, those who tend to own the most property).

    Well, I would first refer you to the discussion of the history of private property in Landes’ Wealth and Poverty of Nations. Secondly, your critique relies on eliding the distinctions between those who are rich by trade and production and those who are rich by government fiat. The rich-by-pull, the rich-by-plunder are the historic norm, it is only since the beginnings of capitalism that you see this change. Furthermore, crimes against private property (and the right to trade freely on one’s own work, the same thing) are most always against the average person. As far back as the fourteenth century, the excuse for strike-busting has been “the public good”. If you consider that more recent examples of Eminent Domain in the US. I think that, in particular, the Kelo v. City of New London case is worth reviewing.

    Plenty of people in capitalist societies don’t own the product of their own work, because their work is done in the course of employment by another, and they contract to their employer the right to own the product of their labour, in exchange for fixed wages.

    This is the old Marxist mistake of “surplus value”. In fact, it is exactly backwards from what Marx’s writings. The amount that the worker receives minus what he could make in a state of nature, is equal to the surplus value he receives gratis, first from working for an employer, and from working within a society where trade is possible.

    As regards the special case of land, let me point out that land on its own is worthless. It is only human ability to cultivate and exploit that land that makes it worth anything. Look at the feudal hell-hole of Saudi Arabia. They couldn’t discover oil on their own, they needed to steal the plants and machinery of Western oil companies to use it, and they don’t even have the capacity to run their plundered resources on their own.

    Walton, again, I do hope you will accept my sketching only the outlines here. I think that any step towards a greater freedom of trade is, ceteris paribus, a good thing. Let me give you one example of something that the entire first world could do tomorrow: eliminate the trade barriers with the Third World. These are the most perfected machinery of exploitation and racketeering imaginable, run solely for the benefit of local strongmen and corrupt agribusiness concerns.

  104. says

    a state of nature

    more lulz from frankie the libertarian. say, have you bothered looking into anthropology lately, to ascertain what “the state of nature” actually is, for humans? It’s not what 17th-19th century philosophers assumed it was.

  105. frankboyd says

    Walton,

    I should note my gratitude at finding someone who is serious in discussion, and eschews the single-sentence-LOL!!!! style that seems favored here.

  106. puppygod says

    @ frankboyd

    Thanks for your answer. Now I understand your point much better. Actually, I agree with you on more issues than I previously though (like corn-ethanol-fuel travesty or Kyoto being a sad example of too little-too late policy). I also do agree that internet discussion is not going to reach any consensus. But – to paraphrase igNobel motto – this thread at first make me laugh and then it make me think, so it’s not all pointless.

    Points I would raise were already addressed by Walton and others, so I just wanted to note that my problem with libertarianism have less to do with it’s theoretical basis (though I’m finding it lacking), and more with proposals of actual application of it’s premises – which seems to lead to inevitable, disastrous effects ignoring our past experiences and pretty obvious conclusion of game theory. Again – I do realise that my knowledge about libertarianism is lacking and might be shaped by vocal minority and not mainstream – but that is enough to make me vary.

  107. uncle frogy says

    OK I’m getting tired and just a little bit dazed by how long this has been going on. I have been wondering about something , what is the position in libertarian thought about monopolies? Are they “legal” ? How about huge conglomerates that cover many businesses or industries are they legal also?
    It sounds like the basis for “government or society” would be all contracts or voluntary agreements with the primary “enforcement authority” being vested with insurance companies.
    If that is true what would prevent one insurance company from becoming a complete monopoly and handling all insurance contracts everywhere. What would prevent “The company” from controlling all aspects of society through their leverage? How would that differ from any other form of societal organization? what would prevent it from becoming tyrannical?

    uncle frogy

  108. Therrin says

    OK I’m getting tired and just a little bit dazed by how long this has been going on.

    My understanding is that it has been going on for about five years, but I haven’t browsed the archives that far back.

  109. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    My understanding is that it has been going on for about five years, but I haven’t browsed the archives that far back.

    It goes back to spring of ’08. Scott from Oregon appeared and started preaching. Got nowhere. Others joined in an attempt to persuade us prior to the election. They have been here almost continually since, although the cast changes, the jingos and lack of solid evidence doesn’t.

  110. The Very Reverend Battleaxe of Knowledge says

    Well, I thought I had seen the glibertarian dystopia described in chilling terms before now, but the horrorshow Niblick has invented in his diseased imagination takes the absolute prize. “Laughing” at the libertarian, as PZ suggests, is no longer enough. If this represents their program, I’m ready to start hunting them down like rabid dogs.

    I expected to be running from the robber baron’s hired thugs, but this rule by insurance companies is a new wrinkle I had never encountered before. Of course all the people who can’t afford medical insurance or car insurance now are going to run out and buy insurance against every bad thing that can possibly happen to them. How many hundred policies would that be? Obviously, no government regulation to require them to insure you—and even now when it’s legal for medical insurance companies to charge enormous rates or refuse you entirely based on genetic tests, it’s going to be lovely when those tactics are applied across the board.

    So, ladies—ready to go buy your rape insurance? The risk of course varies depending on your appearance. You’d have to go down to the insurance agency to be inspected: “Okay, there’s very little chance anyone’s going to rape you—you can have our lowest rate.” “I’m afraid your risk is pretty high based on your attractiveness—we’re going to have to charge you a much higher rate.” “I’m sorry, there’s no way we can risk insuring a woman of your beauty against rape—may I suggest hiring a bodyguard?” Doesn’t it make you feel all safe and secure? Better not dress down or botch your makeup for the interview—if it turns out you were dogging it they could refuse to pay up!

    Of course the biggest joke is the basic axiom of the only no-no being aggression against another’s person or property. The legitimacy of private property is an unexamined assumption, and like the Axiom of Choice, leaving it out can lead to some wild and wonderful conclusions. Calling any regime in which “private property” is sacred “libertarian” is just ridiculous. Such a regime is authoritarian by definition. In particular the notion that you can own some roped-off section of the earth’s surface the same way you own a shirt or a DVD player is a particularly outrageous cultural artifact that is going to have to be eliminated before the consequences of it kill us all.

    I expect Niblick to come back and whine that we don’t understand all these libertarian “terms of art” and therefore our opinions are worthless. It’s not fair to call it Newspeak, though! When discussing Ingsoc, we have to be aware of what the terminology means. War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength. Unless we use the proper language we can’t expect to discuss Ingsoc intelligently, and we’re just making fools of ourselves by trying.

  111. Mr. Fire says

    I should note my gratitude at finding someone who is serious in discussion, and eschews the single-sentence-LOL!!!! style that seems favored here.

    “single-sentence-LOL!!!! style” is not the sole province of someone who is not serious in discussion.

    Your powers of ad hominem are weak, old man.

    People leave short comments for all sorts of reasons, and most could give no two shits to cater to your narrow and self-styled definition of a serious discussion.

  112. Stevarious says

    Emergency Health Care in a Libertarian Society.

    a short story by me

    The flashing lights splayed across the dilapidated buildings as the ambulance pulled up alongside the sprawled bodies of three children that had been caught in the firefight. The EMT’s jumped from the vehicle and quickly began assessing the identities of the children, to make sure that they were authorized to treat them.
    “This one’s insurance ran out…. two weeks ago! Hah!” said one EMT, lifting his facial recognition camera away from the first child and letting the child’s head drop back to the pavement with a dull thud.
    “Sucks to be him,” said the other. “Get an ID on that third. This one took a bullet to the face so the FR isn’t working, and his hands are covered in blood so the thumbprint scanner is useless. I need to find some sort of identity card or something.
    The first EMT strode to the third body and lifted the child’s face up to the FR camera. “Well… this one’s insured… but… Nope, he’s with National. Sorry kid, we don’t accept National. Should’ve stayed within their coverage zone, kiddo.” This time there is a soft splut as the child’s body slumps back into the rapidly pooling blood.
    The second EMT, having finally found the child’s identity card, reads off of his tablet screen. “We can take this one. His parents went for the budget plan, though, so we can only give him… Let me see… Here it is: Direct pressure with El-Cheepo brand “sterilized” bandages, a maximum of two liters of oxygen, and a Generic Non-Denominational Prayer.”
    The first EMT shook his head. “No, we can’t give him a GP. Didn’t you get the update this morning? Templeton Insurance says they finished another study that shows that prayer definitely sometimes works most of the time. Generic Prayer is on the medium-grade treatment list now, and they moved most of the denominational prayers to Premium. I couldn’t even find Catholic Pleas to Individual Saints – I don’t think EMT’s can do them anymore.”
    “Well, whatever, then. It’s not worth MY job to pray for this kid. Come on. I’ll let National know they’ve got a body to pick up while you call the hospital to see if they’ve got any budget plan beds left.”
    The ambulance quietly moved off down the street and into traffic (the budget plan didn’t cover sirens, either) with one child inside, leaving the other two bodies, soon to be lifeless husks, to cool in the evening air.

  113. says

    I ended up collating and editing my comments from this thread and working them into a blog post about libertarianism. As a former libertarian who has since become a left-liberal (while still having a certain amount of intellectual sympathy with the libertarian position), this is an important issue to me.

  114. First Approximaton (formerly Feynmaniac) says

    Walton,

    As a former libertarian who has since become a left-liberal (while still having a certain amount of intellectual sympathy with the libertarian position), this is an important issue to me.

    What are your views on libertarian socialism and left-libertarianism?

  115. SallyStrange says

    Frankboyd, land on its own, uncultivated, is absolutely NOT worthless. It’s a pernicious myth, one that was abused as a justification for disenfranchising Native Americans who didn’t subscribe to the arbitrary notion that land can be privately owned.

    Do you like breathing fresh, oxymegated air? That’s thanks to the “worthless,” uncultivated services provided to you by the world’s forests. Forests also keep hillsides from washing away entirely every time there’s a heavy rain. “Worthless” swamps and bogs absorb the wastes we dump and purify the water we drink. It’s a concept called ecosystem services. Humans literally could not survive without them. I suggest you look it up before you spout off again about the value of land.

  116. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    A philosophy that is predicated on denial of reality is a pathetic lie. It’s practitioners are pathetic liars. Libertarians just make shit up.

  117. says

    To add just a little to SallyStrange’s point, uncultivated land can generate revenue for other industries, like the outdoor recreation industry, for as long as the land remains uncultivated. I personally will be heading for national forest land in the Cascades in a few days, taking with me hundreds of dollars worth of camping and recreational equipment, spending money in stores & restaurants in a couple of small towns along the way.
    I read somewhere not long ago about some stand of woods, I think in Colorado, that somebody wanted to cut down. It was expected to provide jobs for five years, with a payroll of roughly a million dollars per year. Sounds great, right? Unfortunately, it would have caused some problems for the lodge located in those woods, a business that paid out a half million dollars per year for jobs that wouldn’t be going away in a mere five years.
    Some people are just short-sighted. Libertarianism makes a virtue of that.

  118. frankboyd says

    puppygod,

    Glad I could help. I hope I outlined the differences between myself and the standard “anything goes” style of libertarianism. To tell you the truth, my own intellectual roots began in Marxism, and there’s a lot of that I wouldn’t repudiate: solidarity, opposition to religious bullying and mumbo jumbo, internationalism. It’s simply that the twentieth was the great testing between two radical, revolutionary forms of economics: communism and capitalism. We now have seen that Capitalism is the only radical and revolutionary system left. Communism and Socialism don’t work. Fascism doesn’t work. And theocacy certainly doesn’t work.

    You might say that I still look forward to a “withering away of the State”. Hence, I do suggest not to go by internet stuff, but look at the sources, at people like von Mises, Hayek and Paterson.

  119. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Frankboyd,
    I believe you can judge a philosophy by the sorts of results it produces. Libertarianism has produced climate-change denial, trickle-down economics and all sorts of other stupidity. Even if I had not already read von Mises, and found him wanting, I would dismiss libertarianism based on its fruits.

  120. jack lecou says

    The points from SallyStrange and feralboy12 about the value of wilderness and other resources actually tie right back into the OP.

    In addition to negative externalities, like GHG pollution and global warming, there are a whole lot of non-monetized positive externalities out there, like wetlands, wilderness, or endangered species. Libertarianism is utterly unable to cope with either.

  121. SallyStrange says

    Frankboyd seems to be employing the Courtier’s Reply on behalf of libertarianism. Haven’t read all the authors he thinks you should have? Then you’re not qualified to comment.

    Apparently real life libertarians who write about libertarianism on the internet are too stupid to accurately represent their ideology.

    Do you admit that you were mistaken about uncultivated land being worthless, Frank? If not then you’ve no grounds for ranting about the alleged dishonesty of other commenters here.

  122. says

    As regards the special case of land, let me point out that land on its own is worthless. It is only human ability to cultivate and exploit that land that makes it worth anything.

    This doesn’t work as a defence of property rights in land. (It reminds me of Rothbard’s “homestead principle” argument, which was one of the weakest points in his reasoning, IMO; it’s based on an ahistorical just-so story which bears no relation to the actual history of land ownership in real societies.)

    In the real world, in most societies, the system of property in land has its roots in centuries of state violence, and in the violent dispossession of past inhabitants. For most of history in most developed societies, the ruling classes have owned the land, and collected rents by force, while the poor worked the land (and had no choice but to pay rents to the rich). This is the historical background from which modern conceptions of property in land derive. For instance, in the UK (where I come from), a large proportion of rural land is still owned by the traditional landowning aristocracy, many of whom are descended from henchmen of William the Conqueror or from favourites of later monarchs, given land seized from others as a political reward. So, too, much land in the United States was taken by force from the original Native American inhabitants, and the same is true of most countries with a colonial past.

    I am not suggesting that modern landowners bear some kind of hereditary guilt for the violence of the past. Nor am I arguing that property in land should be abolished; I agree with you that property rights, properly applied, are a good thing. Rather, I’m arguing against the deontological libertarian claim that private property is a “natural right”, and that to take someone’s property against their will is always unconscionable.

    Let me give you one example of something that the entire first world could do tomorrow: eliminate the trade barriers with the Third World. These are the most perfected machinery of exploitation and racketeering imaginable, run solely for the benefit of local strongmen and corrupt agribusiness concerns.

    I agree completely. The US and EU systems of tariffs, quotas and farm subsidies, aimed at protecting domestic big business at the expense of producers in the developing world, are morally unconscionable and economically harmful; I’ve been saying so for years.

    This doesn’t contradict my argument, however. I am not arguing that all state intervention is good; I’ve never met anyone who would make such a claim. There are plenty of coercive state interventions which I would get rid of (starting with the ridiculous “War on Drugs”, immigration quotas, trade barriers and farm subsidies, the death penalty and military conscription in those countries which still have these things, and so forth). There are many areas where I can happily make common cause with libertarians.

    Rather, I was arguing against the deontological libertarian claim that any coercive state intervention, other than that aimed at protecting people and their property from force and fraud or at enforcing contractual obligations, is bad by definition. I can think of several state interventions (universal health care, the welfare state, public education, workers’ rights and pro-union laws, public libraries, and so on) which have been, on balance, good for the wellbeing of society.

  123. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    It took me all of a fifteen minutes about 15-20 years ago, to decide liberurdism is an untenable and morally bankrupt theology. It is not a workable political/economic theory. The problems are self-evident except to the true belivers, who being both arrogant and ignorant, continue their true belief in spite of the fatal problems. Knowing the “theory” won’t change that conclusion, which is based on historical economic and political facts. It doesn’t work. Period, end of story.

  124. frankboyd says

    puppygod,

    Just had to add an addendum. I just saw a lovely documentary by David Attenborough about Madagascar. He noted how the locals had changed from burning the local forests and hunting the animals to preserving both, because of initiatives in conservation and silk production that made that more profitable. I had to cheer.

    One of the many things I dislike about statism is this “There should be a law…” mentality. Why? Why do we need one? We can do this ourselves. Why do we need bozos in government as go-betweens? If you are – to take this example further – struck by the lovely Madagascar landscape, you don’t have to wait for some fool in government to do something. You can do it yourself. You can research what’s the reliable charity and donate. Or raise money yourself. Or volunteer. Or work out an investment scheme for local business there. Or help defend those struggling to secure their rights there. Or – well, you get the idea.

    It’s the same thing across the board. These methods work across the board. Now, someone might say “Well, what if there aren’t enough people who want -” well, in that case you’d never get the votes in the first place, and you need far fewer volunteers than voters to actually do something.

    There are plenty who think that just because they vote “right” and voice the “correct” opinions they’re doing something. These people are invariably defending their own class interests – vide a lot of this thread. The great thing about freedom is what it allows you to do. What it encourages you to do. It opens up alternatives to the “degraded and sordid passivity”, in Trotsky’s phrase, of the statists.

  125. frankboyd says

    Walton,

    It’s nice to have so much agreement, and – as I’ve said – someone rational to chat with here. It’s funny you mention the draft; when I was reading the Hitch’s Letters to a Young Contrarian, he notes how surprised he was to find out that, while he and his comrades were struggling against the abomination of the draft on the street, Milton Freedman and Alan Greenspan – then very much an Objectivist – were struggling against it in the halls of power.

    Radical change is never simple, and, in my time, I’ve found myself aligned with Communists and Objectivists, with reactionaries and conservatives and socialists, with religious believers and adamant atheists. Depends on the cause in question, really, and you have to work with what’s there.

    Given that, mind if we agree to disagree on what we disagree on? I think we’ve established the main points of our positions, and any inquiring reader would be able to look further from that. Sounds fair?

  126. says

    @’Tis Himself… #348
    My god you plagiarize over here too. You’re entire comment is stolen from here: http://world.std.com/~mhuben/faq.html

    As I showed on the Scienceblogs site you stole from Wikipedia, Bob Black and salon.com. You are a complete joke. Is this what you do? Steal from others to bolster your self-esteem. Is your life that pathetically useless?

  127. says

    one that was abused as a justification for disenfranchising Native Americans who didn’t subscribe to the arbitrary notion that land can be privately owned

    and one still perpetuated, while whitewashing said disenfranchisement. From a McGraw-Hill economics textbook:

    If the demand for land were only D4, land rent would be zero. Land would be a free good — a good for which demand is so weak relative to supply that an excess supply of it occurs even if the market price is zero. [...] This essentially was the situation in the free-land era of U.S. History

    In addition to negative externalities, like GHG pollution and global warming, there are a whole lot of non-monetized positive externalities out there, like wetlands, wilderness, or endangered species. Libertarianism is utterly unable to cope with either.

    it also can’t cope with positive externalities of education, universal healthcare, and other synergistic, systemic effects. It’s for that reason alone that libertarianism is a danger to civilization.

    and on the note that capitalism is the last viable radical economic system:
    1)said “viable” system is currently in the process of causing a global environmental catastrophe the likes of which humankind hasn’t seen since the Black Death killed 1/3 of Europe
    2)radical capitalism has actually been destroying economies and societies all over the place. It’s no coincidence that the social-democratic countries have weathered the recession a lot better than those following a more neo-liberal (like neo-con, but without mandatory invasions of foreign countries) model.

  128. says

    *applause* for The Walton

    It is a pleasure reading your posts.

    QFT

    *blushes* Thank you, SallyStrange and Jadehawk. :-)

    In addition to negative externalities, like GHG pollution and global warming, there are a whole lot of non-monetized positive externalities out there, like wetlands, wilderness, or endangered species. Libertarianism is utterly unable to cope with either.

    Yes, this is an important point. The protection of the environment is probably the paradigmatic example of a pressing social need which is unlikely to be addressed without state intervention.

    If you are – to take this example further – struck by the lovely Madagascar landscape, you don’t have to wait for some fool in government to do something. You can do it yourself. You can research what’s the reliable charity and donate. Or raise money yourself. Or volunteer. Or work out an investment scheme for local business there. Or help defend those struggling to secure their rights there. Or – well, you get the idea.

    Except this is only feasible if you have money, resources, and the voluntary co-operation of others. That isn’t always true. Don’t get me wrong – I’ll be the first to say that private, charitable and voluntary action can be exactly the right way to solve some problems, and that state intervention can be counterproductive and ham-fisted. But there are situations in which state intervention is the only way to solve a problem. The single biggest example today is anthropogenic global warming. The actions of governments so far may very well fall into the category of “too little, too late”, but it’s very hard to see how we could begin to address the problem without active government intervention on a large scale.

  129. Kagehi says

    One of the many things I dislike about statism is this “There should be a law…” mentality. Why? Why do we need one? We can do this ourselves. Why do we need bozos in government as go-betweens?

    Sorry.. They don’t have a “government” there?

    But, aside from that is the simple fact that nearly any sort of system will “work”, if the area it is applied to is a) uniform enough, and b) small enough. These two factors are key, since it means that what effects one effects all. This is simply not true when the size of the populous, region, etc. that you are dealing with runs afoul of significant differences in resources and conditions. It is *literally* way less important for say LA to “protect forests”, and to, “protect sources of water”. Its way less important for someone living on a mountain to worry about finding water, than to worry about building codes that can support tons of snow on the roof (where by contrast, you could manage with a tent, in the desert and at worst only need the structure solid enough to deal with high winds).

    The closest we even *get* to creating conditions where we handle things in a “we can do it ourselves” situation is the whole “state rights” BS. The problem being that we would need to have like 100-150 states, instead of 50, because even within some states themselves, the climate, conditions, resources, etc. vary distinctly enough to make, “we can do it ourselves”, impractical, unfair, or even disastrous, to some portion of the state. And, then you run into the problem of, “OK, now that we have made states small enough that they really can each ‘choose’ what is best for them, how the hell do we figure out how to deal with what is best for the whole nation, ***especially*** if that happens to conflict with the, “let us do it ourselves”, decisions made by say 80 of those now 150 mini-states?”

    I am pretty sure Madagascar can manage that decision just fine (and in this case not too late to bother). So could Rhode Island, if it was a separate country. But… California, or some other *really big* and populous state? Never mind when it is merely one dysfunctional part of some nation that covers half of a damn continent.

  130. says

    We can do this ourselves.

    love this. it’s precisely the problem with ideology. the correct statement here would be “hypothetically, there’s nothing preventing us from being able to do this”. the reason to state it that way is that, empirically, “we” often show ourselves incapable of doing things that are obvious and necessary, and to which no systemic barriers exist. Now, there’s many ways to solve the Tragedy of the Commons and similar scenarios. Some of them are libertarian-friendly, but others are not. Libertarians however tend to ignore the ones that aren’t and either pretend the problem doesn’t exist, or pretend that it can be solved with a libertarian solution. hence the silliness of “owning” the air above your property and suing (or having your anti-pollution insurance sue) those whose pollution drifts into your airspace.

  131. says

    I am kinda late, but there is all this talk about if, hypothetically,/i>, sellers of food would poison their customers without regulations in place, and it confuses me that this conversation is occuring. How the fuck are these libertarians arguing against the obvious conclusion? Have none of you read The Jungle? It was a fictionalized account of what really happened before food regulations, and was the reason why food regulations were put in place. If you want to understand where it came from, start right there.

    What I didn’t understand when I was a libertarian (as a teenager!) was this: companies have to look at what will keep them alive and most profitable in the short term, because if they do not there is no long term to speak of. That is what it boils down to. We can all argue for how good a corporation would act if they wanted their customers to be happy and healthy, but the guy who is smart enough to know that cheating them will choke out the benevolent competition is the one that actually wins in the long term, because they got rid of competition in the short term. Capitalism selects for anti-social policies and people. That is the kind of bullshit that gets elevated and rewarded in capitalism. Oh, and also, some people can make enough to live a lifetime comfortably in less than a year. I don’t know where this bullshit “incentive” to do well comes from, considering. Once you have done well, one time, you can pretty much do whatever you want as an industry leader without any real consequence to your well being after that. We see people run corporations into the ground serially who still get to places of tremendous power through their connections. It isn’t unusual.

  132. frankboyd says

    Except this is only feasible if you have money, resources, and the voluntary co-operation of others. That isn’t always true.

    True, but in the overwhelming majority of cases when any action is feasible, these are available, and a much better way of approaching the problem in question.

    Take the matter of AGW, something always trotted out as a problem so huge that only government can solve it. I disagree. I think that it is precisely because it is such a large problem that government needs to stay the hell away from it.

    Emissions cutting by fiat is never going to happen. Even if you could get people to obey Kyoto, and you can’t, it would not substantially do anything, not even delay matters that much. Furthermore, the calculated increase in poverty it would, provably, creates is the reason why, in America in particular, there is such a large working-class reaction against it (notice again the matter of class). Plenty of people on low salaries can see that the laws that are supposed to apply to them will not, in fact, apply to the scrofulous likes of Al Gore. If Kyoto/Copenhagen/Cap-n’-Trade is all we have, then we’re all doomed.

    However, while this hamster wheel politics keep spinning, there have been encouraging developments elsewhere. Science had an issue recently on carbon capture techniques, and all the advances made recently. There was a similar issue in, I think, Nature on geoengineering, and there was one scheme to increase the albedo of clouds that would give us an extra hundred years to fight this mess. And so on, and so on. Now, all the studies show that people in the first world are tremendously green, in terms of wanting to protect the Environment, though they do not necessarily care for the Green political movement. I think you could raise the money for such measures privately.

    However, all of this is only an option if people are willing to take individual responsibility about this. I’ll restate my point about the religious nature of statism – the same way that the believer thinks he can pray the problems of this world away, the statist thinks he can vote them away. No need to think, learn, take action or achieve anything – just recite a catechism and it’ll all be done.

  133. says

    “Governed” is a dangerous term to use; are you using it purposely? For example, insurance companies are not empowered in a libertarian society to pass fugitive slave laws, or Jim Crow laws, or prohibition, and then enforce them at gunpoint. They don’t “govern” in any recognizable sense of the term.

    So what do you call it when an entire industry adopts policies that doom certain individuals to poverty (via medical debt or lack of coverage)? What if they exclude coverage for certain conditions (that are dependent on race or sex)? You are making the mistake of thinking that people who get fucked over really experience it differently if it is a private enterprise vs a government one doing it to them, but they don’t. The lie is that private industry is supposed to have more options, but when certain options threaten an industry you won’t find any company willing to step outside the status quo, so they are exactly the same in the ways that matter. I wish I could make every one of you hang out in an ER for a week and see how well you cling to your bullshit ideology. It just doesn’t fucking work that way, and it never has, and it never will inside a capitalist system.

  134. Anri says

    However, all of this is only an option if people are willing to take individual responsibility about this. I’ll restate my point about the religious nature of statism – the same way that the believer thinks he can pray the problems of this world away, the statist thinks he can vote them away. No need to think, learn, take action or achieve anything – just recite a catechism and it’ll all be done.

    Good point – we didn’t use any government resources in determining that AGW exists in the first place.

    Oh, well, except for the Space Program.
    And and, um some Land-Grant Universities.

    Automobile manufacturers are voluntarily and spontaneously increasing mileage standards, no government mandates needed!
    Oh, except for the ones that are.

    Some people think that thinking, learning, and taking action are all parts of voting intelligently.
    And some people, apparently, think they are mutually exclusive.
    I’ll leave the question of which is the smarter position to take open for discussion, ok?

  135. SallyStrange says

    Those statists who live in frankboyd’s imagination really are stupid, terrible people.

  136. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Those statists who live in frankboyd’s imagination really are stupid, terrible people.

    For stupid and terrible, he only needs to look in the mirror. All liberturds are ignorant, arrogant, and morally bankrupt by being extra selfish. Or they wouldn’t be liberturds.

  137. Ing says

    Why would anyone WANT to live in a world where the social norm is to discourage kindness?

    I’m sorry if this is naive, but that’s what it boils down to me. I can’t think of a price or any boon to the economy that would convince me it’s worth living in a world where people are willing to let others die in the street. Hell, I think our current world is too much like that.

  138. sHtev says

    Tragedy. Of. The. Commons.

    Not sure how Libertarians cope in a world where not everything is “owned” by someone.

    And I hope support giving back the US’s natural resources back to the original owners (or at least the Native Americans), after all they wouldn’t want to have taken them by “aggressive” force, no?

    Oh, and most of us in Europe get by without citizens or the police waving guns about the whole time. It’s kind of nice that way! In England, we even manage to share the village green together, and allow people to walk all over the countryside, even when someone else “owns” it!

    I’d just like to point out that Niblick twists and turns like a twisty turny thing…

  139. jack lecou says

    Emissions cutting by fiat is never going to happen. Even if you could get people to obey Kyoto, and you can’t, it would not substantially do anything, not even delay matters that much.

    I love how the ideological opposition of various people to effective government – people like Frank – becomes itself evidence that we can’t have effective government.

    Furthermore, the calculated increase in poverty it would, provably, creates…

    Then there are the lies, of course.

  140. says

    I like your page! Better than the others I have recently read about this. The design is cool looking, mind if I steal or copy this? Just kiddingCheers!

  141. ichthyic says

    Even if you could get people to obey Kyoto, and you can’t,

    tell it to the countries that actually signed on to it, and are even now establishing the economic incentives to support it.

    I live in one of those countries, fuckwit.

  142. ichthyic says

    I don’t laugh at self-proclaimed “libertarians” any more.

    I just kick dirt on their shoes.