i-fdadf3f4eafaf88a43c4ba0f2ec49117-4d.jpg Given that there is consumer education, any attempt to limit the practices in questions threaten consumer freedom. Denialists will assume that people are perfectly rational and in possession of all relevant information. Thus, individuals choose the problem being addressed, and to limit it frustrates consumer freedom, because they like the problem or harm at issue.

Comments

  1. #1 Guitar Eddie
    May 7, 2007

    Hmmm?

    That doesn’t compute, man. You mean denialists would rather have say, Pneumocystis carinii, instead of diagnosis of AIDS for which there is a treatment?

    That’s really sick!

    GE

  2. #2 Mick
    May 7, 2007

    In my experience, which is limited and personal, there is also a tendency for people to jump from “you want limits on consumer freedom” to “you’re a communist!”

  3. #3 bigTom
    May 7, 2007

    Well, yes “consumer freedom” is one of those religious-like values. Claiming your opponent wants to limit it is always devastating.

  4. #4 paul
    May 7, 2007

    It’s a nice piece of verbal jujitsu, because “liberals” are supposed to believe in free choice. You know, like the free choice to eat food contaminated with toxic bacteria or feed your cats food contaminated with melamine or drive in cars without seatbelts…

  5. #5 MarkH
    May 7, 2007

    Paul gets it. Give that man a cookie.

  6. #6 Decline and Fall
    May 7, 2007

    This is why I find the stong libertarian position unconvincing: people are never perfectly rational, nor in possession of all relevant information, but the absolutist arguments for individual freedom require that that be the case.

    Mick: next time someone calls you a communist for wanting to, say, keep cyanide out of cigarettes, just say, “you’re an anarchist!” Then when they try to explain that their position id more nuanced, tell them yours is too. This won’t convince them at all, but you’ll feel better for having learned conclusively that they aren’t intellectually serious, which will save you having to argue with them later.

  7. #8 Pieter B
    May 9, 2007

    In the libertarians’ ideal world, from what I hear them argue, it would be impossible to lead a productive life because you’d have to do a day’s worth of research before making any consumer purchase, personally inspect the kitchen of any restaurant you want to buy a meal from, und so veiter.

    In California, a major earthquake kills a few dozen people, if that. In the Third World and some parts of the Second, a major earthquake kills thousands. The difference is building codes, which severely limit consumer freedom. I can live with such limitations. Literally.

  8. #9 Erisian23
    May 11, 2007

    >> This is why I find the stong libertarian position unconvincing: people are never perfectly rational, nor in possession of all relevant information

    First, that’s a strawman argument. Libertarian philosophy doesn’t assume that people are perfectly rational or in possession of all relevant information, any more than Liberals believe everyone is completely helpless or Conservatives believe everyone but the rich are lazy. The Libertarian view simply asks who’s generally most qualified to make decisions regarding an individual’s own welfare. If I’m not “perfectly rational” and am therefore unqualified to decide for myself what contracts to enter into, by what measure have you determined that you or your committee or your favored politico are more rational than I in determing what’s in my own best interests? And of course, any philosophy can be made to appear ludicrous if only you’re willing to misapply it as if it were an absolute mandate in every possible situation under all conceivable circumstance, as opposed to simply being a great starting point for a conversation about how “govt A intends to interfere in person B’s life.”

    For consumer education, I thought first of the balance of car safety today. The Fed gov’t mandates a minimal set of safety standards every “street legal” car must have. At the same time, not all cars are equally safe. The gov’t said “no selling death traps” but beyond that, it’s up to consumers prioritize car safety over, for example, price or appearance, to research it and determine which car is best for themselves. True, even minimal standards raise the cost of purchasing even the most inexpensive cars, creating difficulties for price conscious and less affluent consumers, but as a committed conservative Libertarian Democrat (and not especially good at being any one of them), it’s a mix of regulation/market distortion and consumer education I’m personally comfortable with and gladly willing to impose on every other rational adult in this country, whether they like it or not.

    When the problem is “some products in the market are differentiated by various attributes that reasonable consumers could disagree on the priotization of”, consumer education is the answer.

    When the problem is “some products in the market might seriously harm or kill you”, consumer education simply doesn’t suffice. Only a denialist could suggest that I decide not to purchase (for example) a certain brand of imported chicken based on three of my neighbors getting sick and one dying from it in lieu of laws mandating safety testing of food products. Society can, should, and does do better than that.

    “Consumer education” really is a legitimate response in many cases. Unfortauntely it’s also abused in many other situations when it’s not a realistic solution, making it a great denialist tactic too.

  9. #10 Kevin
    May 18, 2007

    I think you mischaracterize the argument in favor of consumer freedom. I don’t think people are perfectly rational; btw, that would include you. I don’t think they possess perfect information. I think the costs of intervention outweigh the benefits of a principled intrusion into the market. I don’t think anyone is better suited than a given adult to determine how to spend their income. It is literally, no one else’s business, insofar as they don’t use it to commit a coercive crime with their expenditures [like hiring a contract killer].

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