wherein a right-libertarian sticks a toe in left-libertarianism and finds that the water is fine

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Clark

Clark is an anarchocapitalist, a reader, and a man of mystery. He's not a neoreactionary, but he is Nrx-curious 'til graduation. All he wants for Christmas is for everyone involved in the police state to get a fair trial and a free hanging. Follow him at @clarkhat

232 Responses

  1. John Kindley says:

    I think you've confused Georgism with the use-and-occupancy principle of land rights, which I too find morally dubious for the reasons you describe. Here's a concise description of Georgism straight from the horse's mouth: http://schalkenbach.org/rsf-1/henry-george/the-single-tax/.

    Two noteworthy bridges between right and left libertarianism are Albert Jay Nock and Karl Hess.

    Hess was a speechwriter for Goldwater but later became one of the most prominent voices of the libertarian "left." He defined the left as "the side of politics and economics that opposes the concentration of power and wealth and, instead, advocates and works toward the distribution of power into the maximum number of hands."

    Nock was one of the most prominent representatives of the so-called "Old Right," but described himself as a Georgist as well as an anarchist. In his "Our Enemy, the State" he characterized the State as the continuation of conquest and confiscation by other means, i.e., the mechanism by which the ruling class exploits the ruled. It's readily seen then how opposing the State is a "left" position as defined by Hess.

  2. AK says:

    I love me some Ken MacLeod, and I've always enjoyed reading Kevin Carson, but the thing about left-libertarianists is they're an even rarer bird than libertarians in my experience.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I'll be honest: From my Scandinavian perspective, this post is bonkers but then again, we'd never stand for it if our government got as much in bed with business as yours seems to be from your description.

  4. Clark says:

    @John Kindley :

    > I think you've confused Georgism with the use-and-occupancy principle of land rights

    I've certainly conflated them ; the post was around 3,500 words and further verbiage in the spirit of pedanticism didn't seem like a win (a rare decision for me!)

  5. jb says:

    As a moderate left-libertarian, I applaud this post.

    My problem with right-libertarians boils down to the Sympathy with Workers bit–I see how ordinary people, especially the poor, even the poor who are trying to better themselves*, are screwed by the powerful in our system, and the way right-libertarians handwave that away annoys me. However, the left-statist solutions to that problem don't actually work and impose injustice elsewhere.

    *Consider, for example, the states where going to college doesn't count as "work" for the purpose of welfare. Seems to me that if you're majoring in something useful, that's the quickest path off the welfare rolls and ought to be encouraged, if necessary by taking money out of the pockets of other poor people. Few right-libertarians care about people trying to better themselves in this way.

  6. jb says:

    The other problem with right-libertarianism, which is totally solvable, is that they tend to understand taxes backwards. Lower taxes will not lead to the cutting of wasteful social programs–Economics teaches us that if you make something cheaper, you get more of it, so if government is cheaper (i.e. low taxes) you will get more government programs. Better to adopt the Democrats' 'pay-as-you-go' approach, which at least attempts to make the actual cost of government programs clear and allow a real cost/benefit analysis.

    If we raised taxes to the level necessary to actually fund government operations, people would become more interested in cutting said operations, and more willing to actually learn which of said operations are actually costing the most. Plus, if libertarians focused on the cuts rather than the taxes, they could be a real swing demographic (supporting social program-cutting Republicans and defense-cutting Democrats), rather than being the redheaded stepchild of the GOP.

    Finally, taxes are, to me and a lot of other left-libertarians, fundamentally lower priority than other government interventions. High taxes merely reduce people's ability to do as they wish, while other government interventions (War on Drugs, etc) absolutely prohibit people from doing as they wish, and are therefore worse. Furthermore, the most invasive government programs also tend to be the most expensive, so if we adopted pay-as-you-go rules and then cut invasive government programs, we could lower taxes back down again.

    I think those differences are pretty minor compared to the statist "bipartisan consensus" on a lot of issues. Right-libertarians would be more effective in terms of policy-pushing if they shifted their focus to the left-libertarian view on taxation.

  7. Clark says:

    @jb:

    > As a moderate left-libertarian, I applaud this post.

    Thank you!

    > My problem with right-libertarians boils down to the Sympathy with Workers bit

    It is certainly a flaw in my personality that I score low on the sympathy with people. I see this as a characterologic flaw – I didn't choose to be an INTJ that really can only handle four of five friends and doesn't much care if the rest of the world goes to hell.

    This problem is compounded by the fact that I am a classist asshole. If you're white, well-groomed, articulate, and have a book or two under your arm, my instinctive response to you is going to be far far nicer than if you're an overweight single black mother in a sports-team jersey who mispronounces words.

    The best I can say about myself is that I – on rare occassions – struggle to overcome these instinctive flaws.

    > I see how ordinary people, especially the poor, even the poor who
    > are trying to better themselves*, are screwed by the powerful in our
    > system

    Indeed.

    Radley Balko and others have done a lot of good showing this.

    I find that various cultural signifiers tend to turn me off from most tales of woe (even though they shouldn't). If Jemal is an ex-con with four children with three different mothers, my first instinct is to not care at all when I hear that a landlord threw him out or a government hospital discharged him incorrectly. Part of me assumes (and not with out some statistical basis) that Jamal is part of the problem.

    However, even if it is true that half of these cases where powerful institutions crap on weak individuals are bogus or brought on by the bad behavior of the individuals, that still means that the other half of the cases are legitimate and are worthy of our attention.

    > and the way right-libertarians handwave that away annoys me.

    Not to overly defend right-libertarians, but all sides in the political debate wave away the "minor" egg-breaking problems when they've got their eyes set on the glorious five-year omelette.

    Rightists wave away civil rights.

    Leftists wave away economic rights.

    Right-Libertarians wave away human dignity and the poor.

    > Consider, for example, the states where going to college doesn't
    > count as "work" for the purpose of welfare. Seems to me that if
    > you're majoring in something useful, that's the quickest path off
    > the welfare rolls and ought to be encouraged, if necessary by taking
    > money out of the pockets of other poor people. Few
    > right-libertarians care about people trying to better themselves in
    > this way.

    Part of the problem here is that right-libertarians are sincere (and, I think, right) that dismantling the entire welfare state structure and letting non-coercive cooperative institutions evolve is the best long term plan. The desire to hasten on the day of the city on the hill ("immantize the eschaton!") leads to ignoring the human price of the short-term chaos.

    …a minor flaw of empathy that also struck the Nazis, Maoists and Stalinists.

  8. Ken says:

    I love this post, in no small part because I think the left and the right (whether -libertarian or not) can learn from each other with respect to advancing individual liberty.

  9. John Kindley says:

    Clark: After I published my comment I realized I'd read sloppily what you actually wrote on that score. But Georgism is a political philosophy that deserves to be more widely known and understood, as just a list of the luminaries who endorsed it at the height of its fame suggests. Unfortunately, it has even less chance today of being enacted than it did then, for the reason given by Nock: "If [the State system of land-tenure] were broken up [by the Single Tax], obviously the reason for the State's existence would disappear, and the State itself would disappear with it."

  10. princessartemis says:

    Good post!

    Based on this post, I'm better described as leaning left-libertarian. I think some of these things may have struck me as self-evident because I spent some time exploring feminism (and then radical feminism)–I didn't come out of that exploration completely agreeing with everything I saw, but I understood from whence the ideas came, and they mesh well with my variety of libertarianism.

    It's also pretty clear how some of these things work when one goes from being able to do anything anyone else is to having half one's body tending to disobey direct orders at any given moment.

  11. Hypnovirus says:

    The financial crisis of 2008 caused a shift in my opinion from right-libertarian to left-libertarian. I used to base by opinions on a distrust of public sector solutions. I now distrust public sector and private sector solutions.

    For example, instead of being simply anti-union, I now view unions as a terrible solution to a real problem in the balance of power between the employers and workers. This balance of power causes significant loss of liberty for workers. That should be viewed as a problem for any libertarian. There are solutions for that problem that should appeal to all libertarians such as reductions in barriers to entry like occupational licensing. Others solutions will increase liberty but will not pass anarchocapitalist's view of government spending as theft. Examples of these would include improved transportation and social insurance. Transportation would increase the number of possible employer-employee combinations. An improved safety net would allow more to take more risks such as starting a business or joining a start-up. Those are pro-market solutions. However, they are not traditional pro-capital solutions because they empower labor at the expense of capital.
    short version
    -liberty is more than lack of government interference
    -markets tend to increase liberty and utility
    -protection of capital is a tool to support of markets, not a goal

  12. Jed Sutherland says:

    Well spoken, Clark. As a member of that Socialist Colossus just to the north of the U.S., I think we are a little closer to the left than the right. Sometimes stupidly so. But I like it this way, mostly.

    I do cavil with your "Starfinder" closing. There are many people whose name is Bud or Betty and live in Iowa who would say that the gov't isn't giving them enough subsidy for their corn and it's all the fault of the left-wing bureaucrats.

    I often say to myself (cause no one else will listen), that the U.S. keeps the citizens of many towns in work by locally buying needful things for the military (guns, socks, planes, that little thing that goes beep). Our governments provide "subsidies" to mines, mills and factories. How are these approaches fundamentally different?

  13. Hypnovirus says:

    Also, this is a fantastic post that I am sharing with my right-libertarian friends who define left as totalitarian as well as my progressive friends who define libertarianism as feudalism.

  14. jb says:

    Clark,
    "The desire to hasten on the day of the city on the hill ("immantize the eschaton!") leads to ignoring the human price of the short-term chaos."

    That's another interesting point. I don't think we'll ever get to the city on the hill, we'll be stuck in some kind of statist equilibrium until we convince a majority of people to be libertarian–which we won't do by proposing policies that impose short-term chaos and high human prices. We have to show people the true cost of their preferred policies and risk that too many of them will be willing to pay it, otherwise we'll always be a tiny minority.

  15. Clark says:

    @Jed Sutherland:

    > I do cavil with your "Starfinder" closing. There are many people whose name is Bud or Betty and live in Iowa who would say that the gov't isn't giving them enough subsidy for their corn and it's all the fault of the left-wing bureaucrats.

    Jed,

    I entirely agree with you. Please see the point above where I posted a picture of the president inspecting subsidized corn fields …and where I called it "right wing welfare".

    My point about "Starfinder" is not that he's the only teat-sucker in the US – my point is that I hate white boys in dreadlocks and want to beat them with truncheons.

    De gustibus non est disputandum, as they say. If you don't like my cultural leanings you just need to slop some more garrum on top.

  16. Patrick says:

    I love this post, in no small part because I think the left and the right (whether -libertarian or not) can learn from each other with respect to advancing individual liberty.

    They certainly learn from each other with respect to advancing control, oppression, and tyranny.

    Witness our current President, who ran on a platform of negating the abuses of the last President but advanced them. Ad infinitum.

    Many Presidents run against the last President promising to make us more free. The rare exceptions who actually do anything about it, like Jimmy Carter, are deemed failures.

    Barack Obama isn't half the man Jimmy Carter was, nor half the President.

  17. Direwolf says:

    This is one of the whitest posts I ever read. No, I'm not trying to troll, and I am privileged myself, but I am quite frankly astonished at the utter lack of comprehension for the lives of others you seemed to have before you researched left-libertarianism.

    You wrote "the left wing libertarians are saying smart things in foolish ways", but everything you quoted seemed sensible, not foolish to me.

    Your distaste for hippies is equally incomprehensible to me, and your expressed sympathy with police brutality is…just…so…evil…

    This is what makes it hard for me to out myself as libertarian, I try to defend it, but then there posts such as this which make it seem like confused conservatism, which is nothing I want to be associated with.

  18. AlphaCentauri says:

    I don't like the left vs. right designations in the first place, nor liberal vs. conservative. How is it conservative to create waves of exurban housing tracts that will negatively impact on traffic, water runoff, fuel prices, air quality and school funding for large percentages of the population to benefit a small number of people? How is it liberal to support unions that don't encourage their workers from starting (non-union) coops to continue a business when a store or factory closes instead of letting them all become unemployed? And "left wing dictatorships" and "right wing dictatorships" only seem to differ according to who they're stealing from.

    I see myself as a pragmatist. It's no good being a dreamer if it's not practical. If you want to do something about high drug prices, you have to deal with the fact that the prices of drugs are shielded from real supply/demand forces because of the layers of insurance companies, pharmaceutical benefit managers, employers/unions, and insurance brokers, for instance. That's neither a liberal nor conservative idea, so no one is actually doing it.

    I think the best test of policy is how it will impact our great grandchildren. It's bad policy to have extremes of income, because it increases lawlessness when people don't feel they have an ownership stake in the society. It's bad policy to have no differences in income, because there's no incentive for hard work. Policies that help people improve their own status if they take incentive without showering benefits on them if they only wish to watch daytime TV benefit me as a taxpayer by reducing what my great grandchildren will be paying for prisons and police.

  19. Ken says:

    Direwolf, it's possible you are not perfectly attuned to irony, in general or as applied to Clark.

  20. Ryan says:

    As a right-libertarian (depends on who you ask, maybe), I think that I would have to be a pedant on one matter – subsidies in any form, for large companies or individuals – are creatures of the left and are anti-free-market. I HATE the term "crony capitalism" as it more or less coopts "capitalism" for something that isn't….it's practically classical fascism (the original definition, more or less, not the term bandied about now to describe government intrusion you don't like).

    Now, with that out of the way, I would say this – I have the same angst you do when I see groups and people who I think should know/do better, and believe there are social institutions which are or could be better able to serve them than government.

    I also disagree with one other statement above – government would decline if it were made cheaper, and spending reduced, as SUPPLY of government would decrease and DEMAND would increase for nonprofits and other charitable sources to pick up the slack…and for employers to be able to expand their enterprises to put more people on the payroll and provide for more lives.

    A solid tort system is also necessary for enforcement, with (what would be the problem) equitable access for all involved.

  21. Kat says:

    This list:

    " the value of hard work
    the value of selling myself to clients
    the importance of first impressions
    the importance of socially appropriate clothing
    how to get a bank loan
    the fact that one can get a bank loan
    the importance of showing up on time
    the importance of treating customers appropriately"

    . . . I have problems with it. The fundamental problems that I have is that you list things that you easily see, and not things that are out of the common way for someone with privilege. One problem with having privilege is that by definition, it is something that is extremely hard for you to understand and recognize on your own without someone pointing it out to you. It's just the way the world works, and it's understandable that things like this don't immediately come to mind. For example, most white people assume that band-aids are unobtrusive because they are flesh-colored. But for people who are dark-skinned, they are not unobtrusive. A fact like that would literally never enter your head if you were or are a white person, because in your culture it isn't spoken of, you don't encounter it, and you basically have no reason to think about it. That is the definition of privilege.

    The biggest problem that I have from that list is that you are or seem to be approaching it from that position of privilege and do not seem to know what "non-privilege" looks like at all. Or if you do, you haven't accounted for it in your analysis and it has not come through at all in this whole post. From what I can see, to you, people do not succeed because they are ignorant of what it takes to succeed; or, to put it another way, if they could only have someone in privilege explain to them how succeeding works, they would then Get It and could be successful.

    I realize that you probably don't mean to say that, but understand that your post does not offer any alternative explanation to why someone would not succeed beyond ignorance. There is not knowing how to act like a successful person and not knowing how to acquire the resources that are, in your mind, available to everyone. Those are the two options. If you have thought of other options, I would recommend adding them in.

    If not, it would really help if you looked for a list of class-specific privileges and spent some time looking at it. And also if you were to read the comments on such a list and understand that lists like that are a starting point and are often incomplete.

    Here are some things that I would add to your list, which I think bear thinking about:

    1. Were your parents able to keep you healthy and take you to the doctor when you needed it? Have you had any reason for poor mental health at all? I was sexually assaulted when I was ten, and this led not only to depression but to severe illness during my college years. One of the factors that contributed to the likelihood of assault was that we lived in one of the poorer areas of town, one with a higher crime rate. Another factor was my gender. Did your neighborhood growing up have a low crime rate? Do you think this contributed to your opportunities? What about your gender; do you think that it's possible your relative low risk of sexual assault has any bearing on the success you enjoy today?

    2. Do you have someone who helped you establish credit? Not having someone to cosign or speak for you prohibits you from being able to obtain a loan of any sort, rent an apartment, and in some cases find a job. A teacher cosigned for me to find my first apartment. Because I was able to rent an apartment, I was hired for a job "despite" my bad credit. I was able to get a loan on a used car several years later because my aunt's credit was good enough for me to barely be able to convince someone give me a $3000 loan.

    Can you see how that would discourage ambitions of owning a business?

    3. Some neighborhoods have better education than others. Were you able to keep up with your classmates? Were your classmates able to keep up with the national average? I apologize if I am making unwarranted assumptions, but I would guess that access to quality education was not something that you worried about. If you fell behind, you were able to catch back up. Some people do not have the same privilege. If they do catch up, it puts them significantly behind the curve, and being behind the curve later in life affected their opportunities. I know this not because I didn't have educational opportunity, but because I became severely ill in my first year of college and had to postpone my education. After I become better, that gap on my resume was a cited again and again as the reason why I was not hired. I was eventually hired not because my circumstances had changed or my explanation had become different, but because I switched doctors and came armed with certification that would allow me to be essentially immune from this response. In other words, the social safety net of non-discriminatory laws (The Americans with Disabilities Act) got me off of the welfare rolls.

    4. Did you have access to enough food growing up? Were you well-nourished? How did that affect your opportunities?

    5. Were the people around you generally successful at their ambitions, or generally unsuccessful? For example, did your parents/relatives have nice jobs? Were they able to afford their own houses? Did they struggle to make ends meet?

    If they were successful, do you think that this was encouraging or discouraging for you growing up? If no one around you was successful, how do you think this affected how you would see the likelihood of your success?

    A special note on this one: I find that many people who have the privilege of seeing success all around them are quick to dismiss an experience that differs from their own. I often hear statements that amount to, "pick yourself up by your bootstraps." Consider reading Nickle and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich if this is your view. I can't guarantee that it will change your mind, but you can at least point to the fact that you read it and we can have an interesting conversation if you read it.

    ——-

    One last thing, consider reading a book on the science of self control, and think about it in the context of privilege. (I recommend The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal.) Especially think about it in the context of not having the things that the author takes for granted. For example, in the second chapter, McGonigal says that having a nap or getting plenty of sleep at night is one of the best ways to increase one's willpower. One question that I might pose is: what about people who cut into their sleeping time with work? For example, if you work two jobs (as some immigrants do), and come home late but get up early, what is the best way to take advantage of this solution?

    Keeping in mind, of course, that this is one willpower solution, and that there are many things that contribute to one's level of willpower. Given that a lot of right-libertarian rhetoric is based on the idea of meritocracy, how does that fit in? If you are limited in your ability to improve your willpower, then how do you pick yourself up by your bootstraps?

    In fact, this is one of the biggest flaws that I see in right-libertarian views; most theories do not adequately account for new advances in scientists' understanding of how willpower actually works. Willpower is increased or decreased based on actions that people take, and some people are less able to take those beneficial actions as a result of circumstances beyond their control. Other people are able to take these actions, but whether or not these actions are available to them is something that is based on resources that others do not have available through no fault of their own. Is this a true meritocracy or more of the same old "I'm privileged and therefore I deserve my good station in life?" I obviously think that it's the latter. Whether or not you think it's the former is up to you, but I would honestly beg you to read through the available literature and think about these issues before coming to a decision.

    This is something that I think I'm going to do a separate blog post on (assuming I get the time; I have a three-year-old, I go to school full-time, and I work full-time), because it's honestly something that I don't think is explored at all often. At least, I haven't seen it explored or mentioned at all.

    I do commend you on making a start on thinking through these issues, but you will have to excuse me if I contend that it's only a start and that you have a ways to go yet before I would call your opinion well-thought-out (at least in some areas, based on what you wrote).

    If what you wrote doesn't reflect your real views, then you might consider making some changes to make it easier for your readers to grasp what you are thinking.

    Obviously it's your decision as to how much credence you will give my opinion, but I hope I've at least given something to think about.

    Another post you might read on the subject of class privilege is by John Scalzi: http://whatever.scalzi.com/2005/09/03/being-poor/ If you read nothing else, then please, please please, read this post and understand how frustrating your list is for someone who is actually poor and is actively trying to pick herself up by the bootstraps.

    There is another one from him on privilege: http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/05/15/straight-white-male-the-lowest-difficulty-setting-there-is/

    Almost all of Scalzi's posts on privilege and class are worth reading if you want to spend the time to deepen your point of view on these topics. I honestly would beg everyone to read them, because they are truly thought-provoking and I can say with complete honesty that they are 100% dead-on.

    I haven't even scratched the surface on things that you could add to your analysis; it's just that this comment is already absurdly long.

    I hope I haven't offended. It just seems like something that you will honestly think about, and I had a little hope that you might change your mind a bit based on what I've said.

  22. Kat says:

    Gragh! Bold tag failure.

  23. Clark says:

    @Ryan:

    > As a right-libertarian (depends on who you ask, maybe), I think that
    > I would have to be a pedant on one matter – subsidies in any form,
    > for large companies or individuals – are creatures of the left and
    > are anti-free-market.

    Ryan,

    This was my position for around twenty years.

    …up until very recently.

    In short: I totally understand where you're coming from, both in the argument and culturally.

    However, I don't think the facts support the assertion.

    Politicians of both stripes subsidize Big Agriculture with direct transfer payments.

    Politicians of both stripes subsidize Big Education through student loans.

    Politicians of both stripes subsidize Big Auto through loans and bailouts.

    Politicians of both stripes subsidize Big Aerospace through an ongoing military industrial complex and the largest military budget in the history of the human race.

    Politicians of both stripes subsidize Big Mortgage (if I may create a term).

    and on and on and on.

    Now, if you want to play the "no true Scotsman" game, I'll – maybe – agree with you: no true creature of the right votes for these subsidies.

    But aside from the platonic ideal of a free-market rightist that doesn't exist (even
    Paul Ryan voted for the GM bailout), what do we have?

    > I HATE the term "crony capitalism" as it more or less coopts
    > "capitalism" for something that isn't it's practically classical
    > fascism (the original definition, more or less, not the term
    > bandied about now to describe government intrusion you don't like).

    Communists have to defend the actual communism their policies create
    (with the deathcamps, thought crimes, and more), and if the right,
    left to its own devices, creates big companies that suck at the
    taxpayer teat, then that's worth pointing out.

    > A solid tort system is also necessary for enforcement, with (what
    > would be the problem) equitable access for all involved.

    Personally, I second David Friedman: we need competition in government service providers. Let the best tort system win!

  24. Direwolf says:

    Oh, Ken, I am aware Clark was joking. It's only I think his choice of jokes reveal a bit too much about him.

  25. Clark says:

    @Kat:
    > Gragh! Bold tag failure.

    Fixed.

  26. George William Herbert says:

    Great post.

    I've always considered myself little-l libertarian, more focused on the rights issue, but bouncing around the left-right spectrum Clark defines here (the care/harm axis describes that dilemma well).

    One of my larger hangups is the whole "city on the hill" end-state – I don't believe it's achievable for real. I also have a keener appreciation for the effectiveness of centrally managed cooperative entities (be they government or corporations). There are types of projects, and scales of projects, which seem either necessary to do or valuable to do to society as a whole, which looser confederations cannot coordinate to do effectively. The benefits from road and rail systems, standard shipping containers, standardized electricity and a grid (though decentralized power may de-emphasize the grid over time), these are all benefits we share in. As are necessarily government activities such as establishing a common legal and justice system, law enforcement, foreign affairs / diplomacy, etc.

    It is generally impolitic on the "left" as it were to put their preferred rights in the terms described above, which both clarify them and make them more palatable to the libertarian spectrum. It's good to find people working to do that. There are certainly systemic errors where the government is coopted to do big business' bidding in things that are not good for society and are anti-libertarian.

    I also think there are benefits to social programs that right-libertarians and right-conservatives tend to ignore or downplay. Pushing more towards the care end of the spectrum, we establish a less scary society with less abuse at the bottom. From a human dignity and value perspective this is good. It also probably reduces incentives to violence and crime, which further destabilize society as a whole and the less fortunate classes in particular. The question of who's best suited to deliver the help and services and encouragement to improve the bottom (private social organizations, government) is fair, but private charity has not proven well enough supported to do it by itself.

    Tough bunch of questions, but the "care" axis helps discuss them.

  27. Zack says:

    Honestly, I think that the best solution is simply dissolution. Let the union be dissolved, and let the states re-pick which states they want to group with. We'll wind up with three or four countries instead of one, that are able to put together simple and cohesive policy structures, balanced budgets, and are, for the most part, in internal ideological harmony.

    That's one of the only two solutions I can see ending positively to the problems facing the country today. The other is a world where everyone learns to give some of what they want, where Republicans agree to taxes, even if they don't believe they're good or will work, and where Democrats agree to cut entitlements even if they don't think that's good or will work. And, honestly, I might just be a cynic, but I don't see that happening. Because for that to happen, people at large have to understand that that is what is required… and people don't, and largely, are unable, to understand that. They're fine with making the other person give up what they want, but are unable to make the same sacrifice, because they are right, and how dare the other side be so self-contradictory and backwards as to not see the evidence in front of their face that they're wrong.

  28. John Kindley says:

    Political labels are famously problematic but probably unavoidable. If left = liberal then a left-libertarian is an oxymoron, although classically "liberal" meant roughly what "libertarian" means today. What does "left" and "right" even mean? Personally I run with Karl Hess' definitions of these terms because to avoid total confusion these terms need definitions, I'm not aware of more authoritative definitions, and these terms as defined by Hess seem useful because they describe tendencies that don't otherwise appear to have labels. Perhaps oddly, I consider myself both a lefty and a "conservative," as Albert Jay Nock defines the latter term (and points out the foibles of political labels in general) here: http://alumnus.caltech.edu/~ckank/FultonsLair/013/nock/conserva-tive.html

  29. darius404 says:

    After reading this, I am more sure than ever before that I'm neither a right-libertarian NOR a left-libertarian. I simply think of myself as a libertarian. I don't sympathize with workers over bosses OR with bosses over workers, because I think it depends on the situation. I can fully see myself siding with a "boss" over a worker in a particular situation, but I can also see myself sympathizing with a worker over a "boss". I don't feel a connection to a particular swath of people over another in this instance, because I don't know all workers or all bosses, and I don't know all worker-boss relationships. It would depend on the people and situation. I have no desire to choose a "side".

    In addition, I don't recognize the distinction between "employee" and "bosses" in the first place, as a person can be one, the other, or both. These are created social distinctions, and not objective categories. A person can be a "boss" if they employ or command other people, but they will also be an "employee" at the same time if they in turn answer to someone else. If self-employment is the ideal, then those self-employed people are also simultaneously "employees" and "bosses". Unless they work entirely by themselves and consume the products of their own labor, they will either be "employed" by someone else for the products of their labor or be the "boss" of someone else. These distinctions are worker traits rather than worker categories.

    Further supporting the idea I'm neither "left" nor "right", I despise all forms of cronyism where I see them, even in "right"-leaning cases. However, I feel variable disdain for these companies and their personnel. I remind myself that no one thinks of themselves as a villain or bad person. In an environment where many companies receive subsidies or tax breaks, it is likely thought of as normal by the companies involved to seek such things. They probably don't even recognize, for the most part, the illegitimacy of these things. These companies do not, however, get a "pass" for me for this. That they (perhaps) do not recognize what I do does not mean they are right, and it does not mean I should not revile the perks they receive. I just don't feel a personal anger toward all of the companies and people involved. How much I do depends on a variety of factors, including (but not limited to) how egregious their use of government power is, as well as how involved the company(s) are in the furtherance of these perks.

    Also, I too think the C4SS site phrases their questions (or at least that question) in ways that are offputting. To me, the issue of whether countries shouldn't restrict trade is not at all the same issue as whether I want societies to "share the wealth". They are both good questions, but I don't feel they are the same, and so I had to think a minute in order to decide my answer was "yes". To do so, I simply disregarded the first phrase of the question, since the issue seemed to ultimately be about whether trade should be restricted or not. Whether societies should strive to share wealth is another issue that has a more complicated answer for me, more along the lines of "yes, but".

    So I feel similarly to you about left-libertarianism. As I've waded in those waters a bit myself, I find it disconcerting when some of my libertarian compatriots at other sites treat it as if it is the same thing as left-liberalism and should be dismissed entirely. I don't agree with everything there I read, but I think it's a mistake to regard it as totalitarianism in the trappings of liberty. I will never turn away from people who regard liberty as a good and wish to preserve and advance it. I will argue vehemently against and denounce views I think run counter to that goal, and there will certainly be people who claim to value liberty that do not appear so to me. But I wish to have ever-increasing, not ever-decreasing, allies desiring to reduce the amount of state interference.

    So I don't regard myself as a "right-libertarian", though those of a more left-orientation would regard me as such, and I don't think I am a "left-libertarian" either, those some people more closely attuned to the right have claimed me as such (often with the ridiculously inapt term "cosmotarian"). I believe you don't fit those categories either Clark. I prefer to simply term myself "libertarian", and I hope you will too.

  30. darius404 says:

    @John Kindley

    Perhaps the best write-up of different political ideologies I've ever seen was, of all places, at TV Tropes. It doesn't go into "left-right" persay, but does define the categories of liberalism, conservatism, socialism, fascism, and anarchism.

    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/UsefulNotes/PoliticalIdeologies

  31. Richard says:

    Great read but I agree with the above poster that I consider myself to be "just" a libertarian. I try to view the facts of certain issues versus having a prepackaged notion. I remember in the past reading about a story where an employee was fired for missing too many days after he ran out of vacation time. He ran out of time because he was caring for his dying wife. My first thought was it is the man's business and he can run it however he sees fit. My second thought was hopefully watching his insured business sans people go up in flames.

    All that aside I have to be honest. That long post and all I can think about is that picture of the hippie. I would be willing to bet my 401(k) that was taken in Portland.

  32. Anonymous says:

    @Ryan:"subsidies in any form, for large companies or individuals – are creatures of the left and are anti-free-market."

    Hah!

    When subsidies are created that serve socialist interests ("A better country to live in for the common worker," to use the propaganda line) then they are leftist.

    All other subsidies, you can place elsewhere. The idea that they are particularly "left" is frankly ridiculous.

  33. Phil says:

    Clark: Great article! I also have been quite skeptical of left-leaning political arguments of all sorts, but I've been having some interesting discussions with my wife (who had a less privileged upbringing) about these same issues.

    Direwolf: I think you are mistaking Clark's irony & self-deprecation for advocacy. I read it as an honest self-assessment of his inherent biases, with humorous wording used for examples.

    Richard: I will take you up on your bet – just let me know where to send the forms to transfer the account. The picture was taken in San Francisco.

  34. James Pollock says:

    I got about halfway through before giving it up as not interesting enough to me to continue. However, the pedant inside requires me to note that "axises" is spelled "axes".

  35. Clark says:

    @ James Pollock
    > I got about halfway through before giving it up as not interesting enough to me to continue.

    I'm glad that, despite that, you took the time to drop in and say … well, whatever it was you said in your second sentence. Sorry; didn't read the latter half.

  36. Ken says:

    I didn't read either of those comments. Actually I haven't really read anything since 2007. I just show up and say whatever comes into my head. I have two staplers.

  37. John Beaty says:

    Intellectual honesty, my chapped, red ass. First you put up a very mild "definition" of libertarianism, which is your right to do, and claim that you will use this because it is a wide net. And the next paragraph claims that your "understanding" of the left includes "social engineering to destroy the family" a reading of the left that includes fewer people than the extreme Randites.

    Shorter Clark: I have no idea what it means to be intellectually honest.

  38. AlphaCentauri says:

    There's a summary of an interesting study on class expectations in middle school education:
    http://www.cuip.net/~cac/nlu/fnd504/anyon.htm

    tl;dr: working class students are expected to follow directions; the children of professionals are expected to understand the process and be able to defend their results. They are being groomed for jobs like their parents'.

    What wasn't studied was schools in impoverished neighborhoods. Not only are there low expectations for their work, the school administration does not seriously expect every student to show up every day, on time. They are being groomed for a succession of entry level positions, which they will lose after excessive absenteeism, because it hasn't occurred to them that they are being paid because their attendance and punctuality is valuable.

    Just today I was speaking to a mother who received a report card for her 16 year old daughter and found out she'd missed 14 days and been late for 24. Though the mother has made it clear she wants to be contacted about those problems, and though she was suspended from her job last year for taking time off to go to her children's schools when there were problems, no one called to notify her of the absences. Or maybe they robocalled the house and her daughter didn't give her the messages. I just know that if my kid didn't show up and they couldn't reach me, there might be an Amber Alert called.

  39. James Pollock says:

    "I'm glad that, despite that, you took the time to drop in and say … well, whatever it was you said in your second sentence. Sorry; didn't read the latter half."

    Attention span like that is part of why the government works the way it does.

  40. Scott Jacobs says:

    Right-Libertarians wave away human dignity and the poor.

    No, we don't. We just don't think the government should be taking money from those who produce so that they can give it to those who do not. Charity is a great thing, but not when done at gunpoint.

    a minor flaw of empathy that also struck the Nazis, Maoists and Stalinists.

    Oh that's right, I keep forgetting that you aren't serious. Silly me.

  41. Scott Jacobs says:

    Consider, for example, the states where going to college doesn't count as "work" for the purpose of welfare.

    Indeed. It is such bastions of right-libertarianism like Illinois where such ideas take hold.

    No, wait, that isn't entirely fair. In Illinois I could either do fucking nothing and get government assistance, or go to college and have to work no less than 20 hours a week to get the same (actually, likely reduced since I'd have income" assistance.

    Better to adopt the Democrats' 'pay-as-you-go' approach, which at least attempts to make the actual cost of government programs clear and allow a real cost/benefit analysis.

    Is this the "pay-as-you-go" system that is constantly ignored every single time ANYONE wants to spend more money?

    I mean, how the precise fuck did we add over 4 trillion in debt if there's a PAYGO system in place, hmm??

  42. Lucy says:

    Thank you Kat for your detailed comment. I read Popehat for fun. I comment because I can. If "they" knew who I really was, I fear I would not be so welcomed. Libertarians seem, by this post, to be farmed in a special place where ideal is the norm and bad things happen in other places. That same list of things you mentioned from this post seemed so many steps ahead of any place I have ever been. Being intelligent, but under-educated, with many obstacles, and children… at least we blend in well, my children already have more opportunity than I ever had, and the cycle breaks with them. Others don't know by talking to us or looking at us that we are the very thing they hate when they are online commenting or posting on fb about how social programs and the good for nothing lazy leaches on them are the very problem this country needs to get rid of (somehow magically instantly). I say this in a general way, but the under privileged are openly hated, and there is no understanding of how that social attitude hinders progress out of that class. As long as my children have a better chance than I did, I will deal with the shame. It is consistantly interesting to me how hard it is for others to imagine credibility and worthiness in people who live with and even thrive, by their own standards, in hardship.

    Starfire would irritate me though. Dreadlocks on pale folk arouse the urge in me to bathe them with a fire hose and give them a haircut with a lawn mower.

  43. Lucy says:

    Sorry. "Starfinder".

  44. David says:

    We have comments?

  45. Clark says:

    @Lucy:

    > Dreadlocks on pale folk arouse the urge in me to bathe them with a fire hose

    I mostly agree with that statement, but let me amend it just a tad:

    > Dreadlocks on pale folk arouse the urge in me to bathe them with a fire hose

  46. Sean says:

    One of my problems with libertarianism (I am definitely not one, but consider myself a liberal) is the fact that it places too much emphasis on entrepreneurship and the creation of wealth. This is misguided for several reasons. For one, not everyone is cut out to be a business person, or to create a successful business. Aside from people who work as wage slaves, it takes different skills to be, say, a lawyer or an academic than it takes to be an entrepreneur. Why value one type over the other?

    With regard to people in ordinary jobs, it may be more desirable for a lot of people to simply have better wages, benefits, workplace grievance procedures, etc. (What if they don't want to run their own business?) I don't think that the market by itself can insure these things.

    An additional reason for my distaste of libertarianism is that it tends to equate wealth and individual economic success with virtue. The view that someone has a "right" to the products of their exertions is merely an unsupported assertion. One can with equal justification claim that the group takes priority. I can't prove that the libertarian view is wrong, but I also see no reason to adhere to it.

  47. James Pollock says:

    "We just don't think the government should be taking money from those who produce so that they can give it to those who do not. Charity is a great thing, but not when done at gunpoint."

    Then don't think of it as charity; think of it as paying for them to stay out of the way of the productive.

    The idea that there CAN exist a society where everyone keeps whatever they produce requires an unsustainable assumption about human nature… that people who are unable to produce enough to survive will go quietly to their fate, whether it be death due to starvation, exposure, or disease.

    I think the fantasy that such a thing is possible was fed by the experience of the American frontier, where settlers took the land, built homes, and grew enough crops to sustain themselves and their families. But… they were subsidized.

  48. Scott Jacobs says:

    Then don't think of it as charity; think of it as paying for them to stay out of the way of the productive.

    No, because they will demand more, and more, and more, requiring more and more money be taken from people who dared to take the time and effort to earn it.

  49. AlphaCentauri says:

    @Scott Jacobs: People don't get welfare because they demand it, and they don't get more because they demand more. (Social security benefits, maybe so.) Poor people don't vote reliably and they don't contribute much to politicians. No politician ever lost an election for cutting welfare benefits.

    But people with nothing to lose have been known to behave very, very badly at times. Welfare is the haves paying the have-nots to remain docile.

  50. princessartemis says:

    "The idea that there CAN exist a society where everyone keeps whatever they produce requires an unsustainable assumption about human nature… that people who are unable to produce enough to survive will go quietly to their fate, whether it be death due to starvation, exposure, or disease."

    It looks to me as though you are making an unfair assumption, that being that a "right-libertarian" has as a goal that every person keeps 100% of their produce. I rather doubt any are that tremendously selfish as to believe there is no room for feeding their children or ailing grandmothers in their ideal society. Just that you not be forced to feed their children or ailing grandmother. You would, of course, would be free to do so!

  51. AlphaCentauri says:

    There is a theory that the concept of a government safety net came to the US with Irish immigrants. They saw a government willing to let the entire damn population starve while exporting food to foreigners and wondered what the fuck government was for.

    But when it comes down to it, no matter how Randian people are in theory, they tend toward exceptionalism when they actually know someone affected. They don't want to step over a homeless cancer patient writhing in pain on the sidewalk in front of their job, even if they know that lack of welfare benefits would mean hundreds of thousands of people just like her. They don't want the ER doctor who saved mom's life to be forced to return to Nigeria when he finishes his residency, even if they are adamant about tough immigration policies. They don't want that guy on their block to get a zoning variation for a drug treatment center, even if they feel that no one should tell them what they can do on their own property. They don't want their taxes to go to education children in other districts even though it means poor parents are required by law to send their children to schools they themselves wouldn't enter without armed escorts.

  52. Scott Jacobs says:

    People don't get welfare because they demand it, and they don't get more because they demand more.

    Really… Is that why the budget for those programs always increases faster than most everything else?

  53. Rich Rostrom says:

    huge swaths of our economy are "too big to fail" institutions that are artificially pumped up by the government, and then kept running no matter how many bad decisions they make. Left-wing libertarians are better than right-wing libertarians at pointing these out…

    Right-wing libertarians howl about this stuff almost continuously. As do libertarianish conservatives. I haven't seen much of anything from any part of the left about it. They prefer to attack "business" and "the rich" in general.

    Also – there is an entire alternate axis to be considered, and that is "cultural liberalism/conservativism". There is, and has been for a long time, a movement to break down and destroy traditional cultural norms and values. Some of this made sense, when it was about ending compulsory religion, making the sexes equal before the law, or abolishing hereditary ranks. Or new styles and methods in art.

    But some of it is about libertinism, especially sexual libertinism. As long ago as the Communist Manifesto of 1848, the Left envisioned a glorious future of unlimited sexual license for everyone. (Marx called it "community of women".) "Free Love" was a Left icon for generations. Any restrain on sexual gratification was denounced as wrong. This continues: google on the phrase "Proud slut".

    The cultural Left today dominates the state (especially education), and seeks to leverage that control to destroy the "bad old culture". At the same time, it promotes an anarchic view of culture in which anything goes in the public sphere – community restraints become impossible, and we get explicit S&M porn for sale in supermarkets.

    Left libertarians are pretty much OK with all this, AFAICT.

  54. Scott Jacobs says:

    They don't want the ER doctor who saved mom's life to be forced to return to Nigeria when he finishes his residency, even if they are adamant about tough immigration policies.

    Maybe I'm just a horrible bastard, but I do.

    He made an agreement – a contract, if you will – to return to his country and doctor there after his residency. To refuse to enforce that contract is to admit that no contract should be adhered to – either EVERY contract that is willingly and knowingly entered into is worthy of being enforced, or NONE of them are. Period.

  55. Robert White says:

    Word Salad: There were lots of glittering generalities and general hogwash in that whole thing. I would say that the entire thing I just tried to read didn't make sense to me for being full of hot button words, trigger phrases, and false dichotomies.

    We have (you have) _never_ lived in a free market. A free market is bad because there is no _market_ _pressure_ for responsible action (the free market encourages pollution and dumping [of pollutants and goods]). So "free trade" becomes code for "free to trick others into polluting _their_ yards were we can no longer pollute ours freely". That is, the ideal may be good, but the idea is bad.

    Here is an example: Communism (not the socialism of russia etc) would be the ideal libertarian state. It would be the ideal government absolutely. But it has one flaw… People are not altruistic and honest enough for the system to work. The reason we have _never_ seen, despite the labels taken up, any communist government in the world _ever_ is that the final stage of "initializing" communism is the dissolution of government because now that each man has found his true calling to take out everyone else's garbage for free, and with perfect technique, then government isn't necessary.

    So once people can be trusted to do exactly the optimal thing for all parties and interests then government becomes a non-entity and you get "free trade" and "libertarianism" and "communism" and nirvana and whatever.

    The "libertarian ideal" is a millimetres-thin coating of intelligentsia hand waving that covers up a meaty nougat of "I don't want to let them faggots into my hotel, nor them mexicans less they are doing the lawn like a good wetback."

    But that way lies madness because it is chock-a-block full of unintended consequence.

    Government shouldn't block school-sponsored prayer? Okay. Then _I_ get to choose what your children pray too. Oh, not what you mean? Too bad.

    Government shouldn't shackle companies with Clean Air and Water acts and the EPA. Okay. But have you looked at the photos of L.A. (etc) before those acts? So if my giant slag pile comes in and buries _your_ kids in their school you are going to just shrug and say "that's my free-trade right to own that property just up-hill from the school and pile whatever I want on it?" (no, you'd scream bloody murder and shoot or sue me if my slag drowns your kid.)

    See, we've _been_ through those libertarian ideals.

    They were shit. People died.

    There is one secret, unspoken role for government. That is, to force people to pay for the things they are too stupid to know they need.

    Most people don't _get_ that they need the back roads of a city half-a-state away to be paved. They don't understand that _their_ medical costs rise because others are uninsured. They don't do _all_ the math to realize that making all roads toll roads would make a box of Corn Flakes cost $94.87 because toll roads are a disproportionate cash entropy model.

    It is ideal for each person to only need to pay for what they actually need. Sure.

    Most people have no _idea_ what they _actually_ depend on moment-by-moment, and what it takes to provide everything that was needed to meet those needs' needs before hand.

    So you have reasonably affluent rich young adults who don't buy health insurance but they expect the emergency room to be there hot and ready to act if they shatter their pelvis snow-boarding. They didn't need the hospital… uh… until they needed it. So too for the homeless guy who certain quarters say "can just" rely on emergency rooms if something comes up.

    So we had the _ultimate_ libertarian reality and we discovered we needed to invent government.

    And most people want "smaller government" as long as that shrinkage doesn't cost them their individual interests. Thats why every "smaller government" proponent has a list of things they _wouldn't_ shrink ("defence" being a big one typically).

    Remember the old-guy teabagger shouting "keep your government hands off my medicare"?

    Virtually all political players and pundits fail in the area of "systems theory". I work in a practical systems theory job. I have to know not just how heterogeneous systems work, but how they fail.

    Stabbing into the meat of a bureaucracy and cutting out some chunk closest to its heard, or its spleen, or even it's colon is a great way to kill millions.

    More Examples:

    I think abortion is abhorrent and diminishes everyone involved; but I know it is reasonable and safe existence and practice is _necessary_ to a healthy society. So to end abortion one must leave it legal and then assault the causes of unplanned pregnancy. (and one can't just do that by pretending that teenagers don't fuck or won't fuck if they don't know how.)

    I think any conflation of the second amendment with "hunting" is a travesty. The right to bear arms is all about the right of the citizenry to "out-gun" their own government, should the need arise.

    I think every attempt to get _any_ "god stuff" into any institution is a recipe for utter destruction. Not because faith is, a priori, bad; but because that means someone else gets to impose their articles of faith on you. You might _think_ you agree with what you _assume_ would be forced down the throats of yourself and your get, but you'd be wrong. It'd be more or less creepy than you would like. Guaranteed.

    I _know_ for a fact that we have to _force_ businesses not to poision people arbitrarily. How do I know. Because we were _forced_ to apply that force. We were _there_ for the unbound hand of free trade in many areas. And when people started dieing we invented the FDA, and OSHA, and the EPA and all those other organizations that big business is now telling you they just cannot stand. If those big businesses were already doing what they knew they could to keep you safe then the tiny concessions imposed on them wouldn't have been imposed.

    I can turn on the news any time, day or night, and see how "small government" really works. It's corrupt or purely absentee, and you know _you_ don't want to live in Sierra Leone right now with _its_ absentee government and the resultant war-lords.

    So you think you know all about government waste because you read one-sentence laugh-lines about the funding of studies into cow flatulence. But you don't really. There is usually a lot more than the laugh-line to most pursuits. There is a good reason to scientifically prove something "Everyone already knows". That reason is that more often than not, when tested, it turns out everyone was disastrously wrong.

    So you have grown up under the protective umbrella of a generally educated populace, and now you think paying for education shouldn't be your problem. It doesn't occur to you that an uneducated populace is dangerously ignorant of skills that keep _you_ alive.

    Repeat that above paragraph, replacing education with any number of things you don't want to pay for. Other people's food. Other people's medical care. Other peoples "welfare". Whatever. But before you vote for any of that stuff, go find examples of other countries where your agenda is already in force. I think you will find that those countries are not someplace you would willingly move to right now, are they?

    The current "Democrat" agenda is the _closest_ thing I can find to reasonable but still workable; and I know it's a travesty. But that's true of most idealized systems when put into production.

    If I had god-like powers I would wave my omnipotence and drop you and your ilk, (for all versions of you and all subsets of ilk) into a pre-made community populated by like-minded individuals. The magical phrase to get out would be "okay, I was wrong". Jesusland and Redstatia would be flanked by Tallibanistan on the east and all three would be land-locked by Libertaria who would have the sea and air ports. Don't feel picked on, Bluestatia would be on a large island without a "global breadbasket" region and all the mineral wealth would be under the well-armed tribalists while all the manufactory knowledge would literally be sequestered in ivory towers that can only be navigated by people capable of "plain reading" and jumping to conclusions inside the tower would be harmful or fatal.

    It would be the greatest reality show ever.

    In short, the greatest crime is the failure to pay attention, but it is not a victimless crime. Go read any "anti-vaccination" web page. That is the current condensate of bad reasoning and false dichotomy.

    You only get "anti" positions (anti-abortion, anti-gun, anti-education, anti-welfare, anti-[religious-stereotype-here], anti-marriage-equity, etc. ad nausium) when you cannot be bothered to find the correct set of proactive positions.

    Being "anti-big-government" is not a position in possession of a proposed solution. It's an "affirmed negative", a wilful lust for and absence. It proposes no solution. It proposes no substitution of a fully formed and more logical replacement for a system. It is wishful thinking in absence of direction or plan.

    Smaller is not the same as Smarter or Better, its just more easy to overwhelm or side-step when you are filled with nefarious intent. So libertarianism is hack-and-slash farming of other peoples interests.

  56. Robert White says:

    Uh… Scott Jacobs… Welfare is not supplied on demand. I know you think it is. It isn't.

    (1) It is untenable to live in a society full of starving and uneducated people. They tend to revolt. The "largess" of "welfare" is a public _safety_ measure as much as it is anything else. If you force people to fend for themselves no matter what, some of that matter becomes theft, some becomes disease, and some becomes unrest.

    So we get a "peace dividend" by solving the immediate needs of most people.

    (2) Most people on welfare actually demand Jobs, not more welfare. Nobody with any desire for self respect likes taking a hand out. [Aside: Giving a hand-out to the few who are satisfied by a life of taking hand-outs is the easiest and cheapest way to make them go away].

    So if the apportionment of labor and wage were reasonable "welfare" would virtually disappear.

    [Aside: If we could convince all the Dunning-Kruger incompetents to go on a generous welfare, and pay them _handsomely_ to go on vacation and _stay_ _there_, we'd probably save billions in incompetence entropy costs each year. 8-)]

    Your mythology, with (likely) "welfare queens" and its imaginary throngs of people who demand free rides, is flawed. Besides "workers comp" is where the lifetime retirement cash is. Not so much the prisoners of food stamps and public housing.

    The fact of the matter is that those people you imagine suckling on the teat of entitlements don't exist as such. They keep asking for "a chance" and we keep giving them "a meagre stipend".

    If you don't give the man the fish, he starves before you can teach him to fish and he'll be too hungry to learn.

    So yes, some of these people do "demand more" because they know they are being given too little and it's the wrong stuff.

    You would get pissed off if you said "I need help finding a job" and the people you were saying that too just said "here's some cheese, now run along."

    Remember Craig T. Nelson? "When I was on food stamps nobody helped _me_!" It isn't that he's just a tool. It's that, at the time, while he was getting some material aid, he remembers it as being hung out to dry. It was help. But it wasn't all that helpful.

    The whole "you have to spend money to make money thing", that's not just about your wallet, it's about human capital, society, safety, and investing in creating a place that will still be workable when you are back in diapers.

    Why should you have to pay? Because you are the one who will reap the benefits of living in a society that is free of war-lords who want to raid your home. (or private security protection rackets to fend off all the ignorant starving poor we would otherwise have en mass) (or whatever)

  57. James Pollock says:

    "No, because they will demand more, and more, and more, requiring more and more money be taken from people who dared to take the time and effort to earn it."

    What a ridiculous argument. Demanding more and getting more are two different things. Carried to its ridiculous ends, this would be an argument against capitalism. (Can we allow the means of production to fall into the hands of individuals? No, because the capitalists will demand more and more and more profit, which shall have to be wrung from those who do the actual producing.)

    You leftist, you.

  58. Robert White says:

    White's Corollary to Goodwin's Law:

    Anybody who sites "Big" something. ("big pharma", "big auto", "big education") is guilty of indiscriminacy and shall be considered to have lost their argument.

    The "Big-Whatever" paradigm is what I would describe as "arguing to the infinite". So is "Big Auto" a subset of "Big Industry"? Who isn't in "Big Labor"?

    It's a case of scare words. It is the glittering generality of faceless boogey men. It's an indefensible harbor for undefined ideals.

    It's crap.

  59. Clark says:

    @Robert White:

    > Word Salad: There were lots of glittering generalities and general
    > hogwash in that whole thing.

    I'll try to avoid the temptation to respond to you in the same spirit of intellectual generosity with which you, apparently, read my words.

    > I would say that the entire thing I just
    > tried to read didn't make sense to me for being full of hot button
    > words, trigger phrases, and false dichotomies.

    "Full of", yet there are no examples…this, from the same person who attacks me (below) for "glittering generalities" when I used the phrases "Big Pharma" and "Big Labor".

    So, which is it?

    Do we have to footnote everything we say, or not?

    > We have (you have) _never_ lived in a free market.

    Indeed.

    > A free market is bad because there is no _market_ _pressure_ for
    > responsible action

    Asserted without evidence.

    Companies backtrack all the time on bad policies because of public outcry…or introduce good policies because they get to brag about them.

    Why is it that dozens, if not hundrds, of companies began offering same sex domestic partnership benefits over the past decade or so, far in advance of any government mandate to do so?

    Market pressure.

    > So "free trade" becomes code for "free to trick others into polluting _their_ yards were we can no longer
    > pollute ours freely".

    I dislike the phrase "code" because it bakes into the assertion the assumption of bad faith. If you think that the result of libertarian policies is result X, great, say it, but if you assert that libertarians know all along that the result of policy Q is result X and lie about it – well, it's sort of difficult to have a conversation with someone who starts off with the assertion "you and everyone with your stance is a liar".

    > Here is an example: Communism (not the socialism of russia etc) would be the ideal libertarian state.

    I find this difficult to stomach from someone who is attacking libertarianism: "everything you people want is wrong…but I know howling to achieve it!"

    > It would be the ideal government absolutely.

    (a) Again, asserted without evidence, and

    (b) wrong. Libertarians insist on the civil right to own private property and communism (yes, "true" communism) is predicated on absolute perfect abolition of this civil right. Marx said

    "The theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property."

    and speaking of abolition, in the Communist Manifesto, he also demands that we destroy the family.

    A libertarian does not engage in social engineering, and many (most?) of us see some value in family.

    > But it has one flaw… People are not altruistic and honest enough for the system to work.

    It has three flaws, and that's by far the minor one. The two major flaws are that (a) it presents one ideal social structure for everyone, and (b) it uses force to achieve it.

    > So once people can be trusted to do exactly the optimal thing for
    > all parties and interests then government becomes a non-entity and
    > you get "free trade" and "libertarianism" and "communism" and
    > nirvana and whatever.

    No, because

    > The "libertarian ideal" is a millimetres-thin coating of
    > intelligentsia hand waving that covers up a meaty nougat of "I don't
    > want to let them faggots into my hotel, nor them mexicans less they
    > are doing the lawn like a good wetback."

    I love the way that you can see into the heart of men you've never met and tell that not only are they they corrupt, racist, homophobes, but their entire political philosophy is motivated by these preferences.

    Skimming down through the rest of your responses, I see that the tone is similar – "word salad", "shit", "crap", "trick", "hand waving", "stupid", "teabagger", etc.

    I had intended this bout of research and writing as an attempt to extend a hand "across the aisle" and see if I could find common cause with folks to my left.

    I had intended to respond to your comment in length in further pursuit of that goal.

    …but, upon reflection, I've got better things to do with my time than deal with someone who already knows the state of my soul and finds it so desperately wanting, and thinks that an appropriate way to respond to outreach is with insults and name-calling.

    So, Robert, "plonk", as they used to say back in the day.

  60. John Kindley says:

    The comments here remind me of something Thomas Paine wrote in Agrarian Justice: "In advocating the case of the persons thus dispossessed, it is a right, and not a charity, that I am pleading for."
    Welfare is a band-aid applied to the poverty caused by the robbery that defines the State, to avoid the revolt of the stock.
    I'm also reminded by these comments of something Nock wrote in the essay I linked to above: "All experience of what Frederick the Great called 'damned human race' shows beyond peradventure that it is impossible to tell anyone anything unless in a very real sense he knows it already; and therefore a premature and pertinacious evangelism is at best the most fruitless of all human enterprises, and at worst the most vicious."

  61. Guns says:

    Clark, I find it somewhat disappointing that you apparently seem to ignore Kat's excellent response, where she very reasonably challenges you to expand upon your admirable thought exercise, yet do take the time to very easily defend yourself against Robert's annoyingly simplistic generalizations of the complex ideas on all sides of these issues.

    Of course, reflecting on a thoughtful comment does not nescessarily mean that one has to respond to it as well, in which case my disappointment would be misplaced as well as irrelevant.

  62. C. S. P. Schofield says:

    "My point about "Starfinder" is not that he's the only teat-sucker in the US – my point is that I hate white boys in dreadlocks and want to beat them with truncheons."

    Some time back, on a checkout line in a bookstore, I browsed a book on fashion and stumbled across the following wonderfulness;

    "Very few people in this world look good in dreadlocks. None of them are white."

    I'm thinking of having it done in bronze.

    On a more serious note; I would be more interested in the Democrat "Pay as you go" plan if I had ever seen any Democrats pay as they go. Ever. I was born in 1961. During my entire lifetime the Democrats have been spending more than they had, and for most of that they have shouted irrelevant cusswords like "racist" if anyone dared to object.

    When I was born, the Republicans were adrift. They have since changed, slowly, to the point where there are factions that want to actually cut spending, and a larger faction that simply wants to continue to enjoy the privileges of the Ruling Class without doing anything HARD.

    I have hopes, but not many. I frankly think we are headed for Imperial America. That will start out comfortable for me; I'm a White Male over the age of fifty. Later it will degrade.

  63. Clark says:

    @Guns:

    > Clark, I find it somewhat disappointing that you apparently seem to ignore Kat's excellent response, where she very reasonably challenges you to expand upon your admirable thought exercise, yet do take the time to very easily defend yourself against Robert's annoyingly simplistic generalizations of the complex ideas on all sides of these issues.

    Guns,

    It takes more time to digest something weighty and respond than it does to swat at a silly annoyance.

    I hope to have something to say on Kat's points later.

  64. Clark says:

    @C. S. P. Schofield :

    > When I was born, the Republicans were adrift. They have since changed, slowly

    Agreed…however, I disagree with your statement of where they've ended up.

    I used to be a pro-US-military hawk.

    It's said that there's a curse "may you get what you wished for". I've now seen the militaristic national security state, and I repent of having ever been a fan of even parts of it.

  65. C. S. P. Schofield says:

    Clark,

    I agree, with the caveat that while we are headed there FAST, we haven't gotten there. Yet. The next big step in that direction would seem to be either A) The confiscation of all privately held firearms or B) The absorption of those who tend to own those guns into some subset of the ruling class. The Intellectual Left is, in some ways, pushing for the Imperial State we are headed for because they delude themselves into thinking that they will be part of the Ruling Class. They have managed to ignore that in every revolution of the 20th Century the Intellectual Class was near the top of the list for liquidation. They are in for a VERY rude shock. The Power Class has to reach an accommodation with the gun owners; there are a lot of them and they generally shoot better than the police or the military. The peer class does NOT have reach an accommodation with the intellectualoids; they are nothing more than an annoyance.

    Those of the Intellectual Left who thought that they were seeing Fascism under Bush will get to contemplate the difference from inside jail cells. If they are lucky.

    But it is coming, it ain't gonna be pretty, and it's going to last a LOOOOONG time.

    P.S. I would be a pro-military hawk if we would use the military for military goals; killing people and breaking things. If we had gone into Iraq and Afghanistan, broken their governments and their militaries, and left saying something like "Bother us again and we'll be back. You don't want us to come back.", we would be one hell of a lot better off then we are now (and so, I think, would they).

  66. Jerryskids says:

    Wow – great post! I have always thought of myself as just a libertarian – I don't get into the definitional nitpicking enough to be a True Libertarian – but apparently I have always been left-libertarian. Most of what you wrote is what I just assumed were common ideas.

    But the many mentions of food stamps bothers me. You do realize that the primary purpose of the food stamp program was not to feed the hungry but to provide income subsidies for farmers, the single biggest beneficiary of the food stamp program is Dwayne Andreas, and the group benefitting the most from the food stamp program are the well-paid, college-educated administrators of the food stamp program who otherwise have no marketable skills? It's all part of crony-'capitalism' – call it fascism if you want – the marriage of Big Business to Big Government.

    P. J. O'Rourke: "There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences.” Given that, I have never really understood where corporations came from – the idea that you could create some fictitious entity to take responsibility for your actions. IOW, privatizing the profits and socializing the losses.

    If you sell a product, you have incentives to deliver as promised or face going out of business. If I am buying your product, I have incentives to pay as promised or face not being able to buy. But if I am a purchasing agent for Jerryskids Corporation and you are an order-taker for ClarkMart, Inc., it's not really your product you are selling and it's not my money I am paying with, so who cares?

    Look at GM – the poster child for corporatism. In a free market, if they can't deliver a product people want at a price people are willing to pay, they are obviously mis-using resources, being wasteful and inefficient, and they need to stop doing that. Going out of business does that, it allows someone who can put those resources to better use – 'better use' being defined as 'providing a product people want at a price people are willing to pay' – to have access to those resources.

    But who exactly is responsible for GM? Shareholders? Management? Unions? Taxpayers? And who is responsible for the fact that GM obviously is a colossal failure and yet remains? As far as I can tell, the government is most responsible. Theoretically, the government is 'we the people', but 'we the people' already voted democratically in the marketplace to tell GM they needed to go away.

    I think that many libertarians would disagree with your rightwing/left wing analysis – almost all politicians are statists. It's not whether you support the workers or the bosses, it's whether or not you believe government is the ultimate boss. The bipartisan support for bailouts gives us a good clue as to what they really believe.

    (Sorry if I ramble, not enough coffee yet this morning.)

  67. John Kindley says:

    Every military hawk owes it to himself to consider the evaluation of 2x Congressional Medal of Honor winner Major General Smedley Butler USMC of his own military "service"; http://www.cooperativeindividualism.org/butler-smedley_i-was-a-gangster-for-capitalism-1935.html

  68. a_random_guy says:

    Great post – you have managed to explain a difficult but important concept.

    When I was young, I liked Ayn Rand's vision, but it always bothered me that her "heros" are cold-blooded, unlikable assholes. This is, perhaps, the difference between left- and right-libertarianism: left-libertarians still care about their fellow people, they just believe that less government will float all boats better than anything else.

    The other error in Ayn Rand's vision is that everyone should be independent. You allude to this problem, but I don't think you are critical enough. She is not just a little bit wrong; she is almost entirely wrong:

    – Very many people are uneducated, unintelligent, or both. They are not *capable* of being independent. If you cannot even tell if you received correct change at the store, how are you supposed to manage an annual company budget?

    – Even if someone is capable of being independent, they may still not be suited to it. The fact that you are good at swinging a pickaxe does not mean that you will be a good manager or marketer. Anyway, if you enjoy swinging a pickaxe, why should you change to something you will probably enjoy a lot less?

    – Finally, in many areas of endeavor, organizations need to be a certain size in order to function. You not only need your own pickaxe, you also need mining wagons, ore trucks, and even your own mine. There are by definition few bosses and lots of workers.

    The current problems (in Western countries) certainly include over-regulation by government, entwined with crony capitalism. Both of these are aspects of having too much government. Libertarianism is undoubtedly the solution.

    You allude to one additional problem: the bad boss. Collectively, bad company management. In the long run, free competition will eliminate poorly-run companies, but in the short- to middle-run they can ruin the lives of lots of individual workers. This is, perhaps, where left-libertarianism can offer some solutions. Government should be small, but not absent: some minimal regulation to prevent inhuman conditions and outright exploitation is likely necessary. (consider "The Jungle" by Upton Sinclair).

  69. C. S. P. Schofield says:

    Jerryskids,

    It seems to me that the situation with GM is a consequence of the "Corporations are Evil" stance of the Left; GM was never allowed to play hardball (not Pinkertons and Punching bags, just hardball) with the Unions, so the Unions ran amok and ruined the host company. Then the politicians who had been saying "nuh-uh, give the Unions what they want or Papa spank" to GM were faced with the prospect of having to explain how an iconic company was going tits up on their watch. And suddenly, saving GM is a priority….but not enough of a priority to rein in the Union idiocy that holed the hull.

    Now, I'm not saying that Corporations are angelic, or even all that trustworthy. But when spokespeople for an industry say, again and again, over a period of decades, "we can't give the Unions X, Y, and Z forever, or the industry is going tits-up" and they are bullied into giving the Unions X, Y, and Z and low and behold the industry starts going tits-up I am inclined to spread the blame beyond the corporate board rooms.

  70. Robert White says:

    So you skimmed… for tone… as long as that's the standard for intellectual…

    Seeing into the heart of a man is different from seeing into the heart of a movement. Spend enough time listening to the adherents of a movement you start to see patterns. I have spent that time with libertarians. I have had those statements made to my face, or their analog.

    People fishing to find a way not to be required to act civil is part and parcel of a dominant section of the libertarian movement.

    To see this you have to give the men the chance to _expose_ their hearts. You have to get them bitching. You have to get them to reveal what they think the abuses are in detail.

    The very educated who founded the libertarian movement are largely the cross-section of idealists that were drawn to communism (true marxism) in my parents age. The kind of people who think Ayn Rand is spot on in a belief that rational thought is uncolored by experience and so leads to inevitable conclusions. This is demonstrably false, and it sticks to the heels of straight white pseudo-affluent people like it sticks to no other. It is the symptom of never having had ones social standing truly tested. (hence the hand-waving intelligentsia).

    Step back into the bandwagon. The hangers on. Each wants government "out of their business". The first blush will come off like the original teabaggers. They are the kind of people who _buy_ _tea_ to dump it out, missing the lesson of that incident completely.

    These are the conformers who know that they see a payoff in the message. They have a game in mind. They follow the form of the message but don't have any intention of following the ideals behind the form. They want to get elected on fiscal responsibility in order to pursue a purely social agenda regardless of cost.

    Well if you really plumb which businesses they want the governmet out of you get down to "rights" (e.g. they don't want to allow someone's rights to interfere with their own preferences) and "regulations" (they think that deregulation is a magical incantation that will return us to just the good parts of yesteryear with none of the costs of yesteryear).

    As far as taking corporate reputation as a real market pressure to keep you and yours alive and healthy… look up "green-washing"… pay attention to how many of these events follow a public embarrassment involving injury or death.

    No seriously, go look at the pictures of LA from before and after the clean air act.

    The articles of blind faith necessary to take libertarianism seriously are seriously deranged. They make young-earth creationism look downright scientifically cynical.

    If people were already inclined to take the steps necessary to protect you, then none of these objectionable agencies with their objectionable regulations would need any enforcement or regulations.

    Were the fantasy of Libertarianism workable or likely then companies would be falling all over themselves to exceed their own regulatory burdens.

    What happened when one beef producer set out to test all their meat for Mad Cow? The beef producers blocked them from being _able_ to do this so that the industry as a whole wouldn't look bad to consumers would would rightly ask "if they can do that, why aren't you doing it too".

    In short, the market pressure on businesses do not push to safety or social responsibility. They do push lamely and largely post hoc, for the minimal appearance of same as long as it doesn't touch profits.

    Regulations touch profits. Being a good citizen isn't supposed to be free-as-in-free-beer since actions cost money.

    Your dissection of my comments is just about as deep as your dissection of the movement you support. Its glossy and trite. It doesn't follow through.

    You have yet to embrace consequence-in-depth for the policies you proclaim in support.

    There is this thing called "distinctions without differences" and there is a reason you don't see much difference between Left and Right Libertarianism. It's the same broken fantasy wearing different wigs and lipstick.

    Smaller isn't better by definition, only by design, and there is no design behind libertarianism. Just the chant "big is bad" as enumerated in your post and your follow-ups.

    Ponder Dunning-Kruger and then ask yourself if you know enough about government finance and policy to doubt your own knowledge. You seem awfully certain you are right which suggests you are under-informed. I suggest you are wrong, but offer no plan in the alternate because I can see clearly that your suggestion is doomed to do harm; but I don't suppose I have enough information to offer a concrete set of alternate suggestions.

    I, unlike you, know what I don't know.

    So make your little contextual quotes with your nudge and your wink, and repeat again how you didn't actually read the arguments so much as paste around them. I'm sure with repetition you will appear to conform to dogma.

  71. Robert White says:

    ASIDE: you yourself used "hippie nonsense" and "pure crap" (etc) in the lead article, so your attempt to play the "superior tone" card against my argument for "teabagger" and "crap" (etc) is what we in the writing world call "hypocrisy".

    I fight in the sandbox I was invited into, using the sandbox rules as displayed. If you wanted to play the dry professional pedant you shouldn't have played your opening all dirty.

    Judge not lest ye be judged… I am sure I heard that _somewhere_.

  72. SassQueen says:

    @ Robert:
    >(2) Most people on welfare actually demand Jobs, not more welfare. Nobody with any desire for self respect likes taking a hand out. [Aside: Giving a hand-out to the few who are satisfied by a life of taking hand-outs is the easiest and cheapest way to make them go away]…

    …Your mythology, with (likely) "welfare queens" and its imaginary throngs of people who demand free rides, is flawed. Besides "workers comp" is where the lifetime retirement cash is. Not so much the prisoners of food stamps and public housing.

    The problem with this reasoning is that it isn't based in facts. It may be impossible to come up with statistics to back up either side of this argument (or I might just be too lazy to do so, entirely possible). I work in the health care field in a medium/largish city with a significant inner city population, which my practice serves. I've SEEN these "welfare queens (and kings, to be fair)", WITH MY OWN EYES. I won't go so far as to say "most" or even "many" of the welfare recipients I see abuse the system, but it's hard not to have that emotional, knee-jerk reaction to the ones that do and draw generalizations across the board. I would say a disproportionate number of them stick out in my mind when compared with the non-abusers, and that's my own problem. But they do exist. I see it every day.

    @ Kat: Rock on, sister; I'm looking up those books right now.

  73. AlphaCentauri says:

    Welfare costs rise in large part because they cover nursing home care. We are an aging society, we don't expect pneumonia to be "the old person's friend" and kill grandma when a week of antibiotics will have her back to baseline, and we don't have extended families living in the same house. Welfare allows us to hire employees for a lower relative salary, because we've freed up a lot of adults who used to be home caring for parents, and they are willing to work for less if their household has two salaries coming in. So welfare is ultimately a subsidy for businesses.

  74. Kirk Taylor says:

    @Kat
    I just spent a ton of time on Scalzi's blog. Fascinating stuff and, mostly, true. I especially enjoyed his video game analogy that the Game of Life is played by SWM on the 'Easy' setting.

    The problem I have with him, and you (not personally I hope you understand) and Barbara (read her book a while ago) is the same one I first had with Ralph Nader: They are all very good at diagnosing the bad effects or symptoms of problems, and also pretty good at diagnosing the underlying problems. What they suck at is not diagnosing the same failed, big government cures that haven't worked – ever.

    Worse, they use the "You're a SWM so you don't understand" card to dismiss any attempts at trying something actually NEW to solve a problem.

  75. C. S. P. Schofield says:

    I'm a Crank. I don't try to fit a lable, and don't know of one I think fits ME. That said, I would really like to see a return-to-favor of the idea of the Rule of Law. NOT Lawr 'n' Owadawr, but the conciet that the Law applies to everybody, even (perhaps especially) the State and its agents.

    And one hell of a lot less rule by expediency all 'round.

  76. Big Dave says:

    The trouble with mental masturbation of this kind is it accomplishes nothing. Is anyone the better for having read it? Is the world better for you admitting you're an elitist, white, cold-hearted capitalist pig? I think not. But then again, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Socialist. If I had my way, nobody would be allowed to amass a fortune in excess of $5 million USD.
    All services needed for a decent life, e.g., electric and gas, water, public transit, higher education, etc., etc., would all be owned by the government and run as non-profits. Imagine what your power bill would be without the millions used to pay profits to shareholders.
    Imagine a government funded election system that allowed anyone with a good idea to run for office without having to get in bed with big corporations or wealthy donors. ALL candidates would have the same budget. No personal money, no contributions. Honest people might actually get elected.
    The Democrats, the Republicans, the Libertarians, the Tea Party, and all the rest are simply subsets of organized crime.
    Why put up with it. Revolt, whatever that means to you, and change the system.

  77. Caleb says:

    @ Clark:

    +1000 for the post. Very well argued.

    @ Kat

    One problem with having privilege is that by definition, it is something that is extremely hard for you to understand and recognize on your own without someone pointing it out to you.

    And I, in turn, have problems with this. The concept of a 'definition', and indeed the very concept of language, lies in the principle of transmitting meaning from one person to another so that the recipient may independently assess the parameters of the concept and determine whether or not a thing fits. By submitting the parameters of a concept to an extrinsic entity ('you're privileged where I say you're privileged') you are doing violence to the entire process of individual rational inquiry. Give me a comprehensive definition of 'privileged', and I'll make my own determinations based on that definition.

  78. AlphaCentauri says:

    The problem with the government running the basic services is that those in charge consider themselves privileged. The turnpike employees don't pay tolls, so they don't care if the fares go up. The gas company has no competitors, so they don't care if their phones get answered.

    The best model seems to be the private/public alternative. You can have straight Medicare, or you can choose a private insurer to deliver your Medicare services. You can switch back and forth every year if you're dissatisfied. There are unavoidable inefficiencies, and the ground rules have to be carefully defined to prevent companies from cherry-picking healthy enrollees by inconveniencing the truly sick, but if they really aren't serving the public, their customers go back to the public option.

  79. Caleb says:

    @Big Dave

    If I had my way, nobody would be allowed to amass a fortune in excess of $5 million USD.

    Why $5mil? Who needs that much money? For that matter, why allow personal acquisition of wealth at all?

    All services needed for a decent life, e.g., electric and gas, water, public transit, higher education, etc., etc., would all be owned by the government and run as non-profits.

    Surely other industries support a "decent life." The food industry? What about telecommunications? Depending on your definition of "decent life," shouldn't all industry be run as non-profit for the benefit of all society. Who determines the definition of "decent life?"

    Imagine a government funded election system that allowed anyone with a good idea to run for office without having to get in bed with big corporations or wealthy donors.

    Who will determine what constitutes "a good idea?" Not those big corporations or wealth donors, right?

  80. Lucy says:

    I eat popcorn with chopsticks, not for any other reason than because it's fun. Mental masturbation, much in the same way masturbation in other understandings, is fun for some people. Muse for heavens sake. MUSE! Everything doesn't have to be 100% practical, unless we can agree fun and musing are necessary for quality of life.

    Gah… I sense I may have just wasted valuable hunt and peck touch keypad time and energy on this one.

  81. John Kindley says:

    C.S.P. Schofield:
    Anarchy = Rulerlessness = the Rule of Law = Order

  82. C. S. P. Schofield says:

    Big Dave;

    Socialism is like hereditary Aristocracy; an excuse for a self-selected elite to tell other people what to do. Oh, it sounds swell in theory. So does Absolute Monarchy, if you accept the theory put forth by the Monarchists. And with a Monarchy you only have to kill one swine to change the government … At least in theory.

    Collectives have their place, but they do not generate wealth, thet tend to consume it. Since greed isn't going away soon, it seems to me that what is called for is a system that works with it instead of against it.

    Also, I am deeply suspicious of any system that puts the regulators and the regulated under the same umbrella. Cronyism is how the economies of places like the former USSR and present China work.

  83. John Kindley says:

    If practicality is what we're after, I can do no better than to recommend Max Stirner's concept of the insurgent and insurrection, and his relation of that concept to Jesus and the first Christians.

  84. C. S. P. Schofield says:

    John Kindley;

    Anarchy is a temporary condition that will cease when somebody strong enough and mean enough takes over, which will almost certainly mean rule by whim, or the State above the Law … the opposit of the Rule of Law.

    Like all political theories, Anarchy sounds swell … so long as it is being explained by its adherents. And like all political theories it falls short in practice.

  85. John Kindley says:

    C.S.P. Schofield:
    Not necessarily. By my lights, there could be such a thing as an anarchic, i.e., rulerless, government. A combination of Henry George's Single Tax, Thomas Jefferson's Ward System, and Lysander Spooner's Trial by Jury, would approximate it.

  86. princessartemis says:

    Big Dave, you can always ask yourself the same questions…then discover, possibly to your despair, that you never have occasion to open your mouth again. Humans, even the most introverted ones, must express themselves from time to time, and what better place than in their own virtual homes?

    Lucy, I'd say musing is necessary for life. In a different way than eating popcorn with chopsticks or dancing on the lawn for the hell of it, but certainly necessary!

  87. Clark says:

    @Robert White :

    > ASIDE: you yourself used "hippie nonsense" and "pure crap" (etc) in the lead article

    Robert, I think you missed some irony. My apologies if my writing was not clear enough. The INTENT of calling X hippie crap and then calling Y good sense, and then stating that X was the same as Y was to delicately mock both myself and other right-libertarians for getting too hung up on the flavor or tone of the words and refusing to see beneath the presentation layer to the meat beneath.

    That paragraph shared that theme with the entire post which was to delicately mock both myself and other right-libertarians for getting too hung up on the flavor or tone of the words and refusing to see beneath the presentation layer to the meat beneath.

  88. Lucy says:

    What is to tip the balance in an anarchist society to favor order rather than the kind of order in the Mad Max kind of way?

  89. Xenocles says:

    "Then don't think of it as charity; think of it as paying for them to stay out of the way of the productive."

    No. I do not pay people to refrain from violating my rights – we call that "tribute" or "ransom" and it is categorically illegitimate to demand it.

  90. Xenocles says:

    @Lucy-

    I think the only thing that can potentially secure order in an anarchist society is a wide distribution of force such that it would be very hard for a faction to dominate and become a de facto state. Far better to have and maintain a populace that mostly shares the cultural values of restraint and mutual respect of personal liberty, but the democratization of force is probably the practical best bet.

    It's a shaky one at best – anarchism is far from what I would consider a robust system, and this is the main reason why I cannot advocate it.

  91. John Kindley says:

    Lucy,
    First I should say that I regard anarchy as the presently – and eternally – existing reality. This is because, as Spooner said, there is, and can be, correctly speaking, no law but natural law. Therefore, there are, and can be, correctly speaking, no rulers, because a ruler is a person who makes laws for other people. For this reason I prefer Ernst Juenger's term "anarch" to the word "anarchist," as the latter word connotes the will to bring about something that already is.
    I have no hope of seeing in my lifetime the kind of anarchic government I've described. Nevertheless I think it worthwhile to endeavor to live my life according to the truth that I see. Theoretically, if enough people recognized that there are no rulers, the State, which lives by the fraud that there are rulers and that they have the right to rule, would collapse.
    But is the State a noble lie? Is it all that stands between us and Mad Max style chaos? First I should say that I'm not 100% certain that the State is preferable to Mad Max chaos. I've seen up close crimes committed in the name of the State that are 10x more awful because their deluded self-righteous perpetrators masquerade as agents of the law, and are "honored." And would Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia really be preferable to the world of Mad Max? If those regimes were worse than chaos, how much better than chaos is the US regime?
    But to finally answer your question: I think the same love of truth, justice and order that if widely enough shared would lead to the collapse of the State would naturally also lead to just government rather than the world of Mad Max.

  92. Kat says:

    @Kirk Taylor:
    I can definitely see your point there. My main concern is that if the programs here were not available, then the repercussions in terms of human cost and in terms of societal instability would be worse, much worse.

    I come to this conclusion, admittedly, from a biased standpoint: I once needed public assistance to survive and relied on protections for the disabled to acquire my job. It should be mentioned, that although I have only had my job for about two years I have never been written up and have been promoted twice. I am very happy to say that this latest promotion, which happened within a month ago, will hopefully get me completely off the welfare rolls; the only thing left is to replace my daughter's ArKids B (medicaid with a copay) because at my current job level, I can afford coverage for my whole family. In fact, it's looking like within the next few days, I will be able to finish being on public assistance, hopefully for good. We still struggle, but I have every hope that we'll become totally financially stable after I finish my bachelor's degree in about a year and a half. I am going for an accounting degree, and I will be able to promote internally to a full accounting position. (At the moment, I work in the financial services division, which is under the supervision of the accounting department. There is quite a difference in pay grade, as you might imagine.)

    Contrast this with what would have happened if public assistance was not available. For about a year I had no job and no way of acquiring a job. My family, being in similar distressed circumstances, could not help me. I did not qualify for disability, but my past illness made it seem as though I ought to be receiving it instead of trying to find work. I had medical debts with no income to pay them; my savings ran out after half a year of searching. In a past era, I would have been thrown in debtor's prison and left to rot, if I didn't starve first. This would have put even more cost on the taxpayer in the case of debtor's prison; and most people would agree that leaving people to starve is inhumane. Instead, I spent about a year on public assistance so that we could afford food, and I worked any job at all that would come to me. I spent another half-year underemployed. Then I began to repay my debt to society. I hope to get a job high-paying enough to pay my bit forward. I know that without those social programs, I would have become completely destitute.

    You might argue that there are better solutions out there, and I imagine that there are. We live in an imperfect world, and the current political divide makes it difficult to meaningfully talk to each other about issues such as this. It's true that big government solutions haven't completely solved the problem, but they have at least made it possible for families to survive, and even begin to thrive, when they would have otherwise been completely destroyed.

    A small side note: From what I have seen, most people assume that families in need of public assistance stay on the rolls for the rest of their lives. In the case of people newly coming into SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), the average time receiving benefits is about 8-10 months. (It's worth pointing out that average is not median.) http://feedingamerica.org/how-we-fight-hunger/programs-and-services/public-assistance-programs/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program/snap-myths-realities.aspx# I don't know about statistics for the other programs, but there is that to think on.

    I would honestly love to hear any solutions that you have thought of, which you believe would be better to solve the current class problems. I like to think about alternatives and I can promise to give them the attention they deserve, considering the importance of a good solution.

    @Caleb
    Good point. This is the best explanation for privilege that I have yet come across: https://sindeloke.wordpress.com/2010/01/13/37/ This is essentially the definition that I am working off of. It's kind of a long article, but I find that complex ideas often require a lot of verbiage to really explain well.

    A note from the above link: "[T]hat’s kind of why the concept of privilege is important – because privilege isn’t about being stupid. It’s not a bad thing, or a good thing, or something with a moral or value judgement of any kind attached to it. Having privilege isn’t something you can usually change, but that’s okay, because it’s not something you should be ashamed of, or feel bad about. Being told you have privilege, or that you’re privileged, isn’t an insult. It’s a reminder! The key to privilege isn’t worrying about having it, or trying to deny it, or apologize for it, or get rid of it. It’s just paying attention to it, and knowing what it means for you and the people around you. Having privilege is like having big feet. No one hates you for having big feet! They just want you to remember to be careful where you walk."

    @ Everybody else who answered.
    I'm actually quite happy that my comment is being taken seriously. I totally understand if anyone reads my comment and the resources put into it and still comes to the conclusion that I am wrong, misguided, or full of crap. My main purpose was to enrich the conversation, and I don't require agreement. That being said, I do appreciate those of you who thought my comment was worth thinking about.

  93. Graphictruth says:

    …and all that reaction tends to underline why Eugene Volokoh dismissed the Libertarian Party (and I believe the entire movement) as being the political equivalent of a screen door on a submarine.

    But don't stop doing it. Volokoh, though I doubt he'd admit it, was simply expressing Sturgeon's Law in other words: "90% of everything is crap."

    …we simply don't notice the smell of crap that is familiar to us, and for actually taking a public sniff at the expense of your dignity, I applaud you.

    Care/harm might also be expressed as Asshole/Altruist – both traits that are very useful in small doses but really damn insufferable in any large quantity.

    Oh, but one other minor point. Dreads are not the worst possible hairstyle for white people. That would have to be The Mullet. And if I had to choose which of the two hairstyles I'd pick to sit next to on the bus – the dreadlocks are likely to be less annoying.

    "All taxation is theft." – but… if there's a fee I must pay or some chore I must perform at my own expense in time or money that I cannot avoid in order to maintain my income or do the thing I need to do – that is a tax. It may or may not go to a goverenment, or anyone in particular, but the point is, it was my money and I was given no choice as to how to spend that chunk. Let me give one single example of such a tax.

    the importance of socially appropriate clothing

    Oh, wait, you did. And yet, I doubt that either of us does or says anything in the blogosphere that would or could be substantially changed by what, if ANY clothing or hairstyles we chose.

    It is not a government policy, and it's not even particularly a corporate idea. It's cultural. Important people have the money to buy a suit and groom themselves. Those who are not well dressed and well-groomed are not worth listening to. And the tax is imposed and enforced by people who prefer to be surrounded by the well-groomed.

    …myself included. But it IS a tax in every meaningful sense of the word.

  94. Rick H. says:

    This was an excellent piece, Clark, and you shouldn't be discouraged by the predictably butt-clenched partisans of Left and Right who want to use it as a springboard for another deaf shouting match. Your observations were made in good faith, and while I don't agree with every premise in the essay, there's no need for anyone to feel so threatened by it.

    "The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function." – Fitzgerald

  95. AlphaCentauri says:

    In a dictatorship, you at least know who is in control and approximately what you have to do to keep your head low. When there is anarchy, as after the collapse of Yugoslavia, you have multiple forces attempting to seize control. The average person doesn't know where the threat may come from. You may find your daughters dragged out of bed and raped because some faction wishes your family to move out of the area of land they wish to control.

    As far as the coming revolution the NRA members are arming themselves against, who are you expecting to conduct it? If anything, the gun owners are overrepresented in congress due to gerrymandered congressional districts. And the military is strongly sympathetic with the NRA as well. Just who would be coming to get your guns and who would they send to do it?

  96. John Farrier says:

    Outstanding post.

    Clark demonstrates a remarkable self-awareness about his own biases and intellectual inclinations (e.g. Starfinder). He candidly admits them and contemplates how they could color his political views, then gets hammered in the comments for doing so.

    I guess that's the price of intellectual honesty.

  97. Random Encounter says:

    Actually, it's even simpler than a lot of what has been discussed here:

    Government power is not the only abusable power that people claim over each other, and the *correct* role of government is to intervene to rectify the abuse of power whether it is private or public power being abused.

    I think that Thomas Paine would find that an acceptable formulation.

    This is the basis of most laws that even libertarians accept without question, and the basis of some other laws where there is debate (such as anti-trust/anti-monopoly laws).

  98. James Pollock says:

    ""Then don't think of it as charity; think of it as paying for them to stay out of the way of the productive."

    No. I do not pay people to refrain from violating my rights – we call that "tribute" or "ransom" and it is categorically illegitimate to demand it."

    Good luck with THAT, Xenocles. Alas, I have to live in the real world, where people respecting my rights for free simply don't exist, and there is ALWAYS a cost associated with establishing and defending my rights. The social order where everybody simply respects the rights of others automatically has as much relevance to the real world as those frictionless surfaces they keep talking about in physics class… useful to explain a principle, not not practical to rely on in reality.

    Even if you take the extremely hard-line view of "people who won't respect my rights get a bullet between the eyes", there's still the cost of ammunition to account for. The question is, what is the most efficient way to get what you want? (or at least, as much of what you want as you can actually get)

    The fact is, there are some people in society who are unproductive… too young, too old, too sick… and also too lazy, too stupid, too whatever… and while some will have productive individuals who feel a personal reason to support them, there will be some who do not. They will not quietly crawl off to die, they will beg. They will squat in buildings owned by someone else. They will scrounge, and when that fails, they will steal. They will create risks to the public health (from poor sanitation, and poor preventitive medicine)

    A few years back, someone broke into my truck. They destroyed the lock, damaged the door and the paint job, and it cost me $900 to repair. What did they get? A $15 label-maker and under a dollar of loose change. Given that there are people who will do $900 of damage to net under $10, then "paying tribute" might well be more efficient, however philosophically repugnant it feels, than standing on one's rights.

  99. JW says:

    I'm going to highlight what stands out to me as the core statement of this entire piece (YMMV):

    Again, we right-libertarians have answers to all of these problems: if you don't like it, leave. If you don't understand copyright and trademark law, then just use Wikipedia to learn more. If you can't get a loan, then you don't deserve a loan.

    …but none of these address the core problems that left-libertarians and other leftists raise.

    I've only done one read-through, and perhaps a second will leave me with a different impression, but this entire piece was centered on empathy, or a perceived lack thereof, by an-caps, libertarians, etc.

    That strikes me more as a concern with marketing and not the moral implications of your beliefs. But looking at what you consider to be the moral implications, is this even relevant? That life isn't fair?

    We're all limited by of all sorts of limitations, first and foremost, our own decisions, the luck of the birth lottery, your own parents decisions (and so on), cranky bosses making bad choices, personal biases of other people, cultural misunderstandings, etc. Some of this we can control to a degree, but most we can't.

    I'm a victim of my own decision making, making a decent living, but nothing that allows me to not worry about money. But, I also firmly recognize my own limitations and need for a particular minimum in terms of quality of life. I have no desire to be a doctor, lawyer or captain of industry that would give me a far, far better standard of living. That would come at the cost of the day-to-day quality. Those guys bust their asses for more than I ever care to.

    But to think that the state can somehow account for all of the variables in our lives that put any one of us at a disadvantage to someone else, and then strike a balance that doesn't punish any one person to mitigate the perceived liability of someone else, is ludicrous. There is no way it can be done objectively, let alone accurately and history has shown us exactly that.

    No, it's not easy to succeed. If it were, everyone could do it. It's especially hard if you're poor, but poor is a relative term. I was poor growing up, relative to about 60% of the country, but we didn't live in a ghetto either, so that made us wealthy(er), relative to the other 39% below us. So, were we poor? Wealthy? Someone is always going to have more or less than the next person. Should I be compensated for others' head starts or punished for my own?

    I ultimately have no one else to blame or thank for my position in life other than one person: me. I've been helped and hindered countless times by the actions of others and my interactions with them, and sometimes just dumb luck, good and bad, but I couldn't possibly begin to tally the ledger for that account on my own behalf. And someone else can, for me?

    I suggest that the cure to the perceived malady is far, far worse than the malady itself. I'd rather take my chances with the ugly graces spontaneous order than Diane Moon Glompers.

  100. wgering says:

    Dammit Clark, stop trying to teach me things! I'm just here for the ponies!

  101. C. S. P. Schofield says:

    There is an aspect to the problem of The Bosses that I have been kicking around for a while. I don't pretend to have a solution, although some do suggest themselves, but I thought I'd throw my thoughts out here:

    Under any system with a substantial estate tax, businesses of any size do not stay the property of people closely associated with the ones that built them. To pay the estate tax, a company that was started by one man, and held in his family, becomes a public corporation and will tend to drift into the pattern of CEO/CFO/Board of Directors control. This is, necessarily, focussed on the bottom line and the stock price. Soon all older companies act more or less the same.

    My favorite anecdote (which may or may not be provably connected to the effect I describe) is the story of the man who gave his McDonalds Monopoly million dollar winning game piece to his pastor. It took the McDonalds suits several days to realize that, while legally they were not obligated to pay out the prize money, not doing so represented a public relations disaster. Such prizes are normally paid (as I understand it) by insurance policies which are (naturally) pretty strict about legal conditions, so McDonalds was facing a million dollar expense they hadn't expected. Still, the bad publicity almost certainly cost them a good deal more to smooth over, even setting the prize money aside.

    Maybe Ray Kroc was a jerk. I don't know. But I think it's likely that if he had still been in control of the company he built he would have straightened that mess out in short order, simply because even a jerk doesn't like to be seen as a jerk by millions of people.

    An entrepreneur boss may not give a fat damn about his workers, but he haas a lot of reason to. The company is his baby. A suit has n far less reason. on the other hand, the record of crown princes inheriting the family business is almost as dismal as the record of businesses run by suits.

    Any thoughts?

  102. Jim D says:

    I'm not entirely sure if I'm left-libertarian or not, given the discussion thus far. Prehaps.

    Certainly, the right libertarians have it all wrong, from everything I've seen of them (and mind you, I actually dontated to both of Dr. Paul's doomed campaigns). It's not that I have sympathy for the workers vs. the bosses, its that I recognize that there are two power centers in the modern U.S – the State, and the wealthy. The third power, the people, only rarely make a showing.

    The only way to maintain freedom for the little person is to pit the powerful against each other. In this case, that means pitting the state against the wealthy (or, if you prefer, Big Business, or even the Oligarchs). This way of maintaining at least a nominal freedom can be found in the bourgious exploiting the struggles of church vs. state in medieval Europe – it's hardly a new phenomenon.

    So while I found Clark's idea fascinating, I don't fully agree – I don't really have any sympathy for the working man, and find public unions positively revolting: But failing to recognize that there are two power centers, as the right libertarians do, and that tearing down the gov't will simply unleash a Dickensonian age in private business is simply foolish.

  103. James Pollock says:

    "An entrepreneur boss may not give a fat damn about his workers, but he haas a lot of reason to. The company is his baby. A suit has n far less reason. on the other hand, the record of crown princes inheriting the family business is almost as dismal as the record of businesses run by suits."

    This problem is not limited to transition from founder to caretaker. Sometimes problems start to happen while the founder is still running things, because running a startup/growth operation is not the same as running a mature, stable operation. Simple scale produces differences… if you run one store, and you have a customer who's unhappy about something, you can take the time to personally fix it. If you have 15,000 stores, you can't do that, not because you're an impersonal jerk but because you've got 15,000 stores to run.

    P.S. McDonald's had a REAL P.R. disaster with its Monopoly game. The actually hire out the running of the game to a subcontractor, and it was discovered that several iterations of the Monopoly game had been rigged by employees of the company running the game for McDonald's. McD's was actually the victim of the fraud, but the customers, realizing that they'd never actually had a chance to win, targeted McD's for their anger.

  104. Xenocles says:

    @James-

    I'm happy to help, if you ask and if I'm able. But you have to ask me, or else it's stealing.

    I think you're confusing short-term efficiency for long-term efficiency. It's less expensive to buy a $10 pair of shoes than a $300 one – but how many times will you replace the cheap stuff during the lifetime of the expensive ones? But on this subject I have to go back to Kipling:

    And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
    But we've proved it again and again,
    That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
    You never get rid of the Dane.

    If we give people what they want when they threaten us to get it, they might spare us – that time. And it's probably easier to give in than to fight – once. But we're playing a long game here, and all that Danegeld adds up – quickly – over time.

  105. Clark says:

    @wgering
    > Dammit Clark, stop trying to teach me things! I'm just here for the ponies!

    Thanks for the smile, @wgering, it's much appreciated!

  106. Graphictruth says:

    Whether or not one is compassionate, whether one sees Government as an Inherent Good, an Inherent Evil or an utilitarian concept that will be replaced if it doesn't exist or becomes a problem, one of realities of government – or any other enterprises, like say, hamburger delivery systems – is the overhead cost to deliver whatever – be it social services or hamburgers. In both cases, the path to success is to define the highest possible *statistical* outcome for the lowest possible expenditure of time, money and attention.

    Automation and simplification is one answer for each. And while an automated system will not give you a gourmet hamburger or a narrowly targeted social engineering outcome – non-automated systems are unpredictable in achieving either outcome. And with social safety nets and healthcare, perfection is far less important than pervasive effects.

    Automated are more able adapting to change because they simply don't make value judgements. People become invested in things they are paid to do in they way they do it. Now, there is a time and a place for such things – but there are other times when what you need is simply an reliable level of performance.

    To achieve that, you want to eliminate as many such perverse incentives and human decision points as possible. So, any problem that can actually be easily addressed with nothing more complex that writing a cheque should be addressed that way. So long as fraud doesn't rise above 15%, it will cost less to simply shrug it off (or at least, that's generally the private-enterprise standard).

    <a href="http://www.canadiansocialresearch.net/ssrgai.htm"Guaranteed Annual Income Systems all KINDS of intrusive government – and all the rent-seekers that seem qualified to administer them by whatever politician has the ability to appoint cronies.

    The obvious outcome is that you sharply curb the worst aspects of poverty. But the arguable need for economic stimulus in depressed areas – which never seems to occur in the same place or the same time frame as the political will to do it is dealt with by these schemes too. And it eliminates all the politics around the issue.

    That's almost as satisfying as shooting a tax-collector, and with none of the expense or paperwork!

    Congratulations – you just shrunk the government, perhaps by as much as an order of mangnitute. (Oh, you know that Tort Reform you want? We did that in canada – we have a social safety net, so it's reasonable to cap rewards. Guess what that does for liability insurance premiums?)

    Regardless of where you are on the care/harm axis, it seems to me that systems that are aware of human needs and drives and do their best to leverage those urges will obviously work better than the idea of making war on human nature. (Social conservatism is expensive!)

    It's best to recognize that there are certain things that people will do regardless of what we think they ought to or should do and that it's much easier to encourage a positive expression of those urges than to attempt to legislate them out of existence. Prohibition (x2) really ought to have illustrated that.

    Likewise, attempts to legislate poverty out of existence by penalizing the poor should be obviously dumb ideas, regardless of what one feels about whether or not the poor "deserve" consideration. If I feel the need to live in a gated community with high membership fees on top of my property taxes and my Insurance Adjuster agrees with that need – then I'm paying a large, personal tax, and that is, I'm told, "theft." I disagree with the proposition that all taxation is theft, for it presumes that any money is simply lost – that I gain no benefit I could not get more cheaply some other way. And that's nonsensical.

    This is the same reason I think single-payer health care makes sense. There is a HUGE net social benefit to everyone. And if that costs a bit and the taxes go up – it also will statistically add years to MY life, regardless of my ability to pay directly for health care, because of the reduction in pervasive diseases and the risk of desperation-grade violence.

    If I'm an employer I gain lower direct and indirect costs and paperwork and increased workforce stability. So it seems that we should look at what value comes to us for what amount we spend – in other words, very cynically. We absolutely should expect a net benefit to us for having any degree of government, and not cut off our noses to spite our faces. Yes, certainly, the rain will fall upon the rich and poor alike; no doubt those folks I'd prefer to not benefit will – but since everyone does benefit, no-one is particularly advantaged. We simply made life suck a lot less for everyone.

    And that is the Burkian ideal of Government, the greatest good for the greatest number. Currently, it's of almost no benefit to the majority of people – and indeed, a nearly universal curse. But is that because it's an inherently bad idea, or because it's been profitable to exploit, and possible to exploit because the alternative is seen to be worse?

    It also addresses a huge and largely un-addressed issue – that of surplus labour. "Get a job, ya bum" simply doesn't work, and hasn't worked reliably since the seventies. Not when there are a hundred applicants for every spatula.

    So this ALSO replaces minimum wage legislation. And eliminates the greatest need for unions. People can make their own decisions about work and pay – and perhaps discover there are incentives other than the purely economic. For instance, the argument that minimum wages reduce the number of jobs people can offer is true – but also meaningless. There are costs to being employed. those costs must be addressed, somehow. They cannot be handwaved – but they can be allowed for.

    For instance, it will make it economically feasible for entrepreneurs to start out on a much thinner shoestring. Venture capital may be needful, but we never think of the fact that in a start up you require venture LABOUR as well. Labour can afford to take risks – and can also afford to tell a bad boss "to take this job and shove it." Both are enhancements to liberty.

    Subsistence-grade cultures are dirty, dangerous and boring as hell. Anyone who measures real wealth only in terms of how much MORE they have, relative to the poor is an conspicuous idiot, for the fact that you have a Monet on your wall is only enhanced by the fact that the majority of people can afford the time and education to appreciate your excellent taste, without feeling a burning need to slit your throat and pawn it to pay the rent.

    Paternalistic control freaks simply add to the misery, – cf Alabama, Arizona and Afganistan – and people who reject centrally planned economies as being an obviously dumb and unworkable idea should see that it's UTTERLY stupid to apply them to medicine or poverty, for they will fail in exactly the same ways for the same reasons. Unless failure, misery and suffering are the goal.

    It certainly seems to be, looking at what has not worked in the US.

    HMO's – central planning – and not being government has made it even less accountable, not more so. State based social welfare – each with their troupes of bureaucrats and social agendas based in the same grade of reality gifted the very best soviet apperatchnks – could not POSSIBLY achieve any good end, at any reasonable expense.

    Nor is this the fault of the poor, since they have no input at all, regardless of what we might think their input might be worth.

    Remember – no program will be perfect and any program that tells you that it will achieve a perfect outcome on any one axis (never giving ANY money to felons or drug-users, for instance) will almost certainly fail on every other axis due to the expense of giving a damn.

    Giving a damn, negatively or positively, is an overhead cost. You want to save your damns for the rare occasions when you can personally bear the cost and oversee the outcomes yourself.

  107. Philemon says:

    Robert wrote something intriguing.

    "The very educated who founded the libertarian movement are largely the cross-section of idealists that were drawn to communism (true marxism) in my parents age."

    What do you mean, Robert? Be specific, please.

  108. C. S. P. Schofield says:

    Philemon,

    I shall be interested to see what Robert says. I took it to mean that the demographics of the earlier Communist/Socialist crowd and the demographics of the present day Libertarian crown are very similar. I would be tempted to agree off the cuff with the caveat that as the amount of evidence about Communism/Socialism as practiced in the real world rose, the thoughtful intellectuals jumped ship, changing the balance. I don't see that happen ing to the Libertarian movement, yet. But, then, Libertarianism hasn't yet produced anything like the bloody handed stupidity of a Stalin or a Mao.

  109. Caleb says:

    @ Kat

    That link does indeed help clarify the concept somewhat in my mind. As I understand it, "privilege" is "…an edge… a set of opportunities, benefits and advantages that some people get and others don’t." I'll include the excerpt you quoted, starting at "It’s not a bad thing, or a good thing." I find this passage the most rhetorically and logically significant portion of that article. I'll also incorporate by reference yours and Sindelókë's analogies, since I like analogies and find them useful. For the purposes of my response, I'll refer to this material collectively as "definition 1."

    I have two main objections to definition 1 as I currently understand it:

    1) The parameters of definition 1 are too broad to have any useful application in the current discussion.

    Let me explain:

    a)Per definition 1, the word "privilege" creates a subset, for the purposes of categorization, out of the set of phenomena we can loosely call "social relations." That is, out of the many ways we can measure, observe, and categorize human interactions, we choose those with certain characteristics and label them "privilege." As per Sindelókë's post, I understand that "privilege" occurs within, and is dependent on, context. That is, one person may be privileged over another in one situation, institution, or endeavor, but not another. So far as I can tell, the parameters of definition 1 do not limit the types of context which may create privilege.

    b) Within any given context, definition 1 says that any 'opportunity, benefit, or advantage' one person has over others within that context is privilege. It seems that definition 1 has no limiting parameters as to the nature, cause or source of that advantage.

    c) Combining these two observations, we can see that definition 1 is quite broad. As an illustration, I propose a spectrum: On one side, imagine the context of a music recital. You have two persons, both of the same gender, race, age, socio-economic status, skill set, ect. One person has dedicated tens of thousands of hours for the past decade perfecting their skills in their instrument. The other has only put in the minimum practice necessary for proficiency. (Assume no reason for the latter's decision other than whimsy.) On the other side, imagine the context of a criminal trial in 19th century India. Two persons testify against each other. One is a rich male land-owner of English decent. The other is a female of the lowest caste.

    d) Per definition 1, both these scenarios fall within the definition of "privilege." That is, one person has a preexisting advantage toward a positive outcome over the other person in that context. This does not necessarily make definition 1 invalid. Broad, wide-sweeping categories have their uses. But it does work an absurdity when applied in the context of Clark's post. One of the main points of libertarian philosophy is that not all forms of advantage that one person over another is illegitimate, or descriptive, or even useful to analyze. At some point, most people recognize this. I do not pretend to speak for you, but if you think that all forms of "privilege" matter, you are likely in a very small minority. I interpreted Clark's post as advocating the recognition of a type of advantage that right-libertarians typically do not recognize. The problem with your post is that it assumes an agreement on definition of the relevant type of advantage. This is further compounded by the fact that definition 1 lacks any granularity, precision, or method of discernment for placement on this spectrum.

    2) I detect a normative-descriptive bait-and-switch between the definition of privilege and its application.

    Again, let me explain:

    a) According to Sindelókë, privilege is a morally neutral quality:

    Having privilege is like having big feet.

    Extending the analogy, it is not the having of big feet that is bad. It is the stepping on of other's feet that one should avoid. (Implicit in this analogy is the premise that people with big feet are more prone to stepping on other's. This does not necessarily follow, either with the feet or, through analogy, here.) The problem is that in it's application, the mere assessment of an existing "privilege" is a sufficient condition for moral judgement. There is no equivalent of the 'stepping on the foot of others' for those who have privilege.

    b) Combine this argument with my points in section 1 above. How much sense does it make to attach the same moral judgments to both sides of the spectrum? The point of Clark's post is that there are principles extrinsic to the concept of privilege (that right-libertarians recognize) which attach moral meaning to at least some social relations you would define as "privilege." Hence the overlap in common cause, only divided by vocabulary. But the extent of the overlap only extends as far as the extrinsic principles. Unless you articulate some separate principle of moral meaning that we may recognize, this is as far as it goes.

    c) As an aside, one of the applications of the concept of "privilege" which annoys me the most is that of an independent refutation of an opponents' arguments. The existence of a person's privilege does not impact whether or not the argument is sound. For example, your objection here:

    From what I can see, to you, people do not succeed because they are ignorant of what it takes to succeed; or, to put it another way, if they could only have someone in privilege explain to them how succeeding works, they would then Get It and could be successful.

    …makes little sense. Objecting to economically successful persons giving advice on being economically stressful is like objecting to Tiger Woods giving advice on golf. Yes he's "privileged" in the area of golf. That's the point. The fact that we can't all be Tiger Woods, with his particular skill sets, does not invalidate his advice.

    So yes, if unsuccessful people had more knowledge as the habit of successful people, it almost certainly would help more people on the margins be successful. Would they all be 'Tiger Woods' successful? No. But that's not the goal, is it?

  110. James Pollock says:

    "I'm happy to help, if you ask and if I'm able. But you have to ask me, or else it's stealing."

    OK. So? Stealing happens. No society ever invented by man has done away with it. So the question remains, how can we reduce the costs of stealing to the lowest possible level.

    "I think you're confusing short-term efficiency for long-term efficiency."
    Yeah, but I don't.

    " It's less expensive to buy a $10 pair of shoes than a $300 one – but how many times will you replace the cheap stuff during the lifetime of the expensive ones?"
    I suppose that depends on what makes the $300 shoes cost $300, and what makes the $10 shoes cost $10. Sturdy, dependable footwear can be, and usually is, lower in cost than stylish, flimsy footwear. And if the $300 shoes don't fit right, it doesn't matter how long they last. On the other hand, there may well be costs associated with not having the stylish flimsy kind, as any 13-year-old girl can tell you about, at length. Here, you seem to be making two dangerous assumptions: 1) money considerations are the only ones that matter, and 2) all costs of a thing are contained in it's price.

    "If we give people what they want when they threaten us to get it, they might spare us – that time. And it's probably easier to give in than to fight – once. But we're playing a long game here, and all that Danegeld adds up – quickly – over time."

    You're stuck on the notions of threats here, which is kind of leading us afield. You put motor oil into a gasoline combustion engine not because the engine threatens to stop working if you don't (although, admittedly, it will turn a little light or two on the dashboard.) It might be cheaper in the moment to skip adding oil, but it's far more costly in the long run.
    To address the immediate objection, however, there is absolutely nothing at all which says that you can't succumb to a threat when in a period of weakness, and alter your mindset when you regain a position of strength… so when the robber demands your property upon credible threat to your life or bodily health, you may choose to surrender your property at that time and yet still call the police and your insurance agent shortly thereafter. It's a highly complex argument whether or not criminal behavior would be decreased if would-be victims always fought back (I think not… rather, the criminals will just make sure you render you incapable of fighting back when they attack. It makes little difference to the robber if they take your wallet from your hand after threatening you with a weapon vs. just taking your wallet from your lifeless body, but it makes a huge difference to YOU.)

    Sometimes when the peasants rise up, the revolution succeeds, and the wealthy lose their property and their lives. Usually, the revolution fails but it still costs to put it down. Either way, revolution is expensive, disruptive to business, and something generally to be avoided. The method that is least expensive (in the long run) to the people who already have wealth is to give the peasants just enough of the wealth to keep them from considering revolution.

    In short, the "stealing" you object to is just the cost of maintenance of an ordered, stable society… revealing that it isn't me who confuses long-term and short-term thinking, but you.

  111. princessartemis says:

    @Caleb, you say right there that privilege is something you "get". Which means it isn't typically something one acquires by working for it. It is bestowed, in a sense. In your music recital portion of the spectrum, it would rather be a person naturally gifted musically and another who was not, though both work equally hard at their crafts and all else is equal. I don't know many people who would describe musical giftedness in terms of privilege, but it does fit the concept of something a person just has which can make it difficult for them to understand how playing an instrument (let alone in a recital) could possibly be so difficult for anyone…at least, until they gain some perspective and realize not everyone has the same advantage as they. Doesn't make it a bad thing to be musically gifted, especially in a society that values music, but self-awareness that the gift exists and respect for others not so gifted rarely hurt anyone. (I agree with you about the intrinsic issue re: big feet and stepping on toes…so I say self-awareness and respect instead; in my experience, gifts like that do tend to need some awareness and learning respect to go along with them, even though such things are often learned young.)

  112. Kat says:

    @Caleb
    "…makes little sense. Objecting to economically successful persons giving advice on being economically stressful is like objecting to Tiger Woods giving advice on golf. Yes he's 'privileged' in the area of golf. That's the point. The fact that we can't all be Tiger Woods, with his particular skill sets, does not invalidate his advice."

    Here is my point: having privilege itself is not a bad thing. It is what you do with it that determines good or bad. I know this has been said above, but bear with me.

    You chose a very benign example, in that there are no very important consequences in not being able to play golf like Tiger Woods, and in fact you can play golf without Tiger Woods' skillset and won't be hurt by being worse at golf than him. The fact that Tiger Woods gives you advice is of relatively little import.

    Privilege is a problem when it's wielded toxically. What do I mean by that? It might be easiest if I use a real-life example. Going to the birth control debate, men live in a world where they, personally, do not have to worry about reproductive health. Some women also live in this world. Some women, however, do not. We'll call the men and women who do not live this world group A, and the second group of women is group B.

    The difference in experience between these two groups of people makes it very very easy for group A to dismiss the experiences of group B as being less important/less traumatic/less risky than they think it is. The temptation to do this is especially high when they have a vested interest in finding that this is the case. That vested interest is extremely difficult to get the better of; but it biases them towards finding that the experience of group B is not the way group B says it is.

    So imagine that you are a woman who cannot afford birth control, for whatever reason. But you need this birth control to control a disease called endometriosis. The point is not that we quibble about whether this is a realistic scenario or not; I realize that many right-libertarians would say that it is not. Please imagine that this one woman is really, for reasons entirely beyond her control, unable to obtain the pill without some help. (For example, she might not be able to tolerate anything but low-hormone birth control because of a quirk of biology. Low hormone birth control pills cost a great deal more. For example, one popular low-hormone brand costs, on average, $79 for a month's supply. In my area, that same set of pills costs about $120.)

    Group A is not aware of endometriosis is an important factor in the birth control debate, and they have a vested interest in finding that Group B does not need birth ctonrol. It is also easy for them to ignore her protests that it is not about pregnancy; the pill is called birth control, after all. It is also easy for those people to tell her that she ought to be able to afford the birth control on her own and that demanding this birth control is selfish. These people are not necessarily aware of what having endometriosis is like, in the same way that many people are not aware of what Kawasaki's disease, Aarskog syndrome, or Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome is. It is not part of their daily experience in any way. The problem is not that they aren't aware; it's what they do with this unawareness.

    Instead of trying to listen and understand what this woman is saying, let's say these people decide that she is mistaken or lying. They are, after all, able to do this and are interested in doing this. They do not live in a world where endometriosis exists and is important, so they have no ill effects from simply ignoring it. Unlike the woman, who may have any number of things happen to her, up to and including death, they can wield their privilege and not feel when bad consequences come of that wielding.

    But again, this privilege would not be important if the woman were only seeking sympathy. If she were only saying, "Endometriosis stinks," it wouldn't matter if a bunch of people came and argued that endometriosis doesn't actually stink and she's just wrong and silly. She might experience some aggravation in listening to them, but at the end of the day it doesn't truly touch her life in a meaningful way.

    The problem comes when the people above say, "You are wrong/silly/a bad person, and I will make sure that you do not receive the care you need." This does affect the woman's life. It jeopardizes her health.

    That is the problem with approaching something from a privileged standpoint and not realizing that this is what you are doing. You can very, exceptionally easily decide that the other person's experience is the way that you think it is, without actually having any understanding of what that experience is. You, in fact, will be predisposed towards finding that this is the case, because you want to protect your interests. The important thing, I might even say the most important thing, is that you understand that this could be what you are doing. And to take more than just a few minutes trying to understand where that person is coming from, and why that person thinks the way they do. To do this, you have to listen to that person seriously, and engage in a thought process that briefly imagines that the point of view being presented to you is sound and valid.

    In the real-life counterpart of the above example, Sandra Fluke and every other woman was excluded from the hearing about birth control. And, when Fluke tried to discuss endometriosis in a less efficacious setting, many commentators went out of their way to shame her, embarrass her, and minimize her viewpoint, so as to make it difficult for her to share her experience and difficult for other people to even consider it as valid.

    It's true that you don't have to do listen to people's experiences. You do not have to go through the unpleasant mental effort of saying, "What would happen if Group B was right?" and meaningfully thinking about what that would mean. Your life will not be much worse off from simply shrugging your shoulders and continuing to think the way you have always thought. It is your privilege to ignore Group B, because you do not live in Group B's world.
    —————————-
    Now, going back to the above example, I have to point out that the form of privilege you chose is not only exceptionally benign, but largely within someone's control. Very few people would argue that Tiger Woods is a jerk for trying to help people at golf, because becoming good at golf is something a person can practice at.

    My point is that being rich is not entirely within someone's control, and in some cases is totally out of a person's control.

    To give an example: How is someone paying for cancer treatments out of pocket supposed to stay out of debt and keep a good credit rating so that they can start their own business? The thought of "get a loan and start your own business" being useful advice in this situation is laughable. How is the cancer patient supposed to come up with the reserves of energy necessary to run a business, even if they could raise the capital? Yet this solution is one that the cancer patient is supposed to be grateful for?

    A rich person wields their privilege toxically when they say, "These factors are within your control, therefore you should be able to be rich" and then base important policy decisions that have destructive effects on non-rich people's lives on that privileged viewpoint. It's the difference between someone saying, "You ought to be able to be rich, have you tried this?" and saying, "You ought to be able to be rich, but you are not, and it means that you are not trying hard enough. Therefore I will make sure that I deprive you of this benefit, because I think you don't deserve it." The rich person is a jerk if they do this to the cancer patient; but it is something that happens every day, whether the rich person realizes this or not.

  113. Kat says:

    I feel, after some reflection, that I should point out that I don't think Clark is being a jerk here. I'm speaking in a hypothetical sense. So, just in case, anyone (including Clark) thinks I'm trying to call him a jerk, I'm not. :)

  114. Kat says:

    One last thing, I also meant "you" up there in the collective sense; I'm not saying that you personally don't listen to people. ("It's true that you don't have to do listen to people's experiences") And now I really will go off and do something else for a while.

  115. John Kindley says:

    James Pollock writes: " The method that is least expensive (in the long run) to the people who already have wealth is to give the peasants just enough of the wealth to keep them from considering revolution."

    This expresses a if not the fundamental insight of left-libertarianism. Capitalism has a vested interest not only in staving off revolution but in maintaining a pool of poor and desperate labor. It has no interest in eliminating unemployment or in allowing poor people to accumulate enough capital to take or leave the jobs offered by the capitalists or to go into business for themselves. Rather, it aims for the sweet spot described by Mr. Pollock

    The left-libertarian focuses on the manifold ways in which the State "assists" the capitalists in this aim. Indeed, this is the entire reason for the State's existence. To paraphrase Kevin Carson, the State steals from the poor with a front-end loader then oh-so- benevolently doles back what it has stolen with a teaspoon. To paraphrase another left-libertarian writer, Democrats and Republicans differ only in their views of which livestock management techniques will best serve their masters.

    So again, to paraphrase Paine, it is not charity or "care" that the left-libertarian is after, but justice. The State is the Sheriff of Nottingham.

  116. perlhaqr says:

    Rich societies should share wealth with producers in poor societies by allowing free entry to the goods and services they produce, rather than imposing trade barriers on them.

    Heh.

    The somewhat ironic thing is that–despite not actually being an Aspie, but generally having Aspie levels of social communication skills–I've instinctually gravitated towards using this argumentation angle to try and make libertarian points to leftists. Who, not being left-libertarians, then tend to completely reject them anyway. Doh.

    That is to say, I will make the points, and straight up leftists will tend to explicitly reject them as "that solution does not give the government enough power to make people do what I want them to do". Which, if horrifying, is at least honest I suppose. :-/

  117. James Pollock says:

    "I will make the points, and straight up leftists will tend to explicitly reject them as "that solution does not give the government enough power to make people do what I want them to do"."

    That isn't an inherent leftist position. Which isn't to say that it doesn't occur within leftist circles, but so does the not-at-all-the-same idea of "of all the social power structures that shouldn't have this kind of power, the government shouldn't have it the least". Government is at least theoretically responsive to the needs of the trod-upon, while private power structures are not.

    There are only two arguments for substituting someone else's decision-making authority for an individual's… either self-interest ("it's better for me") or "it's for their own good" ("it's better for them"). The popular formulation "it's better for everyone" is just a combination of both. The pure libertarian (I am not claiming that such a creature exists in the wild) stands on principle and maintains that it is never acceptable to substitute someone else's decision-making authority for any individual's. This opinion is demonstrably wrong. The practical libertarian (I am not claiming that this creature exists naturally, either) concedes that, OK, sometimes substitution of someone else's decision-making authority must be substituted for an individual's, but whatever is under discussion is not such a case. The realist with libertarian leanings (This creature I've observed directly) concedes that it is occasionally necessary to substitute someone else's decision-making authority for the individual's, but then examines the claims of people who want to substitute their judgment for other people's very, very carefully.

    Example: stoplights limit the freedom of motion. But the net effect of stoplights is to move traffic more quickly.

  118. bma says:

    “…think that legitimately owned resources that are not currently being used in production can be morally expropriated…”.

    I think you're missing the point here; nobody is arguing that anything that is legitimately owned can be expropriated. Rather, leftists disagree on what it means to be “legitimately owned”, and would simply argue that if it is not currently being used then it *isn't* legitimately owned, and so of course may be expropriated.

  119. Caleb says:

    @ princessartemis

    Which means it isn't typically something one acquires by working for it. It is bestowed, in a sense. In your music recital portion of the spectrum, it would rather be a person naturally gifted musically and another who was not, though both work equally hard at their crafts and all else is equal.

    From what I've seen so far in how the word "privilege" is generally applied, I agree. Part of my point in my post above is that definition 1 contains no limiting parameters along this line. Those who apply the concept of privilege merely assume that it contains some element of "undeserved" bequeathment to the possessor, but they do not define this element. This allows for great irregularity and caprice in its application, usually in favor of ideological dogma.

    I am not opposed to adding an element of undeserved vestment to definition 1, so long as it is well-defined and logically grounded.

    I would caution, however, that doing so must needs conflict with other defintitional elements which Kat seems more concerned with. For example, I can easily imagine a person who gained wealth and power starting from a position of non-privilege, and gaining it despite numerous personal and institutional obstacles. If that person then used their power to harm others as per Kat's concerns, would we still call that privilege?

    …so I say self-awareness and respect instead; in my experience, gifts like that do tend to need some awareness and learning respect to go along with them, even though such things are often learned young.

    This is a fair position. I do not argue against the practices of self-awareness and respect. I do not think those virtues need an extrinsic concept like privilege to recommend their practice, but I will not quarrel with any argument where they are the result.

    @ Kat

    You chose a very benign example, in that there are no very important consequences in not being able to play golf like Tiger Woods

    This was the point of my "spectrum" argument in paragraph 1(c) of my post above. It seems obvious that severity and/or type of harm is an element in the parameters of "privilege," but definition 1 contains so such parameter. I shall henceforth assume some form of limiting clause in the definition (necessarily undefined for the present), and call it "definition 2."

    and in fact you can play golf without Tiger Woods' skillset and won't be hurt by being worse at golf than him.

    This depends on context, as I established in paragraph 1(a) of my post above. If the context is: 'a golf tournament wherein Tiger Woods is your competitor,' and harm is defined as 'losing the golf tournament,' then you are very much hurt by not having Tiger Wood's skillset.

    The temptation to do this is especially high when they have a vested interest in finding that this is the case.

    Your "vested interest" argument raises an interesting point in light of our new definition 2: what if the harm flowing from the "privileged" relationship is bi-conditional?

    To illustrate: Let me simplify Sindelókë's parable of the dog and the gecko. There are now only two temperature settings: one where the dog is comfortable and the gecko suffers, and one where the gecko is comfortable and the gecko suffers. The suffering each party faces in the other's comfort zone is equal. The dog still controls the temperature setting.

    The dog, obviously, has a "vested interest" in keeping the temperature to its liking. The gecko, likewise. Does the fact that the dog controls the setting alone give it a moral duty to disregard its interest? Or are there other factors at play?

    These people are not necessarily aware of what having endometriosis is like, in the same way that many people are not aware of what Kawasaki's disease, Aarskog syndrome, or Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome is.

    Neither I nor anyone close to me suffers from those diseases. For that, I am eternally thankful. But what specific moral burden, either toward action or inaction, does this specific instance of privilege alone place me under? I can think of a near infinite number of things I may do or refrain from doing that will make the lives of those who suffer from these maladies easier. Add to this all those who are plagued by any manner of other hardships. The optimal resolution to each individual's hardships are complex, and often contradictory. How should we resolve this impasse?

    Instead of trying to listen and understand what this woman is saying, let's say these people decide that she is mistaken or lying.

    It seems here you are trying to work in an element of dishonesty or lack of understanding as a part of the definition. Again, fair enough, but this requires a well-defined and logically grounded parameter.

    What of those of us who say (in the context of the birth control debate): "We fully understand your situation, and we understand that you are disproportionally more harmed by the current state of affairs than we are. We also understand that we have a great deal of influence in determining what that state of affairs is, especially relative to you. However, the remedy you are seeking directly conflicts with the rule of law as we understand it, and runs contrary to the political philosophy of limited government to which most Americans at least profess to subscribe."

    Is that statement still per se one of privilege do to the aspect of control/harm/lack of knowledge or experience? Or has the speaker absolved himself of the category by performing ablutions of understanding?

    How is someone paying for cancer treatments out of pocket supposed to stay out of debt and keep a good credit rating so that they can start their own business? The thought of "get a loan and start your own business" being useful advice in this situation is laughable.

    That advice certainly isn't sufficient to a person in that situation, but it is still useful. They can still employ it if and when the cancer treatment funding issue is resolved. The fact that the advice is conditional does not render it useless.

    A rich person wields their privilege toxically when they say, "These factors are within your control, therefore you should be able to be rich" and then base important policy decisions that have destructive effects on non-rich people's lives on that privileged viewpoint.

    There's a lot to unpack here. I won't be able to hit on everything.

    I would point out that limiting the consideration to the wielding of policy significantly narrows the discussion, and brings it more in line with Clark's original post. That privilege may exist and may be wielded in any context is an incredibly broad assertion, and may libertarian types look on its application with skepticism. That certain persons or groups of persons may use their power and influence to write policy that advantages them alone is a libertarian canard. This is what Clark was originally referring to

  120. Caleb says:

    Edit: ^"libertarian archetype" not canard. This is why you always re-read sentences you heavily revise. My kingdom for an edit button.

  121. Al Biglan says:

    Interesting read. One nagging question that keeps coming up in my brain: What about inheritance? If Warren Buffet (for example) dies, should his wealth go to his heirs? This would seem to devolve into Feudalism/Monarchy over time. The heirs did nothing to deserve the wealth. I was hoping the "Crony Capitalism" might deal with that point. The problem is less (in my opinion) about social minorities getting fewer chances, but I've seen way too much "old boys club" in business to believe that Warren Buffet's heirs and some other person's heirs would be treated similarly by real people in the real world (all else being equal between the two people).
    Just wondering aloud…

  122. James Pollock says:

    "The heirs did nothing to deserve the wealth."
    But if he gifts the exact same assets to the exact same people while he is still alive, they have done exactly the same nothing to deserve it. (Of course, as an outsider I don't know for sure if that "nothing" actually represents substantial effort or not.) If he gives those assets to a charity, that charity has also done nothing to to deserve it.

    The point of inheritance is that it is a gift. Because it is a gift, it is of no consequence how much you, or I, or anyone else but the giver feels it is deserved. Mr. Buffett earned his wealth, and is free to do with it as he pleases. I applaud him for the many gifts he has made charitably and to good purpose, but I have no right to demand such of him. Or, um, from my own parents, either.

    (I do object to people who, through virtues of their own combined with luck, become wealthy, but then look down on other people who have substantially the same virtues but lacked the luck.)

  123. Rob Levy says:

    First, I want to say that this a great post and a great discussion. My own perspective is in the territory of left market anarchism, and I agree with Clark's characterization of the differences between right and left non-statist philosophy, and the divide is not all that great.

    The question of privilege is also something I have thought a great deal about. I think the privilege critique of libertarianism, anarchism, and horizontalism in general, is substantial, and while there are good answers, I don't think it that it is a solved problem in theory or in practice. It is a worthy and necessary challenge for non-statists to tackle. I would argue that having a truly compelling answer (at least an actionable one) on this front could easily be a tipping point that would turn the tide of populist activism toward decentralized approaches and away from statism (the main problem with the Occupy Movement for example).

    I don't claim to have the answer that would lead to major progress (honestly I think that the rapid growth of new technologies of cooperation and stigmergy is changing more right now than any conceptual debate will– but ideas matter). But one idea that I think is helpful is to think of privilege within the framework of the theory of social / cultural capital. This is simply a extension of the notion of capital to areas of human experience that are not easily quantifiable with currency or trade. For example being attractive or having a good personality, or being known for willingness to help others, can be forms of intangible social capital, that within some social scope afford advantages. "Privilege" in itself is as Kat and others have said, neutral. Capital is closely related to privilege. Having capital means having some privileged access to some resource.

    What could advance this discussion is to reframe white privilege, for example, as illegitimate capital, no different from physical capital that was taken by force. From that perspective the same angle on voluntaryist redistribution of physical capital deriving from coercion, argued for in http://c4ss.org/content/12961 say, could be applied in social contexts.

    Admittedly this is only a rough sketch of an idea, but I think it can be developed in practical contexts into a more coherent answer.

  124. Xenocles says:

    @James-

    It is grossly inappropriate to compare the actions of a moral agent to the motions of an inanimate machine. The latter has no choice in how it reacts; an engine will always seize up when improperly lubricated, for instance. A person always has a choice, even when his options are limited to the immoral and the otherwise unpleasant. And yes, I do focus primarily on threats in my posts, but that's because the subject of your post that I was responding to seemed to do so as well – "paying for [the poor] to stay out of the way of the productive," as you put it. At the end of the day I have been presented with a threat to make my life unpleasant if I do not satisfy their demands.

    I don't excuse the aggression of others as a simple force of nature because to do so is to deny their humanity.

  125. Julie says:

    Really? We had to have the "privilege" discussion? At least someone brought ladyparts, because I had not been hearing nearly enough about my ladyparts since the election ended. I thought I had left that "privilege" thing behind when I took my last grad lit seminar.

    The thing about assuming that someone has this privilege, which they might wield toxically!, is that most people who like to talk about this assume privilege exists based on superficial and immediate appearances. The rich guy who is telling poor people that such-and-such factors are under their control so they don't have a good excuse for not bettering themselves may very well have started off poor himself; indeed, that seems to me more likely based on personal anecdotal experiences. Assuming that because someone is white, they have some kind of special privilege is –yeah, well, it's racist, although I hate the overuse of that term. You don't know much about a person based on the color of their skin. I'm white, and my skin does not match Band-Aids, either, sad to say; I'm very fair, and Band-Aids are way too beige. Looking at my obtrusive Band-Aids doesn't tell you a thing about whether I grew up in an Appalachian trailer park with meth head parents or what. But the people who like to complain about toxic! privilege make rather large assumptions based on the color of one's skin and one's current socioeconomic status that don't tell you a damn thing about what our lives have been like. But, of course, since you are petitioning the privileged group, whatever it is, for help with some need, however defined, it is not in your interests to understand that group and their mindset. Instead, it is much easier and makes it sound like it has the force of really profound philosophy behind it to label them as 'privileged Group A' and commence with the shaming. To go back to the ladyparts (gotta love 'em!), I see this all the time in arguing about abortion with left-leaning women. When they're arguing (toxically, in my opinion) that pregnancy is this tremendously horrible burden, akin to torture (oh, yes, torture–there are a couple of Atlantic commenters in particular who use that term a lot to describe pregnancy), and I'm saying that strikes me as more than a little hyperbolic, they first want to put me as part of privileged group 'never been pregnant.' But, no, I've been pregnant 3 times. So, then, it's privileged group 'never had anything go wrong with pregnancy.' And wrong again! But it would be so much easier to dismiss me if I were part of the privileged group, however they define it to suit their desire to dismiss me. That's fine on the Internet, because the Internet is nothing if not a haven for whining hypocrites, but in real life, this respect that you demand from the 'privileged' actually also has to be accorded to the 'privileged' (unless they are Kardashians or something, and then it's OK) because you really don't know enough about their circumstances to use privilege as anything other than what amounts to a baseless ad hominem. To use more lit seminar rhetoric, everyone is Other to you–everyone. So you no better understand their perspective and motivations than they do yours, even if they are white men whose skin tone perfectly matches Band-Aids. And dismissing their claims out of hand or demanding that they respect you more than you respect them is fairly …eh, what's the point?

    Nice post, Clark. I would just add that the farm subsidies for the most part are not going to Bud and Betty in Iowa; most of them are going to corporations and landowners in urban areas. I'm not sure it matters, but most of them would therefore be landing in places that vote blue. Not that I think the reds are any better on the cronyism issue, but I've grown up in red rural areas, and I think you'd be surprised how many of those individual Republicans would also prefer to end farm subsidies. Grazing rights on federal land, though, would be an entirely different matter.

  126. SIV says:

    The essential goodness of human nature backed up by the threat of distributed violence.

  127. SIV says:

    ^In response to Lucy re: anarchy^

    I suppose I'll have to experiment with html tags here.

  128. aretae says:

    Magnificent. I'm a practicing left-libertarian freed-markets anarchist that blogs trying to educate right-libertarians on why left-libertarianism is important…This may be the best thing I've ever read on the topic. Thank you. Bravo.

  129. James Pollock says:

    "I do focus primarily on threats in my posts, but that's because the subject of your post that I was responding to seemed to do so as well – "paying for [the poor] to stay out of the way of the productive," as you put it."
    Um, yeah. There's no threat there, except the one you showed up with in your head.

    "At the end of the day I have been presented with a threat to make my life unpleasant if I do not satisfy their demands."
    First off, there's no demands in there, to go with the no threats. Second, a "threat to make your life unpleasant" isn't a threat.

    "I don't excuse the aggression of others as a simple force of nature because to do so is to deny their humanity."
    Yes, well, ignoring the way the universe works because it doesn't satisfy your philosophy is certainly a choice that's open to you. But when you build your society using idealized people instead of real ones, it's probably not going to hold up very well. YMMV.

  130. Xenocles says:

    If you have no right to be in my way, then yes, your presence there is a threat. If your chosen action to make my life unpleasant is something you have no right to do, then yes, your threats to do so are – well, just that.

    I fail to see how believing in free will for all humans is "ignoring how the universe works." At worst, the question isn't settled yet, but it seems like a pretty good working hypothesis that we are free. If our actions are pre-determined, I don't see much point in even talking about it – or in anything else, for that matter.

  131. Xenocles says:

    @Julie- That's an excellent description. The funny thing about privilege theory is that it's unfalsifiable. Even if a person bootstraps herself up from being raised by manatees to being a highly-regarded billionaire genius doctor philanthropist the privilege theorists would still find something from her past to point to as privilege that allowed her to do it but not someone else. Its only use is as an instrument of guilt meant to co-opt logical arguments with emotional appeals.

  132. Clark says:

    @aretae:

    > Magnificent. I'm a practicing left-libertarian freed-markets anarchist that blogs trying to educate right-libertarians on why left-libertarianism is important…This may be the best thing I've ever read on the topic. Thank you. Bravo.

    I strongly appreciate that you took a minute to say that. Thank you!

  133. AlphaCentauri says:

    When you talk about privilege, it's important to understand that it isn't just something that accidentally happens to some people. Yes, you don't get to choose your parents or their educational levels; you don't get to choose your race or gender. You don't get a choice in what the history of this country was in favoring or suppressing your ancestors.

    But we focus on those things and ignore the things that we do voluntarily to maintain the status quo, to make sure that those in power stay there. For instance, we have free, voluntary public education. But we have tied the funding of that education to the value of the homes in the locality where the children live. Wealthy suburban school districts spend time doing surveillance on bus stops looking for children who don't really live at the addresses their parents gave when they registered. The fact that grandma pays property taxes in the district doesn't even get them into the suburban school if the child lives with mom in the city. So we are actively making sure that the children of the privilege continue to enjoy better opportunities. We're good at saying the money doesn't really make a difference, but the fact that we're fighting so hard to keep the funding separate refutes our argument.

    Then there is standardized testing. We may be dismayed that our children are not achieving as much as kids in Finland (and seriously, how do their kids learn to write English better than ours??), but our standardized tests don't compare them to Finns. They compare them to kids from other districts in our own country. No matter how much poor children might achieve, the wealthy parents will respond with alarm if their children are not performing "above average." They will increase resources to their own schools so that the poor children are once again "below average."

    It works the other way, of course. If a child from a poor or working class family wishes to move into the professional class, she has to make decisions. Does she want to abandon her connections to the class her family occupies? Does she want to change her accent, and be considered "stuck up" by her family, or does she want to try to make her way in the suburbs with an accent they associate with people who are aggressive, dangerous and uneducated? (People make very visceral judgments based on accent without even realizing they are doing it; it runs much more deeply than race bias, I believe.)

  134. princessartemis says:

    @Caleb,

    For example, I can easily imagine a person who gained wealth and power starting from a position of non-privilege, and gaining it despite numerous personal and institutional obstacles. If that person then used their power to harm others as per Kat's concerns, would we still call that privilege?

    I don't think it is at all possible to consider the harm a person may do by wittingly or unwittingly using their position in society and call that "privilege". That does violence to the word itself. A person who has worked hard to get where they are despite many obsticles may certainly indeed be privileged by society (deservidly so–they worked hard for what they have) but what they do in that position can't properly be called privilege. I think it is also fair to say the privileges granted to someone who has done such work may or may not be proportionate to the work done, but that's a bit much for one word.

    This relates to the point where the term and I part ways. I find the idea useful as a tool to try to understand others points of view, but once the word starts to be front-loaded with more nebulous ideas of harm and power, I find it ceases to be of much use as a tool.

    It is useful to keep in mind that society grants privileges to some that it does not others, and that that can make it difficult for the people who haven't been given the privileges. It's not useful to conflate that with the harm people can do (not will do!) by not being aware of them.

  135. James Pollock says:

    "If you have no right to be in my way, then yes, your presence there is a threat. If your chosen action to make my life unpleasant is something you have no right to do, then yes, your threats to do so are – well, just that."
    Why do you keep seeing things that just aren't in what I originally wrote? Or is it adding things to what YOU originally wrote? Either way, you keep inventing conditions that weren't already there.

    "I fail to see how believing in free will for all humans is "ignoring how the universe works.""
    I fail to see what "free will for all humans" has to do with anything under discussion. The problem is that you seem to think that "all humans" will choose to adhere to your philosophy, rather than make their own, particularly under severe stress. The "way the Universe works" is that people faced with starvation will steal. People faced with death by exposure will enter shelter by force. The common law recognizes these facts, why can't you? You even seem to think that people who are starving won't take to the streets to beg (or if they do, they're THREATENING YOU!

  136. Caleb says:

    @ princessartemis

    That makes perfect sense to me.

  137. Xenocles says:

    Here is what you wrote on 28 December, along with what you responded to:

    "We just don't think the government should be taking money from those who produce so that they can give it to those who do not. Charity is a great thing, but not when done at gunpoint."

    Then don't think of it as charity; think of it as paying for them to stay out of the way of the productive.

    Still think I'm making up this perception of a threat? You don't deny the use of a gun to extract these payments. You openly admit that these payments go toward keeping people "out of the way." What would put them in the way? From this and the tenor of your other posts I can only conclude that you're either talking about active protests, which are permissible to a point (that point being the edge of private property or the interference with permissible activity in the commons) and don't really need to be made to go away, or actual threats of violence, whether it's getting in my face and demanding money or threatening to damage my property or person unless I satisfy some need of theirs. This latter field includes the threat of "revolution," which you have mentioned directly. Presumably this revolution would aim to take away much of my property – which I certainly think I'm entitled to by virtue of my labor. If it's like most revolutions throughout history, I can expect the revolutionaries to come after me for some sort of people's justice. So I'm sorry, but if you seriously believe I'm making up these perceived threats one of us needs to be congratulated on our discovery of alien life since we are clearly not from the same world.

    Frankly, you're arguing dishonestly. I have been very careful to qualify my statements with phrases about things "you have no right to do" and the like, which should obviously exclude things like panhandling. You have a right to ask someone for anything; you do not have a right to hold him for ransom, and his life is not yours to sell back to him. If you have a serious objection to these precepts, let's talk.

  138. Graphictruth says:

    @Xenoclese, arguing that since people who have free will can reasonably be expected to *choose* to not expect scoobs from him because he *chooses* to view any such expectation to be a "threat."

    I fail to see how believing in free will for all humans is “ignoring how the universe works.” At worst, the question isn’t settled yet, but it seems like a pretty good working hypothesis that we are free. If our actions are pre-determined, I don’t see much point in even talking about it – or in anything else, for that matter.

    "Free will" – I do not think this idea means what you think it means.

    If I may speculate rudely, I think you may have it confused with "rational choice theory," – which would also be wrong, but in a different way. As in you think it rational for people to avoid taking stuff from the pile that is labeled "Mine! Do not touch!" because you will defend your pile.

    Whether or not this is a rational choice depends on how big that pile is, and how much of it people want more than they fear you. We shall courteously ignore the rational utility of building such a huge pile in the first place. Not that I have a right to object – but I have no responsibly to protect you from your own foolishness, either.

    Those who assume that free will has all that much to do with rational choices has spent little time associating with either the homeless alcoholic or the stockbroker.

    I really don't have a hard and fast political view; I do tend to check the conservative view of a situation first, because if it ain't broke, don't need fixin'. But more importantly, I believe in consequential ethics. In other words, doctrine must result in a predictable good outcome; one that results in improvements that on the whole are worth whatever contribution of value – be it money, time or blood – that result in "the greatest good for the greatest number."

    I assert that "because history." Because when policy is crafted to meet the goals and ambitions of the few at the expense of the many, sooner or later, the many decide that a different boss could be, at very least, no worse, and that it would certainly be satisfying to see you hang from a lamp-post while toasting your demise with the contents of your wine-cellar. I NEVER bet on the great mass of people choosing a long term small benefit over a short term emotional catharsis. I studied marketing and persuasive speech, and P.T. Barnum is the great sage of my people.

    This is of course all a matter of degree. But generally, large structural wealth and power inequities leave the poor and powerless with little to do, much time to think of why that is, and absolutely no investment in preserving the current state of affairs.

    Or in other words, if you share none of the rewards, you assume all of the risks. Now certainly having all of the power over the legal and social controls may permit you to keep those risks at bay for a very long time – so long as nothing comes along to disrupt your influence and control.

    But… But… Internet! These days, it's really hard to keep the help from talking to one another. Hell, you can't even deny them the ability to learn to read, write and do sums. Goddam radicals, putting up free textbooks and whole online universities! Sodom and Gomorrah!!

    The chaos we have seen in the world over the last decade or so has not been kind to the pundit class; it's not been the flowering of peace and loving-kindness and the withering of the oppressive state that the Left would have wished. It's certainly not the crystalline wet dream of the Authoritarian Right. And any great flowering of responsible individualism is, as always, met with a shower of sharp rocks; usually led by the self-styled leaders of whatever cult of supposed individualism that feels slighted by those who are differently individuated.

    The very evident thread of social conservatism and outright moralism among right-leaning Libertarians underlines this. (A factor in the unspoken assumptions that Chris started to examine in this most interesting post.)

    But for another example, try looking like a hippie while pointing out that a properly designed nuclear reactor is – taken over the whole production and distribution chain – competitive with solar power in terms of environmental impact. There ARE designs that really do fail safe, we just don't build them, because then people would realize the older designs are unacceptably risky. But being able to prove this as a fact is about as useful as being able to prove that those rocks are real and that carbon dating works to a young earth creationist.

    In other words – and this is a very broad observation – is that humans have this touching assumption that if people only had a Choice and were Exposed To the Truth, they would of course choose, of their Own Free Will, to be… well…

    Why can't a woman be more like a man?
    Men are so decent, such regular chaps;
    Ready to help you through any mishaps;
    Ready to buck you up whenever you're glum.
    Why can't a woman be a chum?

    Noted feminist Alan Jay Lerner

    The current communications revolution has made it impossible for the various cultures to politely ignore one another. One used to have to make some effort to find out the other perspective. Now it shows up on your newsfeed. And while that is a Very Good Thing on the whole, it's entirely unwelcome to those who need that perspective the most, and their flailing about has led to the current state of affairs. Almost every reflex of such people is to grab, shoot, assert authority, put up the barricades, deny, burn and smash.

    It's not working. And while discussions such as this are fun, and useful in the long term, I observe that when you are up to your ass in alligators, it may be an illustration that the projected profit said to be realizable from draining the swamp may have been overstated.

  139. Xenocles says:

    You've got me all wrong, GT. I believe that we can choose our actions freely, and that an action's moral value is independent of its utility. It would be just as wrong for an army to attack me as it would for a quadriplegic even though the former has a much better chance of success. There is a parallel mechanism of incentives going on, but that process has no bearing on the moral question.

    I insist that people choose the morally right thing even when they assess that they can get a benefit from doing the wrong thing. (I was going to say "expect" where I said "insist" but thought better of it.) The ability to make that choice exists – or at least appears to exist – so I infer that free will exists and I treat people accordingly. We see this all the time in our literary heroes – Jean Valjean (since I have Les Miserables on the brain) turns himself in even though the rational choice is clearly to let an deluded but innocent man go to jail.

    Now, it so happens that much of the time the "rational" thing to do is also the virtuous one. But they are not inextricably linked. I always have a right to resist, even when it doing so will lead to my sure destruction.

  140. Graphictruth says:

    @Xenocles : you have ME all wrong. I am perfectly willing to admit that the Visigoths and Vandals are acting *immorally* – even if I have to stretch the concept of morality to fit both of us.

    The point is that if I point this out to a Visigoth or a Vandal, in the expectation that they OUGHT to then Stop Immediately, I am fucking delusional. As I recall, Attila the Hun thought such delegations to be *particularly* rife with potential amusement.

    This is why I prefer consequential ethics to Judeo-Christian morality. It allows me to maintain very high ideals for myself – while not expecting over-much of my fellow beings. I more rarely trip over the oughts and shoulds on my way to the slit-trenches of reason. Morals and ethics are useful when we use them to make our OWN decisions. When we project our ideas of what other people should do and commit offensive botherations upon those who fail to comply, or just as foolishly, trust implicitly that Right-Thinking People will of COURSE act like Proper Christians – well, in that direction lies rather a lot of truly interesting history.

    I note that the more morality is important to a person, the more it seems to apply to what others are doing *wrong* and the less it has to do with what they are doing right; in either case it seems almost entirely detached from cause and effect.

    That is to say, if you are relying on your morality to be predictive of what people will *actually do* or being anything close to the process by which they arrive at some decision that may impact your dignity, freedom or pocket – well, I think this last election is illustrative of the reliability of that particular occult practice.

  141. Xenocles says:

    But I don't rely on any morality to predict how people will behave. I simply rely on my morality to guide my choices in how to react. At the end of the day all I can really control is my choices anyway.

  142. James Pollock says:

    "Still think I'm making up this perception of a threat?"
    Yeah. You seem to be feel threatened by everything.

    "if you seriously believe I'm making up these perceived threats one of us needs to be congratulated on our discovery of alien life since we are clearly not from the same world."
    Say "Hi" to your friend Elliott for me, then go home.

  143. James Pollock says:

    "I insist that people choose the morally right thing even when they assess that they can get a benefit from doing the wrong thing. "
    Alas, some people are presented with situations that have no unambiguously "morally right thing" to choose.

    Hmm. Steal and feed my children, or respect the property of others? I choose the morally right thing and will feed my children.

    The part of the formulation I quoted above that you left out is "and I insist that everybody else use MY ideas of what constitutes 'morally right things'.
    You're perfectly within your rights to make demands like this, as stridently as you'd like, but pardon me if I ignore the squealing when the world fails to conform to your demands.

  144. Kat says:

    @Caleb:

    I'm not really interested in having the argument about whether trying to watch one's privilege and compensate for it is a good goal or a bad goal, for several reasons. #1 is that I've had the argument in about a billion other places on the internet, and I really doubt that either of us will get anything other than annoyance out of the discussion. (We don't know each other, and that is a significant barrier that I don't think can be surmounted in this case.) My goal in this discussion was to raise points for Clark to think about. Not to browbeat him or you for not feeling the same way I do, and not to be browbeaten because I disagree. If you feel like they're points that bear thinking on, then think on them. And if you don't, then feel free–without any guilt and hopefully without a lot of rancor–to think that I am full of shit, entitled, wrongheaded, etc. etc. etc. Really. That's okay. I'm a stranger on the internet, and you don't have to please me, and I don't have to please you.

    #2 is that the subject of privilege and morality has been discussed in lots of other places–my suggested reading is http://www.scu.edu/ethics/publications/iie/v8n3/welfare.html since it covers the case both for and against and has further suggested reading.

    #3 is that this thread feels like it's getting rather heated, and I think I helped push it towards that way. So let me apologize for getting heated, and I promise that I have been and will be thinking about the points you have made.

    #4 (and probably most important) is that I have just caught the flu from my daughter and need to go to bed. :)

    My apologies for bowing out of the discussion prematurely.

  145. Kevin says:

    Regarding Clark's article, the problem is that left-libertarians are first equalitarians and only incidentally libertarian. Their moral framework makes them far more prone to abandon liberty whenever they cannot prove to themselves that it results in a more equally distributed outcome (which most people cannot do). As such, they seem to be unstable allies to those libertarians who actually hold liberty to be the superior moral.

    Milton Friedman once said: "A society that aims for equality over liberty will end up with neither equality nor liberty. A society that aims first for liberty will not end up with equality, but it will end up with a closer approach to equality than any other kind of system that has ever been developed."

    I think left-libertarians take Friedman's admonition to heart, so they include liberty, but they are still aiming for equality and will thereby be led off course.

  146. Caleb says:

    @ Kat

    I personally have no hard feelings. (can't speak for anyone else)

    Feel better.

  147. Joe Pullen says:

    It’s human nature to classify and label things. But misuse is a problem with all labels. We need words to communicate, but misuse of words will foster miscommunication followed by misunderstanding. What I really like about what Clark has done here, is that he has defined not only the labels, but the key words used in his post. For example, let’s say I’m doing a sales presentation to a customer and they say “We’ve had problems with your company in the past.” One might ordinarily think crap we’re screwed we will never get this customer on our side but the problem is there is no way to know what the customer really means. For example I could dissect that statement and ask 4 clarifying questions to make sure I understand (1) who is we (2) what problems can you give me some examples (3) who at my company did they deal with (4) how far in the past can you tell me when this occurred? The answers to those questions could easily change the meaning of those words.

    The policies advocated by just about every political group be it left, right, or centrist might appear complex but I believe they are more easily understood if by focusing on the central issue, political power. Power is the prize they compete to control. They merely disagree about the use of that power.

  148. Dreampod says:

    I have to say that I really enjoyed this piece. Despite being a non-libertarian I found that the clarity with which you explored your experiences both educated me and left me with more respect for both left-libertarianism and right-libertarianism (which is particularly shocking for right since I generally view it as about as desirable as ebola).

  149. This is one of the most intensely interesting posts I've read on Popehat. I have to stop reading for now, because I am employed by a major corporation and my boss will not like it if I spend my time at work this way. That doesn't displease me – it is a consequence of my own active decision to be an employee rather than self-employed – but it does limit me. And that brings us to the central point of my comment: it's all about the Golden Rule.

    I am a strong believer in meritocracy and the Golden Rule… and all that those imply. If our society is going to be a true meritocracy, we must ensure that all of everyone's children have something as close as possible to a fair chance to improve themselves. And to follow the Golden Rule we need to care for all of our dependents: sick, disabled, elderly and so on.

    I'm not in favour of coddling, but it seems to me that those parameters require that we have fairly strong programs in place to ensure decent shelter, food, education and medical care for everyone who is (or has in the case of the elderly or is going to be in the case of the young or can't in the case of the disabled) making a real effort to fend for themselves.

    So… a single drug-addicted welfare mom with four kids by as many daddies is a conundrum. We can provide shelter and clothing and food and care and schooling, and statistically there's a high chance that her kids will grow up to be drug-addicted criminals and/or welfare cases in their own right. Or we abandon the mom, take the kids away and provide them with all the same stuff… and statistically their chances are still crap.

    What to do, what to do? We'll argue forever where to draw the line, but that's OK because the message is clear nonetheless: the only thing we can do to give meritocracy and the Golden Rule a decent chance is to provide a level playing field:
    1) State funding for schools and hospitals. Health care and education are not options. But no state funding for private schools or hospitals: that's for secular institutions only, where access is open to all.
    2) State funding for government and defence. These are all necessary to protect the minorities from the majority and vice versa, to keep us all in line and to keep us safe in a dangerous world. (Sound obvious? Think again! There are a lot of government-sponsored "entitlement programs" that the right likes to quietly keep off the table.)
    3) State subsidies for transportation and communications, to ensure that people have the information and mobility they need to make the best of themselves.
    4) State subsidies for shelter and food for those who need it – here I'm talking about dependents with no other means of support, such as children of the indigent and elderly without funds. This would all have to be means-tested, of course.
    5) Limits on all of the above, in order to stop the whole thing from becoming a burgeoning, expanding welfare state. Among other things, it's very important to make sure that welfare systems use positive feedback to encourage people to move off – taking away every dollar a welfare recipient earns just teaches them not to work!

    This is getting way too long. Back to work! (Sound of self-wielded whip in backgroud.)

  150. Random Encounter says:

    There's a wonderful and terrible thing about living in a place and time where anyone, however humble their beginnings, can become one of the top elites.

    It is easy to forget that while anyone can win, the system is structured in such a way as to make it impossible for everyone to win, no matter how well motivated and hard working they are.

    And that's not necessarily a bad thing, in and of itself. But it means that we need to ask more of those who do win, because it isn't because they are morally superior to all the losers, but because they were good enough and worked hard enough and were in the right place at the right time with the right people.

    Yes, I said it, you were lucky. I was lucky. I've made some craptastic decisions in my time, and I'm still pretty well off. In a different time, or a different place, I could easily be stuck rotting in a gutter somewhere because nobody would do business with me because of my gender, skin color, accent, or just because they didn't like my grandparents.

  151. Shane says:

    Why does the mere definition of success equate with wealth? Why do we shake our head when we see Donald Trump in all his glory, but secretly ascribe to him being "successful" and wish for his success? The left sees him as lucky and right wants to emulate him. Sad.

    What I really don't understand is that people do not see that the government is force, naked and simply. Anything that the government does (with the exception of standards) is backed with a gun. No corporation has this power (unless it seizes the machinations of the government). For all that advocate government power ask yourself who pays for the programs that you hate i.e. TARP, Planned Parenthood. And as Rand said we descend into the petty bickering of special interest groups trying to get their "slice" of the "pie". I find the distinction between left and right as to be ridiculous and the only usefulness I see is that says generally I am interested in civil liberties, or I am interested in economic liberties. And this not very accurately.

    When you have a great idea for a government program remember no matter what that program is that you will wield the power of the state to force certain actors to pay for it whether they like it or not. We as human beings have a lot of resentment and animosity for the perceived wrongs done to us and we will punish any representative of that group e.g. the rich, homosexuals etc. Ever notice that the most ardent advocates of government force are the very people that that person despises. Take my favorite asshat of the century, Rush Limbaugh. His rants on drug decriminalization sickened me. And then it turns out Mr. Limbaugh has a little problem of his own. Could he not see his own addiction? No he tried to project the solution outward and in this process he hurt many people. As a "libertarian" I recognize this tendency in myself. And I really don't want force on others my own stupidity. So I let you be free to make the mistakes that I know that you will make, and free to be the flawed stupid human that I am.

    Sorry Clark I am P not J and it is hard to make coherent my ideas :P

  152. James Pollock says:

    "When you have a great idea for a government program remember no matter what that program is that you will wield the power of the state to force certain actors to pay for it whether they like it or not."

    Some programs are self-sufficient, or are potentially self-sufficient if administered with that intention. (For example, the Bonneville Power Administration has paid of its original capital investment and has been returning profits to the Treasury for some time now.)

    Sometimes the fighting is over the income stream, not the cost sink.

  153. Kevin says:

    @James Pollock: The economics for entities like the BPA or TVA are complex because they operate under different laws, and receive and provide subsidies in unusual ways. The bottom line is that if the coercive power of the government were not used, they could just be independent non-profits.

    Also, regarding your previous argument, given that we must pay some price for security and that charity in some ways ameliorates our security:

    (1) Is it necessary to compel charity? Do legal entitlements and charity both have the same effect on the recipient?

    (2) Do you believe that the person who robbed your truck would not have done so if they received more government entitlements?

    (3) Do you believe the federal government is efficient in providing for our security?

  154. @Kat:

    Thank you profoundly for your comments in this thread. Your input here has been one of the most articulate explanations of privilege I've come across. You've really shown the human reality that is frequently minimized by the terms in which this discussion is all too often held — a way of speaking that tries to pass itself off as more rational, but it actually built on a stubborn insistence on not seeing many of the key facts. And you've done it with empathy for people who disagree with you in a way that both makes your case more convincing and is a model of civility.

    Thank you.

    @Clark — I'd really like to hear what you think about Kat's comments now that you've had a few days to think about them.

  155. jj says:

    It seems to me that libertarianism leads to crony capitalism, a gilded age, boom and bust, and plutarchy. You know, like right now in the USA.

    Of course, the reason, and the fallacy of libertarianism, is that people are unwilling or unable to understand that it is very, very much in their own long-term self-interest to help others in need, and to have an organized, all-ecompassing social support system.

    There is no religious or mystical basis I'm proposing, I'm saying that supporting civil rights of all kinds is REQUIRED in a civilized society, and that having food, shelter, and essential medical care is REQUIRED for the stability of a 1st world economy.

    The state of ours, right now, shows that by its absense.

  156. Clark says:

    @jj:
    > It seems to me that libertarianism leads to crony capitalism, a gilded age, boom and bust, and plutarchy. You know, like right now in the USA.

    Clearly from the lack of regulation after 1950, yes?

    See also this with different, yet also huge, numbers.

  157. Davey says:

    Ken,

    There's a tension in all of this that has to do with morality. I suggest that this may be your "third axis". My liberal arts electives in college were in economics and I consider myself very conservative on all fronts.

    This fundamental in issue with libertarian thought is that Adam Smith's "invisible hand" is (literally) amoral. While a free-market economy very efficient at allocating resources, it doesn't address the 'rightness' or 'justice' of those decisions. Further, the Law is probably amoral. I haven't given that as much thought. Morality has become the domain of government because society also fails to address the issue. This territory was staked out a long time ago – witness the Old Testament biblical law and the Code of Hammurabi (if Babylonian law carries less baggage than citing Judeo-Christian law.)

    For examples:
    1. I believe that it was 'right' for the government to create the Mine Safety and Health Administration and protect coal miners.

    2. I also believe that that OSHA is a worthwhile activity of government.

    3. I also believe that the government should have a role in protecting and restoring the environment

    The shouting starts when we start debating the details and the proper level of government intervention to compel entities to be 'good'. On one hand, some libertarians would command government to stay out of the discussion. On the other hand is the Nanny State that we seem to be leaning toward.

  158. Random Encounter says:

    Regulation that generates massive paperwork is doing regulation wrong.

    You need simple regulations with bright, clear lines to do it right.

    Saying that you can't have investment services and commercial banking in the same business is good, it is trivial to verify and easy to enforce.

    Saying that a company has to ensure that their investment services aren't adversely impacting their commercial banking services and that they have to submit a half-ream report signed by all the officers of the company every year to prove it is doing it wrong. It is provably impossible to enforce.

    Funny how all recent regulations (sponsored by members of both major political parties) fall into the latter category, isn't it?

  159. Corkscrew says:

    if I can't keep a factory in reserve against market fluctuations, then I am forced to run it at some minimal level in order to keep the squatters at bay, and that costs money and destroys overall societal utility

    I'm actually in favour of squatters' rights. (Bear with me…)

    Keeping property empty carries a negative externality. It forces people to build more property from scratch, rather than re-using existing buildings – this costs more, inhibiting economic activity, and may cause unnecessary environmental damage. In built-up areas, it's a great way to destroy the network effects associated with metropolitan life – this makes cities more expensive to live in (for example because people have to travel farther to work), and tends to lead to urban blight.

    As such, it would be entirely appropriate on economic grounds for the government to levy a "hot potato" tax on unoccupied properties, in the same way that it taxes other damaging activities. However, as with every tax, this would create extra bureaucracy and probably have unintended consequences. It would be a pain to work out what the tax should be on a mansion vs a factory vs a shed.

    There is a cheaper, simpler alternative: squatters. By occupying buildings, and particular by selectively occupying economically-useful buildings, squatters effectively impose a tax on harmful under-use of land. It's a bit random compared to a tax, but it's a hell of a lot more efficient. It also reduces welfare costs – it's an alternative to setting up poorhouses and other PR nightmares.

    This approach will sit poorly with many libertarians, because we tend to be all about inviolate property rights. But the reason we're all about property rights is because they're an excellent way of encouraging economically useful behaviour. When they cease to do that, they cease to be excellent.

    For example, no-one (that I know of) thinks we should have infinite-term patents. Twenty years is considered long enough, and indeed many libertarians have resisted term extensions to patents and copyright as a cronyist land-grab. IMO, granting people rights to land "until they leave it abandoned for ages" falls into the same category.

    I haven't actually battle-tested this argument on any libertarians before, so I'd be interested to know what you make of it.

  160. Kevin says:

    @Davey: Given that the "invisible hand" is simply the aggragate of individual cases of free exchange where, by definition, all the parties involved benefit, I'd say that it begins on the moral side. Liberty is a moral good.

  161. Still seems to be a lot missing. For Instance, I'm a social libertarian (do what you like as long as it doesn't harm others) but anything but libertarian on economic issues (being hands off on companies doesn't work – time and time again they abuse our trust)

  162. Shane says:

    To all on the side of government. The only replacement for free action is coerced action. Period. To those who believe that coerced action is superior to free action, you are the hand of coercion in your world. Never would you be on the other side of coercion, because you wouldn't like others to force you to do what you don't want to do. That pretty much settles the morality of it.

    @Kat, I don't know if Clark will respond if he does he will probably make a better argument than I, but this frustrates me so I am going to say something. The band-aid on my arm marks me with supposed privilege, but under an abusive man hating alcoholic mother, I am not sure what privilege that is. The teachers in school hated me, because I had no structure at home. No father, single mother. You may not be familiar with the area I grew up. I lived in a small towns version of the inner city, our house was sided with asbestos shingle and and coated with lead paint. Our basement flooded regularly and the carpet was never changed. My bedroom was in the basement. The school I went to wasn't particularly nice, but not run down. But that really didn't matter because I had my own problems that weren't anything that a school could solve. I saw very quickly that in the town that I was in even though we all could use band-aids that didn't stand out, there were haves and have nots. I was a have not. I was on the school lunch program most of my growing up, but that did not keep me from being hungry. Because for my mother a 5th of vodka was far more important than an excitable child that she didn't want. It didn't take me long to figure out in my high school years that the town I was living in would not have work for me and if it did it would destroy me trying to do it. So at 17 I left. I moved 500 miles away to a city that I didn't know and no one in that city that I knew. This to me was far more safe than staying were I was at. And this is the whole fucking point of all of this. If something isn't working don't stand and complain, do something, don't wring your hands and tell everyone else what should be done. The thinking that I rail against is something I call "Failure of Imagination". No one in this world owes you anything. You might think that they do but you are wrong. No one feels sorry for you, even if they say they do. I learned over time how to fend for myself. At this point you will say that the individualist attitude doesn't work and you are right, but you are selling a package deal. The power of Rand's writings is that she shows how to balance the individual vs. society. How is this done? Trade. Pure and simple. I trade for the things that I need I co-operate and work with you and others to get things that I need. I don't blame you for my shitty upbringing and justify theft because I wasn't privileged. I used to do that and what I found was that it is a waste of time. @Kat all of your arguments will center around how to get back what was taken from you. I say embrace your lack of privilege, I say you are better off with out it. Why? because you have learned how to think around problems, not just throw money or power at it. You are free to move through this world if you can escape the ghetto, trailer etc. You can more fully empathize with the decisions others make because you have been faced with shit choices that you have had to make.

    I am libertarian because I believe all should be allowed to succeed or fail. You are given one life and what you do with it is up to you and nobody can stop you from living it.

  163. James Pollock says:

    'The economics for entities like the BPA or TVA are complex because they operate under different laws, and receive and provide subsidies in unusual ways. The bottom line is that if the coercive power of the government were not used, they could just be independent non-profits."
    I disagree. The federal government owns a lot of things, and can generate revenue from the ownership of some of those things. The sovereign power (as opposed to the coercive power) allows the government to engage in some operations that ordinary corporations would not be able to indulge in. Yes, coercive power may also be used (eminent domain, for example, to dislodge property rights, but not all government revenue is derived from inherently coercive action).

    "(1) Is it necessary to compel charity?"
    No, some societies do not. Ours is better.

    "Do legal entitlements and charity both have the same effect on the recipient?"
    Of course not. Charity is offered to those who have some trait or traits that provokes empathy… but some people who need public assistance are, for whatever reason, unpopular.

    "(2) Do you believe that the person who robbed your truck would not have done so if they received more government entitlements?"
    Hard to say, as I don't have any information about them other than where they were and what they did on a particular day. I make some assumptions (and so do you). Under those assumptions, I'd guess that if they had enough government assistance to purchase sufficient meth they'd probably stay home and just do meth. The question of whether this is a desirable goal (for them, for the government, or for me) are open questions. That's not the point. The idea that all property crime would be eliminated if government support rises is a canard. The point is to find the "sweet spot" where the smallest amount of government support removes the largest amount of property crime. This leads to a tangent of discussing whether or not the costs of police, court, and prison for drug addicts who break the law to support their habits would be better spent just buying cheap, pharmaceutical-grade drugs for addicts.
    Libertarianism (among other philosophical constructs) is built on the theory that people are rational, and make rational decisions in their own self-interest. This is simply not universally true.

    "(3) Do you believe the federal government is efficient in providing for our security?"
    Our security from what? The answer to that question strongly influences the answer to this one. As does the operative definition of "efficient". All operations have waste, and when you reach the size of the federal government, the waste is considerable in absolute terms. Large corporations also have waste, the difference being that they only have to tell the board of directors, while the government is responsible to the entire population, so you hear about the government waste. The question of relative effeciency varies widely from program to program and from timeframe to timeframe. As an example of something that worked efficiently, I'd point to the Glass-Steagall Act. As an example of things laden with waste, take your pick of anti-terror operations, or the Iraq War. Of course, some people's perspective of some programs is that they are 100% wasteful, but that's not a helpful discussion… I'd say that efficiency is measured against "did this do what it was intended to do", and not "was this thing something we should have done".

  164. James Pollock says:

    "To all on the side of government. The only replacement for free action is coerced action. Period."
    What do these things have to do with each other? Is your theory that only government coerces action? That government only acts coercively? Both?

    "To those who believe that coerced action is superior to free action"
    I don't think you'll find many people who carry this opinion.
    I think you'll find that the "pro government" forces believe that government provides a countervailing force for forces that already exist in nature or in the structure of capitalist society or both.

    Exception: There are a small number of cases where coerced action actually IS better for the person, who therefore voluntarily places themself under the coercive power. Examples: Traffic signals, sports referees, courts of law. I think you'll find that the "pro government" folks argue that government (or human society in general) is a generalized case of this at work. Humans, like the other primates, seem to be geared for communal society.

    "That pretty much settles the morality of it"
    Well, if you make some pretty strong unstated assumptions about morality, anyway.

  165. Kevin says:

    I look forward to Clark's response to Kat as well.

    Kat makes a good argument for the value of charity, but that does not imply that charity should therefore be compelled by government, which is the political issue here. Libertarians are for effective charity, just not the compulsion of charity.

    For example, did the teacher who cosigned Kat's first apartment do so under duress? Would the teacher have done so for anyone? Or was she selective in her charity and her trust because she knew Kat in ways that the government cannot or simply would not?

    Moreover, even if greater equality of privilege did morally warrant compulsion, as left-libertarians would believe, they would argue that overall, compulsion is generally less effective at helping the less privileged than liberty.

    For example, the minimum wage and other barriers to readily employing Kat are more to blame for no one giving her a chance to demonstrate her value to would-be employers. Regulations preventing her from starting a small business are to blame, if that is her interest.

    In other words, it is when we create rules making it more difficult to get a job or start a business that we then have to create more rules to combat the harm caused by those first rules.

    We may not individually deserve the greater or lesser privileges we are born with, but our ancestors like Kat who have worked intelligently and diligently certainly deserve to pass those privileges on to their children.

  166. ObliviousScout says:

    This was an interesting perspective, thank you for sharing your thoughts. Similarly, I used to identify as a libertarian, but I’ve slowly moved toward "liberaltarian" to "classical liberal," and so on.

    The discussion has been particularly illuminating. Thank you, Kat, for sharing your experience. Ultimately, the ability to empathize and put oneself in someone else's shoes is what is often lacking (tho both sides struggle, and liberals often resort to dehumanizing the robber barons as well).

    As an upper-middle-class white male raised in the suburbs, it's difficult for me to put myself in the shoes of someone who did not have the same advantages. What seems easy to me (e.g. quitting my job and going back to school, borrowing money from my parents, saving money for retirement, etc) may not even be a possible consideration or option for someone else.

    More importantly, some research suggests that the extent we are required to focus on short-term goals, our brains are unable to focus on the long-term. If we exhaust ourselves thinking about how much the bus costs while trying to plan a day, there's no mental energy left over to think about longer-term goals in the next month, year, or decades.

    But I digress… this framework–an extra dimension on the diamond–does help identify where I think "free market" advocates often lose their moral bearing. Even if they are right about wanting to help the disadvantaged break the culture of dependency, their revealed preference seems to be more about protecting the already-rich while taking away what little is available for the currently-poor. They rail about the few hundred dollars in food stamps but are considerably quieter about the billions in tax subsidies going to the corporate rich. I'm not particularly religious, but I keep thinking Matthew 7:3-5 has never been more appropriate.

  167. Shane says:

    @James Pollock
    Only the government force to compel action/incation. Everything that the government "owns" was obtained from this fact (unless it was given as charity). Don't pay a traffic ticket. Then let me know how that went vs. don't use pounds as a unit measure in what you sell. You are conflating these two ideas. That you can't see the difference between someone acting in a world were their options are the lesser of two evils and their option are liimited to one at the point of a gun then I don't know what world you live in.

  168. Random Encounter says:

    Shane, what if one person's choice of free action is to coerce the actions of others?

    Yes, they would be doing wrong by your standard, but it's their choice to make, isn't it?

  169. Shane says:

    @Random Encounter
    It is their choice. No one can ever remove someones choice no matter how destructive that choice may be. An individual will act on their choice (rational or not) whether we like it or not. This is the problem, the more that we try to regulate the target choice the more that many non targeted choices start to be affected. You see this in jobs when the boss who is inexperienced encounters a problem and knee jerks a new rule/process to deal with it. Pretty soon the labyrinth of rules overwhelm the employees and they just start doing w/e because the rules have become senseless.

  170. Random Encounter says:

    Yet with no rules you have the same effect, where people do whatever they want because they have no motivation to do otherwise.

    The answer isn't "no rules", it's "a few carefully thought out rules".
    The answer isn't "no government", it's "just enough government to deal with abuses of power".

    Because otherwise you end up with the people who only respond to authority all trying at the same time to become the authority themselves. You personally might be self-regulating and have no desire to impose your desires on others, but that isn't a universal.

  171. James Pollock says:

    The thing is, Shane, when you remove all of the government societal rules, you don't get a paradise of freedom. You get the law of the jungle… which is good for the biggest, strongest, most ready to inflict their will upon others, not so good for everyone else. I'll take civilization, thanks. It has rules, some of them I disagree with, but… it's better than all the other alternatives available.

    Just consider the Libertarian paradise of Somalia. No government, no taxes, just naked free enterprise.

  172. Kevin says:

    "Just consider the Libertarian paradise of Somalia. No government, no taxes, just naked free enterprise."

    That is anarchy, not libertarianism nor free enterprise.

  173. James Pollock says:

    "That is anarchy, not libertarianism nor free enterprise."
    It's hardly my fault that they choose to use their freedom that way, instead of the way you want. I suppose they could trade in a little bit of their freedom, in order to gain some security.

  174. jj says:

    @Clark, indeed, you've proven my point. The big upswing happens during the birth and existance of civil rights and increased social programs.

    Then, after the 1980's, we see standard, classic boom/bust cycles, including the one we're in now, coming about thanks to the dropping of a variety of regulations, the demise of a number of government services from the Post Office to the near-destruction of the USPTO (told to fund itself from fees!?) or USGS (ditto, but that got rewound some). When we get to the 2000's we see the total disaster that this brings, of course your plot ends. So, yes, you've proven my point. Thank you.

  175. Clark says:

    @Random Encounter :
    > Regulation that generates massive paperwork is doing regulation wrong.

    This is like saying or "Red wine that stains white carpets is doing red wine wrong" or "Communism that kills millions of people is doing communism wrong". I agree that the reality doesn't match the theory, but when the reality doesn't match the theory EVERY TIME IT'S TRIED, then it is, perhaps, time to propose a change in the incentives, or just give up on the idea entirely.

  176. Clark says:

    @Corkscrew:
    > I'm actually in favour of squatters' rights. (Bear with me…)
    >
    > Keeping property empty carries a negative externality. It forces people to build more property from scratch, rather than re-using existing buildings – this costs more

    I think you're using "externality" incorrectly.

    By your definition, my refusal to clean your house for free creates a negative externality – it forces you to do the work instead.

    Also, you take the desire of people to have building as a "need" and not a preference. There are at least THREE options on the table:

    * steal my property
    * build your own
    * do without

    The biggest problem I have with your idea is the incentives it creates: in the first week or two of a legal regime that allows squatting you "create" a lot of utility by stealing property.

    …but for the rest of time, you lower utility by encouraging people to never build resources.

    Finally, there's the deontological argument: "by what right?".

    That last is the subject of a much longer post I intend to write here.

  177. Clark says:

    @jj:
    > Then, after the 1980's, we see standard, classic boom/bust cycles, including the one we're in now, coming about thanks to the dropping of a variety of regulations, the demise of a number of government services from the Post Office to the near-destruction of the USPTO (told to fund itself from fees!?)

    1) we're not in a boom and bust ("business cycle" recession), we're in a debt overhand, structural Great Depression

    2) boom and bust recessions were not created in the 1980s http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_recessions_in_the_United_States

    3) the number of regulations has climbed every single year since 1940; go ahead and try to document your "dropping of a variety of regulations"

    4) the Post Office is not dead; it's consuming more money than ever before. It SHOULD be dead, but that's another story.

    5) The USPTO delivers benefits to patent holders. Why do you think that the mechanism that delivers benefits to the wealthy, college educated, and white should be paid for by taxes levied on everyone? Is this part of a more general belief that the marginal and poor should be taxed to help the rich and privileged ?

  178. Clark says:

    @James Pollock:

    > The thing is, Shane, when you remove all of the government societal rules, you don't get a paradise of freedom.

    You are conflating two very VERY different things when you say "government societal rules". There are government rules and there are societal rules, and only occasionally do they overlap.

    > You get the law of the jungle… which is good for the biggest, strongest, most ready to inflict their will upon others, not so good for everyone else.

    Asserted without evidence. There are a vast number of examples of people without government behaving decently because of common ethics, religious principles, kinship bonds, and more in the absence of government law…and there are a vast number of examples of people behaving terribly either in accordance with the government law or despite it.

    You're assuming your conclusion here, not arguing for it.

    > Just consider the Libertarian paradise of Somalia. No government, no taxes, just naked free enterprise.

    You clearly know NOTHING about Somalia.

    1) It is primarily a kinship / clan society and not a capitalist society.

    2) The stateless society ended in 2006 with the establishment of the Transitional Federal Government. A formal government was established in 2010.

    3) the proper comparison is not between Black / uneducated / non-European anarchy and white / educated / European democratic welfare state – this changes EVERY variable simultaneously. The proper comparison is with the stateless Somali society of c. 2008 with the Somali society either immediately before or after. I've researched this and believe that the stateless Somalia was a better place to live than either of the government dominated Somalias from c. 1995 or c. 2012. Do you agree or disagree? What are your reasons?

    You can begin to remedy your ignorance by reading "The Law of the Somalis"
    http://www.amazon.com/The-Law-Somalis-Foundation-Development/dp/156902250X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1357302872&sr=8-1&keywords=somali+law

  179. Random Encounter says:

    Clark, look at your own chart. Did we suddenly invent regulations in the '70's?

    No, we've always had them. What happened starting in the '70's was we started doing a different *kind* of regulation. Regulations that deal less with outer transactions and focus more on inner behaviours (of companies mainly).

    Glass-Steagall was a fine example of the former, saying that banks would have to choose between distinct sets of outer transactions. Easy to enforce, if you see a bank that has chosen one transaction set engaging in another, down comes the hammer.

    The new financial laws are different, they say that a bank can do everything, but it has to report it all so that regulators can check for anything illegal. It's burdensome on the banks and the regulators, and provably impossible to actually enforce in any consistent way.

    Regulating structures to make abuses of power difficult is a *good thing*, it prevents private individuals from forming non-accountable, government-like entities.

    Of course, I also don't distinguish between corporations (private government) and public government. Both need to be watched carefully, and what is public government for if not to keep private government in check?

  180. Shane says:

    @Clark … ty … you are the best :)

    @Random Encounter, I am not an anarchist. And that is not the point from which I am arguing. I a trying to put a fine point on George Washington's quote "Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master." Force is very much necessary for government to work and a government is necessary for proper function of larger groups of people.

    The other point that I am trying to make is Minority Reportish. You can not really stop someones action. You can really only deal with the consequences of that action after the fact. We (or more precisely the government) can not stop actions before they happen. We can not, and all of the efforts by the the pro-government forces are to this end. The SEC is no more able to stop insider trading than they are to grow feathers and fly into the sun. And this is were liberterianism brings a solution, if the actors are agreeing to this behavior then let them be. As a trader in this system (even now) I am aware of insider trading, and I consider it a part of doing business in the markets. I don't need the SEC to protect me, and if YOU haven't done the work to understand this then you need to hire someone who does. You need to trade your value for their value. This is what creates wealth … not the SEC ham handing the markets. Please note the SEC is but one example, there are many many more.

  181. Shane says:

    @Ken,
    Unless your staplers are red swingline … I don't care :P

  182. Bryan says:

    I had not heard of Georgism before, I had to look it up. Thanks for giving me something new to chew on during slow work days. Having said that, I could never agree with it because I despise the Land tax. A Land tax effectively means that you do not own land. You merely rent land from the State, and the tax is your rent. Stop paying that rent and the State will evict you. To me this run counter to all Libertarian thought.

  183. James Pollock says:

    "3) the number of regulations has climbed every single year since 1940; go ahead and try to document your "dropping of a variety of regulations"
    This is not the proper measure of regulation.
    If I replace a single monolithic prohibition "thou shalt not do X" with the regulations "thou shalt not do X by method 1", "thou shalt not do X by method 2" and "thou shalt not do X by method 999", I've tripled the number of regulations but DEREGULATED methods 3-998.

    "You are conflating two very VERY different things when you say "government societal rules"."
    No, I am listing two important sources of rules that govern the actions of individuals. You conveniently dismiss one of them in attempting to counter my argument.

    "There are a vast number of examples of people without government behaving decently because of common ethics, religious principles, kinship bonds, and more in the absence of government law"
    Could that be because common ethics, religious principles, kinship bonds, and more are examples of societal rules? (Besides the fact that "behaving decent" is a value judgment, and may not be shared by all outside observers.)

    The point is that if you remove all the rules, you don't get a state of rule-lessness. You get a different set of rules, imposed by various external forces.

  184. James Pollock says:

    "> Regulation that generates massive paperwork is doing regulation wrong.
    This is like saying or "Red wine that stains white carpets is doing red wine wrong" or "Communism that kills millions of people is doing communism wrong"."

    Hmmm. All those pages in the Federal Register, and I had to complete a total of 12 pages of government paperwork in all of 2012. I don't find a 1-page-per-month requirement that heavy a load.

    As for your complaint against communism, well… that vast majority of cases of communism did not result in millions of dead people. A lot of them DID result in divorce, but, then you get the same result in NON-community-property states.

  185. Clark says:

    @JamesPollock

    > Hmmm. All those pages in the Federal Register, and I had to complete a total of 12 pages of government paperwork in all of 2012. I don't find a 1-page-per-month requirement that heavy a load.

    Presumably the illegal and undeclared drone war in Pakistan also isn't a problem because you PERSONALLY haven't been splashed with blood.

    That is the metric you're using here, right? It only counts if you physically touch it?

  186. Tim! says:

    @James Pollock: perhaps you meant to say "governmental or societal rules" to indicate an either-proposition. The default (and Clark's) reading of "government societal rules" is a both-proposition.

  187. Jason says:

    I know you had a lot to cover in one post, but your comments on Georgism/geoism were a bit lacking and misleading. You rejected the classical economic distinction between land and capital. Why? You did not explain your reasoning. Furthermore, you imply a geoist system would encourage squatting. How so? Under geoism, you continue to have private handholding with all the government protections/privileges, but the landholder just pays for the value of the land minus improvements.

  188. Jason says:

    @ Bryan: Under geoism, the state does not own the land. It has no say how you use it, who you give it to, etc. Its only job is to make sure the land rent is paid. It acts more like a referee rather than an owner.
    http://savingcommunities.org/principles/

    Even the government would not be free of paying land rents back to the taxpayers/community. Anything the government holds and does not allow citizens access to (lets say land being used as a military base) they would reimburse the people through Citizen's dividend.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizens_dividend

  189. Clark says:

    @Jason:

    > your comments on Georgism/geoism were a bit lacking

    absolutely.

    > and misleading.

    I don't think so. What did I say that was incorrect?

    > Furthermore, you imply a geoist system would encourage squatting.

    No, I didn't.

    I said

    Many left-wing market anarchists embrace Georgism, thinking that there is something special about land, or think that legitimately owned resources that are not currently being used in production can be morally expropriated

    > You rejected the classical economic distinction between land and capital. Why?

    I didn't reject them so much as ignore them. To the degree that I said that I disliked Georgism (without even addressing whether classical economics has anything to say on the topic), my explanation was this:

    I find [ Georgism ] not only morally dubious (at best) but also harmful to maximizing total utility (if I can't keep a factory in reserve against market fluctuations, then I am forced to run it at some minimal level in order to keep the squatters at bay, and that costs money and destroys overall societal utility).

    If that's not a sufficient explanation of my position, can you explain what point you think I'm missing?

  190. Jason says:

    "If that's not a sufficient explanation of my position, can you explain what point you think I'm missing?"

    You did not explain why geoists believe land should be treated differently compared to capital. This is critical for understanding their viewpoint and critiquing it. Many readers are unfamiliar with geoism and may come away with the idea that it is no different from socialism.

    You also did not explain how geoism would discourage maximum utility (I was also referencing the squatters comment in that sentence). You only made a statement as if it is to be assumed true.

  191. John Kindley says:

    Clark,
    Your last comment leads me against to believe you've not only conflated but confused Georgism with use-and-occupancy. What about Georgism would keep an owner from holding a factory in reserve or risk having it taken over by squatters?

  192. Bryan says:

    @Jason
    After reading the principles section of Saving Communities link, I see two problems.

    First is enforcement. Who assesses an Land rent, and how do do you compel an individual to hand over a Land rent once it is assessed? If these powers rest with the government then they become the defacto owners of the Land in question. Further, how can the government be trusted not to undervalue the land for a favored group while over valuing the land of an unfavored group? It would be exceedingly hard to guarantee impartiality. Finally, since unused land be be confiscated and given to someone else who will use the land, how long before underused land becomes the same as unused land? Can a community decide to take land away from one occupant and give the land to another occupant simply because the new occupant can generate a higher rent?

    Second, the Saving Communities group advocates government issued money. While not specifically calling for fiat money, the use of fiat money can be inferred by the following statement,

    "…Government should issue enough money to maintain stable prices, with neither significant inflation nor deflation. However, it is even more important that government issue money directly into circulation rather than lending it to banks or granting banks the privilege of lending money they do not actually have."

    The ability to issue fiat money carries with it a moral hazard. When faced with the politically difficult choices of reducing spending or raising taxes, the government can choose to do neither, and simply issue more money to cover the difference. This does not create wealth. In fact it erodes wealth, because it dilutes the spending power the money currently in circulation.

    For the long time Libertarians reading this, please forgive me if I have misstated anything. I am still kind of new to all of this and in a continual state of learning.

  193. James Pollock says:

    "Presumably the illegal and undeclared drone war in Pakistan also isn't a problem because you PERSONALLY haven't been splashed with blood."

    What do you suggest? Some regulations on the use of drones?

  194. James Pollock says:

    "The default (and Clark's) reading of "government societal rules" is a both-proposition."
    I believe that the site software may have cut the punctuation because it looked like an HTML tag.

  195. Craig says:

    Still no response to Kat.

  196. Clark says:

    @Jason:

    > You did not explain why geoists believe land should be treated differently compared to capital.

    Any geoist who wants to explain it may feel free to do so here in the comment section.

    > This is critical for understanding their viewpoint and critiquing it.

    Sounds good. Please explain it for us.

    > You also did not explain how geoism would discourage maximum utility

    I also did not explain the best critiques of the Indo-European linguistic model, or what an endogenous retrovirus is.

    This post was intended as an overview and some of my thoughts. I believe it has lived up to that billing.

    @John Kindley:

    > Your last comment leads me against to believe you've not only conflated but confused Georgism with use-and-occupancy.

    I've stated two or three times now that I used an "or" in that sentence thus noting that they are too separate things.

    > What about Georgism would keep an owner from holding a factory in reserve or risk having it taken over by squatters?

    Nothing. For the fourth time: there was an "or" in the sentence. I dislike Georgism. I also dislike squatting. The latter prevents a factory from being held in reserve.

    @Jason:

    > The ability to issue fiat money carries with it a moral hazard.

    I agree. I have big problems with a gold standard, but fiat money is
    also problematic. The moral hazard is large. We see today that the
    federal reserve is effectively spitting dollar bills out of the
    printing presses at a rate of Mach 20 or so.

    > When faced with the politically difficult choices of reducing
    > spending or raising taxes, the government can choose to do neither,
    > and simply issue more money to cover the difference. This does not
    > create wealth. In fact it erodes wealth, because it dilutes the
    > spending power the money currently in circulation.

    Arguably this means that there aren't three options but just two: printing money is a tax on every holder of an existing dollar.

    @James Pollock:

    > > "Presumably the illegal and undeclared drone war in Pakistan also isn't a problem because you PERSONALLY haven't been splashed with blood."
    >
    > What do you suggest?

    The dissolution of the imperial United States government and war crimes trials.

    @Craig:

    > Still no response to Kat.

    I already said that "I hope to have something to say on Kat's points later."

    I'm sorry I don't blog on your schedule.

    Since the service is not to your liking I'll ask Ken to give you a full refund for the subscription fees you paid to read Popehat.

  197. Xenocles says:

    "Some regulations on the use of drones?"

    You say that as if regulations against the government would somehow conflict with libertarian thought.

  198. Corkscrew says:

    @Clark: Thanks for the response. Couple of points:

    "I think you're using "externality" incorrectly."

    I think it's arguable, but let's not quibble. My point was that allowing property to remain vacant can have an impact on third parties that goes beyond what you'd expect from demand/supply equilibria.

    This is in terms of both:
    a) property costs – if enough people do this then they're basically cornering the market in ready-built property; and
    b) loss of positive network effects -essentially any remaining occupied areas become villages rather than parts of a city.

    As with any third-party impact, these will not be naturally priced into the property's market value. So to get an optimal outcome it is necessary for an external agent to penalise bad impacts or reward good impacts. Your choices for external agent are government or squatters. My natural preference would be the squatters.

    "Also, you take the desire of people to have building as a "need" and not a preference."

    In London (where I live), the temperature drops to −14 °C in winter, there's snow on the ground, and homeless people die in large numbers. So unless you're arguing that "if they'd rather die, then they had better do it and decrease the surplus population" (not a good sentiment at Christmas!), access to buildings *is* a need.

    Even in warmer parts of the world, lack of access to buildings creates its own problems. It's often quite hard to apply for jobs unless you have a fixed address, for example. And it's extremely hard to pass an interview unless you have access to a bath or shower! These are the same kind of structural barriers you highlighted in your article.

    "…but for the rest of time, you lower utility by encouraging people to never build resources."

    I'm not sure that's the case. Construction companies generally only build property if they expect to be able to sell it; if they didn't think they could, they'd just leave the land vacant for another year.

    What it *might* do is slightly lower the price that people were willing to pay for property by excluding anyone who planned to hold the purchased property vacant. However:
    a) When most people buy a property, it's because they expect to use it; and
    b) The negative impact on buy-to-hold-vacant speculators is commensurate with the negative impact *they* were having on the wider community.
    c) Although the price of property is reduced, the cost of holding land fallow is increased (squatters might decide they want a farm). So I'd expect the overall impact on property-building to be roughly neutral.

    "Finally, there's the deontological argument: "by what right?"."

    I kinda covered this: ethically speaking, we've got a pretty good precedent in intellectual property. Treat physical property and land like trademarks: use it or risk losing it to someone who values it more.

  199. John Kindley says:

    Clark: I understood your "or" explanation way up thread. But just look at your comment yesterday @5:59 p.m. It expressly applied Georgism to the last part of the sentence, and claims that Georgism would allow squatters to take over an unused factory. I'm confident you understand the difference between Georgism and use-and-occupancy, and any reader who takes the time to read the short article by George I linked to in the first comment on this post will understand the difference as well, which is why I was perplexed by your recent comment, which was either confused or confusing.

  200. Kevin says:

    @Craig: I responded to Kat's argument, if you are so eager to discuss it.

  201. James Pollock says:

    ""Some regulations on the use of drones?"
    You say that as if regulations against the government would somehow conflict with libertarian thought."

    I do? Can you help me out, then, because I can't see where I said anything at all about regulations against the government?

  202. Xenocles says:

    Sorry, I just assumed that the government was the entity conducting the warfare to be regulated.

  203. Jason says:

    @Bryan:

    Brian: "First is enforcement. Who assesses an Land rent,"

    We already have real estate assessors. And if a landowner doesn't agree with an assessment, they can get a second opinion.

    Brian: "and how do do you compel an individual to hand over a Land rent once it is assessed?"
    Same way we collect taxes now.

    Brian: "If these powers rest with the government then they become the defacto owners of the Land in question."

    Under your definition of ownership, government already owns all the land because its already taxed.

    Brian: "Can a community decide to take land away from one occupant and give the land to another occupant simply because the new occupant can generate a higher rent?"
    If the rent/tax is higher than the land value then its no longer a land value tax now is it?

    Brian: "The ability to issue fiat money carries with it a moral hazard. When faced with the politically difficult choices of reducing spending or raising taxes, the government can choose to do neither, and simply issue more money to cover the difference. This does not create wealth. In fact it erodes wealth, because it dilutes the spending power the money currently in circulation."

    I don't have much of an opinion on currency, but I believe the Single Tax is enough check to keep government small decentralized.

  204. Jason says:

    @Clark:

    Clark: "Any geoist who wants to explain it may feel free to do so here in the comment section… Sounds good. Please explain it for us."
    Historically, classical liberals have recognized three distinct factors of production: land, labor, and capital. Nearly all libertarians will agree that labor and capital belong exclusively to each individual creator. The problem with land/resources, however, is 1.) it is in fixed supply and 2.) it was not created by anyone. Because of those distinction between land vs capital and labor we must treat it differently.

    Thomas Paine once stated: "it is the value of the improvement, only, and not the earth itself, that is in individual property. Every proprietor, therefore, of cultivated lands, owes to the community a ground-rent"

    Why should a landowner pay rent to the rest of the community? Because it is the rest of the community that creates the land value. Anyone can claim a piece of the Earth and watch its value go up as other people build schools, roads, hospitals, businesses, and homes. The landholder does nothing to earn that wealth.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTxyNQ0ea-k

    Clark: "I also did not explain the best critiques of the Indo-European linguistic model, or what an endogenous retrovirus is."
    Yet you did not talk about Indo-European linguistics or endogenous retrovirus, but you did state that LVT discourages maximum utility without explanation or evidence.

    Clark: "This post was intended as an overview and some of my thoughts. I believe it has lived up to that billing."

    Fair enough, but when people believe their ideology is misrepresented you can expect those people to point it out.

  205. jj says:

    @Clark, that's more straw men than I care to wave a match at.

    Suffice it to say that this is a depression brought on by a lack of banking regulations, and the evidence is cold and hard. The number of regulations is unimportant.

    Since I didn't say "since 1980" and imply it was new, that comment was just building a straw man to throw some flames at.

    Our debt is absurd, but frankly, the problem we have is not related to the debt, but rather to the hoarding, kind of like the late 1800's. Remember those? Gilded Age? Hello?

    We're in a gilded age now, middle class is vanishing, and the rich are disproportionately richer, thanks to crony capitalism and all-over plutarchy enforced to a great extent by crony-passed regulations.

    Regulations can work both ways, you may assume I'm well in agreement with that.

  206. Joe Pullen says:

    Our debt is absurd, but frankly, the problem we have is not related to the debt,

    You’re kidding right?

  207. Clark says:

    @jj:

    > @Clark, that's more straw men than I care to wave a match at.
    >
    > Suffice it to say that this is a depression brought on by a lack of banking regulations, and the evidence is cold and hard. The number of regulations is unimportant.

    I enjoy how you tell me that the evidence is "cold and hard"…but then don't present the evidence.

    I also enjoy how you say "suffice it to say".

    That's twice where you've asserted "I win the argument"…and yet (a) you're not the one to referee this, (b) you've provided no data.

  208. Guns says:

    @Clark

    >Asserted without evidence. There are a vast number of examples of people without government behaving decently because of common ethics, religious principles, kinship bonds, and more in the absence of government law…and there are a vast number of examples of people behaving terribly either in accordance with the government law or despite it.

    This is not the first time you do this, but it is the most obvious one. You ignore an argument because it is "asserted without evidence", then claim there are a lot of examples to the contrary, without providing a single one.

    While it is perfectly logical to shoot down an argument when that argument was provided without any evidence, if you do that, you would be expected to then provide the nescessary evidence for the arguments you yourself make. Especially when you say the number of examples are "vast", it would be expected that it is rather trivial to quickly provide a few of these examples.

    It is of course possible that this was an application of that infamous sarcasm of yours, in which case I apologise, although then I would also like to remind you that sarcasm is a communicative technique that is very difficult to pull off in writing.

  209. John Kindley says:

    @Guns: It's likely such "examples" as you "expected" weren't listed precisely because their numbers are so vast as to make them obvious and the listing of a few trivial. But here's three for you anyway: the Newtown massacre, the Holocaust, and the Underground Railroad.

    No wonder the principals here have developed a taste for sarcasm.

  210. Clark says:

    @Guns:

    > > Asserted without evidence. There are a vast number of examples of
    > > people without government behaving decently because of common ethics,
    > > religious principles, kinship bonds, and more in the absence of
    > > government law…and there are a vast number of examples of people
    > > behaving terribly either in accordance with the government law or
    > > despite it.
    >
    > This is not the first time you do this, but it is the most obvious
    > one. You ignore an argument because it is "asserted without evidence",
    > then claim there are a lot of examples to the contrary, without
    > providing a single one.

    Not sarcasm, I just didn't think that evidence was necessary for something that most people encounter dozens of times per day.

    In your own upbringing have you not experienced thousands, if not tens
    of thousands, of acts of selflessness, where parents, scoutmasters,
    teachers, dance instructors, etc. help you out, rescue cats and dogs
    from pounds, give to charity, tithe, pick up litter, help a lost
    child, give an extra large tip to a waitress who looks tired, and more?

    From my own experience in the last three hours:

    * I walked my dog
    * I made breakfast for my girlfriend
    * I updated material at Wikipedia
    * I saw someone on the internet asking a question I could answer so I emailed him the link he needed

    The law compelled none of these things.

    If a miserable person like me can do more than one nice thing per hour without leaving the neighborhood, can there be any doub thtat the common run of humanity accomplishes huge amounts of charity every day without the threat of government violence?

  211. Graphictruth says:

    If a miserable person like me can do more than one nice thing per hour without leaving the neighbourhood, can there be any doubt that the common run of humanity accomplishes huge amounts of charity every day without the threat of government violence?

    Indeed. But they do it rather better if they know what needs doing, Clark. Personally, I see data collection and open, apolitical science of the very most vital activities of (competent) government, in the great, good and terribly uninteresting chore of preventing problems before they occur. Sensible regulations (electrical codes, for example), infrastructure and suchlike.

    Though, we often see arguments against government v. private action framed wherein one way of sorting socks is inherently corrupt, incompetent, vicious, violent and evil as opposed to the Other Approach, which is Pure, Noble and Good, Needing Nothing Other than Sunshine And a Pure Diet to Accomplish All Good Things.

    In other words, the framing you mentioned in the initial post.

    Consider the FBI's obsession with Occupy as being potential terrorists, while at the same time, being seemingly unconcerned with various militia and armed citizen movements. It speaks to a mental framework that tends to define "terrorists" as being people who speak or act in a certain way, instead of people who speak or act in ways that genuinely indicate an inclination toward violence. And that speaks not to political or class bias in my mind as much as it speaks to competence.

    EG: That's EXACTLY how Kim Philby stole the farm. "A good Englishman from a Proper School would never…"

    In other words, if you wish to compare ways of going about things, you have to compare the accomplishments of comparable groups organized (or not) in the various ways under debate, operating under the same general circumstances and with the same ultimate goals.

    And you have to work at being competent. It's not something that comes with a degree or an lapel pin.

    I could go on – and I did before erasing a page or so. But seriously, the political compass really should include an axis of "competent" to "incompetent" which is independent of political or economic philosophy.

    The public sphere is filled with loud yammerings of those who substitute some popular meme that supports whatever approach to life they would pursue anyway, at the expense of actually thinking through a problem to the point where they can actually project second and third order consequences.

  212. James Pollock says:

    "There are a vast number of examples of people without government behaving decently…"
    +
    "In your own upbringing have you not experienced thousands, if not tens of thousands, of acts of selflessness, where parents, scoutmasters, teachers, dance instructors, etc. help you out, rescue cats and dogs from pounds, give to charity, tithe, pick up litter, help a lost child, give an extra large tip to a waitress who looks tired, and more?"

    These are examples of people without government?
    (The counterargument is that government makes doing these things possible, or at least far more likely. For example, people are more likely to keep their word (and fulfill their contracts) if there is a court with the power to compel damages for failing to do so, even if very few contracts end up in court. People are more likely to stop and help someone carry their groceries if they don't have to worry about the snipers in the streets.)

    Debate tip: If your own line of argument can be used to advance the competing argument, your argument is in trouble.

  213. John Kindley says:

    Note to self: commenters are as deep as a puddle of mud, and suck.

  214. John Kindley says:

    My apologies for my last comment, which was singularly unhelpful and shallow, and which sucked, and was the first thing that popped into my head upon returning in a state of moderate inebriation from watching the Fighting Irish get their asses handed to them. It was intended to be self-referential, as I myself am a commenter.

    If government is merely the art and process of securing unalienable rights, in the last resort by force, it does indeed appear that government is a necessary evil. But then shouldn't it be limited to the necessary, to allow as full of a scope for the social element that Clark describes? What distinguishes the State from government, and makes it the enemy of the individual and society, is unnecessary evil, carried out by way of politics on behalf of its beneficiaries, the ruling class.

  215. Owen says:

    >In your own upbringing have you not experienced thousands, if not tens
    of thousands, of acts of selflessness . . .

    Absolutely. And I have witnessed and experienced thousands, if not tens of thousands, of acts of selfishness, apathy, hate, and cruelty. I don't see how either of these statements advances the argument. You made breakfast for you girlfriend; a hundred people walked past the homeless veteran missing a leg outside my office this morning.

    All that we are saying is that both are possible, and I don't think that was up for debate. But if both are possible (not guaranteed, on either side), isn't it reasonable to ensure that at least a minimum is accomplished?

  216. Careless says:

    What on Earth is a "social minority"?

  217. Graphictruth says:

    @ Careless: Re:

    What on Earth is a "social minority"?

    Really? Ok, here's a fer example for you: Try NOT being a sports fan in a work or other social environment around the play-offs. Or perhaps a small town atheist.

    If you don't know of any such distinctions, it is perhaps because the members of said minorities have heard what you have to say and thought it wiser to adapt some social camouflage.

  218. Allen says:

    One thing I know for certain, adding copper to iron during the steel making process has a deleterious effect on the end product. Unless you are making Rearden metal, which I am told is objective.

    Of course both the metal, and the character, are made up. But, they are objectively true, if you believe.

  219. Graphictruth says:

    Well, now, that's arch, a bit obscure and I can't be absolutely sure what message you might be trying to convey. Out of curiosity, do you happen to know of what metals dog-whistles might be forged?

  220. Dreampod says:

    Hey Clark, one minor thing. Next time you do a (awesome) long article like this can you truncate what shows on the main page with a 'Continue Reading' link like Derrick did with his recent piece? It is a pain to scroll past even to get to the comments link.

  221. Josh Walker says:

    I'd like to say a bit about regulations and whether or not they caused/didn't cause the current financial crisis. Just as a caveat, I consider myself a left-libertarian (an anarchist actually). Anyhow, I don't think that the regulation issue has to be one of either/or. I'd argue that the two sides are using a different understanding of the word "caused."

    I would distinguish between two types of regulations. I've seen this particular distinction in a few of Kevin Carson's works. There are first order regulations, namely those which initially distort the market. There are also second order regulations, namely those which seek to ameliorate unintended problems stemming from the first order regulations. An example would be something along the lines of the state money monopoly necessitated Glass-Steagall restrictions between banks and securities firms.

    With that distinction in mind, I think we can affirm both that too much and too little regulation caused the financial crisis. The state fosters conditions that lead to the formation of massive, unstable financial institutions. As the system becomes more volatile restraints are put into place to stabilize it. Restraints are removed, and the whole thing falls to pieces.

  222. Josh Walker says:

    ^^
    Just to be clear: the above is not meant, in any way, to endorse state additional regulation. At the most basic level the state is the problem.

  223. Votre says:

    I was somewhat amused by the question on the libertarian test you mentioned which asks if our police forces should be privatized.

    In the wake of the Kim Dotcom affair, and the antagonistic and coordinated behavior of most police US departments to various "occupy" movements and WTO protests, I'd say they already are.

  224. babaganusz says:

    @Jason:

    The problem with land/resources, however, is 1.) it is in fixed supply and 2.) it was not created by anyone. Because of those distinction between land vs capital and labor we must treat it differently.

    thank you for this; it does seem a conspicuously vital point. and reminds me of a R.A.W. line about national borders (it may have been specifically holding Europe up as an example, mmm, paraphrasing) being, in origin if not essence, 'where a bunch of warlords eventually got tired.'

    …The landholder does nothing to earn that wealth.

    i wondered whether that might not be better stated as "Merely collecting rent – no matter how many consecutive generations have held onto a shiny deed and no matter how dotted be every i and crossed be every t – does nothing to earn that wealth."

    but i'm just a whingey have-not, right?

  225. babaganusz says:

    *if origin if not ALSO in essence

    also, Votre: WORD.

  226. AlisonW says:

    You're confused, intellectually dishonest and intellectually lazy.

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