Libertarianism defined

Uh-oh, the libertarians are getting noisy again. I have not expressed myself clearly enough, I guess. I will remind them all of my previous commentary about anti-environmentalists and libertarian nut-cases, and I will also cite with great approval a passage from one of my favorite authors.

It has been revealed that I'm a fan of Iain Banks. On my last long flight, I read his latest, Transition(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll), which is a SF novel about people who can shift to alternate streams of reality, and who choose to meddle. One of the heroes of the story, Mrs Mulverhill, is explaining to another character about the various bizarre forms of government they find in alternate time-lines, and she defines one of the more freakishly weird.

“Libertarianism. A simple-minded right-wing ideology ideally suited to those unable or unwilling to see past their own sociopathic self-regard.”

That is perfectly in line with my own sentiments. Libertarianism isn't so much a political and economic movement as it is a widespread pathology.

As for the book itself — not bad. It suffers a bit from odd expectations, since he writes his SF Culture novels as "Iain M. Banks" and his less genre-specific (and often more disturbing) books as "Iain Banks", and this is an M-less book that isn't about the Culture but is definitely SF. It's a fairly mainstream SF novel without the level of perversity and weirdness I love most about Banks' stories, but still recommended.

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I have a feeling we'll need to call the waahhmbulance for this thread.

By Rev. BigDumbChimp (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Ooh, love the definitions. Selfish and sociopathologic. Definitely fits what the proponents have shown here.

By Nerd of Redhead, OM (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Ooh, PZ has summoned the I've-got-mine-fuck-you monsters. I suspect they will walk right into his trap.

MWA HA HA HA HA HA!

@Nerd: "Ooh," love to love you baby.

No True LibertarianTM in 4..3..2..

There seems to be a trend that the more someone tries to distance themselves from the Libertarian whack-jobs while still using the term for himself, the bigger a whack-job he is.

Interesting. If, as a USian citizen, I agree with what the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution say about individual liberties, while also agreeing with what they say about the reciprocal obligations of citizens and societies, what is that called?

I'm serious. I've learned a lot about political ideas from some of the commenters here, and I've changed my mind about a lot of things. I no longer quite know what to call myself, politically speaking. I do believe that there are things that people have a moral obligation to provide for each other in order to create a functioning society. I now think that there are more of these things than I previously thought there were. I am willing to contribute my fair share to provide those things.

Is it still possible to consider government policies abusive and corrupt, without sounding like a Tea Partier? (By the way, my brother and his wife dragged me to a Tea Party. They thought I'd enjoy it. I was utterly disgusted.)

By badgersdaughter (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Sadly that's not far from the truth in most cases. I saw an Iain Banks (I think it was him) Book in a second-hand store the other day, was going to pick it up but decided not too. If I come across it again I'll definitely give it a read.

By doctorcrankenstein (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

I can't wait for the libertarian legions to descend pharyngula. PZ, say something less than flattering about Ayn Rand, and I'll go make some popcorn.

By JtheWonderLlama (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Speaking as someone who fancied himself a libertarian for a brief time (this is before the current economic crisis happened and I was forced to see reason), I don't think that definition is all that accurate for the younger, idealistic libertarians, though it certainly applies to the corporatist shills that the American Libertarian Party have become.

When arguing with libertarians (I try to reason people out of the trap I once fell into), I find that it's important to figure out which of the two camps they fall into. If they're, say, Objectivists then Iain Banks' summation is absolutely accurate, but always remember that they may simply be misguided semi-idealists who actually think that what they believe could winding up working out better for a society as whole, rather than just a small group of capitalist supermen (this seems silly to me now, but I earnestly believed it at the time).

By badhelvetica (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

“Liberalism. A simple-minded left-wing ideology ideally suited to those unable or unwilling to see past their own groups sociopathic self-regard.”

Doctrinaires think schematically. Masses think with facts. The working class perceives events not as experiments with this or that “thesis,” but as living changes in the fate of the people.

Life is more complex than dogma

By broboxley (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

I think of libertarianism as simply being the opposite of authoritarianism-- skepticism of government. Not necessarily being its opponent, but not being its cheerleader either. Continually vigilant for, and vocal about, its misbehavior. And being non-partisan in doing so; teabaggers don't count as they're only in favor of limiting government when their guys aren't in power.

I always thought "Night of the Living Dead" was a cautionary tale about Libertarianism.

By nigelTheBold (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

...they may simply be misguided semi-idealists who actually think that what they believe could winding up working out better for a society as whole, rather than just a small group of capitalist supermen (this seems silly to me now, but I earnestly believed it at the time).

Exactly. I was just like this myself, for years. It took me a while to figure out why and how. But you want to know when the first cracks appeared in the mirror? It was the day I went down to have my lunch break in the food court at the Houston Galleria, and saw people holding each other and crying over the collapse of Enron. They hadn't even done that on 9/11. That was when it got driven home to me that those with great power were unilaterally defaulting on their great responsibility, and that the incentives and disincentives in the poisoned atmosphere of modern "capitalism" were simply too powerful to allow ethical business to thrive. The successful were mostly so because they took advantage where they were not morally entitled to. And that it wasn't reasonable to expect to tear everything down and start over, as John Galt and his revolution were exactly as impossible as his perpetual motion machine.

By badgersdaughter (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

I think of libertarianism as simply being the opposite of authoritarianism-- skepticism of government. Not necessarily being its opponent, but not being its cheerleader either. Continually vigilant for, and vocal about, its misbehavior.

A good number (and I will freely admit my experience is limited) of people who describe themselves as "Libertarians" actually fall into one of two categories: anarcho-capitalists and, for lack of a better term, tax-is-theftists. The former believe the only valid way of regulating behavior is through the free market, and the latter just don't want to pay taxes.

These may well just be the extremists, but I have yet to encounter a self-described Libertarian who didn't fit one of these two.

In my experience libertarianism can be summed up in three core beliefs:
1) I got mine so FUCK YOU!
2) The government should exist only to the extent it helps me.
3) Everyone can be like me if they work hard (and by "work hard" I mean be born the right way and having all the lucky breaks I did).

@6 I would say it makes you a liberal. Within my lifetime we had to send federal troops across wide swaths of this country to enforce the individual rights of people to vote, live where they want, eat in any restaurant they wanted, and go to school where they wanted. Too many of the Randian branch of libertarian thought considered this to be harmful social engineering.

@12 The weakness of your definition of libertarianism is that it makes a distinction between government and economic authoritarianism. It demonizes the former and but considers the latter the natural triumph of the superior intellect (at least the Randian branch does).

By justawriter (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

...the only valid way of regulating behavior is through the free market...

It might be, if a free market actually existed, or had a hope of ever existing.

By badgersdaughter (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Libertarian is as libertarian does. The term can mean a lot of different things.

In my experience, there is a hardcore group of true ideological libertarians, who believe in the supremacy of the free market and individual property rights as a moral principle, and consider any government coercion beyond the most basic level (or, in the case of anarcho-capitalists, any government coercion at all) to be inherently immoral. These hardcore libertarians in turn divide into a number of ideological factions - Randian Objectivists, Rothbardians, and so on - who tend to disagree vehemently with one another. But all of them are ideologues and dogmatists, and tend to have a very simplistic worldview which disregards inconvenient evidence.

At the same time, the use of the term "libertarian" is not restricted to the hardcore true-believers. There are a lot of people, both on the left and the right, who are not hardline ideological libertarians but who subscribe to some libertarian ideas; this includes a lot of the people here, including myself. Those people who are in this broader category of "libertarian" includes some people who are left-leaning (Ed Brayton, for instance) and others who are right-leaning (Andrew Sullivan). There are a lot of us who generally want smaller government, strongly support civil liberties and advocate greater personal freedom, but are willing to accept that there are some circumstances in which government intervention is necessary to solve problems for the whole community: dealing with climate change, for instance.

I should also add that people like Glenn Beck and the "tea party" movement, while they may co-opt the language of libertarianism when it suits them, are not libertarians. They argue for individual freedom and limiting government only when this serves their particular purposes, and are perfectly willing to jettison these principles when it suits them. A consistent libertarian is someone who believes in maximising individual freedom and limiting government coercion across the board, not just on the things that affect them. So the type of conservative who rails against government healthcare as a constraint on individual freedom, but at the same time enthusiastically supports the arbitrary detention and torture of terror suspects or the banning of gay marriage, is not libertarian. This is not a "No True Scotsman" argument; to abuse the word "libertarian" so that it becomes "someone who believes in freedom only when it's convenient for advancing big business interests and a religious agenda" deprives the word of any useful meaning.

Not that I'm surprised that PZ is using derision as a tool against a disfavored group, but it does hurt to have it directed towards me. I am a libertarian, and I hold my political beliefs out of a sincere desire for widespread human happiness. My beliefs have a firm grounding in history and science rather than dogma and superstition, and I do not think they invite bald mockery. Politics is a place where intelligent people can disagree, and liberals do not have a monopoly on truth, on integrity, or on compassion.

By jasonaorr (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

@Walton 19,

I agree. It's hard to find a point in a definition of libertarianism which makes Michael Shermer, for example, a sociopath.

I think I hear sirens

By Rev. BigDumbChimp (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Transition was published in the United Kingdom under the name of Iain Banks. The United States edition, however, bears the name of Iain M. Banks. Perhaps it's merely a marketing decision (I suspect the sf novels sell better than the more mainstream novels), but it's certainly defensible on the basis that parallel universes are a standard sf trope and Transition is based on the notion that some people can cross over from one universe to another. Alternatively (in a parallel existence!), one might argue that Transition is a blend of Banks' two styles.

Not that I'm surprised that PZ is using derision as a tool against a disfavored group, but it does hurt to have it directed towards me

Tough.

I am a libertarian, and I hold my political beliefs out of a sincere desire for widespread human happiness.

How sincerely you hold you beliefs does not make any difference as to how valid those belief. You are committing a fallacy that is probably best called the Tony Blair fallacy. Blair thinks the fact that he sincerely believed invading Iraq was the right thing to do, that somehow makes it all OK.

My beliefs have a firm grounding in history and science rather than dogma and superstition, and I do not think they invite bald mockery

And you said that with out any trace of irony.

Politics is a place where intelligent people can disagree, and liberals do not have a monopoly on truth, on integrity, or on compassion.

This is true, but it is fair to say libertarians are not noted for showing any compassion to their fellow humans.

By Matt Penfold (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

I think I hear sirens

Did you leave the bacon too long on the stove?

I am a libertarian, and I hold my political beliefs out of a sincere desire for widespread human happiness. - jasonaorr

You're either a liar, or an ignorant idiot.

By Knockgoats (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

It's not too difficult to see the appeal of Libertarianism. The rugged individuality; not compromising with anyone; living free of restraint.

Of course, that's just how people started out, thousands of years ago. After a few millenia, lots of bloodshed and injustice, we ended up with our present societies.

Libertarianism would rapidly become feudalism, which isn't much fun if you're near the bottom of the pile. Been there, done that. If you don't want to work with what we've got, at least try something different.

Everyone can be like me if they work hard (and by "work hard" I mean be born the right way and having all the lucky breaks I did).

In my experience, that's not really a libertarian line of thought.

I do hate the self-righteous smug attitude, which is unfortunately quite common among some conservatives, which manifests itself in comments like "the poor should learn to stand on their own two feet", or in accusing the unemployed/welfare recipients of being "lazy" or "living off the state". This attitude - holding the poor responsible for their own plight - is, it goes without saying, ignorant and stupid, and ignores the structural socio-economic causes of unemployment, as well as individual physical and mental health problems which may prevent people from working.

But in my experience, people who think like that tend to be the same kind of ignorant, knee-jerk right-wingers who have an irrational xenophobic fear of immigration, and believe in "closing the borders" to "stop immigrants taking our jobs". Likewise, they tend to be the same people who always believe that crime is on the rise, regardless of the actual evidence, and advocate "tough on crime" measures (while ignoring, again, the social, economic and mental health causes of crime). This kind of moronic rhetoric is best exemplified in the UK by the Daily Mail newspaper. These people are certainly not libertarians; in fact, their philosophy is highly authoritarian, wanting to use state power to give effect to their irrational prejudices.

Libertarians are the reason I'm an anarchist.

By t3knomanser (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Libertarianism would rapidly become feudalism, which isn't much fun if you're near the bottom of the pile. Been there, done that. If you don't want to work with what we've got...

Well, OK. That's assuming that what civilization started out with was anything like libertarianism, which I think hardly anyone would seriously argue.

But even assuming you're right, do you mean to seriously propose that we could ever start from that place again? The mere fact that we have a little more technology nowadays than we did when we came down from the trees is quite a game-changer.

By badgersdaughter (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

@jasonaorr
Perhaps you're right, but a liberal does have a monopoly on the opinions expressed on this site. You might want to grow a thicker skin if you intend to continue reading the blog of a self-proclaimed "godless liberal".

By JtheWonderLlama (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Compassionate libertarian: Radley Balko. He has dedicated his journalistic career to discovering and decrying police malfeasance, violations of the 4th amendment, and false convictions.

t3knomanser: difference between a libertarian and an anarchist is days between bathing

By broboxley (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Radley Balko, who I greatly admire, is a compassionate person. He would do the same, I'm convinced, if he was a liberal, out of the best liberal motives, or if he was a conservative, out of the best conservative motives.

It's like what we sometimes say about religions. Good people make good religious people. Evil people make evil religious people. The religion itself hardly figures into it.

By badgersdaughter (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

@badgersdaughter,

The claim made here was that libertarians are uncompassionate sociopaths. People such as Balko give the lie to that statement. You are certainly correct that good and bad people can have very different political views, and that's the point. An argument against a political view which portrays all who hold it as monsters is not an argument at all.

@JtheWonderLlama
As a libertarian, I would never argue against the author's right to insult my values. I do contend that he is mistaken in his dismissive outlook. He is certainly entitled to be wrong. I was only asserting that, unlike 9/11 Truthers or fundamentalist Christians, libertarians can be reasoned with. If libertarianism is a misguided political philosophy, it can be proven so with evidence and sound argument. However, to do that, one would have to disprove the words of Thomas Jefferson, John Stuart Mill, F.A. Hayek, and countless others who advocate or advocated for individual liberty over centralized control. Libertarianism is not diametrically opposed to liberalism, nor is it diametrically opposed to conservatism. It is opposed to totalitarianism. The movement draws from a fear of tyranny, not a love for bigotry.

By jasonaorr (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

"The mere fact that we have a little more technology nowadays than we did when we came down from the trees is quite a game-changer."

I love a good 'game-changer'

for example:

The mere fact that we have vaccinations nowadays compared to when we came down from the trees is quite a game-changer.

or

The mere fact that we have a little more cotton candy nowadays than we did in Victorian times is quite a game-changer.

It always looks and sounds good but is utterly devoid of any substance.

By mike.mclennan (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

The claim made here was that libertarians are uncompassionate sociopaths.

No, the claim made was that Libertarianism attracts uncompassionate sociopaths.

People such as Balko give the lie to that statement.

A single exception does not disprove the generality when the claim is not that "all" Libertarians are monsters.

Liberal: A term referring to a group of upper-class white politicians that pander to poor minorities for votes. May also refer to the arrogant, mindless drones that support them during an election.

"Compassionate libertarian: Radley Balko. He has dedicated his journalistic career to discovering and decrying police malfeasance, violations of the 4th amendment, and false convictions."

That makes him a good civil libertarian, which a person of almost any political stripe might well embrace. The folks who dislike big-L Libertarianism have problems with the other aspects of the party and philosophy, yes?

By Gingerbaker (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

As a self identifying libertarian, I would be eager to hear any actual criticisms PZ might have of libertarianism. But so far, I haven't seen anything but rants.

Now don't get me wrong, it is fun to read to an articulate rant against a position (it certainly is fun to read any of PZ's rants against fundamentalist christianity.) But such rants are only fun to read BECAUSE I KNOW THAT EVERY RANT IS MIXED WITH AN EQUAL LEVEL OF SOUND REASONING DEFENDING THE CAUSE OF THE RANTERS AGITATION.

But so far, I have only seen agitation and insults hurled against libertarianism, without any clear reasoning to back up such contempt. I would be much more eager to hear a reasoned attack on my philosophy; I can get insults and ad hominem from my peers.

I have never understood why discussion of Libertarianism always turns around the writings of Ayn Rand, and Atlas Shrugged in particular. A far more balanced view of what a functioning Libertarian society would have to look like can be found in Ursula LeGuin's excellent book "The Disposessed" ( summary here). I highly recommend it to people that wish to engage Libertarians on the Internet.

By jennyxyzzy (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

It might be, if a free market actually existed, or had a hope of ever existing

The free market cannot exist, because it is self-defeating. Economic power and political power are inextricably linked. In a "free market," successful companies (meaning those with money) will always create a power imbalance. They will always use that power imbalance to maintain their own market position.

The reason Microsoft is the largest software company in the world has less to do with the quality of their products (which almost entirely suck), and more to do with their original market position (which was given them by another big company, IBM). In an essentially unregulated market, Microsoft was able to assume political power based on their economic power.

The "invisible hand of the market" is there only to give reach-arounds to big corporations.

By nigelTheBold (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

If libertarianism is a misguided political philosophy, it can be proven so with evidence and sound argument.

And that has been done everytime a libertarian posted here. They are impervious to rational thought and evidence. Otherwise, they wouldn't believe with the religious ferver in a morally bankrupt philosophy. And ignore the refutations.

By Nerd of Redhead, OM (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

It always looks and sounds good but is utterly devoid of any substance.

And your retort has how much substance?

Let me spell it out for you in little tiny words: Comparing what happened hundreds of years ago with what would happen today is comparing apples and oranges. You are simply not starting with the same initial conditions.

Of course, this doesn't make libertarianism correct. It just means we have to be realistic and scrupulous when we think about potential impacts and possible outcomes.

By badgersdaughter (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

I really have never gotten any of these -ism words. Really. I know what conservatism, liberalism, libertarianism, fascism, communism and socialism all are, but I have never, ever, understood the moniker "Liberal", or "Conservative", or "libertarian".

Does PZ think liberalism is the right answer for everything? Does shermer think free market s the right tool in all cases?

Maybe they do. Maybe the masses ARE idiots as most people think (is that a recursive loop?).

Free market/low government intervention: good for some things
government subsidied/promoted: good for other things
Government controlled:good for other things

Why do people arm themselves only with hammers, not everything is a nail.

By Techskeptic (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Jason Orr,

Somewhere and somehow you have confused liberalism with libertarianism.

Liberalism is the political philosophy that argues for or "individual liberty over centralized control", not libertarianism. It is true that some libertarians argue for personal liberty as well, but since they oppose the means by which the franchise of liberties can be spread, they cannot be said to be truly in favour of such liberties other than for those who already have them.

For example, lack of education severely reduces people's opportunities in life. A liberal with recognise that and argue for taxes to be spent on providing access to education. A libertarian may accept that education improves opportunity but will be against the use of taxes to improve education, relying instead on either the free market or philanthropy. Sadly history shows us neither is that effective.

By Matt Penfold (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

I read somewhere that if you want to see libertarianism in action, just take a look at Somalia. But, I suppose that isn't "true" libertarianism.../snark

@broboxley: I bathe. And pay taxes. And even vote. I'm a really bad anarchist. I'm also not big on personal freedom. I think we should structure our world such that things that we deem bad simply can't be done. Instead of making murder illegal, we should simply make it impossible. Of course, I would never trust humans to make decisions about what should (or should not) be deemed bad. Instead, we need a system. A process that decides reliably (it isn't important that it makes the best decisions, only that it is consistent about its decision making and is predictable).

I admit: it's a crazy world view. But it makes much more sense in my head than anything else I've seen.

By t3knomanser (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Wow, thanks for this! I felt kinda bad thinking of libertarians as deluded anarchists, but now at least I know I'm not alone!

@16:
1) I got mine so FUCK YOU!
2) The government should exist only to the extent it helps me.
3) Everyone can be like me if they work hard (and by "work hard" I mean be born the right way and having all the lucky breaks I did).

That sounds more like the republican/conservative ticket to me- in my experience, libertarians are more like anarchists who believe in the free market- they believe that they can run their own lives without intervention from the government, and therefore that everyone can. OK, so maybe that does sound like most libertarians...

By Isaac Sherman (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Oh boy, I'll be watching this thread eagerly. Nobody is more humourless and undeservedly smug than libertarians - not even creationists. So it's always a joy to watch when someone with a little humanity to their name lays into them.

By Facehammer (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

That makes him a good civil libertarian, which a person of almost any political stripe might well embrace. The folks who dislike big-L Libertarianism have problems with the other aspects of the party and philosophy, yes?

Generally, yes. Gretchen, who points to Balko as an example of a "compassionate libertarian", is correct to draw our attention to the laudable desire of libertarians to be personally free of government abuse and to defend the First Amendment. However, the paths of libertarians and American progressives/liberals diverge when the conversation turns to economics. In other words, there are many (though not all) points of agreement on personal rights free from government intervention, but HUGE disagreements on what we owe to our fellow citizens, especially in terms of shared economic investment.

"I read somewhere that if you want to see libertarianism in action, just take a look at Somalia. But, I suppose that isn't "true" libertarianism.../snark"

Well, whenever Somalia is brought up it's usually by someone arguing with ANARCHISTS, and there is a difference. Somalia has no central government at all. Though if we're talking about the super-far-right, anarcho-capitalist, Ayn Rand branch of libertarianism, this is valid, I suppose.

By badhelvetica (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

If it matters to anyone, Rand originally wrote of Enlightened Self-Interest as being the prime mover in her fictional ideal society. The problem is, all too many who lay claim to the libertarian moniker have a heaping helping of the latter and almost none of the former. Rand's ideal of enlightened self-interest works well enough, on paper. The problem being it completely falls flat when attempted in reality. I wouldn't want to live in Galt's Gulch.
(There's sex offenders in it.)
Yet it is still possible to adhere to what the founders of the United States wanted or would have wanted had they been more fully aware of what the future would bring. Of course that's where the fun/fighting starts. But, I'll leave that to you to yell about. I've tossed in my two bits. (used to be 2 cents, but you know how it is with Inflation and all )

@tsg,

Well, I find little utility in making claims about what sort of people are attracted to which political philosophies. If sociopaths are attracted to libertarianism, it is clearly true that non-sociopaths are as well. Is it possible for a sociopath to be attracted to liberalism? Sure-- ever talked to one of those people who would happily kill thousands of people to save an endangered animal? How about someone who would prefer that people starve than be allowed access to genetically modified foods?

I care much less about labels than the actual content of your ideas. If you are a strong supporter of human rights and do not consider government programs to be an unqualified good, we probably agree on much more than we disagree, no matter what you call yourself.

@t3knomanser: wow you are a bad anarchist :-)

Instead, we need a system. A process that decides reliably (it isn't important that it makes the best decisions, only that it is consistent about its decision making and is predictable).

no prob, you have just described religion

By broboxley (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Over the decades, my father has become a caricature of a small-government rugged individualist. Ironically, he made his living in California as a farmer and dairyman. Without government intervention and subsidies, he would never have made it. Agriculture in central California depends on an extensive state & federal water-transport system that permits farming in an otherwise arid environment. Milk-price supports and crop subsidies shored up many a dairy farm operation. Given the productivity of California farmers, one can easily argue that subsidized irrigation water was a smart move on the part of the public sector (although the question arises whether it's sustainable). Dad, however, rails against the government agencies that allow some of his water to flow from government-built dams into the Bay Area fisheries instead of down the canals to central Cal. I guess subsidized water in perpetuity is one of the "unalienable rights" that Americans are supposed to enjoy.

@broboxley: religion fails on the predictable metric.

By t3knomanser (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

I have only one problem with this quote.

It lacks a "comma", right between the words "simple-minded" and "right-wing". Without the comma, it implies that libertarianism is just a right-wing idea that happens to be simple-minded. But were the author (or people quoting) to add the comma, it would, in my view, be more accurate.

It's an idea that is simple-minded. The word should not modify the "right-wing"ness of it. It stands on it's own as a description of libertarianism.

By wubby.myopenid.com (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

I'm not an American (I'm actually French and live in the UK) but I find Libertarianism to be profoundly shocking.

In my experience, individualism and self-gain leads to both extremely positive as well as terribly negative effects. Pushing to one extreme or the other is a grave mistake!

I am a moderate socialist - I believe taking care of others in my society (and having them take care of me in times of need) makes sense. Not only is it the moral thing to do, it is also better for me, as an individual, to be surrounded by healthier, happier people who know they will be helped by society when they fall on hard times. It is better for the economy to have a halthier and less stressed workforce. It is better for everyone.

I am always in awe of the total blindedness of Americans to these advantages - not to mention the morality of it (and the supreme irony is of course that most Americans opposed to this also claim to be "Christians").

Oh, and for the record, I have never claimed benefits, EVER, have always happily paid my taxes. I hope I never need to, but if I ever need it I know it's there, and I'm safe. The value if that feeling is priceless!!

Libertarians (so-called) discount completely the need for collective action about anything, except to pay a policeman to portect your life & property.

In real life, that end up as a Hobbesian bargain because the Policeman either takes, or is given, Sovereignty. Those South American dictatorships where the rich funded the local strongman are a good picture of how a Libertarian society would develop.

This was confirmed for me when most "Libertarians" fell over themselves rushing to lick the boots of G.W. Bush.

By tobyjoyce (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

A far more balanced view of what a functioning Libertarian society would have to look like can be found in Ursula LeGuin's excellent book "The Disposessed" jennyxyzzy

You evidently know nothing whatever about "libertarianism" in the sense rightly attacked by PZ. Its core principles are worship of "the free market", and the primacy of private property rights - indeed, "propertarianism" would be a more accurate name. The anarchist communists in The Dispossessed call the oppressors they escaped from "propertarians". They have no market exchange, hold everything beyond a few personal possessions in common, and don't even refer to their clothes as "mine". There could scarcely be too more different views.

By Knockgoats (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Wasn't it Isaac Asimov who defined libertarianism as:

'I want to be free to make money, and you can be free to starve.'?

By Kathy Orlinsky (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Start with definitions, please:

libertarianism: a political theory that advocates the maximization of individual liberty in thought and action and the minimization or even abolition of the state.

Unfortunately, since humans are social animals, individual liberties must be curtailed so as to make for viable societies.

As for "abolition of the state"--I'll pass. I like ways of settling disputes or trespasses that involve objective means.

By Givesgoodemail (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Isn't it great when clever, talented people agree with what you already thought? My definition:

*Libertarianism: a political ideology for the pathologically greedy and entitled.*

Hmmm, I think I see how this goes:

Environmentalists: People who think it's cool to starve black and brown people to death for the sake of bugs and rocks

Liberal: Someone who believes in using a gun to take your money to spend on what he likes is fine as long as he has a good excuse

Pharyngula: A blog that pretends to oppose religion and folds like a cheap bedouin tent whenever there's a real fight on.

Pharyngulite atheist: Someone who has escaped the bonds of religion to crawl before the idol of the State.

Hey, I think I could go on like this for a long, long time.

Incidentally, just so no one misunderstands me, I am dead serious, especially about the first one. I don't think environmentalists are "idealists" or simply misguided or any of the other crap that's usually served up. I think they are the scum of the earth, truly wicked and evil people who have a great deal of blood on their hands, and I should happily drag the likes of Greenpeace before the Hague to stand trial for warcrimes and crimes against humanity.

By Cimourdain (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

If it matters to anyone, Rand originally wrote of Enlightened Self-Interest as being the prime mover in her fictional ideal society.

If it matters to you, my esteemed elder cousin (a handful of times removed) was unaware of the inherent contradiction between "enlightened" and "self-interest," because she had a terribly idealistic opinion of what constituted the "self." She tried to divorce herself from her "baser" motivations, not realizing that she was fragmenting herself rather than integrating herself. She was an anorexic of the mind, paring herself down to "essentials" and driving herself literally crazy trying to be perfect.

By badgersdaughter (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

@t3knomanser: religion is always predictable because the leaders always act in their own perceived best interest

By broboxley (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Well, I find little utility in making claims about what sort of people are attracted to which political philosophies.

It's useful when those philosophies are ripe for abuse as Libertarianism is. However, I was merely correcting your misstatement of the argument.

If sociopaths are attracted to libertarianism, it is clearly true that non-sociopaths are as well. Is it possible for a sociopath to be attracted to liberalism? Sure--

A more useful argument is whether or not Libertarianism is somehow flawed because sociopaths are attracted to it, especially when it is a philosophy that requires voluntary compassion and altruism, with no punishment for taking advantage of the system, in order to work. You're free to ignore that, or consider it unimportant, if you like. Most Libertarians do.

ever talked to one of those people who would happily kill thousands of people to save an endangered animal? How about someone who would prefer that people starve than be allowed access to genetically modified foods?

Red herring. Flaws in other philosophies don't make this one not flawed.

I care much less about labels than the actual content of your ideas. If you are a strong supporter of human rights and do not consider government programs to be an unqualified good, we probably agree on much more than we disagree, no matter what you call yourself.

Labels are just a convenience. But let's not hand-wave the fact that most of the people who are espousing these views call themselves "Libertarians".

A far more balanced view of what a functioning Libertarian society would have to look like can be found in Ursula LeGuin's excellent book "The Disposessed"

Really? You think that an anarcho-syndicalist, communitarian society, where children are raised communally and there is no personal property, is a libertarian ideal? Perhaps for that tiny group that labels itself libertarian socialists, but they are by no means representative of libertarianism, especially in the US.

@Athena

"I read somewhere that if you want to see libertarianism in action, just take a look at Somalia. But, I suppose that isn't "true" libertarianism.../snark"

Because Democrats/liberals (I do not use that term derisively, only as a generalization) think it is sooooooo fair when people point to the U.S.S.R. as the "logical" extension of liberal policies. (I personally don't, but your snark makes no more sense than that)

Point to Somalia for the failures of the anarchist philosophy, if you feel the need, but libertarians aren't anarchists. If you are under that basic of a misunderstanding of what libertarianism is, you probably need to read more outside of sources that merely parrot your preconceived notions.

Liberal: Someone who believes in using a gun to take your money to spend on what he likes is fine as long as he has a good excuse

Whose money?

Liberal, Conservative, Libertarian... these labels vary so much from country to country that talking about them in an international forum like this is almost pointless... the whole discussion, if it's going to get anywhere at all, is going to have to start with 3 days of posts of definitions. Even going forward after that will be difficult since half the posts will be from people who wouldn't read the 3 days of definitions.

I think PZ is using libertarian to mean right wing libertarians like the Libertarian Party in the US. And he also seams to indicate that it's a boolean variable, not a spectrum. If it's defined by we\hether or not you liked reading Ayn Rand, I suppose it may be true.

Disclosure... I think of myself as mostly centre on both the libertarian/totalitarian spectrum and on the left/right spectrum (don't we all, I suppose) with a lean towards left and libertarian. Not big leans, I do believe in taxes to do stuff better done by government(left), and I do believe that the government shouldn't tell me what sex the person I choose to marry should be(libertarian).

As a self identifying libertarian, I would be eager to hear any actual criticisms PZ might have of libertarianism.

Then why not follow the links helpfully provided in the post, you dolt?

By Knockgoats (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Jim, you're wasting your time. If someone's so willfully ignorant that they can't see the difference between the rule of brute force and removing the initiation of force from human interaction, there's nothing you can do.

By Cimourdain (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

@jasonaorr

"unlike 9/11 Truthers or fundamentalist Christians, libertarians can be reasoned with."

I'm not a libertarian, but I agree with this. However, I don't see how PZ is making that claim either. Yes, he's mocking libertarians. That's often the sort of thing he does on this blog, and I don't see why he should be obligated to produce a detailed argument to support his post. If you disagree with PZ, it would be more constructive to explain why, rather than letting him know that he hurt your feelings.

By JtheWonderLlama (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

As a self identifying libertarian, I would be eager to hear any actual criticisms PZ might have of libertarianism.

You mean other than the criticisms PZ has already made, and which you seem to have been unable to click on ?

By Matt Penfold (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Incidentally, just so no one misunderstands me, I am dead serious, especially about the first one

I can tell you're serious. Seriously nuts.

By Gingerbaker (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

I think of myself as mostly centre on both the libertarian/totalitarian spectrum and on the left/right spectrum (don't we all, I suppose) - BAllanJ

No.

By Knockgoats (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Anywhere else in the world, you'd call yourself a liberal.

Wouldn't upholding the founding document that's over 200 years old actually make you a conservative, not a liberal?

I can tell you're serious. Seriously nuts.

We already knew he was nuts.

He is on record as telling he values his right to discriminate on grounds of sex, race, religion or sexuality as being more important than the right of people to not discriminated against on those grounds. He really does think it is OK fora landlord to refuse to let to black people on the grounds that stopping him from doing so infringes his rights to be a bigot.

By Matt Penfold (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Cimourdain:

You are looking forward to the day there is nothing left on this planet other than human beings?

If not how are you going to decide when to stop?

Best book depicting free market society:

Jennifer Government

Pick it up...

By Techskeptic (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Ginger, how about answering one of my points? You know, doing some actual thinking for once in your life?

You mean other than the criticisms PZ has already made, and which you seem to have been unable to click on ?

P.Z. gives the distinct impression that he has never read any opinion contra his own. He does not address, he doesn't even seem to understand what this hellish philosophy means for the Third World poor. He hasn't read Phillip Stott or Paul Driessen or anyone else for that matter, on what these policies mean for the poorest of the poor.

By Cimourdain (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

I think of myself as mostly centre on both the libertarian/totalitarian spectrum and on the left/right spectrum (don't we all, I suppose)

You suppose wrong, fucktard.

If I had my way, America would be a liberal Sweden.

So speak for your stupid fucking self, and no one else, dipshit.

Hey fuck you too, buddy!

Libertarianism isn't the super social evil you seem to think it is. Libertarianism is kind of a fractured group, with a lot of different viewpoints. Some thing everything, including welfare, should be abolished.

The smart libertarians amongst us know that the government can do some little good in some areas, but right now I think we can all agree it's getting slightly out of hand.

I think of myself as mostly centre on both the libertarian/totalitarian spectrum and on the left/right spectrum (don't we all, I suppose)

Goodness gracious, no, we don't. Nor do I necessarily believe in the "center", which all too often is a euphemism for "uninterested except when it affects me personally."

As a reformed libertarian, I am sorry.

Im sorry for all the times I ranted about money being the 'root of all good'.

Im sorry for telling young people that everything Ayn Rand wrote was a golden fountain of truth.

Im sorry for defending predatory corporate actions.

Im sorry for fighting living wage reform.

I was seduced by the promise of liberty. I still know that the more freedoms we have, the better off we are as a society. But freedoms must come at a cost. We have a social contract to the community that enables us to succeed. There are no self made millionaires. Every entrepreneur that ever put a business plan to paper required the public schools to educate his workforce and customers, roads to move his goods, an army and police to protect his property rights, and courts to protect his business rights.

I'm sorry I bought into such a short sighted philosophy. Like masturbation, it felt great at the time. Unlike masturbation, I was fucking someone else while I pleasured myself.

By bart.mitchell (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Best book depicting free market society:

Jennifer Government

Pick it up...

THIS.

I heartily second this recommendation. If you haven't read it, it's a good read.

@Bobber correct people dont own money, they rent it from the government

By broboxley (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Like masturbation, it felt great at the time. Unlike masturbation, I was fucking someone else while I pleasured myself.

This should be added to the definition of libertarianism, I think.

Libertarians are just Repuglicans who want to smoke pot and get laid.

By LightningRose (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

At first I wasn't too interested in reading a comment thread full of Glibertarian butthurt, but then I saw people defending their Sensible Libertarianism by contrasting it with the Obvious Crazyness of teh Anarchism. Now I'm making popcorn for when SC OM turns up and eruditely rips them new arseholes.

By mattheath (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

"Then why not follow the links helpfully provided in the post, you dolt?"

"You mean other than the criticisms PZ has already made, and which you seem to have been unable to click on?"

The links provided in the post are to:

1) A satirical hypothetical conversation between political characatures.

2) A work of science fiction.

Neither one of these constitutes a well reasoned criticism of libertarianism, anymore than "Jack Chick Tracts" or "The Chronicles of Narnia" represent a well reasoned defense of christianity.

Wouldn't upholding the founding document that's over 200 years old actually make you a conservative, not a liberal?

Who was it who said recently the fundamental rules of soccer were "The ball is round; the game lasts 90 minutes?" If I adhere to that, am I a selfish spoilsport and "not a team player" within the context of soccer? Because that's what some people seem to imply a conservative is, politically speaking... someone who, in following the "rules of the game" as put forward in the founding document (not all of which is 200 years old), selfishly wants to ruin things for others.

The Constitution contains the exact protocol for changing itself. Therefore, it's perfectly permissible, under the current rules, to change the rules. I think someone who identifies themselves as a conservative would be against such changes. I think a liberal would be someone who favors such changes, if they further the cause of liberty; that's where I happen to stand.

By badgersdaughter (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Matt is getting hysterical about the fact that while I would, and have, left a racist employer even at the door of poverty, and while I would, and have, organize a boycott of the same, and while I would, and have, done my bit to ensure that everyone knows about the person, I would not use the government gun.

Meanwhile he's completely blase about starving real, genuine black and brown folk to death, or leaving them to be ravaged by disease, or trapped in abysmal poverty.

I give you: the mind of the liberal in action.

iamhor, I will thank you to address my points, and not dodge the question. If you want to preserve a specific species you are free to buy it, or to convince others to put money into preserving it. What you may not do is blockade food shipments to the poor, or prevent vitamin A fortified rice getting to nightblind children, or keep people trapped in poverty by preventing them from exploiting the resources beneath their own soil. Environmentalists do all of these. And you wonder that I call them the scum of the earth?

By Cimourdain (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

@Knockgoat:the difference between libertarians and anarchists is marginal
Libertarian: my property is MINE and if I like yours I may take it
Anarchist: there is no such thing as property, therefore it is all MINE
difference is in the implementation

By broboxley (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Neither one of these constitutes a well reasoned criticism of libertarianism, anymore than "Jack Chick Tracts" or "The Chronicles of Narnia" represent a well reasoned defense of christianity.

And yet they could really be all you need to understand the actual meaning of Christianity, sans sophistry and verbal legerdemain. Perhaps a cartoon is the most apt medium to describe certain cartoonish ideas.

I envision this TV-Guide entry in heaven:

Thursday, 10:00, GBS. Rational Land, the Lost Nation (Season Premier) This critically acclaimed satire begins its 969th season. For the newly glorified: enjoy the drama of a nation where all religion and irrational thought has been eliminated. Only people for whom "rationalism is king" are citizens. One third are progressive, academic liberals known as PZians. One third are xenophobic, militaristic secular rightists known as Derbyshirians. And one third are libertarians known as Randians whose leader is indeed a randy old cougar. All are secular, all are convinced of the correctness of their positions and the total lack of merit (or pathology) of their opponents' positions. They have achieved their common goal of a society free of religion. Do you suppose they have a beautiful and peaceful nation? Tune in to see! Available in Aramaic by pressing the AAP button on your set.

The links provided in the post are to:

1) A satirical hypothetical conversation between political characatures.

2) A work of science fiction.

Neither one of these constitutes a well reasoned criticism of libertarianism, anymore than "Jack Chick Tracts" or "The Chronicles of Narnia" represent a well reasoned defense of christianity.

Max,

I am sorry.

Sorry that you are are so intellectually challenged that you are unable to use the search function to find what you seek. I assume it is lack of ability rather than inability since, quite frankly, you so not seem very bright. After all you have chosen to call yourself a libertarian, indicating that your cognitive functions so not work.

I am also at a loss as to why you think PZ is the only source of criticism of libertarianism. May I suggest reading some philosophy might help you overcome your current inability to consider anyone other than yourself. If you have one, maybe a friend could help you with the big words philosophers are want to use.

By Matt Penfold (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Holy crap! By saying I thought I was in the centre, I guess I should have said somewhere on the spectrum... So I guess the folks who called me a fucktard etc identify with the edges... one or more of: extreme libertarian, extreme totalitarian, ultra right wing or ultra left wing.

I must have stepped into a dog whistle I don't understand...

So go ahead, beat up on me some more for holding a view I don't.

Libertarianism is a bit like setting up your stall in a slot at the mall - benefiting from its lighting, security, amenities, car parking, the streams of customers that go by - and then, when the management call for the rent, you get up on your high horse, declare that this is _your_ money which _you_ made by your own unaided efforts, and refuse to pay up.

By Stephen Wells (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

@tsg

"A more useful argument is whether or not Libertarianism is somehow flawed because sociopaths are attracted to it, especially when it is a philosophy that requires voluntary compassion and altruism, with no punishment for taking advantage of the system, in order to work. You're free to ignore that, or consider it unimportant, if you like. Most Libertarians do."

libertarianism doesn't require voluntary compassion, it is just a hypothetical framework within which any way you try to take advantage of the system produces a net positive result. The money you earn, you can donate to charity or philanthropy--with obvious benefits, you can spend (creating jobs), you can save (putting more true capital in the system to make it easier for money to be lent). If the government actively enforces property rights and is limited in its scope, then under a theoretical framework like this there is actually a lot of net benefit flowing around, and opportunities for people to better their own situation.

Pointing out that actual, practical applications of libertarianism are prone to abuse doesn't actually say that much. All systems are prone to abuse. A liberal system is prone to abuse in the form of government graft and bribery. Big governments encourage systems of strong lobbyists and iron triangles that rarely benefit the little guy.

I don't think libertarianism as a concept is prone to attracting "sociopaths" and more than I would say the same about liberalism . . . for as much as I love PZ's blog for the science, there's no science behind than rants that are part of this comment thread. I know it gets under your skin when other groups demonize liberals, and it gets under my skin when I'm portrayed as some kind of heartless asshole because I think government should be a bit more limited and disciplined, and should try harder to stay out of both our bedrooms and our pocketbooks. There is more than enough overlap there for reasonable people to engage in rational dialogue, rather than this.

@tsg,

Given the astonishing variety of views held by people who refer to themselves as libertarians, I think it's safe to say that there isn't a single, coherent, self-consistent philosophy called "libertarianism." Which shouldn't be at all surprising, considering that the same can be said of "liberalism" and "conservatism."

I don't think that people who support corporate subsidies, oppose abortion, or think the invasion of Iraq was good idea should call themselves libertarians, but then I don't own the word. When I considered myself a liberal, other people sharing the label who supported the war on drugs pissed me off. C'est la vie.

So go ahead, beat up on me some more for holding a view I don't.

Quit lying. You did say this:

"I think of myself as mostly centre on both the libertarian/totalitarian spectrum and on the left/right spectrum (don't we all, I suppose)"

It is the bit in parenthesis people are objecting to. If you cannot comprehend that, maybe this conversation is a bit beyond you.

By Matt Penfold (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Oh, very nice Stephen Wells. Yes, how could we be so blind? All Blessings to Him From Whom All Blessings Flow! Without His Hand We Are Nothing! All Hail State!

Compared with the sickly, syrupy worship of the State-God, old time religion is wholesome.

By Cimourdain (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

That is odd Libertarianism is being attacked in this post since the Libertarian Party is the only political party that actually supports the Constitution as written. How can you find anything wrong with the Libertarian platform?

http://www.lp.org/platform

Democrats don't even care if proposed legislation is even in the enumerated list of powers the Constitution provided the Fed. Government. (Republicans aren't much better these days, especially on legislating their view of morality).

The Federal Governement has usurped power they simply don't have. For those attacking Libertaranism I can only assume they haven't read the US Constitution or they simply don't understand it. They also don't seem to understand the difference between the powers of the Federal Government and the powers of a State (or even local) government.

If it matters to anyone, Rand originally wrote of Enlightened Self-Interest as being the prime mover in her fictional ideal society. The problem is, all too many who lay claim to the libertarian moniker have a heaping helping of the latter and almost none of the former.

This little practical problem is the exact same problem that sunk the philosophy of Marx in terms of real-world application.

Ayn and Karl are cell mates in the same circle of hell (if there is a hell).

MaxFagin,
Try putting "libertarianism" in the search box at the top left of the page. Come back when you've read all the threads that leads you to, mkay? There's no reason why anyone should rehash arguments made here many times because you're too lazy to put a search term in a box.

bobboxley
the difference between libertarians and anarchists is marginal
Libertarian: my property is MINE and if I like yours I may take it
Anarchist: there is no such thing as property, therefore it is all MINE
difference is in the implementation

You haven't the faintest idea what you are talking about. Historically, most (not all) anarchism has been a movement of the left, and has advocated collective control of resources. Go and read a fucking book on it, or just find some of the many anarchist websites. Jesus wept, you could start with wikipedia.

By Knockgoats (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Ayn and Karl are cell mates in the same circle of hell (if there is a hell).

Oh, the conversations they must have! I would love to be a fly on that wall, provided it isn't made of burning fiery death.

Thanks Bobber. I was lucky to grow up with secular parents, so I never had to throw off the chains of religion. I was burdened with thoughts of 'self made men' and 'everything you work for should be yours'. So my college years were spent reading Rand and taking economics classes.

It took a while before I realized that success is dependent on all the other humans around you. No one can do it all on their own. Well, perhaps Bear Grylls or MacGyver. Besides them, no one can succeed without a solid society on which to build their business.

In fiction, like what MaxFagin was alluding to, libertarianism can be made to look like all of society is being born on the backs of hard working CEO's. In reality, when Atlas shrugs there are 10 people standing in line to take his place. A real pure libertarian government will end up looking like Somalia.

By bart.mitchell (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

libertarianism doesn't require voluntary compassion, it is just a hypothetical framework within which any way you try to take advantage of the system produces a net positive result. The money you earn, you can donate to charity or philanthropy--with obvious benefits, you can spend (creating jobs), you can save (putting more true capital in the system to make it easier for money to be lent). If the government actively enforces property rights and is limited in its scope, then under a theoretical framework like this there is actually a lot of net benefit flowing around, and opportunities for people to better their own situation.

Why are people so ignorant of history ?

C19th Britain was libertarian in this context. Successive Governments did not see it as their role to improve the lot of the poor and disenfranchised. Instead they had to rely on the philanthropy of the wealthy.

It was not a success.

By Matt Penfold (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

I can only assume they haven't read the US Constitution or they simply don't understand it. They also don't seem to understand the difference between the powers of the Federal Government and the powers of a State (or even local) government.

Or that some people might interpret the constitution differently than Libertarians.

Crazy I know.

By Rev. BigDumbChimp (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

I must have stepped into a dog whistle I don't understand...

More like stumbling over a hornet's nest while wearing "Sting Me No. 5."

So go ahead, beat up on me some more for holding a view I don't.

No, no, beating up! Just sayin' - in my opinion, conservatives want to take us back to a non-existent Utopia, progressives want to continue making improvements on a not-yet-good-enough society, and centrists generally don't care enough to fall into either camp, or think things are generally okay and don't need to budge in either direction. For many, centrist = common sensical; for me, centrist (often) = spineless, uninformed do-nothing. (Fair or not.)

Cimourdain: saving black and brown folks by defeating the evils of racism. My hero!

(On related matters. Do you know that it is physiologically impossible for white people to starve in poverty, and that there can be no black or brown environmentalists under international law?)

By the way, that airy feeling in your crotch region is because your dick is hanging out... Put it away before PZ comes along and chops it off to add to his collection.

By Bernard Bumner (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

It took a while before I realized that success is dependent on all the other humans around you. No one can do it all on their own. Well, perhaps Bear Grylls or MacGyver.

Bah. MacGyver always used things other people built. When he turned a tailpipe and suicide knob into a cannon, society had to provide the tailpipe, suicide knob, and explosively-combustible material.

Even old Mac knew he couldn't get by without the folks around him.

By nigelTheBold (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

libertarianism doesn't require voluntary compassion, it is just a hypothetical framework within which any way you try to take advantage of the system produces a net positive result. The money you earn, you can donate to charity or philanthropy--with obvious benefits, you can spend (creating jobs), you can save (putting more true capital in the system to make it easier for money to be lent). If the government actively enforces property rights and is limited in its scope, then under a theoretical framework like this there is actually a lot of net benefit flowing around, and opportunities for people to better their own situation.

History shows this not to be the case. Wealth tends to stay with the wealthy. The poor tend to stay poor.

Pointing out that actual, practical applications of libertarianism are prone to abuse doesn't actually say that much.

It does when the system is question makes no provisions for being abused and actually rewards abuse.

All systems are prone to abuse. A liberal system is prone to abuse in the form of government graft and bribery. Big governments encourage systems of strong lobbyists and iron triangles that rarely benefit the little guy.

Flaws in other systems don't make this one not flawed.

I don't think libertarianism as a concept is prone to attracting "sociopaths" and more than I would say the same about liberalism . . . for as much as I love PZ's blog for the science, there's no science behind than rants that are part of this comment thread. I know it gets under your skin when other groups demonize liberals, and it gets under my skin when I'm portrayed as some kind of heartless asshole because I think government should be a bit more limited and disciplined, and should try harder to stay out of both our bedrooms and our pocketbooks. There is more than enough overlap there for reasonable people to engage in rational dialogue, rather than this.

The points where we agree don't change the fact that the points where we disagree are huge.

bar.mitchell,

. A real pure libertarian government will end up looking like Somalia.

There's a slight, small problem with this: you have no evidence whatsoever to support your p.o.v. Conversely, I can amass a considerable body of evidence for the devastation wrought by opposition to free trade and capitalism, especially - and I am going to keep harping on this - in the Third World.

What we have at the moment is a situation whereby huge sums are given to corrupt, evil, or just plain incompetent governments, disconnecting them from any responsibility, while conversely the same kind of statist louse opposes globalization and maintains trade barriers that gut and fillet the middle and working classes of these countries. It's a sub-Brechtian racket.

By Cimourdain (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

The movement draws from a fear of tyranny, not a love for bigotry.

Except that for some reason, the fear of tyranny only applies to governments. It appears that according to libertarians, a tyranny of the market is all fine and dandy.

Tulse and Knockgoats,

Yes, I'm well aware of the fact that the society described in LeGuin's book has very little resemblence to that promoted by Libertarians today. That's kind of my point!

If there is one thing that Libertarians can agree on amongst themselves, it's that the role of government in our day to day lives should be drastically reduced. LeGuin tried to imagine a society that had the state's role reduced to zero. But how do you make sure that people behave in a socially acceptable way when you don't have laws, or police etc? "The Dispossessed" is her attempt to answer that question. I find it to be a far more realistic depiction of such a society than anthing written by Rand, and it at least identifies many of the problems that a Randian society would encounter.

I should clarify that I am not libertarian or anarchist. I really don't find the societies imagined by LeGuin and Rand at all appealing. LeGuin's work in particular I read more as a warning against that type of society than as an endorsement of it.

Anyway, I really am not in the mood to argue the point any further. I just think that "The Dispossessed" makes an excellent counter-argument to Libertarianism, by showing just how far a society would truly have to change to make Libertarianism work... YMMV.

By jennyxyzzy (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

broboxley wrote:

"Libertarian: my property is MINE and if I like yours I may take it"

Wow . . . just, wow.

This would be like if I said Atheism was about the lack of evidence for God, and also about eating live babies.

A libertarian government framework protects exactly against the last 8 words of that thought, and before you blithely state that in practical application a libertarian government would not enforce laws against those of wealth and power I would remind you that there hasn't been a government in the world, including the current U.S. administration, for whom that has not been true.

mjparme,

Here is a clue for you.

This is a thread about libertarianism. It is not qualified as being about libertarianism in the UK.

Personally I would have thought the fact PZ quoted a Scottish author might have given you a clue. Clearly in your case it was too subtle, or you do not know where Iain Banks lives and writes.

By Matt Penfold (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Bernard like all of your kind, you don't address my comments about what environmentalism means for the world's poor. You don't even try to do so.

Which can only mean one thing: They don't matter to you. At all. They can die like flies and that's fine by you.

Western intellectuals. What a disgrace.

By Cimourdain (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

I wonder when Scott from Oregon is going to show up to tell us his mind is boggling?

By Rev. BigDumbChimp (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Th

is is a thread about libertarianism. It is not qualified as being about libertarianism in the UK.

Of course the above should read" about libertarianism in the USA"

By Matt Penfold (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

For those attacking Libertaranism I can only assume they haven't read the US Constitution or they simply don't understand it.

Damn Constitution.

They also don't seem to understand the difference between the powers of the Federal Government and the powers of a State (or even local) government.

Yeah, that Fourteenth Amendment sucks. Or so the Unreconstructed Confederates around me claim.

Incidentally, just so no one misunderstands me, I am dead serious, especially about the first one. I don't think environmentalists are "idealists" or simply misguided or any of the other crap that's usually served up. I think they are the scum of the earth, truly wicked and evil people who have a great deal of blood on their hands, and I should happily drag the likes of Greenpeace before the Hague to stand trial for warcrimes and crimes against humanity.

And I have only one, dead serious response to a statement like this:

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
HAHAHAHAHAWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAMWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA*gasp*HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
HAAHAHAHAHWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAMWHAHAHAHAHAHA
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA*gasp* *gasp*. . . .

Ok, ok, my sides a splitting and I can't laugh any more. You said it was just what you think so I suppose you're not obligated to provide any evidence, but I have to ask, do you have any?

Any that's actually credible?

Thank you Matt for explaining that to me. How gracious. You're probably right and this thread is probably a waste of time for me. Possibly not for the reason you think. Don't bother responding, since I won't be back to read it, unless you need to show the others how superior you are.

Bernard like all of your kind, you don't address my comments about what environmentalism means for the world's poor. You don't even try to do so.

Maybe because this is a thread about Libertarianism? Just a thought ....

Thank you Matt for explaining that to me. How gracious. You're probably right and this thread is probably a waste of time for me. Possibly not for the reason you think. Don't bother responding, since I won't be back to read it, unless you need to show the others how superior you are.

Like I said, I thought this discussion was beyond you. I was right it seems. Rather than admit you did say was people criticised you for saying, you decide to get all insulted.

It really is a little brain you have.

By Matt Penfold (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Conversely, I can amass a considerable body of evidence for the devastation wrought by opposition to free trade and capitalism, especially - and I am going to keep harping on this - in the Third World.

Riiiigghht. Because international corporations don't have more to do with this than any single government or environmentalist group.

Large, economically-powerful corporations have no interest in keeping undeveloped countries economically undeveloped. They have no interest in cheap labor, and certainly no interest in keeping competitors from developing in countries which actually possess the resources.

When it comes time to invade countries, it isn't corporations who get exclusive no-bid contracts to get at the oil (for instance). Nor do politicians ever push corporate agendas, especially for corporations for which they were CEO.

Nope. It's environmentalists. Because environmentalists have all the political and economic power, and corporations have no power whatsoever.

Poor corporations. So defenseless. So powerless. And all they want to do is make the world a better place! Profits be damned!

Damn those environmentalists! Damn them all to hell!

By nigelTheBold (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Maybe because this is a thread about Libertarianism? Just a thought ....

I would have said more because it was a nonsensical tirade from someone we know to be a racist arsehole.

Just a guess mind.

By Matt Penfold (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

@Knockgoats: kiss my ass, I have spent more time with anarchists, wobblies, fascists ,communists socialist than most. Have read a lot of the literature of all camps so am quite aware of what the differences are. You are a typical leftist moron that doesnt understand the fact that once you get past a certain part of left you meet the right coming around the other way

By broboxley (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Why does it have to be a choice between government and corporations? Can't one think they're both fucking things up royally?

Why does it have to be a choice between government and corporations? Can't one think they're both fucking things up royally?

Which Government ?

By Matt Penfold (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

amphiox,

Greenpeace got GM food aid rejected for starvation riddled Africa (you can look up the PEnn and Teller episode "Eat This" - the reference, amongst others, Norman Borlaug).

Other environmentalists fought against Astra Zeneca's golden rice, i.e. rice fortified with vitamin A which was being distributed for free to east Asia, where vitamin A deficiencies such as night blindness, and lower resistance to all sorts of diseases including HIV is rampant.

As for my third contention, look at any opposition to the building of hydroelectric dams, or the use of the Third World's coal, oil and uranium. The Enviros routinely champion causes like "Green Energy is the way forward to the Third World" , i.e. bullshit that can't even work heavily subsidized in the first world is supposed to be used by the third world.

But, hey, keep laughing. That's more important than human lives, isn't it?

By Cimourdain (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

As an exercise (it is with dread I feel I have wandered into this thread), might we relate the Libertarian discussion to the Kevin Smith-denied-flight-status thread?

In other words, to those who feel Libertarianism represents their socio-political and economic view, what does the circumstance of Kevin Smith's denied flight mean?

Was the company in the right to deny him flight status as an economic entity engaged in the process of free enterprise?

Is Smith, who is an individual and had paid for a service in the right?

What of the liberties of the other passengers who might have to sit next to someone they imagine will infringe on their personal space? What if the airline determines that such an individual is nevertheless of a size that fits the seat? Is the liberty of the other being infringed by the airline in making that size judgment?

Is the liberty such that, regardless of the airlines decision, it is up to the individuals to mutually mediate the circumstances of the seating to their satisfaction, regardless of the airline's decision (and, presumably, regardless of the safety regulations imposed on the airline by the government, if, in fact, Libertarians are generally opposed to the imposition of government on the free decisions of individuals)?

Is it possible for all parties to be in the right, and if so, what is the socio-political and economic circumstance that would maintain the utmost liberty for all parties without infringing on that same utmost liberty?

Having described that circumstance, is such a circumstance reasonable, much less feasible?

Still learning,

Robert

By Desert Son, OM (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

@mjparme #108

The Constitution was written with the intent that it's a flexible document. The powers of the federal government can expand or contract. Please don't bring out the old canard about how the government never relinquishes power it usurps. The Bush years were a great example of the government ceding power back to the people. They gave up a great deal of their regulatory powers. Also, the near communist controls the government had during WW2 were ceded back to the people after armistice. The US government has shown a great willingness to expand or contract as the situation is needed.

Im neither liberal nor conservative. I also loath the 'center' as it doesn't exist. I like to call my view Rationalism. The ideal government should be flexible. It should be able to exert strong control over sectors of society that threaten balance and equality, and it should loosen control over sectors that are in balance to encourage competition and creativity. As long as a government is free to expand or contract, it will serve its function.

One of the things that finally killed my faith in Libertarianism was this argument:

Three men in a forest with ample supplies need no codified rules to get along. A submarine full of sailors needs a firm communist type rule set to survive. As population increases compared to resources, more regulation is required to keep peace. You can even break this down by the different aspects of society. In towns with abundant water, there are few regulations on water consumption, in dry regions water laws are required for basic survival.

What the libertarian party is missing is that we are all connected now. In my hypothetical water rich town, their overuse might have serious impact on towns down stream. The problems with carbon dioxide are a great illustration of this problem. Burning coal in China will have impacts on Sweden. Libertarianism seems to ignore the fact that we are all interconnected now. We can no longer live our lives with the assumption that we don't have impact on people on the other side of the globe.

By bart.mitchell (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Large, economically-powerful corporations have no interest in keeping undeveloped countries economically undeveloped.

You're quite right. Large, agribusiness concerns have a vested interest in keeping trade barriers high. And how do they do that? Because of people like you. Little twerps like you who howl and bray about globalization, they've got all the cover they need to keep trade barriers nice and high and prevent the poor from selling their only products, and then to shovel big fat subsidies into their own pockets. Congratulations. I hope you're pleased with yourself.

As I said, a sub-Brechtian racket.

By Cimourdain (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

What we have at the moment is a situation whereby huge sums are given to corrupt, evil, or just plain incompetent governments, disconnecting them from any responsibility, while conversely the same kind of statist louse opposes globalization and maintains trade barriers that gut and fillet the middle and working classes of these countries. It's a sub-Brechtian racket.

But not the same individuals? Without even granting that your paranoid delusions accurately approach reality, the fact that your hypothetical situation doesn't even extend to those being one and the same tends to undermine your point. Different individuals and different organisations with different agendas? Doesn't really point to a grand conspiracy, does it?

Self-interest from capitalists coupled to the well-meaning, but poorly implemented, plans of the interventionists can lead to the sort of failed states and perpetually retarded development of nations you've described.

Don't pretend that ideological capitalism is a route out of impoverishment for developing nations. Environmental ruin wrought by unregulated capitalistic exploitation will be just as ruinous in the long run as doing nothing. If the developing nations make the same mistakes as industrialised nations, then the cost will be that much greater simply because of the population numbers involved, and because they hold so much of the remaining natural diversity which we have previously squandered in our own lands.

It is part self-interest to be sure, but it is of the kind that is not incompatible with ensuring that the collective interests of humanity are also protected.

There are better ways to save the world than to tell developing nations to plunder their natural assets because we are letting them go it alone. Some sort of progressive collectivism, and not the kind fantasised of by free market capitalists, must be worth a try. Everything else has failed.

Don't pretend that all environmentally concerned people are apathetic to the cause of developing nations, because that is plainly untrue. On the other hand, free market capitalists certainly do tend to focus on the capital (in their pockets), and much less on anything ressembling a free (or fair) market.

Which can only mean one thing: They don't matter to you. At all. They can die like flies and that's fine by you.

It is my duty to inform you that as a magician you stink; your sleight of hand is not even barely credible.

You blithely toss around accusations of racism, whilst making silly generalisations about brown and black folk.

By Bernard Bumner (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

kiss my ass, I have spent more time with anarchists, wobblies, fascists ,communists socialist than most. - bobboxley

And you still haven't figured out the differences? Fuck, you're stupid.

the fact that once you get past a certain part of left you meet the right coming around the other way

An observation I've heard from many an adolescent who thinks they're just so sophisticated. The difference between right and left is simple: are you for or against socio-economic inequality?

By Knockgoats (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

@Jim:

A libertarian government framework protects exactly against the last 8 words of that thought

and would fail exactly for the same reasons that every other type og government from monarchy to facism to democracy american style

By broboxley (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

@108,
A little matter of the Civil War and the 14th Amendment put paid to the idea of "States Rights".

By https://me.yah… (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

My copy is definitely Iain M. Banks (I'm looking at it on my shelf right now), but sometimes it is hard to tell how he decides which is nonSF and which is SF.

By Mark Tiedemann (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

You're quite right. Large, agribusiness concerns have a vested interest in keeping trade barriers high. And how do they do that?

Oh, that's easy. They do that by manipulating the governments of under-developed countries, as well as public opinion at home. A little graft here, a little misinformation there, and the money just keeps rolling in. They're able to do that because of feeble-minded twerps like you.

Dude, I'm all for globalization. Just not the mythical invisible-hand-of-the-market tripe Libertarians try to foist of as good economic policy.

By nigelTheBold (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Why does it have to be a choice between government and corporations?

It's not.

Can't one think they're both fucking things up royally?

Yes. However Libertarians tend towards the idea that government (any kind) can only fuck up while corporations cannot.

Cimourdain,

I have no evidence? Somalia is a libertarian paradise. There is no government to get in the way, people are free to do what ever they like. If they want to defend their property rights, all they have to do is hire a protection service. Everything is open to market forces. And this isn't my opinion, its the opinion of the last Libertarian I argued with! He laid out a very detailed argument that showed how the lack of government intervention was lifting Somalia out of poverty.

Seriously.

The Third World is getting screwed over, but its not from socialist governments trying to set up welfare and national healthcare programs. Third World governments let corporations in to raid their resources and abuse their populace. If those governments had more regulation controls over multinationals, it would go a long way to righting the wrongs.

I do think the liberal view of installing high minimum wage and child labor laws in 3rd world countries is naive. If we disproportionally advance one sector of a society, it can cause large imbalances in those communities. Bringing 3rd world countries up can only be done through education. Educating the people in those countries with skills to work in the 1st world, and educating those in the 1st world that they aren't entitled to cheap sneakers and TV's made on the broken backs of others.

By bart.mitchell (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Posted by: broboxley | February 15, 2010 10:29 AM

“Liberalism. A simple-minded left-wing ideology ideally suited to those unable or unwilling to see past their own groups sociopathic self-regard.”

Doctrinaires think schematically. Masses think with facts. The working class perceives events not as experiments with this or that “thesis,” but as living changes in the fate of the people.

Life is more complex than dogma

Quel dogma!
Firstly "masses" don't think. Secondly "classes" don't percieve.

Life and dogma... apples and oranges.

Maybe because this is a thread about Libertarianism? Just a thought ....

True, and my fault for actually giving in and engaging the idiot just up above.

I think there must be something in the fact that every thread on Libertarianism attracts moronic, wannabe ideologues like flies to a shit pile.

I'm starting to think that Libertarianism is actually nothing more than the fetishisation of the idea of Ideals. A bankrupt superiority complex.

By Bernard Bumner (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

@Cimourdain - you are confusing liberals with environmentalists, and a specific kind of environmentalist to boot. Not constructive.

It is a shame the US political climate is so poisonous to Socialist ideals, confusing them - understandably on the face of it, it was the National Social Democrat Workers Party - with Nazism and totalitarianism.
This doesn't seem to be helped by historical actions of Workers' Unions, who were let's say slightly abusing their Power of the People.

It would serve many political commentators well to learn some more European History. If the US Public School system is equipped for this seems up for debate.

@tsg

However Libertarians tend towards the idea that government (any kind) can only fuck up while corporations cannot.

I've never met such a libertarian. Which is not to say that they don't exist, but the libertarians I know are aware that corporations are a legal creation and hence exist because of government, as well as that the two are inextricably intertwined.

True, and my fault for actually giving in and engaging the idiot just up above.

It was not my intent to say that no one should engage in that argument, only to speculate why no one had and that it didn't make his assertion true.

@Knockgoat: Stalin and Hitler, mr.left meet mr.right fuckwit

The difference between right and left is simple: are you for or against socio-economic inequality?

is a straw man beating a dead horse with a red herring

Is government of China different than the government of Columbia? One is center right the other claims to be communist yet to the people that are being served there is no governable difference. Read something other than your group leaders recommended reading list, you might learn something

By broboxley (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

It was not my intent to say that no one should engage in that argument...

No. I'm also sure that you wouldn't necessarily try to stop me from eating my own weight in bacon, but we both know that no good will come of it.

By Bernard Bumner (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

I'm also sure that you wouldn't necessarily try to stop me from eating my own weight in bacon, but we both know that no good will come of it.

pffft

By Rev. BigDumbChimp (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

No. I'm also sure that you wouldn't necessarily try to stop me from eating my own weight in bacon,

I might.

but we both know that no good will come of it.

Mostly because it means less bacon for me...

Jonathan Haidt has identified (doi:10.1007/s11211-007-0034-z) five major "flavors" of ethical/moral intuition. Liberals dominantly use FAIR and HARM; conservatives use these, but also consider INGROUP, AUTHORITY, and PURITY.

Libertarianism appears to focus exclusively on HARM.

Libertarianism appears to focus exclusively on HARM.

Where I focus exclusively on HAM

By Rev. BigDumbChimp (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

I've never met such a libertarian. Which is not to say that they don't exist, but the libertarians I know are aware that corporations are a legal creation and hence exist because of government, as well as that the two are inextricably intertwined.

I didn't say they weren't. The point is, if you ask the Libertarians I have argued with (and, I suspect, the ones you know) which is better: government control or privatization of any resource, the vast majority of them will answer privatization regardless of what resource it is we're talking about.

Mmmm Bacon.

Is there an internet law that states the longer a thread gets, the probability that someone will mention bacon approaches 1?

Bacon is proof that god exists, and he hates Jews and Muslims.

By bart.mitchell (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Yes, that is the Rev. BigDumbChimp law of Pharyngula.

By Rev. BigDumbChimp (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

You know the whole, "no such thing as an atheist in a foxhole" comment?

Well, with the same degree of tongue in cheek... There's no such thing as a homeless and/or unemployed Libertarian.

By tamayoduck (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

To quote another SF writer, China Miéville,

Above all, they [libertarians] recast their most banal avarice—the disinclination to pay tax—as a principled blow for political freedom.

@tamayoduck: back when I thought I was a libertarian I was homeless and unemployed :-)

By broboxley (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

back when I thought I was a libertarian I was homeless and unemployed :-)

I notice you didn't stay that way....

The point is, if you ask the Libertarians I have argued with (and, I suspect, the ones you know) which is better: government control or privatization of any resource, the vast majority of them will answer privatization regardless of what resource it is we're talking about.

Go even further: ask them if they support going back to the old days of corporate charters, in which corporations required a government (either state or federal) charter to operate -- and which the issuing government could revoke.

Also, ask what the role of government is in policing corporations, and punishing corporations that go against the public good (say, abusing monopoly power, for instance).

Most libertarians to whom I've talked would defend corporations from government, but not the other way 'round. Also, they would tend to suggest government requires a heavy hand to keep it small, but corporations will be controlled by the invisible hand of the market.

While I would agree with some points made by libertarians (maximize liberty, minimize government), the difference is the extent to which I'd minimize government, and maximize liberty. I definitely believe government should provide infrastructure, and that means we all pay for it. That includes roads, health care, education, police, fire protection, and so on and so forth.

By nigelTheBold (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

@abb3w #158

Jonathan Haidt has identified (doi:10.1007/s11211-007-0034-z) five major "flavors" of ethical/moral intuition. Liberals dominantly use FAIR and HARM; conservatives use these, but also consider INGROUP, AUTHORITY, and PURITY. Libertarianism appears to focus exclusively on HARM.

I've always thought Haidt's portrayal of political morality to be way too simplistic. Yes, those moral domains exist, but they're emphasized by all political standpoints...just in different ways. Any partisan (including a libertarian one) is concerned with the in-group/out-group distinction, and usually hierarchy as well. Conservatives, liberals, and libertarians all have concepts of what is "fair"; they just differ on what it is. For a liberal or libertarian it may not be fair to invade Iraq, whereas for a conservative it might not be fair to not invade. Remember when Ron Paul was in the Republican presidential primary debates, and Giuliani, Huckabee, McCain etc. looked at him like he'd grown a third leg when he said the invasion was wrong? Whatever else you think of Paul, that was pretty funny (and pretty telling).

Likewise, they have different ideas of what constitutes "harm." Some conservatives think that gay marriage is harming the country. Some liberals think that hate speech harms people. Libertarians generally seem to restrict harm to what is most direct-- physical and financial. I sometimes have a difficult time getting a libertarian to admit that something can be immoral if it doesn't harm someone in one of those two ways.

I don't think it's really about emphasizing different moral domains...it's more complex than that. It's how those moral domains are conceptualized that differs.

Thursday, 10:00, GBS. Rational Land, the Lost Nation (Season Premier)

Once more Heddle proposes the idea that since only having 3 knives in your chest doesn't mean you won't bleed to death, removing, and sewing up the wound from, the 4th one is a horrible idea...

Liberals dominantly use FAIR and HARM... Libertarianism appears to focus exclusively on HARM.

Actually, that's a pretty good insight. I've often thought that the real difference between liberals and libertarians is in their attitude to what for want of a better term I'm going to call sins of omission. (Try to ignore the religious implications, I use the term poetically)
A liberal government will look at the state of the country (or world), and see that it is within its power to alleviate the suffering of many people by spending money collected from others. It will judge that the harm it causes (by levying taxes) is less than the good it can do (by spending those taxes in the right way). It therefore concludes that to fail to act would be immoral.
A libertarian government on the other hand would take the position that as it is not the cause of people's suffering, it bears no moral responsibility and can only act to alleviate that suffering if doing so would cause zero harm to others; and even then, it might not act out of a fear of malign unintended consequences.
Any refinements from either side?

By Something Arbitrary (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Cimourdain @ #137

Other environmentalists fought against Astra Zeneca's golden rice, i.e. rice fortified with vitamin A which was being distributed for free to east Asia, where vitamin A deficiencies such as night blindness, and lower resistance to all sorts of diseases including HIV is rampant.

A simple Google search will turn up a different perspective on Astra Zeneca's golden rice.

We can agree with some of the Libertarian's skepticism of the State, that's a sensible course to take, but what baffles us is their contradictory sycophantic adoration of the free market.

Do you honestly believe that when given the choice of doing whats best for society, vs. what's best for third-quarter profits, that multinational corporations will choose the former over the latter?

What evidence do you have that the free market can't be just as corrupt as the State.

Do you really honestly believe that Astra Zeneca gives a shit about poor east Asians?

We thought that even Libertarians understood that there's no such thing as a free lunch. So enlighten us, why do you think AZ wanted to give away their rice for free?

nigelTheBold, most Libertarians I speak to talk about limiting government, but fail to bring up specifics. Similar to Tea Party activists, they just 'want government out of their lives'.

I think a great many thinking Libertarians defected with Alan Greenspan. We grew up under Regan, thinking that capitalism is a force for good that will crush communism and lift up the impoverished. We didn't realize that we were buoyed up by the government spending programs that ran after WW2 to present.

The fiction that people build up around themselves is always amazing to me. I live in Oregon, where we just passed Props 66 and 67. In a recent conversation, I was amazed to hear one opponent of those measures inform me that 'Oregon has the highest tax rates in the nation'. I couldn't believe his ignorance. He also complained about Oregon running a deficit budget. I tried to explain that Oregon was 26th in the nation for tax rates, and that it was illegal for Oregon to run a deficit budget. He just refused to believe me, and refused to look up the real facts.

By bart.mitchell (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Do you honestly believe that when given the choice of doing whats best for society, vs. what's best for third-quarter profits, that multinational corporations will choose the former over the latter?

No I think their point is that when corporations focus on profits that eventually that will shake out to being the best for everyone because the market will eventually represent everyone's interest.

It's laughable, but hey who cares!

By Rev. BigDumbChimp (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

bobbroxley,

Stalin and Hitler, mr.left meet mr.right fuckwit

I'm not sure why you're addressing yourself here, but in any case, your ignorance obviously extends to both Stalin and Hitler. While both were tyrants, their tyrannies were enormously different in the ways they functioned economically. Differences in wealth and income (as opposed to political power) were low in Stalinist Russia, but high in Nazi Germany. Private ownership of land and capital goods remained predominant in Nazi Germany, while it was almost entirely eliminated in Stalinist Russia.

Is government of China different than the government of Columbia?

Yes, very different. The former is controlled by a political party with a long-standing monopoly, which has abandoned its leftist roots, and now represents nothing but itself. The latter is elected, but is effectively controlled by traditional landowning and capitalist elites.

One is center right the other claims to be communist yet to the people that are being served there is no governable difference.

More bone-headed ignorance. Aside from the many other differences (by no means all in favour of China), economic inequality is growing fast in China, but is still considerably lower than Colombia's. According to the UN, the ratio of income between richest and poorest 10% is 21.6:1, while that in Colombia is 63.8:1.

Read something other than your group leaders recommended reading list, you might learn something

I have no "group leaders", you peabrain. Read anything at all while actually engaging your brain, if you can. I suggest starting with Noddy in Toyland - you should just about manage that.

By Knockgoats (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Something Arbitrary, it might not be out of bounds to suggest that the Libertarians believe, as doctors do, in the principle of "Do no harm."

In that event, a libertarian might compare a liberal to a doctor who decides to take a person's cornea to enable a blind person to see out of one eye and, since both patients can now see equally, thus consider himself a hero of "equal seeing rights."

By badgersdaughter (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

"I've never met such a libertarian. Which is not to say that they don't exist, but the libertarians I know are aware that corporations are a legal creation and hence exist because of government, as well as that the two are inextricably intertwined."

This.

Don't everyone jump on me for comment #175. I'm speaking out of my libertarian experience, not my current viewpoints.

By badgersdaughter (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

No I think their point is that when corporations focus on profits that eventually that will shake out to being the best for everyone because the market will eventually represent everyone's interest.

It's always been that "eventually" that makes me queasy. How much damage can occur between "now" and "eventually?"

By nigelTheBold (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Oh, and Rev. Bigdumbchimp,
Maple, hickory or peppered? The eternal questions.

bagersdaughter, that's a very different take on the old 'an eye for an eye' idea. It illustrates the problem with most conservative thought these days. They rely on the use of parable over statistics. Instead of looking at countries that have socialized healthcare, they would rather you think about the DMV running a hospital. They create elaborate fictions that appeal to emotion, rather than analyse date to appeal to intellect.

Sounds kinda like a religion I've heard of...

By bart.mitchell (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

@badgersdaughter,

Well, sort of. I think it can be safely said that liberals embrace utilitarianism more than libertarians do ("Taking things from people is okay, if it's for the greater good"), whereas a libertarian is more likely to adopt a deontological approach ("Taking things from people is wrong, period.") Of course, most people lie somewhere in the middle-- "Taking things from people is wrong, but certain things that can be avoided by taking things from people are worse." They just disagree on what those "certain things" are.

nigelTheBold wrote:

"Most libertarians to whom I've talked would defend corporations from government, but not the other way 'round. Also, they would tend to suggest government requires a heavy hand to keep it small, but corporations will be controlled by the invisible hand of the market."

I think you made this up.

In case you didn't, add me to the list of libertarians you have now "met" who doesn't think that, and factor that in the next time you make such broad pronouncements.

The legal fiction that is a corporation should be abolished in its entirety. Libertarianism, to me, was never intended to remove the human ethic, which is essentially, to me, what corporations attempt to accomplish. Libertarianism requires that people be accountable for their actions, and corporatism seems to me at its core to stand opposite of that concept.

Oh, and Rev. Bigdumbchimp,
Maple, hickory or peppered? The eternal questions.

all of the above

By Rev. BigDumbChimp (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

@Knockgoats:

While both were tyrants, their tyrannies were enormously different in the ways they functioned economically.

the economic difference didnt make a snots worth of difference to the great unwashed, the tyranny was identical with regards to the people on the sharp end.
From your writing I am assuming that you are a "lifestyle anarchist" kinda like the sears poncho of politikal

By broboxley (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

I identified as a libertarian for the longest time more than likely because I'd become disenfranchised with the Canadian liberal government. I'm not sure I ever gave it much thought.

Is it possible to be a liberal who's against gun control and pro-death penalty? (Although admittedly, I'm finding it harder to support those beliefs these days.)

By the2ndsaint (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

@tamayoduck: back when I thought I was a libertarian I was homeless and unemployed :-)

@broboxley: Hindsight's always 20/20, right? ;) I'm glad you're no longer homeless or unemployed (Judging from the 'was')!

By tamayoduck (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

@bart.mitchell I spent many years under US government healthcare. Its called the IHS makes the DMV look right spiffy

By broboxley (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

BDC:

No I think their point is that when corporations focus on profits that eventually that will shake out to being the best for everyone because the market will eventually represent everyone's interest.

Yeah, we guessed as much. Cimourdain's probably out in some graveyard right now, disinterring his reply to our post in the form of the rotting corpse of Reagan's trickle down theory (aka: the piss on the poor hypothesis).

Is it possible to be a liberal who's ... pro-death penalty?

With their stance on individual freedoms and anti-government rhetoric, I would not have thought it possible for a libertarian to be pro-death-penalty. After all, that is the ultimate infringement of personal autonomy, isn't that so?

By badgersdaughter (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Something Arbitrary, it might not be out of bounds to suggest that the Libertarians believe, as doctors do, in the principle of "Do no harm."

The primary flaw in this argument is that "first, do no harm" does not translate into "do nothing unless it causes no harm whatsoever." It is an advisement to consider what harm may be caused by treating as opposed to doing nothing and weighing the risks. A doctor faced with "do no harm" would not hesitate to administer a life-saving drug despite the fact that it requires him to pierce the skin of the patient, cause some pain, and risk infection. In other words, does the benefit outweigh the harm?

As pointed out above, it depends entirely on what you consider "harm" to be. Some Libertarians have an unrealistic and irrational view about what constitutes harm.

the2ndsaint, I still think that the 2nd amendment is serving a good purpose in the US. I admit that there is great harm in having an armed society, but I still think history shows that armed citizens are more resistant to tyranny than disarmed citizens. On that note, I would love to see a firearms licence implemented here in the States.

I lost faith in the death penalty along time ago. I've always recognized that punishment in a civil society should be used more as a deterrent for future crime, not as retribution for the crime committed. The length of time it takes to execute a criminal is so long that criminals fail to make the connection between the crime and the punishment. Also, many murderers are sociopaths, who by definition have a hard time being emotionally connected to what another human is experiencing.

Countries that lack the death penalty don't have statistically higher rates of murder, so there is no justification for it.

Don't call yourself a liberal. Call yourself a rationalist. Follow the evidence where it leads, and be always ready to change your mind.

By bart.mitchell (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

tsg, thank you for the complement to my proposed argument.

Since some harm is obviously necessary, the real nuanced argument hinges on how much harm is necessary, how much is too much, and how to determine the difference--whether arbitrarily by means of a law applicable to all situations, or on a case-by-case basis. Not to mention whether it's even possible to define "harm" to the satisfaction of everyone concerned (I suspect it isn't).

By badgersdaughter (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

There is rampant misunderstanding about what true "libertarianism" is all about. Much of the current Tea Party "movement" is exactly what those on the left think it is: a reactionary backlash brought about by current conditions, directed at those currently in power, with little or no regard for the true causes of the problems.

True libertarians are not simple-minded right-wing ideologues unable or unwilling to see past their own sociopathic self-regard, but are careful, deliberate scholars genuinely concerned about the well-being of all of humanity.

Unbeknownst to most people, libertarian theory is based on one unassailable axiom: the non-aggression principle, which simply states that no person has the right to initiate violence against another person, period. For a great introduction to libertarian theory, see here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4kPsaxuM5Y

This simple axiom is rather uncontroversial to most folks and I'm sure many of you reasonable and compassionate people here would wholly embrace it. But, the arguments begin promptly when we use this principle to derive solutions to real-world problems. A prominent case is the environment. It is simplistic and unfair to say that libertarians don't care about the environment. We cherish the environment and genuinely want to protect it from the many very real threats to its sustainable preservation. For a great discussion on the libertarian solutions to this problem, see here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DrTsaSUFfpo

Further, people tend to think that libertarians simply endorse the exploitation of the poor by the rich. Nothing could be further from the truth. In this regard, people tragically confuse free markets with corporatism. Libertarians are dead-set against corporatism in all of its manifestations. The free market, allowed to operate properly, is a system with an insatiable drive to reduce profits, serve the consumer, and continually better the lives of the least in society. In a very real sense, it is the poor who are constantly "exploiting" the rich (in a good way), not the other way around, as is the case whenever the government gets involved. Free market economics is not just a simplistic, reactionary ideology, but a sophisticated, scientific, complete, coherent, consistent, and proven body of knowledge. For more see Mises, Hayek, Hazlitt, Rothbard, Hoppe, Block, Salerno, Woods, et al. There is a vast wealth of very high-quality information at Mises.org.

I get the impression that many intelligent, rational people on the left feel that libertarianism is simplistic and anti-intellectual. Nothing could be further from the truth. Libertarian theory (and Austrian economics) is based on the understanding of chaos theory / complexity theory / etc. This is the acknowledgement that large systems of independent actors, each operating with limited knowledge of the whole system and usually interacting only locally, tend to display complex, emergent behavior. For a great short example of this, see Leonard Read's "I, Pencil": http://www.econlib.org/library/Essays/rdPncl1.html

It is my contention that the workings of complex economies and societies are very similar to the workings of neo-Darwinian evolution. That is NOT to say that I endorse any kind of social Darwinism(!), but rather that, just as complex life could not have arisen other than through evolution by cumulative natural selection, complex economies could not have arisen other than through the voluntary, mutually-beneficial interactions of individuals on the free market. For a discussion of this topic, see the thread I started here: http://mises.org/Community/forums/t/13436.aspx

I don't have time for the anti-intellectual Tea Partiers, but nor do I have time for the anti-intellectuals on the left who do nothing more than rant about well-intentioned ends without engaging in serious study concerning the nature of logical, reasonable, just, moral, and effective means. The real problem we face is one of personal constitution. Are we mature enough individuals to seek the real truth and have real open discussions? The smart people here who come to the clear-thinking oases of PZ, Dawkins, Dennet, Hitchens, et al have a lot to learn from the smart libertarians who study truth with the likes of Mises, Rothbard, Rockwell, Block, Woods, Solerno, Hoppe, et al -- and vice versa.

As a rational, free-thinking anti-theist as well as an austro-libertarian anarcho-capitalist, it is my sincere hope that people from both camps can come together and realize that they have much more in common than they know.

@tsg

"A doctor faced with "do no harm" would not hesitate to administer a life-saving drug despite the fact that it requires him to pierce the skin of the patient, cause some pain, and risk infection. In other words, does the benefit outweigh the harm?"

I am a bit surprised that you don't see the obvious issue here--everything the doctor is doing is to the patient himself/herself and, under ordinary circumstances, by voluntary consent. It isn't about what is done to the patient himself, as much as it is about the circumstance where treating one person requires taking by force (explicit or implied) from another person. Libertarians primary philosophical/moral objection is that a government acts with force upon those in the minority, and so such actions should only be taken when necessary (not NEVER, as seemingly every uninformed opinion about libertarianism in this thread seems to think).

I think its pretty silly to try to lump all libertarians in one group with such a stereotyping. In fact, I think it is pretty stupid. Libertarianism embraces the ideas of personal liberty and small government. This leaves a huge amount of wiggle room. The Tea Party != Libertarianism. The libertarians I count as friends believe in strong separation of church and state, small government, gay rights (as a function of government staying the hell out of marriage and the bedroom), and following the tenets of science to discover good public policy. Several of the Libertarians I know are atheists. These are also my beliefs. There are others that call themselves Libertarians that think that the separation clause only applies to government staying out of church (stupid), etc, etc. Just like some liberals think that homeopathy is a good thing, so are there Libertarians that think only their narrow views of liberties count.

I would think someone that usually exhibits critical thinking (Mr. Myers) would not so blatantly through around blanket statements like this especially in regards to a group that is so poorly defined.

By Joe Jance (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

No I think their point is that when corporations focus on profits that eventually that will shake out to being the best for everyone because the market will eventually represent everyone's interest.

Yeah, Standard Oil and mining towns that were essentially slavery went away on their own.

I'm a big fan of PZ. I am a vocal science enthusiast, atheist and evironmentalist. I have solar panels on my home and drive a hybrid car. I write free software. I listen to skeptical podcasts. I have spoken out in favor of things like gay marriage to my Southern-Baptist relatives.

But I am disappointed in this childish and dishonest post. We hold our political opponents to a standard of adult discourse, and rightly ridicule the likes of Anne Coulter or Michelle Bachman when they spew inflammatory and divisive nonsense that no reasonable person could take seriously. We should hold ourselves to the same standard. Honest, intelligent, sincere, rational adults with identical goals of making the world a better place can have disagreements about how to get there without resorting to playground name-calling and deliberate lies.

And when I say "we" above, I am including myself. I am one of us--a lover of science. Someone who wants to save the planet; who wants to end war, and poverty, and despotism. And I am proud to call myself a libertarian, because I believe that they way to get there is individual freedom, industry, and technology rather than government regulation.

Don't get me wrong--I wouldn't be caught dead voting for Bob Barr, and many of those who call themselves libertarian are indeed right-wing extremists. But I expect better of PZ and his followers than to deliberately misrepresent a political philosophy and unjustly ridicule it because of such people. That's no better than right-wing nuts who ridicule good liberals based on nuts like PETA.

Please, let's have the same standards of discourse in political matters that we expect from scientific ones.

By leedanielcrocker (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Two things:

(1) I think this thread is actually much more civil than most post-PZ-libertarian posts, and

(2) while not one of the epic mega-threads, I think PZ knows libertarianism is always good for a small bump in traffic :)

Libertarianism is just more extreme liberalism, especially more jealous of economic interests. It's a stricter doctrine of non-interference which comes in many forms, left and right.

one tip off is a person's view about abortion. If it is a woman's choice because she "owns" her body, then that's libertarian.The softer modern "liberal" approach is to say that it's a moral grey area that can be voted upon.

Often when we disparage libertarians, it's by seeing them drift to more "license" on the liberty-license spectrum.

By frankosaurus (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

I am a bit surprised that you don't see the obvious issue here--everything the doctor is doing is to the patient himself/herself and, under ordinary circumstances, by voluntary consent.

It was an analogy. Like all analogies, it will fail at some point. It also wasn't mine.

It isn't about what is done to the patient himself, as much as it is about the circumstance where treating one person requires taking by force (explicit or implied) from another person. Libertarians primary philosophical/moral objection is that a government acts with force upon those in the minority, and so such actions should only be taken when necessary

And, as I and others have stated, what qualifies as "necessary" is the prime contention in the argument.

(not NEVER, as seemingly every uninformed opinion about libertarianism in this thread seems to think).

Yeah, right, because there are no Libertarians that think taxes are inherently evil.

I'm not a libertarian, but I think left leaning people (which I count myself among) are too quick to dismiss some aspects of libertarianism. I find this a little odd because Noam Chomsky is a socialist libertarian. Penn Gillete and Michael Shermer are also libertarians, and I they all have well reasoned positions that I do not find crazy or self centred. I am not sold on libertarianism in any form, but I think that we are making a mistake by completely disregarding it. Yes, the Tea Party are a bunch of loons and it looks like the libertarian movement has been hijacked by ultra-right wing bigots who make absolutely no sense and do not represent their position well at all, but even though I am skeptical of some of the points made in Michael Shermer's book The Mind of the Market, I found it to be a fairly persuasive book. I know there are as many versions of libertarianism as there are libertarians, but some of the core concepts deserve more than our scorn. There are intelligent and reasonable people out there who see value in some of the libertarian ideas.

For someone who consistently complains about having to knock down the same creationist straw man arguments over and over again, you sure are guilty of the same nonsense with respect to libertarianism.

Either you're simply unaware that these mindless objections have been answered time and again, or you're aware of it but you choose to pretend that they haven't been. In other words, you're either ignorant or dishonest. And that's a shame, because I come to this blog for the very kind of reason-and-reality-based-dialogue that you simply dismiss when the topic is libertarians.

I'm the last person to deny that there are lots and lots of kooks in the "libertarian" ranks. And those people are absolutely crazy. They're the folks who wear the 'V for Vendetta' masks, hoard gold and and stockpile weapons in their bunkers. And, unfortunately, there are far too many of those nuts out there (I spend a good bit of my free time trying to distance our movement from them).

But it is a fallacy to argue that because those people are kooks, and call themselves libertarians, that anyone who calls herself a libertarian is a kook. That simply IS a fallacy, akin to saying that all feminists think that "penetrative intercourse is, by its nature, violent" because Andrea Dworkin wrote it once (I'm not saying Dworkin's wrong, incidentally).

But because it's intellectually easy, I'm sure there are plenty of you who still hang on to the idea that libertarians reject the very notion of a common good. If so, start here:

http://www.cato.org/pubs/policy_report/cpr-18n5-1.html

There's plenty more where that came from. For instance, I defy anyone who thinks PZ is right about libertarians to read Tom Palmer, Will Wilkinson, Julian Sanchez or Kerry Howley - libertarians, all - and find a trace of his caricature in any of their work.

Yeah, right, because there are no Libertarians that think taxes are inherently evil.

I think those are more properly called anarchists.

I think those are more properly called anarchists.

That's not what they call themselves.

*Sigh*

I know. But are you really going to declare that self-report is the entire summation of a person's political identity, and nobody can be mistaken in their own interpretation of where they stand?

I'm the last person to deny that there are lots and lots of kooks in the "libertarian" ranks. And those people are absolutely crazy. They're the folks who wear the 'V for Vendetta' masks, hoard gold and and stockpile weapons in their bunkers. And, unfortunately, there are far too many of those nuts out there (I spend a good bit of my free time trying to distance our movement from them).

The argument being made is that Libertarianism attracts an inordinate number of kooks, and that's due to an inherent flaw in philosophy.

But it is a fallacy to argue that because those people are kooks, and call themselves libertarians, that anyone who calls herself a libertarian is a kook.

It is a fallacy. But, as far as I can tell, no one's making that argument. Arguing against a position no one is making is called building a strawman. That's also a fallacy.

My basic beef with libertarians is that I have found that they tend to be somewhat challenged when it comes to accepting the constraints of physical reality. Most climate denialists are libertarians (although there are a few looney left denialists as well). Many libertarians oppose teaching of evolution as an imposition by the state on parental authority. Many libertarians oppose environmental regulation. Many libertarians contend that government spending on science is a waste of money. And on and on.

I stress that not all libertarians subscribe to such anti-scienc/anti-reality beliefs, and I find nothing inherent in libertarian thought that demands or even encourages such hostility to science and reality. I also find nothing in the teachings of Jeebus that Xtians must have an anti-reality bias either--at least no more than any other religion. Still, the association has led me to hold the philosophy suspect.

My first commandment is "Thou shalt accept reality."

By a_ray_in_dilbe… (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

I've always found that the position of most people who call themselves "Libertarians" boils down to two principles:

1) The government should provide only those services said individuals are not too blockheaded and shortsighted to recognize themselves as directly benefiting from, and
2) That they are entitled to receive these services from the government free of charge ("taxation is theft" has no other intelligible interpretation).

*Sigh*

I know. But are you really going to declare that self-report is the entire summation of a person's political identity, and nobody can be mistaken in their own interpretation of where they stand?

From your #56:

I care much less about labels than the actual content of your ideas.

Which is it?

The argument that you claim no one is making is the entire point of this thread, i.e., "libertarians are kooks because they believe X." But the premise is incorrect, because only a subset of libertarians believe X.

Yes, libertarianism has its kooks, but so does liberalism (e.g., 9/11 Truthers) and conservatism (e.g., birthers). Should we define "Democrat" as whatever we see in the next edition of "Loose Change"? Do you limit "feminism" to whatever Catharine MacKinnon writes?

Many years ago, I was taking a government class. We were discussing the breaking of treaties with Native Americans, and how the government had simply ignored the law because they felt they were entitled to the land, that sort of thing. Most of the students int he class were appalled at the behavior of our own government, but a kid who claimed to be a libertarian claimed it was no big deal, that if they couldn't defend themselves, too bad.
I suggested that maybe I could kick him out of his house and move in if I wanted to. He said that was silly because it would be against the law.

@tsg,

That's a false choice. Just because I don't think labels mean everything doesn't mean I have to think they mean nothing. Labels serve the purpose of giving a general idea of where a person stands-- that's it. And that's useful. But they can't be used to sum up someone's entire outlook, and likewise they're no longer useful if they can't be assumed to have a relatively specific definition which either applies or doesn't.

There's a perfectly good word for a person who believes in no government-- anarchist. I know that a lot of anarchists also call themselves libertarians because they believe that anarchy is the logical extension of libertarianism, but it's a mistake to say that outright denial of any legitimate government is what libertarianism is.

Many years ago, I was taking a government class. We were discussing the breaking of treaties with Native Americans, and how the government had simply ignored the law because they felt they were entitled to the land, that sort of thing. Most of the students int he class were appalled at the behavior of our own government, but a kid who claimed to be a libertarian claimed it was no big deal, that if they couldn't defend themselves, too bad.
I suggested that maybe I could kick him out of his house and move in if I wanted to. He said that was silly because it would be against the law.

See, I think it's justifiable to say that that kid had no concept of what libertarianism is.

@Matt Penfold (re: comment #101)
"If you have one, maybe a friend could help you with the big words philosophers are want to use."

Perhaps, Matt, you should consult a philosopher, or dictionary for that matter, for help with *small* words you appear to have difficulty with, before you criticize others. I think you would "want" to use "wont" in the sentence quoted above.

By theomaniac (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Libertarians are not in principle opposed to tyranny. They would merely prefer to see it privatized.

By See Nick Overlook (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

I consider myself socially libertarian..but economically, I'm left of Lenin. It's a disposition I suspect manages to piss of everybody off, so I really don't talk about it much. (Adding to the fact I'm also irreligious and a skeptic, probabley adds insult to that injury.)

That being said, the problem with libertarians is that they are only half right. If they get rid of their love for capitialism...I think they would decent folk to hang around with. Just saying. :)

I spent many years under US government healthcare. Its called the IHS makes the DMV look right spiffy

Hey, so did I! Both as an employee, and as a benefactor. Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium. I was a geek (not in the health provider side). Yay MUMPS!

They provide excellent health care. The wait period was generally less than that I encounter in other, "regular" hospitals. Very professionally run. I would point to SEARHC as a model hospital system, even, and evidence that government-run health care can provide service as good or better than private health care, at far lower costs.

It's one of the reasons I fully support a completely government-run health care system.

By nigelTheBold (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

The argument that you claim no one is making is the entire point of this thread, i.e., "libertarians are kooks because they believe X." But the premise is incorrect, because only a subset of libertarians believe X.

The argument being made is that Libertarianism, because of its philosophy, attracts kooks who also believe X. No one is arguing all Libertarians believe X where X is any arbitrary brand of kookery.

Yes, libertarianism has its kooks, but so does liberalism (e.g., 9/11 Truthers) and conservatism (e.g., birthers). Should we define "Democrat" as whatever we see in the next edition of "Loose Change"? Do you limit "feminism" to whatever Catharine MacKinnon writes?

Addressed above: some philosophies attract more kooks than others and your statement is only relevant if you ignore the kind, quantity and degree of the kookery.

In short, the argument is not that all Libertarians are kooks. Pointing out that some Libertarians aren't kooks does nothing to refute that.

leedanielcrocker, im surprised with your self described lifestyle you call yourself a libertarian. I would bet that most of your neighbors call you a liberal.

As a skeptical community, I would like to see us abandon the old left vs right paradigm. We should all unite under the Rationalist party.

The core principals would be:

1. Follow the evidence and accept its conclusions.

2. Be always willing to change your position when new evidence is unearthed.

Under that kind of big tent philosophy, we might be able to really push for some real change. Arguments would be over issues, not about all encompassing ideals. We could have serious discussions about how to manage CO2 emissions, and balance market vs regulation approaches.

I just don't see anything productive about a 'Liberalism vs Libertarianism' argument, when neither 'ism' can be clearly defined.

Substance and issues should be our focus, not labels.

By bart.mitchell (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

@facehammer, re: comment #52
"Oh boy, I'll be watching this thread eagerly. Nobody is more humourless and undeservedly smug than libertarians - not even creationists. So it's always a joy to watch when someone with a little humanity to their name lays into them."
I wholeheartedly disagree. I'm a skeptical atheist with libertarian leanings. I also happen to be a Canadian, so humour is bread in my genes (a basic survival trait for those living north of the border.) Many libertarians have an amazing sense of humour. Consider Penn & Teller, Drew Carey, Michael Shermer, Nick Gillespie, and Murray Rothbard. All of the aforementioned have a great deal of "humanity to their name", as you might put it.

By theomaniac (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

@mnphenow: that is one of the greatest sly satires I have ever read. thank you

By broboxley (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

It is nice to learn that those who express support for people being able to live their lives as they see fit -- as long as you aren't harming others -- is somehow equated to the crazy.

Thanks for the blanket shot across the bow, PZ.

Ok... so anyone know of any science/atheist-centric blogs that don't shit on the political leanings of its readers if they don't perfectly align with the blog's author?

Yes, that's why I chose to give up a six-figure income, live in a rented trailer in the middle of nowhere, walk several hours to the market in the snow, live only on plants that can be locally grown, and will soon enough spend time in prison for my tax resistance - my own sociopathic self-regard...

Yes, that's why I chose to give up a six-figure income, live in a rented trailer in the middle of nowhere, walk several hours to the market in the snow, live only on plants that can be locally grown, and will soon enough spend time in prison for my tax resistance - my own sociopathic self-regard...

I fail to see how anything you just described is such an obvious contradiction to being a self-regarding sociopath.

By Celtic_Evolution (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

@Morbo #222

Ok... so anyone know of any science/atheist-centric blogs that don't shit on the political leanings of its readers if they don't perfectly align with the blog's author?

You might check out Ed Brayton's blog. He is a self-described left-libertarian and deist (formerly atheist, and I'm still not quite sure he switched labels) who writes about science, religion, and political freedom.

Banks's solid, hearty, very British leftism and his disdain for selfish, insular, unimaginative greedery - be it of the conservative or libertarian stripe - is just one of the many things I love about him. Of course, the fact that he's a dyed-in-the-wool atheist helps, too!

By jack.rawlinson (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Look at the straw men tumble. hehe.

Poor picked on libertarians. Can't get no respect, no respect.

My simplification of Libertarians: Stoners who don't want to pay taxes.

By stevieinthecity (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Morbo, that is the central failing of libertarianism.

You cannot live in a way that wont effect others, unless you leave the globe. From carbon emissions to plain old pollution, to purchasing items from irresponsible multinational corporations. Every choice you make effects people all around the globe.

Turning on the tap reduces the amount of water in your local watershed. Turning on a light bulb releases mercury into our oceans. Your most basic life choices have serious impacts on every person alive today.

The entire premise of libertarian thought ' being able to live their lives as they see fit -- as long as you aren't harming others ' is based on a false premise.

By bart.mitchell (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

...people being able to live their lives as they see fit -- as long as you aren't harming others...

Can you live your life without harming others? Really? You can't eat a salad without becoming part of the exploitation of migrant workers. You can't take a stroll downtown without being protected by law enforcement paid for by taxes. You can't speak in public without the possibility of offending someone. You probably can't even die without inconveniencing somebody.

By badgersdaughter (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

#16 - Alverant - Right on, sibling. If the economy keeps doing its thing (tanking) there will be a fourth comment - And none of this would have happened if more people were Libertarians! Arrr!

By u-must-b-joking (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

I used to like the word libertarian, it summed up my views. That's the non-american version of course. As soon as I came across American Libertarians I stopped using the word and now I'm embarrassed that I ever associated with it. What the fuck do you put in the water over there? Seriously!

You might check out Ed Brayton's blog. He is a self-described left-libertarian and deist (formerly atheist, and I'm still not quite sure he switched labels) who writes about science, religion, and political freedom.

Well I like Ed and read his blog but he'll shit on a political leaning as much as the next guy if he sees fit. And I don't have a problem with that.

By Rev. BigDumbChimp (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

That's a false choice. Just because I don't think labels mean everything doesn't mean I have to think they mean nothing. Labels serve the purpose of giving a general idea of where a person stands-- that's it. And that's useful. But they can't be used to sum up someone's entire outlook, and likewise they're no longer useful if they can't be assumed to have a relatively specific definition which either applies or doesn't.

That's precisely the point. Neither I nor you are the final authority on what Libertarianism is or isn't, and it isn't up to me or you to tell others who call themselves Libertarians that they aren't. No True LibertariansTM notwitstanding.

There's a perfectly good word for a person who believes in no government-- anarchist. I know that a lot of anarchists also call themselves libertarians because they believe that anarchy is the logical extension of libertarianism, but it's a mistake to say that outright denial of any legitimate government is what libertarianism is.

The people I was referring to aren't anarchists in the sense that they don't want no government at all. They believe any (or most) taxation without their consent is theft but are perfectly willing to allow government to provide services that benefit them directly providing, in some extreme cases, they get to decide if and how much to pay for it. I am also not suggesting it is a primary view of Libertarianism, just that they tend to align themselves as Libertarian because the philosophy meets their goals of reducing taxes as much as possible, whether or not it's good for society. Saying these people aren't Libertarians is just a "No True Scotsman" fallacy.

I'm not saying Libertarians are kooks because they (or even some) of them are against compulsory taxation. I'm saying that the Libertarianism attracts kooks like the tax-is-theftists and the anarcho-capitalists because of an inherent flaw in the philosophy. Yes, there are some rational, reasonable, if idealistic, Libertarians, but they tend to be the exception rather than the rule.

@228

An absolutely hilarious summary, but: do you like paying taxes that become subsidies to multinational agriculture corporations, defense contractors, the prison-industrial complex, etc.? Do you like funding wars with your taxes? Do you support putting peaceful people in prison for smoking marijuana?

Well, we libertarians don't, either. Look how crazy we are!

broboxley the ignorant fuckwit

the economic difference didnt make a snots worth of difference to the great unwashed, the tyranny was identical with regards to the people on the sharp end.

Bleeding Jeeeesus, but you're ignorant. The two situations were so fundamentally different that useful comparisons are almost impossible. Germany was far more industrially advanced when the Nazis came to power than Russia when the Bolsheviks did. The latter then had to win a civil war, by the end of which the towns were half empty. This was followed by a vicious power struggle within the party, which Stalin won. He then embarked on a programme of forced autarkic industrialisation ("socialism in one country") which was intended to provide the means of defence against the attack he expected, but led to millions of deaths, mainly among the Ukrainian peasantry. Anyone could find themselves in a labour camp, particularly long-time supporters of the Party.

Hitler came to power with the support of the military and most of big business, which he never lost. If you weren't Jewish, Roma, or a political opponent of the regime, it was unlikely to arrest you. Until he began losing the war, he had overwhelming popular support, and the industrialists and peasants in particular did extremely well out of his economic programme, but it was unsustainable without a successful aggressive war (when you've finished Noddy in Toyland, try Adam Tooze's The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy; if you get past page 3 I'll be astonished).

From your writing I am assuming that you are a "lifestyle anarchist" kinda like the sears poncho of politikal

Wrong again, dolt.

By Knockgoats (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

The legal fiction that is a corporation should be abolished in its entirety. Libertarianism, to me, was never intended to remove the human ethic, which is essentially, to me, what corporations attempt to accomplish. Libertarianism requires that people be accountable for their actions, and corporatism seems to me at its core to stand opposite of that concept.

The legal entity of a corporation provides more than the sheltering of individuals from their unethical actions. That part should be abolished from the legal fiction of a corporation. However, corporations as a method of pooling resources seems to be economically important.

What do you propose to replace it with?

And no, I didn't make it up. Most libertarians I know firmly believe that people should do whatever they want, including the forming of corporate-like entities, whether exactly as they are today, or with no "legal fiction," but as a co-op of shareholders (which results in something just as bad, only with no legal recourse against the entity as a whole). Either way, it's a "corporation."

I do know one guy who thinks only individuals should be able to own a company. That is, *one* person per company. Interesting thought, but I kinda doubt it'll work out.

By nigelTheBold (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

@234

That's a much more reasonable position than the one PZ usually takes. What, then, is the "inherent flaw"?

Take another hit GregN.

By stevieinthecity (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

@nigelTheBold: ROFL! you were under IHS AFTER it was privatized to the tribes. I remember the bad old days when a securty guard from wakenhut making $6 per hour stood at the locked emergency room door after hours at ANS (the old IHS Anchorage hospital) to do triage and tell people to come back on monday unless they were delivered by ambulance or police car.

By broboxley (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

That's a much more reasonable position than the one PZ usually takes. What, then, is the "inherent flaw"?

I discussed this previously. In short: Libertarianism depends on the voluntary compassion and altruism of all people involved with no provisions to prevent some from abusing the system and, in fact, rewards those who do.

What shits me off about libertarians is fuck they love to preach. They have their God and that God is the free market, and if you haven't seen the light of the free market just yet then they'll preach to you about the injustice of taxes and the tyranny of the government - that their taxes are being used to support things they don't want to pay for.

It's a fucking religion and those fucks who are infested with the God of the free market just won't shut the fuck up about it. They are just the same as creationists, a new one wanting to come and discuss libertarianism - because if you aren't one it can't be because you find the concept utterly lacking in substance being completely naive and quite irrelevant to the way things work. So you must be witnessed, again and a-fucking-gain. Same tired arguments, same self-righteousness about the ultimate freedom of the individual, the same "I've got mine and fuck the society that allowed me to get it" attitude, same moral preaching about society's leeches. etc.

Want to have your own views on how things should be run - great. But please please please please fucking please don't turn every fucking political discussion into a fucking referendum on libertarianism.

@jasonaorr

I have to wonder if what you think of as a libertarian in any way matches my experience with everyone else I have encountered who describe themselves with that word. Not really sure we're talking about the same thing here. To wit:

I am a libertarian, and I hold my political beliefs out of a sincere desire for widespread human happiness.

Hmm... let's see, I woke up on planet Earth this morning. What planet to these libertarians inhabit? Never seen 'em before.

My beliefs have a firm grounding in history and science rather than dogma and superstition,

and the best bit:

If libertarianism is a misguided political philosophy, it can be proven so with evidence and sound argument.

Say what?! Have you seen the Cato Institute's web site? They claim that predatory pricing is a conspiracy theory. The best documented of all economic crimes and violations of free market ideals - a conspiracy theory!? Libertarianism is a misguided (and a virulently dishonest) political philosophy and there exists boatloads of evidence to prove it. Every libertarian I have ever met has dealt with evidence by thrusting fingers in both ears and screaming "LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU," or similar behavior. You've never heard of company towns? You've never heard of the My Little Shirtwaist factory fire? You've never read The Jungle by Upton Sinclair nor The Octopus by Frank Norris? You never read or heard of Smedley Butler? Can you say "no bid contract?" And this is only scratching the surface. The game is rigged, and it's been rigged for quite some time. Your exalted "free market" is a fantasy.

In your post #37 you invoke Jefferson, Mill and Hayek - slipping in an assumption of facts not in evidence: that their writings actually support libertarian positions. I value individual liberty too, but also realize that my individual liberties end where another's begin. It's at the meeting points of the individuals' liberties with each other that we see numerous situations in which one person can do as he pleases while another must do as he's told (or starve). Quote-mining some well-written and eloquent words in defense of individual liberty does not defend the practice of allowing a few (most of them born wealthy) run roughshod over everyone else.

By Steven Dunlap (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Hey, stevieinthecity, I almost lost the job before this one because my boss recommended to HR that I be fired for drug use. His only "evidence" was that I identified as a Libertarian and signed up as a Ron Paul supporter. As it was, I lost a yearly bonus while I was "investigated" and exonerated.

So watch your mouth, idiot boy. You never know which fellow idiot will take you seriously.

By badgersdaughter (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

It's disappointing to see so many ad hominem and straw man arguments used against libertarians in these comments, on a blog purportedly in support of rational thinking and dialogue. I'm also glad to see that most of the responses in support of or sympathetic to libertarian views are civil and rationally based.

By theomaniac (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

@241

That's an odd criticism (not necessarily wrong, just odd) because the charge we normally hear is that libertarianism is nothing but a philosophy for the selfish, pursuing only profits at the expense of human rights, etc.

To your specific criticism: most libertarians don't think of people as inherently altruistic; we buy Adam Smith's idea that people generally work not out of concern for others, but for themselves. And we think markets (subject to government-enforced rules to internalize externalities), governed by profits and losses derived from consumer preference, is the best-known method for harnessing that self-interest and turning "private vices into public goods."

Also, what are laws and police and courts good for if not to "prevent some from abusing the system"?

@239: I don't smoke marijuana, but a lot of very smart, very successful people do (some, I'd bet, on this very thread!). I don't want to see those people put in prison. Do you?

This is why I'm quickly growing tired of labels: no matter which one I apply to myself, it's always tainted by the actions of some other douchebags. Oh, well. This (hopefully?) not simple-minded, decidedly not right-wing non-ideologue thinks we're all inherently selfish sociopaths to some degree (Republicans more so than others), and does his best to rise above selfish impulses while avoiding third-person self-references as much as possible.

But when I grope for a label to sum up my political feelings in as few words as possible, "libertarian" feels right, if only because "anarchist" seems too teenage-angsty-rage-against-the-machine-y for my taste. As many have already pointed out here, that mostly means that I'm suspicious of authority figures. All of them.

As for taxes? Yeah, I grumble about paying them when I don't like how they're spent. I do enjoy a lot of the things they pay for, like roads and public health and education and so forth, and take pride in helping to pay for those, but it turns my stomach that I'm forced to help fund the largest defense budget in the world (which I heard humorously referred to as an "offense budget" recently).

How do I vote? With the exception of a few tiny local races, almost exclusively Democratic, because I've yet to see a candidate that fit my bill for what libertarianism is (no, it's not the Tea Party; no, it's not Ron Paul) and while I feel personally drawn no more strongly to the left than to the right, the Democratic party seems to attract a saner, more reasonable crowd. If someone has to have too much power, I'd rather it be them.

Do those views make me worthy of ridicule from time to time around here? *Shrug* If so, so be it. Maybe I'm wrong. But I'm not really here for the political discourse, anyway. I'll stick around for the excellent science writing, the creationist lambasting, and the squid pictures.

By Optimus Primate (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

@ badgersdaughter

I identified as a Libertarian and signed up as a Ron Paul supporter

Just curious: was this before or after your conversion you described in posts #6 and #14?

standard disclaimer
Nothing justifies attempting to fire someone due to his/her political positions or activities. Question asked for information only.

By Steven Dunlap (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

@Knockgoats: blithering twat
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rise_and_Fall_of_the_Third_Reich read the book not just the article. Germany was in a full civil war with the army sitting on the sidelines. It was only by a hair that germany didnt revolve into a communist nation. The brownshirts won by weight of numbers. Apparently you havnt spoken to many people who lived in germany during that era, no one prospered unless you were in the party and well thought of.

By broboxley (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

@215, See Nick Overlook - thanks for the a perfectly concise summary.
Libertarians are not in principle opposed to tyranny. They would merely prefer to see it privatized.

Steven Dunlap: Oh, before, long before. Ron Paul was a Senator first, remember.

By badgersdaughter (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Libertarianism = Ethics for Assholes.

This is from Jeffrey Miron, Harvard economist and libertarian, via the Cato Institute on 10 messages / recommendations for a libertarian State of the Union address:

1. Abandon Obamacare

2. Forget Cap and Trade

3. Reject the Card Check Bill

4. Withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan

5. Legalize Drugs

6. Scrap the tax code and replace with a flat tax

7. Expand free trade and immigration

8. Stop the bailouts

9. Cut spending

10. Cut spending

BONUS - Cut spending

http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/2010/01/27/a-10-point-libertarian-sotu-a…

---

4 5 and 7 (at the least the immigration part) are definitely not right wing views. In addition, 8 contradicts the libertarian / corporatist claim that several commenters have made. The other points could be regarded as conservative / right, but three clearly non-right points are sufficient to undercut the premise of the post. Obviously these are not official libertarian positions, but I think they can be used as a reasonable proxy for views held by a good number of libertarians.

As a more general point, as most readers of this blog are likely inclined toward science and rational debate, it'd be nice to see more thoughtful and reasoned critiques of libertarianism.

@nigelTheBold: ROFL! you were under IHS AFTER it was privatized to the tribes. I remember the bad old days when a securty guard from wakenhut making $6 per hour stood at the locked emergency room door after hours at ANS (the old IHS Anchorage hospital) to do triage and tell people to come back on monday unless they were delivered by ambulance or police car.

Excellent point. I realize that even today some IHS hospitals are good, and some are bad. I worked at SEARHC while ANS still existed, and I recall that many people did not like going there.

That still doesn't negate the fact that SEARHC is a model of a well-run government-funded health care system. It can work, and even does work sometimes.

By nigelTheBold (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

That's an odd criticism (not necessarily wrong, just odd) because the charge we normally hear is that libertarianism is nothing but a philosophy for the selfish, pursuing only profits at the expense of human rights, etc.

Those two aren't in conflict. The idealistic believe Libertarianism will work because people are altruistic and compassionate. The kooks like Libertarianism because it allows them to be selfish.

To your specific criticism: most libertarians don't think of people as inherently altruistic; we buy Adam Smith's idea that people generally work not out of concern for others, but for themselves. And we think markets (subject to government-enforced rules to internalize externalities), governed by profits and losses derived from consumer preference, is the best-known method for harnessing that self-interest and turning "private vices into public goods."

The problem with this philosophy is that it assumes that only the things that are profitable are worth doing, and that it won't result in a disparity of class. And I dispute the "subject to government-enforced rules" qualification above since most Libertarians are fundamentally opposed to government interference in the free market.

Also, what are laws and police and courts good for if not to "prevent some from abusing the system"?

An invalid argument considering one of the central tenents of Libertarianism is reducing the effect of laws and courts and police as much as possible. To wit: anti-trust laws. Most Libertarians oppose anti-trust laws because it interferes with free-market capitalism ("why should a company be punished for being too successful?" -- not a strawman. I have actually had this argument made to me many times). Anti-trust laws are good for the consumer because choice is good for the consumer and encourages competition which results in better products for less money. Under Libertarianism, there is no penalty for having a monopoly and abusing that monopoly to maintain the market, even at the expense of the consumer, is not only acceptable, but expected. In fact, the only laws you can get most Libertarians to agree with are property protection laws, and even then a lot of them don't want to pay for the police.

I'm also glad to see that most of the responses in support of or sympathetic to libertarian views are civil and rationally based.

I honestly don't care that I'm uncivil around libertarians. This place around the last American election had almost every political thread without fail turn into a discussion on libertarianism. Even new libertarians came on and it was the same damn rhetoric as people witnessing God. It was that same a priori reasoning that some believers use, assume libertarianism is the bestest system ever and then fend off any criticism therefore libertarianism wins.

So I honestly don't care how uncivil I am in my response to libertarianism, being civil is again something creationists like to pat themselves on the back for against the brutish evolutionists who use fowl language and mock creationist views. That libertarianism can't work for certain problems is a real issue, but that's a secondary issue. Got to keep civil about things, put a smile on one's face and talk in nice words. Civility - the cry of those who want a moral high-ground because their arguments have been rejected.

@jennyxyzzy

Just as an aside on the LeGuin factor...she was *obsessed* with writing novels that were thinly disguised attacks on Communism. That's why you get the warning vibe off of it. I don't think she'd be a full blooded Libertarian but she definitely hated socialism & communism.

By sydneycat (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Re:#241
"I discussed this previously. In short: Libertarianism depends on the voluntary compassion and altruism of all people involved with no provisions to prevent some from abusing the system and, in fact, rewards those who do."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RWsx1X8PV_A

@tsg #255

An invalid argument considering one of the central tenents of Libertarianism is reducing the effect of laws and courts and police as much as possible.

Laws, maybe. The judicial system? Not hardly. In fact, I think most libertarians believe that the central (if not entire) purpose of government is to protect people from a) each other, and b) itself. In other words, to avoid infringing on the rights of citizens and to prevent citizens from infringing on each other's rights. It's when those resources are devoted to "protecting" people from themselves, or prevent them from doing things that present no direct harm to others, that the objections come in.

bart.mitchell, badgersdaughter... I have no desire -- nor the time -- to debate the good/bad of Libertarian thought accept to say that not all libertarians are of the mindset that all government is bad.

The vast majority of sane-minded libertarians simply support a rational approach to the size of Government.

And while you continue to mock and deride our existence, note that we are also vehemently anti-war and strongly support personal privacy... which are typically areas of interest to those who lean left as well.

Is it still possible to consider government policies abusive and corrupt, without sounding like a Tea Partier?

A typical liberal believes many government policies are abusive and corrupt, but such policies are best fixed by getting involved with the government and improving it.
Tea Partiers seem to believe that abuse and corruption will automagically disappear if nearly all government functions are privatized, taxes are reduced to near zero, and everybody goes everywhere with a Desert Eagle strapped to their waist.
Note - if you look at the signs at any Tea Party, you'll see there is a huge variety of kooks involved - so any generalization is necessarily less reliable than one expects generalizations to be.

bart.mitchell #161

Bacon is proof that god exists, and he hates Jews and Muslims.

FTW. I have already stolen this.

Lithified Detritus

By https://me.yah… (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Laws, maybe. The judicial system? Not hardly.

They go hand in hand. Fewer laws means less need for the judicial system.

In fact, I think most libertarians believe that the central (if not entire) purpose of government is to protect people from a) each other, and b) itself. In other words, to avoid infringing on the rights of citizens and to prevent citizens from infringing on each other's rights. It's when those resources are devoted to "protecting" people from themselves, or prevent them from doing things that present no direct harm to others, that the objections come in.

Yes, and as has been stated several times before, what constitutes "harm" is a prime point of contention.

@murphymw
Thanks for the video link. Now I know I despise Friedman whereas before I only suspected I would.

I love how each question from Donahue was answered with a litany of worse examples. As if Hitler being bad makes Ford good. Fuck that guy. And arrogant twat.

The great rise in wealth of the west was largely gained by displacing it's costs... the exploitation of large patches of the globe. The rise of American capitalism through industrialization is a great list of 'fuck the little guy'. Mining towns, indentured servitude, pillaging of natural resources... Capitalism's history makes it a de facto might makes right philosophy.

And no I don't mean to say it's all bad but holy flying fuck was that a bad video to link to as a defense of capitalism (or libertarianism).

@broboxley #221

@mnphenow: that is one of the greatest sly satires I have ever read. thank you

I hate to disappoint, but I was speaking earnestly.

mnphenow,

We've heard it all before.

True libertarians are not simple-minded right-wing ideologues unable or unwilling to see past their own sociopathic self-regard, but are careful, deliberate scholars genuinely concerned about the well-being of all of humanity.

We've had endless glibertarians through here, we know what selfish shits most of them are, simply concerned to protect their own positions of privilege as rich white males.

Unbeknownst to most people, libertarian theory is based on one unassailable axiom: the non-aggression principle, which simply states that no person has the right to initiate violence against another person, period. For a great introduction to libertarian theory, see here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4kPsaxuM5Y

Garbage. You don't believe that yourself. Suppose I come and get into your home through an open window while it's empty, then change the locks. No violence involved. I'm prepared to bet you think violence would be justified to get me out.

This simple axiom is rather uncontroversial to most folks and I'm sure many of you reasonable and compassionate people here would wholly embrace it.

Only if you don't actually put a bit of thought into it. Suppose there's a famine in progress, and a grain trader has managed to corner the market. He's holding on as the price soars ever higher, and people are seeing their children starve. Now we've had glibertarians on here defending the "right" of the trader to do that. Fucking pusbuckets. I defend the right of the starving to take the grain they need from this piece of shit. This situation, by the way, is not some far-fetched hypothetical - happens every time there's a famine.

But, the arguments begin promptly when we use this principle to derive solutions to real-world problems. A prominent case is the environment. It is simplistic and unfair to say that libertarians don't care about the environment. We cherish the environment and genuinely want to protect it from the many very real threats to its sustainable preservation. For a great discussion on the libertarian solutions to this problem, see here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DrTsaSUFfpo

Crap. Most of the glibertarians we've had here are anthropogenic climate change denialists. The few who are not, just simper about how the market will sort it out. Right: like it did London smogs, acid rain and ozone-destroying chemicals... Oh, wait, that was government regulation and international treaties.

Further, people tend to think that libertarians simply endorse the exploitation of the poor by the rich. Nothing could be further from the truth. In this regard, people tragically confuse free markets with corporatism. Libertarians are dead-set against corporatism in all of its manifestations. The free market, allowed to operate properly, is a system with an insatiable drive to reduce profits, serve the consumer, and continually better the lives of the least in society. In a very real sense, it is the poor who are constantly "exploiting" the rich (in a good way), not the other way around, as is the case whenever the government gets involved. Free market economics is not just a simplistic, reactionary ideology, but a sophisticated, scientific, complete, coherent, consistent, and proven body of knowledge. For more see Mises, Hayek, Hazlitt, Rothbard, Hoppe, Block, Salerno, Woods, et al. There is a vast wealth of very high-quality information at Mises.org.

No, it's a load of bilge. Unregulated markets are inherently unstable, because the rich (a) Can afford to wait, while the poor can't, and (b) will collude to control prices. I know about von Mises's ludicrous dismissal of empirical evidence because it doesn't fit his fuckwitted "axioms".

I get the impression that many intelligent, rational people on the left feel that libertarianism is simplistic and anti-intellectual. Nothing could be further from the truth. Libertarian theory (and Austrian economics) is based on the understanding of chaos theory / complexity theory / etc. This is the acknowledgement that large systems of independent actors, each operating with limited knowledge of the whole system and usually interacting only locally, tend to display complex, emergent behavior. For a great short example of this, see Leonard Read's "I, Pencil": http://www.econlib.org/library/Essays/rdPncl1.html

Hey, that's my professional work you're talking about there, matey. I've got news for you:
1) Nothing about the theory of complex systems says the emergent behaviour you get is going to be the behaviour you want, let alone one that will suit all actors.
2) People don't interact only locally. Hadn't you noticed? What you have in an economic system (or the larger socio-environmental system it is part of) is a contested complex adaptive system, in which multiple actors have their own interpretations of how the whole system does function, and how it should function. Simplistic blathering about the virtues of emergence won't cut it.

It is my contention that the workings of complex economies and societies are very similar to the workings of neo-Darwinian evolution.

(a)You're wrong - see above.
(b)If you were right, the processes and results of evolution are not - hadn't you noticed? - uniformly benign.

That is NOT to say that I endorse any kind of social Darwinism(!), but rather that, just as complex life could not have arisen other than through evolution by cumulative natural selection, complex economies could not have arisen other than through the voluntary, mutually-beneficial interactions of individuals on the free market. For a discussion of this topic, see the thread I started here: http://mises.org/Community/forums/t/13436.aspx

Only historically, of course, they didn't: violence and compulsion were key to the genesis of capitalism, and if you want to go further back, key to the genesis of feudalism, of the first money economies, of the first urban economies - and there we're at the beginning of recorded history. But then as a good von Misesian, you'll dismiss the historical evidence because it doesn't fit the axioms.

I don't have time for the anti-intellectual Tea Partiers, but nor do I have time for the anti-intellectuals on the left who do nothing more than rant about well-intentioned ends without engaging in serious study concerning the nature of logical, reasonable, just, moral, and effective means. The real problem we face is one of personal constitution. Are we mature enough individuals to seek the real truth and have real open discussions?

Well, you're certainly not. You're clearly a True Believer.

As a rational, free-thinking anti-theist as well as an austro-libertarian anarcho-capitalist, it is my sincere hope that people from both camps can come together and realize that they have much more in common than they know.

There's nothing more irrational than market-worship.

By Knockgoats (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

It's not too difficult to see the appeal of Libertarianism. The rugged individuality; not compromising with anyone; living free of restraint.

Of course, that's just how people started out, thousands of years ago

Um, no. People, in any meaningful sense of the word, started out in social groups. Those social groups are far more complex in most societies now, but we were never rugged individualists. Read an anthropology textbook.

The smart libertarians amongst us know that the government can do some little good in some areas, but right now I think we can all agree it's getting slightly out of hand.

Not at all. Government in the USA isn't "out of hand," it doesn't do enough. Where the fuck is our universal health care?

Like masturbation, it felt great at the time. Unlike masturbation, I was fucking someone else while I pleasured myself.

FTW!

By Pygmy Loris (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

They go hand in hand. Fewer laws means less need for the judicial system.

Obviously. The point is that there are loads of laws which do not serve the purpose of protecting people from each other or the government, and the elimination of those is the goal of people who are pro "small government," both to increase freedom and decrease taxation.

@255

"Those two aren't in conflict. The idealistic believe Libertarianism will work because people are altruistic and compassionate. The kooks like Libertarianism because it allows them to be selfish."

You're missing the third option, which is actually the idea that most of us buy, to wit, that humans tend toward self-interest, and libertarianism will work because it effectively channels that tendency into public virtues (e.g., wealth). We're neither idealistic nor kooks. We don't revel in selfishness; we merely see it as a given. NOTE: this is NOT to say that we think humans are motivated solely or completely by profit or selfishness. Obviously that is untrue, and no libertarian I've met believes it).

"The problem with this philosophy is that it assumes that only the things that are profitable are worth doing, and that it won't result in a disparity of class."

Well, the first part just isn't true. What I mean is that it simply isn't true that libertarians think the only things worth doing are profitable. If it were true, our best and brightest wouldn't all work in non-profits like Cato and the Institute for Justice. You're right in part that we don't think markets will result in permanent class disparities. That said, I'm not familiar with the data on equality in market systems; for those questions, though, I'd point you to Will Wilkinson's work (Googling his name and "inequality" should work).

"And I dispute the "subject to government-enforced rules" qualification above since most Libertarians are fundamentally opposed to government interference in the free market."

Most of us don't consider rules that allow markets to work more efficiently (e.g., property rights, enforcements of contracts, Pigovian taxes where Coasean bargaining breaks down) to be "interference" with the market.

"one of the central tenents (sic) of Libertarianism is reducing the effect of laws and courts and police as much as possible."

Simply untrue. I don't really know what to say to that; it's just not true. Libertarians think police and courts and the military are perfectly legitimate and, when they do their jobs well, are necessary for the free society. That said, we recognize the tendency of those in power to abuse that power (e.g., police), so we're skeptical of the exercise of that power in practice.

"To wit: anti-trust laws. Most Libertarians oppose anti-trust laws because it interferes with free-market capitalism ("why should a company be punished for being too successful?" -- not a strawman. I have actually had this argument made to me many times)."

Most libertarians oppose antitrust laws, but not for the reasons you've been given. Rather, we oppose them because they are inefficient and often, in practice, create unjustified protections for established corporations, and act as subsidies for bigger companies at the expense of smaller mom and pop operations.

"Anti-trust laws are good for the consumer because choice is good for the consumer and encourages competition which results in better products for less money. Under Libertarianism, there is no penalty for having a monopoly and abusing that monopoly to maintain the market, even at the expense of the consumer, is not only acceptable, but expected."

We'll just have to agree to disagree on the merits of antitrust. Note, though, that libertarians don't really recognize the possibility of market power in free markets with no barriers to entry (e.g., tariffs, licensing laws). That said, if I were shown a clear case of monopoly abuse in an open market, I'd have no problem breaking up the company.

"In fact, the only laws you can get most Libertarians to agree with are property protection laws, and even then a lot of them don't want to pay for the police."

The first part is roughly true (again, most of us have no problem paying for public goods or laws that internalize externalities). But the last part is, again, simply not true. Only anarchists have a problem with paying for police, and they are a separate philosophical class.

Celtic_Evolution,

How the hell are ya? Hope you are recovering well.

Still learning,

Robert

By Desert Son, OM (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

mjparme Author Profile Page | February 15, 2010 12:14 PM

That is odd Libertarianism is being attacked in this post since the Libertarian Party is the only political party that actually supports the Constitution as written. How can you find anything wrong with the Libertarian platform?

http://www.lp.org/platform

Democrats don't even care if proposed legislation is even in the enumerated list of powers the Constitution provided the Fed. Government. (Republicans aren't much better these days, especially on legislating their view of morality).

The Federal Governement has usurped power they simply don't have. For those attacking Libertaranism I can only assume they haven't read the US Constitution or they simply don't understand it. They also don't seem to understand the difference between the powers of the Federal Government and the powers of a State (or even local) government.

Here's the problem, you've made a very specific argument about Federal power in the American Constitutional System, not an argument about government power. If we follow your thinking, the states can do whatever the hell they want. This is Ron Paul libertarianism. American states are still governments, idiot. Get a clue.

By Pygmy Loris (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

My only complaint about PZ's post is his labelling of Libertarinas as right-wing. Do I agree with him that they are nuts? Yes. But do they fall onto an easy to define position along the left/right political axis? No. Take the issue of Church and State, for example. Libertarians are very opposed to the right-wing's frequent attempts to mandate religious beliefs via government institutions, and are fully on our side on that particular fight. They would also be fully on our side in the free-speech right of PZ to desecrate a communion wafer. They are also okay with people aborting unthinking zygotes with no brain and therefore no thoughts. They are also appalled at blasphemy laws overseas.

These are all anti- right-wing attitudes. Libertarians are hard to classify on that simplistic right/left scale because on some issues they side closer with the left and on others they side closer with the right.

The idea that they are ultra-right-wing in SOME things needs to be compared against the fact that they are ultra-left-wing in other things. What they are is just plain ultra-everything. Whatever their stance on any particular issue happens to be, it will be an ultra- stance.

Unless you think the idea of legalizing drugs and the idea of legal gay marriage are right-wing issues, you can't really call the libertarinas ultra-right-wing.

What they are, is anti-big-government. Sometimes that means thinking that government interference in business is wrong (a right wing idea), and sometimes that means thinking that government interference in your private sex life is wrong (a left-wing-issue).

I don't think they're sensible at all, but that's only because they fail to notice that when trying to maximize freedom by reducing rules, you hit a point of diminishing returns where the unruliness of the public at large starts to crimp people's ability to be truly free. Therefore the way to maximize freedom is to find that sweet-spot compromise zone where giving the government more power will decrease freedom, but ALSO giving the government less power will decrease freedom overall too. Trying to keep things in that valley between those two slopes is largely the point of a representative democracy.

Actually, to be fair, I think Libertarians do recognize that "sweet spot" issue (they are quick to point out that they don't want absolutely no government at ALL, as they are not anarchists - so on some level they do recognize the problem). It's just that they think the sweet spot is a lot farther in the "less government" direction than I do. I recognize that sometimes the way to maximize freedom is to put rules in place that keep people with more accumulated wealth and power than you from using that power to take your choices away. (Libertarians tend to have a blind spot to the possibility of monopolies becoming just as oppressive as governments.)

By Steven Mading (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

@263:

Re: the "harm" principle.

On that, TSG, you are exactly right. Libertarians as a class have a horrible habit of not being able to recognize anything other than direct interference with property rights as meaningfully "coercive." But that's a debate we're having, and hopefully my side will win.

Having just gone over and read the Platform for the LP I have to say that it seems to me that Libertarianism is a wonderful idea, full of great vision, and Utopian ideals.

UNTIL you realize, that clearly none of these people are living in the real world or have ever met other actual human beings. Or read about behavioral experiments that teach us that humans are rarely altruistic beyond a certain basic level unless outside pressures are applied. We're primates, primates are vicious, devious bastards.
And don't give me Bonobos because Americans are WAY too uptight for that sort of society!

When you think about the platform in terms of real world action...it all comes back to fuck the poor, the sick, and anyone else unable to go out there and earn enough to keep themselves fed, clothed, and functioning.

By sydneycat (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Obviously. The point is that there are loads of laws which do not serve the purpose of protecting people from each other or the government, and the elimination of those is the goal of people who are pro "small government," both to increase freedom and decrease taxation.

There are a multitude of laws that don't protect people from each other or the government yet are good for society in general. The restriction to these two categories of acceptable government intervention is one of the primary flaws of Libertarianism. Poverty is bad for society. Public roads, public schools, fire protection, and yes, even public health care are good for society. These are just a few of the things Libertarians, under your restrictions, would do away with that wouldn't be provided for by a free market or by voluntary altruism.

@Kel,OM re: #256
One can be assertive in support of a position without being a douchebag. Take Richard Dawkins, for example, who is unwaveringly critical of religion without resorting to invective, like many theists are. I find it is often the liberals who are smug and self-righteous when lecturing others about their "self-evidently" correct views. In any case, abusive ad hominem attacks are almost never helpful.

By theomaniac (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Let me add to that last post.

The Tenth Amendment

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

emphasis mine

That last bit is actually really important. The people can choose, through their elected representatives, to delegate powers not enumerated in the Constitution to the Federal Government. This shouldn't be controversial, but the States Rights people always seem to forget about the last little bit of the Tenth.

By Pygmy Loris (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

E. O. Wilson, who studied social insects his entire life once said of his subject matter: "Marx was exactly right. He just had the wrong species."

The thing is that I don't know of any species where libertarianism works. Then again, my encounters with libertarians in the anti-science movements may have poisoned my attitude.

By a_ray_in_dilbe… (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

no libertarian I've met believes it

This phrase (or variant thereof) has appeared several times in the thread.

So another question to throw into the mix: why is it that those defending Libertarianism on this thread have never met the Libertarians that most of us have encountered and found to be shockingly, appallingly (and sometimes willfully) ignorant of socio-political and economic systems, history, the intersection of individuals and culture and social structure and government, and perspectives on outgroups vs. ingroups, and collective effort as sustaining social cohesion?

To put it another way, if the Libertarian supporters in this thread are examples of a rational, compassionate, caring, sympathetic, mindful, nuanced, and altruistic Libertarianism (that acknowledges selfishness as an aspect of human personality but does not necessarily deem that selfishness as the ultimate arbiter of moral conduct), then why have all the crazy ones hijacked your press?

Still learning,

Robert

By Desert Son, OM (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Theomaniac: You are stirring a hornet's nest. Here, it is considered honorable to tell it like it is, with hot mustard and chili peppers. It is considered indecently craven to whimper about civility, particularly if you are on the losing side of an argument.

By badgersdaughter (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

To put it another way, if the Libertarian supporters in this thread are examples of a rational, compassionate, caring, sympathetic, mindful, nuanced, and altruistic Libertarianism (that acknowledges selfishness as an aspect of human personality but does not necessarily deem that selfishness as the ultimate arbiter of moral conduct), then why have all the crazy ones hijacked your press?

Umm, for the same reason that crazy ass people of any sort hijack the press regarding the group in which they're members? Because the crazy ones are the loudest, the most interesting, and the easiest to use as a representative sampling by those who are not members of that group?

Desert Son, of all the defenders of libertarian ideals on the thread (if you agree that I should be so called), I never said that about "all the Libertarians I've met". In fact, I stopped going to meetings because of the Libertarians I met. I could never get agreement out of them, for one thing, and a lot of the things they said were dead against Enlightenment ideals and the protection of individual rights and liberties.

Why have the crazy ones hijacked the press? Do you realize you almost answered your own question? The press is only concerned with the loud and obnoxious, particularly when non-mainstream political views are concerned.

By badgersdaughter (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

The Federal Governement has usurped power they simply don't have. For those attacking Libertaranism I can only assume they haven't read the US Constitution or they simply don't understand it.

You might also stretch your tiny intellect to encompass the possibility that there are people who don't consider the US constitution the last word in political wisdom.

By Knockgoats (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

mjparme #108

How can you find anything wrong with the Libertarian platform?

http://www.lp.org/platform

Consider platform point 2.2 Environment

We support a clean and healthy environment and sensible use of our natural resources. Private landowners and conservation groups have a vested interest in maintaining natural resources. Pollution and misuse of resources cause damage to our ecosystem. Governments, unlike private businesses, are unaccountable for such damage done to our environment and have a terrible track record when it comes to environmental protection. Protecting the environment requires a clear definition and enforcement of individual rights in resources like land, water, air, and wildlife. Free markets and property rights stimulate the technological innovations and behavioral changes required to protect our environment and ecosystems. We realize that our planet's climate is constantly changing, but environmental advocates and social pressure are the most effective means of changing public behavior. [emphasis added]

Before passage of the Clean Water Act and creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Cuyahoga River in Ohio used to catch on fire. That's right, looneytarians, the river would burn because of pollution. It wasn't corporations or the free market that cleaned up the Cuyahoga, it was the government. So your pretense that government "has a terrible track record when it comes to environmental protection" is a fucking LIE!

Now let's look at platform point 2.5 Money and Financial Markets:

We favor free-market banking, with unrestricted competition among banks and depository institutions of all types. Individuals engaged in voluntary exchange should be free to use as money any mutually agreeable commodity or item. We support a halt to inflationary monetary policies, the repeal of legal tender laws and compulsory governmental units of account.

In 1837, in an attempt to corner the gold market, the ten largest banks in New York stopped payment in specie (gold and silver coinage), leaving other banks holding notes against these banks without adequate liquid assets. Within two months the failures in New York alone aggregated nearly $100,000,000 in value. "Out of eight hundred and fifty banks in the United States, three hundred and forty-three closed entirely, sixty-two failed partially, and the system of State banks received a shock from which it never fully recovered."1 Smaller, privately held financial institutions failed in droves. The Panic was followed by a five-year depression, characterized by ongoing failures of banks and financial institutions and record unemployment levels.

The free market approach to banking leads to financial chaos.

1Herbert H. Bancroft The Financial Panic of 1837. New York: Richardson & Snyder, 1936. Page 28.

By 'Tis Himself, OM (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

I find it is often the liberals who are smug and self-righteous when lecturing others about their "self-evidently" correct views. In any case, abusive ad hominem attacks are almost never helpful.

Ah, we have a concern troll, Pharyngula style. He doesn't like our tone. Well, guess what? We hear your concern, and reject it. Guess what? We double back everything you say about liberals to your sick attitude. So, take your smug attitude and shove it where the sun don't shine. Welcome to Pharyngula, where you need to be a real adult to post.

By Nerd of Redhead, OM (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

You're missing the third option, which is actually the idea that most of us buy, to wit, that humans tend toward self-interest, and libertarianism will work because it effectively channels that tendency into public virtues (e.g., wealth).

Historically the free-market keeps the wealthy wealthy and the poor poor. It has essentially been shown not to work.

We're neither idealistic nor kooks. We don't revel in selfishness; we merely see it as a given. NOTE: this is NOT to say that we think humans are motivated solely or completely by profit or selfishness. Obviously that is untrue, and no libertarian I've met believes it).

I've never met a Libertarian that would admit to being selfish either, but that doesn't change the fact that a good many of them are.

Well, the first part just isn't true. What I mean is that it simply isn't true that libertarians think the only things worth doing are profitable.

That's all the free-market provides for: profit. If it isn't profitable, it doesn't get done.

If it were true, our best and brightest wouldn't all work in non-profits like Cato and the Institute for Justice.

You can't use examples from a non-Libertarian society and simply assert that they would carry over to a Libertarian one.

You're right in part that we don't think markets will result in permanent class disparities.

They do. History has shown this to be true. Other posters have cited examples. I won't duplicate them here.

Most of us don't consider rules that allow markets to work more efficiently (e.g., property rights, enforcements of contracts, Pigovian taxes where Coasean bargaining breaks down) to be "interference" with the market.

Laws that protect the consumer don't necessarily fit this description.

one of the central tenents (sic) of Libertarianism is reducing the effect of laws and courts and police as much as possible.

Simply untrue. I don't really know what to say to that; it's just not true.

Really? Gretchen in this very thread has advocated just that: no laws except for those that protect people from others and the government.

We'll just have to agree to disagree on the merits of antitrust. Note, though, that libertarians don't really recognize the possibility of market power in free markets with no barriers to entry (e.g., tariffs, licensing laws). That said, if I were shown a clear case of monopoly abuse in an open market, I'd have no problem breaking up the company.

A monopoly (or significant market share) is a barrier to entry. And most Libertarians I have argued with disagree with you about breaking up the company. I didn't invent the "why should a company be punished for being too successful" line.

The first part is roughly true (again, most of us have no problem paying for public goods or laws that internalize externalities). But the last part is, again, simply not true. Only anarchists have a problem with paying for police, and they are a separate philosophical class.

Self-described Libertarians have told me exactly that. Let's not get into a game of No True Libertarians, please, because I could just as easily argue, based on my experience, that it is you who isn't a Libertarian.

nigelTheBold wrote:

"However, corporations as a method of pooling resources seems to be economically important."

Everything has a cost. I submit that economic efficiencies gained by pooling resources are offset, as far as net gain to society, by (a) soulless, mob-rule, self-interest without humanity corporatism, and (b) the interaction of (a) with government at all levels. I would also submit that because of the time that corporate law came into existence, alternative potentials for pooling resources were not explored.

"What do you propose to replace it with?"

Further evolutions of types of law that deal with contractual relationships between people. Partnership law and cooperatives come to mind, although no one has ever had to push such types of law so far because the corporate existence came in and wiped out most of the need for that. Just because I can't peer into alternative realities to see how human ingenuity could have accommodated for the lack of a corporate entity doesn't mean that corporations are necessary.

However, the podium is yours if you'd like to take this opportunity to monologue about how great corporations are. Like, how great it is how much corporations will be able to participate directly in upcoming elections!

Celtic_Evolution,

How the hell are ya? Hope you are recovering well.

Getting better every day Robert... thanks for asking.

Although reading this thread has done nothing for my blood pressure.

Rarely have I seen so many, and so varied "No True Scotsman" pleas in one thread... The one thing I can remark about Libertarians without fail is that not a single one agrees with any other about what Libertarianism is, but every one of them believes firmly that their brand of Libertarianism is the true representation, and they just "know better"... it's ideology of the individual in its purest form.

By Celtic_Evolution (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Umm, for the same reason that crazy ass people of any sort hijack the press regarding the group in which they're members?

Why have the crazy ones hijacked the press? Do you realize you almost answered your own question? The press is only concerned with the loud and obnoxious, particularly when non-mainstream political views are concerned. - badgersdaughter

Desert Son didn't say the press - he said your press - the glibertarian press. Who runs that? Who were all the glibertarians rooting for in the Rethug primaries? - the creationist and racist fruitcake Ron Paul. You couldn't fucking move anywhere in the blogosphere without some drivelling idiot yammering on about the "Ron Paul revolution". Who was actually the Libertarian Party candidate? Fellow fruitcake Bob Barr. A significant proportion of the glibertarians we've had through here have been outright racists - the rest have opposed any actual measures to combat the disadvantaging of ethnic minorities.

By Knockgoats (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

@badgersdaughter re: #280
Fair enough, I suppose I should know the rules of engagement before entering a room. However it seems to me that to "tell it like it is" suggests the kind of dogmatism that we science supporters should distance ourselves from. The way libertarianism is attacked on this blog makes it seem equivalent to homeopathy, or psychic prediction, or bigfoot belief. The ideas comprising "libertarianism" or "classical liberalism" have a long philosophical history and are worthy of genuine intellectual engagement. Sure, there are some who are dogmatic (e.g. many Objectivists), but the same can be said of many liberal campers as well. Criticizing libertarianism because of the tea-baggers seems to me like criticizing liberalism because of the post-modernists.

By theomaniac (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Really? Gretchen in this very thread has advocated just that: no laws except for those that protect people from others and the government.

No, I haven't. I was trying to explain a mentality to you, and that explanation was made entirely to point out that it does not involve "reducing the effect of laws and courts and police as much as possible." This has been a mostly civil discussion; please try not to misrepresent people.

Knockgoats, thanks for pointing that out; I obviously misunderstood.

When I was a libertarian, I supported Ron Paul on the grounds that I felt he would support liberty regardless of his own beliefs. The whole stupid mess with Lew Rockwell's racism, and the growing role of Dominionist fundamentalists in the campaign, went a long way toward my eventual disenchantment.

By badgersdaughter (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

I'm way behind, but have to comment on Bobber at, #115:

More like stumbling over a hornet's nest while wearing "Sting Me No. 5."

Gold!

Right, back to the comments. I'll see y'all in a couple of hours.

By WowbaggerOM (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

However it seems to me that to "tell it like it is" suggests the kind of dogmatism that we science supporters should distance ourselves from.

There is so very much wrong with this sentence... please read it again and feel free to re-phrase...

There is nothing dogmatic about unfiltered honest dialog, regardless of tone.

By Celtic_Evolution (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

badgersdaughter,

Good point, and thank you. I phrased my initial question poorly, attributing the "never met them thar Libertarians" to all the defenders or even just dabblers in Libertarianism in the thread. I should have been more careful in my syntax construction.

The press is only concerned with the loud and obnoxious, particularly when non-mainstream political views are concerned.

Similarly, in counterpoise, and with respect, while I think there is a large amount of press that is concerned with the loud and obnoxious - indeed, that has developed a definite and specialized market (ahem) for the loud and obnoxious - I do not think that such is the sole concern of the press. In the market model (perhaps the Libertarian model?) of the press, I would suggest that, in addition to distribution of information, much of the press is also interested in making money, and loud and obnoxious is one market . . . but not the only market.

So I'm not convinced that my disillusionment and often disgust with Libertarianism, and much of the same that I read from other commenters, lies at the feet of the press only "showing the bad apples." But perhaps the error was mine in characterizing it as "press."

Following on your comment about Libertarian meetings and your departure from them, most of the Libertarian sentiment I've encountered hasn't been through the mainstream press. Most has been either personal encounter or via discourse forums such as this.

Still learning,

Robert

By Desert Son, OM (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

damn... blockquote fail at #294...

By Celtic_Evolution (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

@Nerd of Redhead, OM, re: #285
"Ah, we have a concern troll, Pharyngula style. He doesn't like our tone. Well, guess what? We hear your concern, and reject it. Guess what? We double back everything you say about liberals to your sick attitude. So, take your smug attitude and shove it where the sun don't shine. Welcome to Pharyngula, where you need to be a real adult to post."

Tell me what exactly is my "sick attitude". What do you know about me? Nothing of any significance. You make assumptions about my character after having read mere sentences. You might be surprised to learn that I'm a reasonably likable, compassionate person, who probably agrees with you about many things. But that's beside the point. It is you who is coming across as snide, self-righteous, and fucktarded.

By theomaniac (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

@Celtic_Evolution re#294

Of course honest dialogue supported by rational thinking is of the utmost importance, and abuse should be met with in kind. But we know that science is incomplete and tentative, but when we dismiss opponents of science as retards, it very much gives the impression that particular scientific ideas are not subject to questioning and honest debate. "If you don't agree with me you're a retard" seems rather childish.

By theomaniac (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Tell me what exactly is my "sick attitude". What do you know about me?

First of all, you complained about us, so I used your words back a you. You are also priss/prude.

You might be surprised to learn that I'm a reasonably likable, compassionate person, who probably agrees with you about many things.

Not proven by your posts.

It is you who is coming across as snide, self-righteous, and fucktarded.

Ooh, wounded to the core.

but when we dismiss opponents of science as retards,

Sorry, at a science blog the science rules. And those who dismiss the science they disagree are idjits. We call 'em as see 'em. Time to stop your childish complaints. Grow a pair, or fuck off.

By Nerd of Redhead, OM (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

re: Chomsky and Libertarianism

In the US Libertarianism means something different than the it does elsewhere or what it has meant historically. Chomsky does not consider himself a Libertarian in the US sense of the word. He explains his views here.

So here [the US], “libertarian” means “extreme advocate of total tyranny”. That’s what “libertarian” means here. [applause] It means power ought to be given into the hands of private, unaccountable tyrannies—even worse than state tyrannies because there the public has some kind of role. The corporate system, especially as its evolved in the 20th century, is pure tyranny.

By Feynmaniac (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Theomaniac,
Sentences written can convey volumes. For instance: "But we know that science is incomplete and tentative, but when we dismiss opponents of science as retards, it very much gives the impression that particular scientific ideas are not subject to questioning and honest debate."

To me, this seems to suggest that you don't understand that the fact that science speaks in terms of evidence rather than proof does not weaken scientific truth but rather means it is more reliable.

In science, there are certain things we know. We know that evolution is responsible for the diversity of species we see. We know that an apple will fall on a geodesic to the point of lowest gravitational energy subject to boundary conditions (that is "down"). We know we are warming Earth's climate, and so on. I simply is not interesting to rehash scientific principles that are firmly established unless by doing so you propose to come to a deeper understanding of those established principles.

By a_ray_in_dilbe… (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Badhelvetica wrote:

When arguing with libertarians (I try to reason people out of the trap I once fell into), I find that it's important to figure out which of the two camps they fall into. If they're, say, Objectivists then Iain Banks' summation is absolutely accurate, but always remember that they may simply be misguided semi-idealists who actually think that what they believe could winding up working out better for a society as whole, rather than just a small group of capitalist supermen (this seems silly to me now, but I earnestly believed it at the time).

This is a worthwhile distinction to make. I also sympathized with libertarianism a few years ago, believing that a laissez-faire government would lead to economic prosperity for all. I'll happily confess to having been naive, but at no point did I view selfishness as a virtue. Those who think that all libertarians are motivated by Objectivist "philosophy" risk making a strawman argument.

Onto a different subject: Obsessive geek that I am, I've read every sci-fi book by Iain M. Banks except for this latest one. I'll get around to it eventually, I'm sure.

@a_ray_in_dilbert_space re#302
Thanks for not being a SOB, like many others who post here. Point noted.

By theomaniac (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Greetings @Knockgoats. Thanks for taking the time to read and address my comments. I'll do my best to respond in kind.

We've had endless glibertarians through here, we know what selfish shits most of them are, simply concerned to protect their own positions of privilege as rich white males.

This is an unfortunate and unfair generalization that doesn't address the issues at hand.

Garbage. You don't believe that yourself. Suppose I come and get into your home through an open window while it's empty, then change the locks. No violence involved. I'm prepared to bet you think violence would be justified to get me out.

I tried to remain as brief as possible and so didn't delve into the corollary principles that flow from the non-aggression principle. One of them is that private property (acquired by way of Lockian homesteading or legitimate title transfer) is to be free from the initiation of violence. In your example, you are first trespassing and then violating my rights to full ownership of my property. I would be justified in seeking restitution, but only to make myself whole, not to pursue punitive measures.

Only if you don't actually put a bit of thought into it. Suppose there's a famine in progress, and a grain trader has managed to corner the market. He's holding on as the price soars ever higher, and people are seeing their children starve. Now we've had glibertarians on here defending the "right" of the trader to do that. Fucking pusbuckets. I defend the right of the starving to take the grain they need from this piece of shit. This situation, by the way, is not some far-fetched hypothetical - happens every time there's a famine.

This analysis belies a misunderstanding of the nature of the price system. Prices play an indispensable coordinating function in the market. Rising prices do a number of things. First, they encourage people to ration and prioritize based on the current (sometimes tragic) reality. This helps prevent shortages since, if prices were fixed, the first people in line would tend to buy more than they can get by with, leaving those in the back of the line with nothing when supplies are exhausted. Second, they encourage produces of the same (or substitutable) goods to relocate to where prices are rising. This brings the needed goods from far and wide, both increasing the supplies in the famine-ravaged location and simultaneously driving down the high prices. If prices are artificially fixed, the other suppliers can't afford to ship their goods a long distance to fulfill the needs of those in trouble and the shortage is exacerbated. For a similar discussion of this issue, see this discussion between atheist libertarian Walter Block and the New Orleans Secular Humanist Association: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cPvH0eUU9jQ#t=2m16s

Crap. Most of the glibertarians we've had here are anthropogenic climate change denialists. The few who are not, just simper about how the market will sort it out. Right: like it did London smogs, acid rain and ozone-destroying chemicals... Oh, wait, that was government regulation and international treaties.

In all these cases, it is a failure of government to protect private property rights. Nobody has the right to violate my property by pumping their pollutants into my yard or into the air I breath. A properly functioning judicial system would hold the perpetrators responsible by first issuing an injunction and second, paying damages to make me whole.

No, it's a load of bilge. Unregulated markets are inherently unstable, because the rich (a) Can afford to wait, while the poor can't, and (b) will collude to control prices. I know about von Mises's ludicrous dismissal of empirical evidence because it doesn't fit his fuckwitted "axioms".

Yes, markets are inherently unstable as are all sufficiently-complex phenomena operating in the realm of reality. Fortunately though, markets are also negative feedback systems that, while never settling on it for extended periods, are always tending towards a dynamic equilibrium.

The problems of the rich and the poor are complex ones. It is important to point out that libertarians can't be forced to answer for present conditions as if the present arrangements are of their making or would be their desired arrangements. The so-called "capitalism" of the present is anything but capitalism and libertarians are in favor of much more fundamental change to the current system than are either the left or the right. At present, the "rich" get most of their advantage from preferential treatment from the government. There has never been a case of a true, lasting monopoly emerging on the free market without protection from government.

Hey, that's my professional work you're talking about there, matey. I've got news for you:
1) Nothing about the theory of complex systems says the emergent behaviour you get is going to be the behaviour you want, let alone one that will suit all actors.
2) People don't interact only locally. Hadn't you noticed? What you have in an economic system (or the larger socio-environmental system it is part of) is a contested complex adaptive system, in which multiple actors have their own interpretations of how the whole system does function, and how it should function. Simplistic blathering about the virtues of emergence won't cut it.

Cool! In what capacity is complexity theory your professional work? This is a field of study that interests me greatly, though I don't claim to be an expert by any stretch.

I think I would agree that there is nothing about complexity qua complexity that necessitates that complex systems will bring about emergent behavior that is desirable. Complex systems are inherently un-"manageable" systems. For a good discussion of this, see Mises' Socialism. On the other hand, I think the general direction -- the nature of the dynamic equilibrium -- is determined by the basic rules of the actors. In biology, the basic rules seem to be 1) the propagation and preservation of genetic information in DNA, 2) the combination and mutation of genetic information, and 3) the selection forces of adaptability and survivability. These basic rules tend to bring about complex organisms uniquely evolved for survivability. In economics, the the basic rules appear to be 1) self-ownership / non-aggression / private property, 2) the fact that humans act to employ means in order to lessen felt uneasiness or to maximize a perceived benefit, and 3) mutually-beneficial, non-coerced, voluntary exchange. These basic rules tend to bring about complex economies uniquely suited to serving people's needs and desires.

Concerning your 2) above, I wasn't contending that people only interact locally in the sense that we commonly use that term, but in terms of the larger economy. I was using it in the sense used in Steven Johnson's "Emergence," and in the sense that, as Leonard Read points out in "I, Pencil," there is not a single human alive who knows how to make something even as simple as a #2 graphite pencil.

If you were right, the processes and results of evolution are not - hadn't you noticed? - uniformly benign.

No, I agree that the results of complex processes are not uniformly benign. To claim so would be foolish. There is a great variety of results. My contention is that, despite our best intentions and our greatest concerted efforts, the system can not be managed on a large scale. In other words, complex economies are inherently imperfect, but they cannot be improved upon in a systematic way. To improve upon a complex society would require intelligence that is itself more complex than the society itself to track, compute, comprehend, and modify the system for a particular purpose. But such a thing requires all of the dynamically-interacting component parts to model the system (with all of the environmental variables) and then additional resources to compute, analyze and act upon the system. This would require an entire universe larger than our own. It is the same infinite regression we fall into if we try to posit a creator of the universe.

So, unfortunately, I think the best we can do is to stick to the non-aggression principle, let the market produce the wonders it inevitably does, and allow people to freely cooperate with each other for mutually-beneficial ends. Any intervention into this system only leads to arbitrary, unintended, unforeseen, negative consequences.

Only historically, of course, they didn't: violence and compulsion were key to the genesis of capitalism, and if you want to go further back, key to the genesis of feudalism, of the first money economies, of the first urban economies - and there we're at the beginning of recorded history. But then as a good von Misesian, you'll dismiss the historical evidence because it doesn't fit the axioms.

Certainly violence and compulsion were present all throughout any attempt at capitalism (or any other social, economic, or political undertaking), but it doesn't mean it had anything to do with capitalism. Capitalism is defined as a system strictly prohibiting any form of violence or compulsion.

I also don't think Misesians dismiss any and all historical evidence. They often deal with historical examples to help bolster their claims or refute those of opposing schools of thought. The fact of the matter is that we simply cannot gather enough data to construct accurate models of economies using nothing more than empirical fact. The same is true of the weather. We would need infinite data points in order to accurately model the weather. Similarly with evolution. The fossil record and the available genetic data only give us very sparse snapshots of biology throughout history. We need to incorporate this data into our theories and it needs to corroborate it, but we ultimately need to have a deeper understanding of the principles at work in order to describe complex systems.

Well, you're certainly not. You're clearly a True Believer.

I don't think this is fair. I think I have demonstrated that I'm open to honest discussion. My beliefs are and always have been a work in progress. I am always willing to hear other perspectives and work to incorporate them into my thinking so that I can always come closer to the real truth.

There's nothing more irrational than market-worship.

Again, I don't see how simply trying to present my views constitutes market-worship. I have tried to stick to dealing strictly with the issues at hand and avoid ad hominem attacks. These are serious issues that deserve our honest inquiry.

My shame. I was playing video games and I didn't smell the blood in the water.

By strange gods b… (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Knockgoats: when one is being executed in the peoples republic of goatfuckingistan does one's last reflections are on the fact that thank goats that it wasnt being done in that facist state of military republic of goatknockistan? you blathering twat at the far end of the right left spectrum you are in the same space.

hmm by the way your posting style seems familar, did you ever post under brand***? If not apologies and back to the normal smarmyness and backbitchin

By broboxley (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

No, I haven't. I was trying to explain a mentality to you,

Do you or do you not subscribe to that mentality?

and that explanation was made entirely to point out that it does not involve "reducing the effect of laws and courts and police as much as possible."

I fail to see how "the elimination of those [laws which do not serve the purpose of protecting people from each other or the government] is the goal of people who are pro 'small government,' both to increase freedom and decrease taxation" is significantly different from what I said.

I don't know of any species where libertarianism works.

Sharks?

In all these cases, it is a failure of government to protect private property rights. Nobody has the right to violate my property by pumping their pollutants into my yard or into the air I breath. A properly functioning judicial system would hold the perpetrators responsible by first issuing an injunction and second, paying damages to make me whole.

This approach is ludicrous for most types of pollution, since the sources are so scattered and each instance contributes what may be an immeasurable amount to the problem. Was there any single point source for coal pollution in 19th century London? Were individuals supposed to sue each manufacturer of aerosol cans to stop them from destroying the ozone layer, demonstrating in each case how that specific manufacturer did specific harm to that individual? Are you suggesting that private citizens should have issued an injunction to every person driving a car that used leaded gas?

And how on earth are damages supposed to "make one whole" if the pollution produces irreparable harm? What is "making whole" if the problem is terminal lung cancer, or chronic severe asthma? Wouldn't it be better if there were some arrangement by which groups of people could get together and work to prevent such damage, rather than seek recompense after the fact?

Wowbagger, OM, said:

I'm way behind, but have to comment on Bobber at, #115:

'More like stumbling over a hornet's nest while wearing "Sting Me No. 5." '

Gold!

Praise from an OM means I get to have a glass of wine tonight. : )

@mnphenow re#305
Thank you for providing a reasoned response.

By theomaniac (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

One of them is that private property (acquired by way of Lockian homesteading or legitimate title transfer) is to be free from the initiation of violence. In your example, you are first trespassing and then violating my rights to full ownership of my property. I would be justified in seeking restitution, but only to make myself whole, not to pursue punitive measures.

The right-wing libertarian advises that if you must break a window because it's -30°C with the wind chill, you should instead choose to die.

By strange gods b… (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

mnphenow and others,
I am afraid that you will have a hard time selling people here on libertarianism as those who have peddled that ideology before you in these parts have salted the Earth into infertility.

I would say that most people here view government as a necessary evil--but one that is more necessary than evil. In particular, I think most people see a role for government in ensuring that distortions of society and economy that inevitably creep into a free society and free market are not allowed to so distort the society that it becomes unviable for a large portion of the population.

Among the distortions of greatest concern to many here are economic and political inequality and environmental degradation.

It is unfortunate that many libertarians simply dismiss these concerns as "inevitable," "insignificant," or even desirable. We are told that the market will sort it out. We are called "alarmist" for raising the concern.

In recent years, the nastiest front in the debate between science and libertarians has arguably been over climate change. In this debate, the scientists have pretty much all the evidence. The libertarians (e.g. CEI, Heartland Institute...) have resorted to character assassination, distortion and downright lies. It has reached the point where climate scientists have faced harrassment, abusive inquiries and even death threats.

So you will forgive us if we are less than enthusiastic about the ideology you sell. I inherently distrust an ideology so rigid that its adherents feel it necessary to attack science rather than adapt to scientific facts.

By a_ray_in_dilbe… (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

This stood out from above; emphasis mine.

In all these cases, it is a failure of government to protect private property rights. Nobody has the right to violate my property by pumping their pollutants into my yard or into the air I breath(e).

And here we see one of the major problems in our communicating with each other, because *I* (damn democratic socialist that I am) would write the same passage in this manner:

In all these cases, it is a failure of private industry to take into account the needs of the community in which it is allowed to function. No one has the right to violate our common environment by pumping their pollutants into our yards or the air we all breathe.

Can you see the difference?

mnphenow #305

In all these cases, it is a failure of government to protect private property rights. Nobody has the right to violate my property by pumping their pollutants into my yard or into the air I breath. A properly functioning judicial system would hold the perpetrators responsible by first issuing an injunction and second, paying damages to make me whole.

What is it with looneytarians and their love of suing people? "Oh no, we can't have a law against pollution, we should sue you to make you stop polluting my little corner of the world."

First of all, court cases are expensive. If I as an individual sue Deep Pockets Inc, their corporate counsels can prolong the case indefinitely until I run out of money to pay my attorney. And don't pretend this doesn't happen.

Second, if an action is legally prohibited, then it's less likely to occur. Pollution laws do reduce pollution. The Cuyahoga River doesn't catch on fire any more.

Third, a combination of the two points above, Deep Pockets Inc isn't outwaiting me but is up against another organization with in-house lawyers. The tactic of waiting until the plaintiff runs out of money doesn't work against the government.

By 'Tis Himself, OM (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

True enough. The most odious so-called Libertarians Ive met are Objectivists. These Randroids are bat shit insane sociopaths.

What surprised me about this thread is how many who claimed to be Libertarians in here are so different from the ones I have encountered. It is so difficult to comment about something when the target is a moving one.

By Teddydeedodu (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

JerryM, it was P.Z. who decided to endorse environmentalism. That's why I keep harping on this. Not that it makes a blind bit of difference. For example:

Legion wants me to explain Astra Zeneca's motive, and apparently this trumps the actual, real sufferings of human beings and the possibility of their alleviations.

Which brings me to:

Bernard,

You blithely toss around accusations of racism, whilst making silly generalisations about brown and black folk.

This is just too rich. I routinely got called racist here until these twerps found out I'm African born-and-bred. Which, incidentally, is a fucking racist attitude right there. Either what I say is morally questionable or it isn't; my ancestry and heritage have no bearing on that question. Now they're whining when I call them on their bullshit.

But I never accused you, Bernard or anyone else here of being a racist. That's not what I think of you. No, a racist or a race-hater has thought about other people and acknowledged their existence. You don't. It's not that you want the poor you don't see to starve to death, it's that you're wedded to an insane ideology and if immiserates the wretched of the earth and kills large numbers of them, that doesn't bother you in the slightest.

"Who gives a shit if the unseen poor die as long as my ideology remains untouched?" - that's your worldview.

To the rest of this is a long load of nonsense about "conspiracies". You don't need conspiracy. You just need ideology. The anti-capitalist ideology and mentality leads to all this without any need for conspiracy. And what is sickening is that its advocates can still think themselves righteous.

It's like the idiots who support the UN. Yeah, the organization that sat by while eight hundred thousand of my Tutsi brothers and sisters were murdered, then sent troops to support the killers, who, in their spare time, enjoy raping eight year olds. Yet to the dimwit Western intellectual this matters not one whit.

By Cimourdain (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Celtic_Evolution #288

Rarely have I seen so many, and so varied "No True Scotsman" pleas in one thread... The one thing I can remark about Libertarians without fail is that not a single one agrees with any other about what Libertarianism is, but every one of them believes firmly that their brand of Libertarianism is the true representation, and they just "know better"... it's ideology of the individual in its purest form.

Mike Huben talks about this:

It's hard to clearly define libertarianism. "It's a dessert topping!" "No, it's a floor wax!" "Wait-- it's both!" It's a mixture of social philosophy, economic philosophy, a political party, and more. It would be unjust for me to try to characterize libertarianism too exactly: libertarians should be allowed to represent their own positions...But the two major flavors are anarcho-capitalists (who want to eliminate political governments) and minarchists (who want to minimize government.) There are many more subtle flavorings, such as Austrian and Chicago economic schools, gold-bug, space cadets, Old-Right, paleo-libertarians, classical liberals, hard money, the Libertarian Party, influences from Ayn Rand, and others....

This diversity of libertarian viewpoints can make it quite difficult to have a coherent discussion with them, because an argument that is valid for or against one type of libertarianism may not apply to other types...[N]on-libertarians may feel that they have rebutted some libertarian point, but some other flavor libertarian may feel that his "one true libertarianism" doesn't have that flaw. These sorts of arguments can go on forever because both sides think they are winning.

By 'Tis Himself, OM (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

theomaniac, you're wasting you're fingertips hoping for reason from this lot. You're confronting the vast herd of independent minds. Listen to them grunt. You really think any of them is going to stop chewing their prefabricated cud to think about what you say?

By Cimourdain (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

However, the podium is yours if you'd like to take this opportunity to monologue about how great corporations are. Like, how great it is how much corporations will be able to participate directly in upcoming elections!

You obviously don't know me. I thought it passing strange I was defending the concept of corporations from a libertarian -- usually it's the other way around. And I use pretty much the same arguments you used.

Modern corporations have acquired too much political and economic power. I would certainly like to see them reduced in both. Government regulation is certainly one way to accomplish this.

When I was asking if you had an alternative, I was actually hopeful you might have a viable alternative. Not that I think we'd be able to institute any change so dramatic. Hell, we're having a hard enough time fighting the corporate problems you mentioned.

Anyway, it was a pleasant exchange. Thanks.

By nigelTheBold (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

One can be assertive in support of a position without being a douchebag.

Of course, but there's a limit. I don't have infinite-fucking-patience to deal with ideological arseholes who just won't leave the issue alone. Want a discussion on particular issues, great. But so often with libertarianism it descends into ideology.

One example is a recent Penn & Teller episode about world peace. This episode is different because they want to offer a solution. Display a bunch of well-meaning but with the fairies lefties and some gun-toting war-mongering folks on the right, then contrast it with a fellow of the CATO institute whose idea of ensuring world peace involves removing regulation. What the fuck? Talk about a non-sequitur.

It's ideology, pure and simple. And if you think that we should have patience when the same tired and recycled arguments for the same vapid ideology are trotted out, can you really expect people to have infinite-fucking-patience?

Personal choice to be a libertarian? Just great. Have that influence the points you bring up? Fine. But to bring up the points requiring a defence of a complete overthrow of the current system thus the argument turns into a false dichotomy between what there is now and a libertarian utopia, then repeat that ad nauseum using the same a priori justifications that religious apologists use - and surely you can see that people may lose patience with them. I don't buy your ideology, please stop knocking on my door.

Listen to them grunt.

Compared to the grunting sounds of primeval idiocy coming from you, we are a very quiet bunch. One of these days it is hoped that you will grow up and understand your imbecility. Until then, you are nothing but a baseless idjit.

By Nerd of Redhead, OM (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Nerdyou haven't posted a single fact nor made a single argument. I rest my case.

By Cimourdain (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

You're confronting the vast herd of independent minds. Listen to them grunt. You really think any of them is going to stop chewing their prefabricated cud to think about what you say?

C'mon, you really want to use the word "sheeple", don't you? Please, it's the only square left on my "libertarian bingo" card.

Tulse you don't even know the provenance of the phrase?

By Cimourdain (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

So, so, so very late to the party, but I'd just like to add some short, simple points:

* Ha ha ha, libertarian psychos, you have no power at all, and you never ever will.

* And you don't even have any real belief in your precious "political theory," or you'd have already moved your Randian Superass to Somalia to take your place at the top of the heap.

* You know things have to suck for libertarians when their only political theorists with any credibility are a dead Russian writer who idolized child killers; one lonely not-really-very-libertarian gnome in Congress who was widely ignored the last time he tried to run for president; and Eric Rudolph...

@Scott #326

* You know things have to suck for libertarians when their only political theorists with any credibility are a dead Russian writer who idolized child killers; one lonely not-really-very-libertarian gnome in Congress who was widely ignored the last time he tried to run for president; and Eric Rudolph...

You forgot to add one dead sci-fi author with a penchant for polyamory and nudism.

You forgot to add one dead sci-fi author with a penchant for polyamory and nudism.

"The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" was one of my favorite books growing up. I thought I was a libertarian for many years because of it, until I realized that almost everything I love about life is made possible because of a stable society based on forced contribution to the common good ("taxes").

Plus, I still think line marriages are a good idea.

By nigelTheBold (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

mnphenow #305

I missed this piece of idiocy before:

There has never been a case of a true, lasting monopoly emerging on the free market without protection from government.

Why is it that looneytarians make a point of being historical and economics illiterates. Would it hurt them to read an economics book besides Hayek's The Road to Serfdom and Fiedman's Capitalism and Freedom? If mnphenow had read Bruce Bringhurst's Antitrust and the Oil Monopoly: The Standard Oil Cases, 1890–1911 or Gregory Nowell's Mercantile States and the World Oil Cartel then he wouldn't make such stupid comments as the one above.

In the 1870s John D. Rockefeller set up Standard Oil to gain a monopoly in oil producing, refining, transporting, and marketing. Using highly effective tactics, later widely criticized, it absorbed or destroyed most of its competition in Cleveland in less than two months in 1872 and later throughout the northeastern US.

In response to state laws trying to limit the scale of companies, Rockefeller and his associates developed innovative ways of organizing, to effectively manage their fast growing enterprise. In 1882, they combined their companies, spread across dozens of states, under a single group of trustees. By a secret agreement, the existing stockholders conveyed their shares "in trust" to nine trustees. This organization proved so successful that other giant enterprises adopted this "trust" form.

In 1878, the New York Central railroad gave Standard Oil a rate of one cent a gallon or forty-two cents a barrel, a 71% discount off of its listed rates. Several smaller oil companies protested this rate reduction. Rockefeller's response was to buy control of each of these companies.

In one example of Standard's aggressive practices, a rival oil company tried to build an oil pipeline to overcome Standard's transportation monopoly. In response, the New York Central, at Rockefeller's direction, denied the company permission to run the pipeline across railway land, forcing the company to laboriously decant the oil into barrels, carry them over the railway crossing in carts, and pump the oil into the pipeline on the other side. When Rockefeller learned of this tactic, he instructed the New York Central to park empty rail cars across the crossing, thereby preventing the carts from moving.

Rockefeller did all of this without any assistance from any government. In fact it was the government which finally stopped the Standard Oil monopoly. But you looneytarians don't want to know this, since it runs against your ideology.

By 'Tis Himself, OM (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Wow, this thread has finally done it. This used to be a favorite site of mine. I've been reading since before the site was hosted on ScienceBlogs. It's not even that I'm libertarian or anything. The fact is that the commenting culture here seems to reward being an asshole. It shows that you are hardcore. Any call for politeness is classed "Concern Trolling". There is no such thing as charitable reading. While I agree with a lot of the viewpoints expressed here, the culture has taken on the toxic hate and vitriol atmosphere of right wing talk radio. Yeah, I'm a wuss, need to toughen up, only real adults need apply, don't let the door hit me, etc., etc. Like so many internet communities, I will surrender this one to the internet tough man brigade.

By benjaminterry (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

I find it is often the liberals who are smug and self-righteous when lecturing others about their "self-evidently" correct views. In any case, abusive ad hominem attacks are almost never helpful.

As I explained on another thread today, it's important to get the use of ad hominem right.

"John is a selfish fuckwad, therefore his political ideology is wrong" - ad hominem.
"John is a selfish fuckwad" - not ad hominem.
"John's political ideology will allow for greater corruption by X, Y and Z. He is such a selfish fuckwad" - not ad hominem.

There is no such thing as charitable reading.

PZ doesn't want it that way. Otherwise, the idjits just keep repeating their idjitcy (evidenceless opinions. which liberturds and creationists are full of). So, by escalating the vitriol, they understand they need to leave, or actually show some evidence. Funny how the latter doesn't happen...

By Nerd of Redhead, OM (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

. The fact is that the commenting culture here seems to reward being an asshole. It shows that you are hardcore. Any call for politeness is classed "Concern Trolling".

Wah fucking wah! Here at Pharyngula we not only call a spade, we usually call it a fucking shovel. If this upsets your sensibilities then too bad. You may clutch your pearls and collapse on the fainting couch.

By 'Tis Himself, OM (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

The fact is that the commenting culture here seems to reward being an asshole.

I don't comment often. When I do, I usually don't say anything that's in-your-face insulting or anything. Yet, I feel no need to complain about the language used here, because that's usually just the spice added on to the main dish, that being the point being made. If you can't see the point through the "rude words", then by all means - don't read the comments on this blog. But you're missing out on a lot of interesting commentary because you blanch at hearing the word "fuck".

I notice Cimourdain does a lot of whining about how vapid the non-looneytarians are. Well, asshole, I've given several arguments against looneytarian positions (see my posts 284, 315 and 329). If you're such a great looneytarian supporter, then refute my arguments.

By 'Tis Himself, OM (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Drama Queen exit @330...

No 43 said:

A far more balanced view of what a functioning Libertarian society would have to look like can be found in Ursula LeGuin's excellent book "The Disposessed" ( summary here). I highly recommend it to people that wish to engage Libertarians on the Internet.

I've read LeGuin's The Dispossessed several times the utopian society described on the moon Annares is an Anarchist society with virtually no notion of private property and distinct aversion to accumilation of any kind. Market forces do not operate. It is NOT a Libertarian society. It is a society of free individuals all right, but without markets or the drive to accumilate and strong ethos of doing things for each other. In otherwords it is Anarchist.

I notice Cimourdain does a lot of whining about how vapid the non-looneytarians are.

Every notice how vapid, bigoted and arrogant his posts are? Egotistical air-head would be considered a polite description...

By Nerd of Redhead, OM (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

So Cimourdain, it appears you are fine leaving black or brown people neck deep in sewage as long as they have something to eat? Is that a fair summary of your position?

By a_ray_in_dilbe… (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

@a_ray_in_dilbert_space

So Cimourdain, it appears you are fine leaving black or brown people neck deep in sewage as long as they have something to eat? Is that a fair summary of your position?

well you could sell them some rice shoots so they would have something to do while they are in there

By broboxley (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

300+ posts and nobody has figured out that there is no right or wrong system--there are just systems that benefit different groups of people.

Were you born with talent and a spirit of entrepeneurship? Then a more libertarian system will probably benefit you.

Did you fail at refrigerator repairman and wish to work for the state, perhaps as an educator? Under a more progressive system (or liberal) the state will use police authority to confiscate people's money and give it to you--including a pension. That might be the best system for you.

I'm a union member--I want government intervention to allow me to have more influence over my compensation package. Some combination of the available "labels" might work best for me.

Just scratching the surface--everyone knows what they want--they just need to figure out which system works best for them and then philosophize why its the "best" system in general. . .

Oh yeah, all other systems are bankrupt!

By https://me.yah… (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

300+ posts and nobody has figured out that there is no right or wrong system--there are just systems that benefit different groups of people.

More "all opinions equally valid" bullshit, to which I reply:

When people thought the earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the earth was spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.--Isaac Asimov

Were you born with talent and a spirit of entrepeneurship? Then a more libertarian system will probably benefit you.

Behold the new Calvinism.

By strange gods b… (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

#333

My Comment: I don't like it here anymore, too much "Internet Tough Guy" attitude, uncharitable reading, etc.

Your Comment: I'm an internet tough guy, that's how we roll, and if you don't like that, well, you can clutch your pearls and faint, wuss. Cry some more!

My Response: Umm..., yeah, I know. Heheh

By benjaminterry (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

a_ray @302:

We know that an apple will fall on a geodesic to the point of lowest gravitational energy subject to boundary conditions (that is "down").

This should win the "Oh SNAP!" award for the thread.

Count me among those who are sick of the libtard's butt hurt. Get over yourselves and take a look at the real world. You could not (for emphasis: COULD NOT) live without the programs that the government provides for you. If you argue otherwise, you are quite simply being dishonest.

By OurDeadSelves (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Did you fail at refrigerator repairman and wish to work for the state, perhaps as an educator? Under a more progressive system (or liberal) the state will use police authority to confiscate people's money and give it to you--including a pension. That might be the best system for you.

Wow, you sure are a self-righteous little jerk aren't you? Teachers actually have to have college degrees, and they serve society by creating an educated workforce for employers to draw from. Teachers earn their pay. Members of society, the direct beneficiaries of the labor of teachers, pay for it.

By Pygmy Loris (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

@341 asks "Were you born with talent and a spirit of entrepeneurship?"

Well, no, actually I was born with a talent for suckling and crapping myself--as were we all. It is just that some of us learn that our crap doesn't smell like frigging roses.

Dude, Nobody is born with talents. People are born with potential, and over time, if they are fucking lucky as hell, somebody or several sombodies take them under their wing and nurture that potential and it becomes talent. And if they are luckier still, they remember all the people who helped them along the way and realize that they need to pay it forward. Then they become fully human. Otherwise they think they were born with their talent.

By a_ray_in_dilbe… (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

@Pygmy Loris:

Wow, you sure are a self-righteous little jerk aren't you? Teachers actually have to have college degrees, and they serve society by creating an educated workforce for employers to draw from.

some teachers are worthy, like PZ, other are too stupid to pour piss out of a boot.
Last week I had to explain that haiti and cuba do not allow the owning of slaves today as told to her by a social studies teacher. The same one who a week before told her that calling herself yupik was wrong, the correct term is inuit. That is as fucking stupid as telling cubans they need to answer to mexican being hispanic and all, that was to the cuban kid in the class.

By broboxley (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

As Jim Hightower once said of George W. Bush, "He was born on third base but thinks he hit a triple." That describes a lot of Libertarians I've known.

broboxley,

So your bad experiences with one teacher caused you to say that they were all stealing from you?

Ken Lay was an entrepreneur who never suffered for his incompetence. Being an entrepreneur is not something special. It does not make someone a more worthy human being, and many successful entrepreneurs are successful because they were born in the right place to the right family and had the right opportunities. It is not because there is some sort of intrinsic quality they possess.

By Pygmy Loris (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Pygmy Loris:

Being an entrepreneur is not something special. It does not make someone a more worthy human being....

Along those lines, I've never met a Libertarian that actually was any sort of entrepreneur. I've known some blue collar tea-baggin' types and I've met some white collar middle-management types, but none who actually, you know, owned their own businesses.

It's a fantasy, just like everything else about the libertarian "philosophy".

By OurDeadSelves (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Did you fail at refrigerator repairman and wish to work for the state, perhaps as an educator? Under a more progressive system (or liberal) the state will use police authority to confiscate people's money and give it to you--including a pension. That might be the best system for you.

As someone who worked for years as a civil servant and then got a corporate job making a whole lot more money for a job with less responsibility, I offer a hearty "fuck you!"

By 'Tis Himself, OM (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

@Pygmy Loris: not at all, just noted that generalizations are not always helpful and if you note that the average sat scores for those that end up as teachers in the lower grades are almost as low as physical education instructors. Folks who get tenured at the U level are generally smart enough to pour piss out of a boot and teach biology at the same time. Someone teaching middle school in the hinterlands of georgia mostly cant. Some of the teachers are fantastic. Most would do quite well to be trainers at McDonalds if they couldnt be teachers

By broboxley (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

benjaminterry #344

And your point is?

You tone trolled and I called you on it. Grow the fuck up or leave. Those are your two choices. I'm not telling you which you should do, that's for you to decide. But if you don't like how I respond to you that's your problem, not mine.

By 'Tis Himself, OM (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Apparently most of the looneytarians have decided they're not going to convert anyone here so they've gone to proselytize elsewhere.

By 'Tis Himself, OM (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

The trouble with American libertarianism is that it ignores private tyranny. They redefine "self-defense" to include kicking out civil rights activists who are holding a sit-in (which, according to them, is "aggression.") And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Some of them even believe that they have the right to shoot kids walking across their lawn.

Re: Jennifer Government

I heartily second this recommendation. If you haven't read it, it's a good read.

Third. And Syrup is quite fun also.

broboxley,
Yes, there are piss poor teachers out there. There are also teachers who work miracles, and they are worth their weight in platinum. I've done teacher training in science, both in Africa and in Appalachia. I was amazed how many of the kids in Appalachia were scared shitless of science and math. Half the battle was getting them to realize, "Hey, this is pretty cool." I didn't see that in Africa. There the battle was overcoming the frustration at never having the resources to succeed.

Maybe a great college prof is tremendously competent, but I'll guaran-fucking-tee you there's a great grade school teacher in his background who lit that fire.

By a_ray_in_dilbe… (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

dilbert @358

And from the bottom of my heart, I thank you and all the teachers that I have ever had. They truly were inspirations for me particularly my science teacher in highschool. She turned me into a great lover of science and truth. I still adore her.

By Teddydeedodu (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

@a_ray_in_dilbert_space: when I was in africa I noticed the desire to learn was fierce. They know that knowledge has value. Here that may not be socially acceptable. I always remembered a phrase (I think from andre norton)

that books are a window on the universe even if you have to sit on a stack of them to reach a porthole

Personally I read 5 to 7 books a week altho most of them are trashy novels :-) Still love to learn something new. That idea was impressed at about 8 years of age by a librarian. A real one who understood the value of books, reading and lifelong learning.

By broboxley (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

“Libertarianism. A simple non-partisan ideology ideally suited to those unable or unwilling to ignore the sociopathic self-regard of the human animal.”

FTFY

By dave.oz.net (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

@dave.oz.net:

"Libertarianism. A simple non-partisan ideology ideally suited to those unable or unwilling to ignore the sociopathic self-regard of the human animal.”

aside from the non-partisan bit can be used to describe most of the body political including the theocrats, marxists as well as the more accepted bodies such as anarchists socialists and every group that doesnt have a hun or pirate based economic system. The other folks get that intrinsically

By broboxley (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

I've just reread mnphenow #305. There's a lot of ignorance there. For instance:

My contention is that, despite our best intentions and our greatest concerted efforts, the system can not be managed on a large scale. In other words, complex economies are inherently imperfect, but they cannot be improved upon in a systematic way. To improve upon a complex society would require intelligence that is itself more complex than the society itself to track, compute, comprehend, and modify the system for a particular purpose. But such a thing requires all of the dynamically-interacting component parts to model the system (with all of the environmental variables) and then additional resources to compute, analyze and act upon the system. This would require an entire universe larger than our own. It is the same infinite regression we fall into if we try to posit a creator of the universe.

I wonder if mnphenow has ever heard of models. Economists have been using them for years. Yes, some economic models have faults. The Austrian School models are notorious for having little connection with the real world. But many economic models are useful for testing outcomes of certain propositions.

By 'Tis Himself, OM (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Funny thing is, halfway through my fifth Iain Banks Culture novel... the Culture is pretty much a libertarian paradise. You can gland all the drugs you want, no taxes, you can change your gender or even your physical form, the government doesn't coerce you to do anything... at least not through force, though they may try to use shame (Player of Games) or deceit (Excession) or incentives (Use of Weapons). Granted, externally, the Culture is very much for violating sovereignty and interfering with lesser societies and even the citizens themselves question the governance of the Minds and whether anything they do to direct the Culture is really comprehendable. The most unlibertarian parts of the Culture novels are the economics... which with a science fiction wave of the hand, are post-scarcity and therefore do not need capitalism at all. A libertarian could be very much at home in a Banks culture novel.

No 305 says in discussing famine:

This analysis belies a misunderstanding of the nature of the price system. Prices play an indispensable coordinating function in the market. Rising prices do a number of things. First, they encourage people to ration and prioritize based on the current (sometimes tragic) reality. This helps prevent shortages since, if prices were fixed, the first people in line would tend to buy more than they can get by with, leaving those in the back of the line with nothing when supplies are exhausted. Second, they encourage produces of the same (or substitutable) goods to relocate to where prices are rising. This brings the needed goods from far and wide, both increasing the supplies in the famine-ravaged location and simultaneously driving down the high prices. If prices are artificially fixed, the other suppliers can't afford to ship their goods a long distance to fulfill the needs of those in trouble and the shortage is exacerbated. For a similar discussion of this issue, see this discussion between atheist libertarian Walter Block and the New Orleans Secular Humanist Association: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cPvH0eUU9jQ#t=2m16s

I just don't know what to say. The fact is that your free market has proved to be all to often a failure when famine strikes. Lets see in Ireland during the famine British soldiers guarded convoys of food being sent out of Ireland for export. Why because more money could be made that way. The operation of price system did NOT lead to mass amounts of food being imported into Ireland. Considering that the huge number of the starving were utterly destitute just how would they pay for it assuming the food did come? The fact is that vastly greater numbers would have died except for various charities and the not sufficient but still important government programs. It also appears that Ireland during the famine produced enough food to feed itself but selling it abroad for various reasons was considered more important than feeding the starving.

The story of the Irish famine has been repeated over and over again. In case after case the operation of price system did NOT bring food to where it was needed but instead it was governement and charitible efforts that saved lives it was when for ideological reasons that these efforts were curtailed that millions died. just look at India in the late 1th early 20th century. THe operation of "free markets" and the price system helped ensure when the governement was unwilling to intervene massively that millions died in famines. Just read some of Sen's work on famines. The fact is millions of starving people usually can't afford to buy much food in a famine and so often large amounts of food are exported for cash, because there are a lot fewer people able to pay during a famine. As for hoarders, you just don't see a moral issue in that hoarding food for sale while people around you stave might be a bit problematic? The Nobel prize winning Economist Sen as written some very useful stuff about famines, including the idea that governements should prevent hoarding and grossly inflated prices by selling grain cheap themselves or giving it away thus removing the incentive to hoard and preventing absurd increases in food prices in famine striken areas. Sen also thinks tax relief is a good idea. Further a famine is a shortage and I can tell you that your vaulted price system has often proved a failure in preventing vast numbers of people from dying. As for encouraging people to ration and prioritize well yes deciding who is going to eat today and who will be adequatly fed and what members of the family will have to be written off to die a horrible and painful death is all a matter of priorities and rational rationing! Well frankly NO ONE should have to engage in that sort of priortization. This entire passage is deeply inhuman. The fact is providing masses of free / cheap food will prevent mass death. Whereas what you are talking about has not, but instead as produced mass death. Again may I point out in famine striken places the starving have generally lost much if not all and are not often in a position to pay for the food imported into the region to take advantage of the high prices. In the late 19th and early 20th century there were a series of famines in India where the price system was allowed to operate as the main source of relieving the famine. Vast amounts of food were exported out of the famine areas to fetch higher prices in Europe. The result was 15 million deaths. As the the starving could not afford to buy food that was available and the govwernement relief efforts were pathetic. Although various private charities saved many lives by providing food. Their reward in some places was to be attacked for interfering with the workings of the market by providing food at no cost and thus lowering the price food could be sold for.

The arguement you give and link too is totally bogus. As proven repeatidly by actual famines. What works is getting food to people, and ensuring costly food is available does not prevent mass death. I did love your use of the word "encourage" people to ration and prioritize. Yup just like Sophie's choice in the movie where she is given the choice of weather her son or daughter is murdered. Your position is morally bankrupt.

As for this comment:

Certainly violence and compulsion were present all throughout any attempt at capitalism (or any other social, economic, or political undertaking), but it doesn't mean it had anything to do with capitalism. Capitalism is defined as a system strictly prohibiting any form of violence or compulsion.

What a load of crap. First you say violence and coercion were present throughout any attempt at Capitalism then you say it doesn't have anything to do with Capitalism and that Capitalism prohibits and form of violence and coercion. THat has got to be some of the stupidist hash I've ever read. Capitalism in order to work, like any other social system requires coercion and yes violence to work at all. After all contracts have to be enforced, property rights enforced all by coercion and yes violence. Corporations are hierarchical institutions that work by coercion. And to repeat property rights are enforced by violence. Like when that theif goes to jail for stealing your TV set. In order for Capitalism to work enforced hierarchies must be obeyed, rules observed and all this requires coercion and violence. When a corporation enforces a contract it is using coercion. When strikers are prevented from picketing by private sequrity officers violence is used. You can define it anyway you want the mundane reality is it requires coercion and violence like any other social system

Hah, I like this definition very much. Good find Pzed.

I understand why you would feel that way about libertarians.  If you look at the most vocal proponents of libertarianism - the Libertarian Party, the Ron Paul movement, Glenn Beck's 9-12 Project, etc. - it does come across as an even crazier faction of the far right.

In fact, it is.

Those views, however, do not speak for all libertarians, and I'd appreciate it if you would be willing to acknowledge that fact.  I view liberalism and libertarianism as one and the same: the quest for the maximum liberty of each individual.

Liberals and libertarians agree wholeheartedly on that goal, but tend to disagree on what liberty looks like and how it's achieved.

The truth is that we are all right and wrong in our own ways until we're confronted with reality and willing to accept what the evidence suggests.

Are the libertarians that hold unscientific views about climate change and the role (and necessity) of government in recent history any denser than the liberals that refuse to accept the massive scientific consensus regarding the benefits of trade and markets?

Conservatives and libertarians idolize F.A. Hayek and Milton Friedman without realizing that both brilliant economists supported a MINIMUM INCOME - which I guarantee that most conservatives and libertarians would describe as blatant socialism.  Why?  Because most libertarians and conservatives have no idea what they're talking about.

And guess what!  Most liberals don't, either.

If you actually look at what ENLIGHTENED liberals and ENLIGHTENED libertarians believe, we have a hell of a lot more in common than you probably think.

You can be a liberal and support free trade and limited government.  You can be a libertarian and support healthcare reform and climate change mitigation.

If the enlightened among us spent less time demonizing each other and more time working together, perhaps we could actually change something, rather than just "believing" in it.

By Lonely Libertarian (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

broboxley,

Most would do quite well to be trainers at McDonalds if they couldnt be teachers

So would most CEOs. So would most engineers. So would most airline pilots. So would most trainers at McDonalds. So would a lot of jobs. Maybe the ability to do all kinds of jobs - and even to do them well - doesn't necessarily correlate with SAT score.

For more, see:

Barrick, M.R. and Mount, M.K. (1991) The big five personality dimensions and job performance: A meta-analysis. Personnel Psychology, 44, pp. 1–25.

Bracey, G. W. (2001). Test scores in the long run. Phi Delta Kappan, 82 (8), pp. 637-639.

Goodman, G., Arbona, C., & De Rameriz, R. (2008). High-stakes, minimum-competency exams. Journal of Teacher Education, 59 (1), pp. 24-39.

Hadfield, O., Littleton, C., Steiner, R., & Woods, E. (1998). Predictors of preservice elementary teacher effectiveness. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 25 (1), p. 34.

Hardré, P., & Sullivan, D. (2008). Teacher perceptions and individual differences: How they influence rural teachers’ motivating strategies. Teaching & Teacher Education, 24 (8), pp. 2059-2075

Ng, T., Eby, L.T., Sorensen, L.L. and Feldman, D.C. (2005). Predictors of objective and subjective career success: A meta-analysis. Personnel Psychology, 58, pp. 367–408.

Rode, J., Arthaud-Day, M., Mooney, C., Near, J., & Baldwin, T. (2008). Ability and Personality Predictors of Salary, Perceived Job Success, and Perceived Career Success in the Initial Career Stage. International Journal of Selection & Assessment, 16 (3), pp. 292-299.

Sachs, S. (2004). Evaluation of teacher attributes as predictors of success in urban schools. Journal of Teacher Education, 55 (2), pp. 177-187.

Schmidt, F.L., Hunter, J.E., Outerbridge, A.N. and Goff, S. (1988). Joint relation of experience and ability with job performance: Test of three hypotheses. Journal of Applied Psychology, 73, pp. 46–57.

Schmidt, F.L. and Hunter, J.E. (1992). Causal modeling of processes determining job performance. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 1, pp. 89–92.

Schmidt, F.L. and Hunter, J.E. (2004). General mental ability in the world of work: Occupational attainment and job performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 86, pp. 162–173.

Zwick, R. & Green, J. G. (2007). New perspectives on the correlation of SAT scores, high school grades, and socioeconomic factors. Journal of Educational Measurement, 44 (1), pp. 23-45.

Not a complete list, but someplace to start.

Still learning,

Robert

By Desert Son, OM (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

This analysis belies a misunderstanding of the nature of the price system. Prices play an indispensable coordinating function in the market. Rising prices do a number of things. First, they encourage people to ration and prioritize based on the current (sometimes tragic) reality. This helps prevent shortages since, if prices were fixed, the first people in line would tend to buy more than they can get by with, leaving those in the back of the line with nothing when supplies are exhausted. Second, they encourage produces of the same (or substitutable) goods to relocate to where prices are rising. This brings the needed goods from far and wide, both increasing the supplies in the famine-ravaged location and simultaneously driving down the high prices. If prices are artificially fixed, the other suppliers can't afford to ship their goods a long distance to fulfill the needs of those in trouble and the shortage is exacerbated.

This is not true, which you would know if you had gotten past basic microeconomics. The issue you are missing is elasticity of supply and demand in the market. Perhaps for goods where there are a large number of suppliers with a large surplus of goods and are capable of preparing and transporting their goods long distances in a short period of time and can quickly enter and leave the market (i.e. an almost infinitely elastic supply) and consumers either don't need the good or there are a large number of alternatives (almost completely inelastic demand) your idea might work. But few, if any, markets are elastic enough to work as you predict here. If any of the conditions I listed above do not hold, then you will see a huge increase in price. If there are a small numbers of suppliers, if there is not a large surplus of goods elsewhere, if the goods take a while to prepare, or if the goods cannot be transported long distances in a short amount of time, or consumers need the good and don't have alternatives then things will get really, really bad. There are a lot of things that can, and do, prevent your idealistic scenario from playing out as you predict.

Even if you ignore theory, if you look at situations of shortages of goods prices of even unregulated goods often become exorbitant. If your model does not match what actually occurs in reality, then your model is wrong.

By TheBlackCat (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

ENLIGHTENMENT

By strange gods b… (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

he massive scientific consensus regarding the benefits of trade and markets?

Huh?

By Pygmy Loris (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Lonely Looneytarian #367

Please read my post #318. We're quite aware there are many different flavors of looneytarian.

By 'Tis Himself, OM (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

NO YOU HAVE NOT HEARD ABOUT THIS KIND OF LIBERTARIANISM WHICH IS SPECIAL AND SO INTERESTING

By strange gods b… (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Most would do quite well to be trainers at McDonalds if they couldnt be teachers

Oh, fuck you. Show some respect for both teachers AND those who serve you food.

By OurDeadSelves (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

OurDeadSelves,

Oh, fuck you. Show some respect for both teachers AND those who serve you food.

Thank you.

Still learning,

Robert

By Desert Son, OM (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Those views, however, do not speak for all libertarians

Of course not. But the criticisms so often raised about libertarianism are about the underlying concepts behind it and not just the crazies who take an extreme stance. As an analogy, think of criticism about cultural relativism. While some cultural relativists come under particular fire, it's the underlying principles that most disagree with - it's just easier to point at the crazies and laugh.

I first read Iain Banks in 1986. How cool that Myers likes him, too.
I highly recommend Banks' "The Bridge", a truly engrossing and original novel.

By Pluto Animus (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

#354

My point is that your response to my post is a perfect illustration of my post.

By benjaminterry (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

I should happily drag the likes of Greenpeace before the Hague to stand trial for warcrimes and crimes against humanity.

You are aware, right, that the man who **founded** Greenpeace left them, when they turned wacko, and went to work for the evil government, as a forest ranger, because, ironically, the government's experts had a better idea what the hell was going on, in some cases, then the environmental terrorists? Or, that **most** of the modern environmental movement is corporate funded? Small ones, mind you, but every single one of them are corporations that a) can't compete in a global market, so don't like global markets, and/or b) make money off of things that promote false environmentalism, and useless solutions, while railing against both scientists, and researchers, as well as **any** company that isn't among their own, who offers a possible solution, or attempt to point out that the environmental movements "solutions" won't work in the short term, and in some cases, *especially* not even in the long term.

Its a bit like the whole food people, who ignore how many people died from the very things they don't kill in the food, but making it "whole" (i.e., not doing things like pasturization), and the Organic people, who claim that everyone would be better, if 100% of all food was organic. In the later case, as I understand it, given the number of areas capable of growing food without enhancement, and the cost/availability of natural sources of fertilizer, something like 1/4 if the ***current*** population of the world would have to die, to make organic food "viable" for the ones still alive. It simply doesn't work, and even less so when you talk to some idiots that are also vegetarian, but can't grasp the concept that you need beef, chickens, pigs, or **something**, some place, making the fertilizer to grow all their "organic" foods.

Yeah, the original movements have become badly corrupted, and by precisely the people they previously distrusted. Ironically, to stay on topic, this wouldn't change with Libertarianism. In fact, its precisely the **lack** of any protections against claims that foods are "better" when they are not, that certain ways of growing them are "better", when they don't work, and selling, both the movement, and everything that ties into it, which includes stuff like alternative medicines, which got us to this point. There is no one with the right, other than the buyer, to say, "This is all bullshit, and doesn't work like you claimed.", well.. short of when people actually die from it, then the most that you can do is demand a warning label. The people buying? Most don't know the damn difference, and they often are the people who will either a) bankrupt themselves, and never be heard from again, while buying, trying to get, or supporting these things, b) die using it/trying to get food/pushing a bullshit environmental issue, and never be heard again, or c) have enough money to take the *real* cure, along with the fake one, buy more food than they can eat, or just move away, when their failed "environmental mission" screws things up worse than they where already.

In other words, they are either people that will *never* tell their story about how wrong they where, or will never understand how wrong they where, and admit it.

Please read my post #318. We're quite aware there are many different flavors of looneytarian.

I'm not saying that any political philosophy is right or wrong, or better or worse.

My point is that most of us here are guided by very similar values, and that discussing political issues and finding common ground is more productive than throwing feces at each other in PZ's comment threads.

Let me know if this is a hasty generalization:

1) We believe in reason, ethics, and justice, and reject supernaturalism and dogma

2) We believe in testing beliefs against scientific evidence

3) We believe in building what we perceive to be a better world

4) We believe in the search for truth and the fulfillment, growth, and creativity of the individual

I try to avoid using the word "belief" but I find it helpful here. Humanists, secularists, rationalists, scientific skeptics, and even objectivists all share those fundamental values.

I argue with objectivists for the same reason that I argue with fellow humanists that happen to be socialists. I don't think either extreme is practical or beneficial.

It just seems like, in a secular world (or blog), politics and ideologies become secular religions. Some of us take our notions about the nature of political economy so seriously that we're unwilling to accept the possibility that we may have some of our facts wrong.

In fact, I have absolutely no doubt that each and every one of us have many of our facts wrong.

That doesn't stop us, though.

Just glance at these comments. Someone says something stupid, and someone else says something stupid, and then a healthy discussion becomes an enormous online name calling contest.

And I sit back, remarking on our shared values, and imagining how awesome the world would be if we libertarians and liberals could stop hating each other long enough to respectfully discuss today's issues and work together to address them.

By Lonely Libertarian (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

I can see what you're saying Lonely Libertarian, and I agree to an extent. If you've read my rants on here about libertarianism, my main problem is when those who are libertarian use it like an ontology and thus any discussion descends into a fundamental defence of libertarianism - because any point made resides in the ontological framework of libertarian and thus has to be defended from first principles. And I don't find that helpful for achieving anything meaningful or desirable, and it pushes an affront because of the moral linkage of some of these first principle.

To give one example, the idea of taxes. Now I've come across plenty of libertarians who maintain taxes are stealing, and two things come to mind when I see such rhetoric. Firstly it's turning taxation into a moral issue, and thus governments are acting immorally by taking from the individual. Secondly, it's pushing an absolutist position where there's no position to argue around it. It's like those who maintain abortion is baby-killing, it's absolutist moralising without foundation.

And some inevitabilities flow out of such a position - that if you oppose libertarianism you are immoral because you support an immoral practice. That any subsequent discussion won't address any real-world issues because a world without taxes is a fantasy world, and because of that it inevitably leads to a discussion on the very principles of why we have government in the first place.

If it were really about shared values, then those should be discussed. The basic principles of some libertarian doctrines aren't really possible for this to happen though because so many of the positions are dependant on the fundamentals on the principles. What's wrong with trying to gradually work for, say, a better education system without having to defend the notion that absolute individualism is impossible since we are a social species and our actions can and do affect others?

And we think markets (subject to government-enforced rules to internalize externalities), governed by profits and losses derived from consumer preference, is the best-known method for harnessing that self-interest and turning "private vices into public goods."

What the sane libertarians don't grasp, and the selfish ones **count on**, is that people will buy what you sell them, if they is no alternative, and in a *huge* number of cases, there isn't one, the people that come up with it first have the influence to prevent an alternative, or even buy up and bury it, and/or the resources needed to make such an alternative are not available to enough people to *provide* one.

Basically, yes, the market can correct itself. To do so it requires a) people know they are being screwed, b) they are willing to do so, and c) time for someone else to rise far enough above the masses, to give them an alternative, so the masses, even if they do know they are getting screwed, have another option. The reason non-libertarians find this invisible hand to be naive and pointless is that, with enough power, or a unique enough position, this "self adjustment", and be delayed, drawn out, derailed, or hidden, for years, decade, or even, possibly, centuries. And, if that change is one that involves environmental issues, medical technology, infrastructure, or just about anything similar, the cost is unknown, unknowable, but always **high**. Its the whole point of things like monopoly laws, and even those **don't work** if the product is sufficiently unique that no one can present a viable alternative. Its, for example, taken 20+ years for Microsoft to find itself confronted with something it can't buy out, bury, steal, or sabotage using special deals with other companies. Their solution? Pretend to embrace it, in an attempt of convincing people that **its** version of the product is more open, more free, and more trustworthy, than everyone else's. Its not working, except among fools that bought into some of their own BS already, but its the only thing they can come up with.

Now, imagine that this was a cancer cure instead of computer software. How many people do you think its reasonable to screw over for 20 years, before such a cure became *available*, except in a few obscure, costly, and inconvenient cases, but which, once technology caught up, be made in your own home, for free? And, why, just because company X has a poorer, sometimes it works, but its easy to get and use, should they *automatically* get to not only create a near monopoly on it, but fight tooth and nail to try to stop people from getting anything else?

That is why its naive. No two people have identical resources, not everyone **wants** to make the best product the possibly can for the market, and those who are already making such things, have no incentive, without someone with similar resources apposing them, to change that position. And, if there is, but they don't want to spend the money to make an alternative, never mind the best one they can? There isn't any requirement, in libertarianism, for the people involved to a) provide the best they can, or b) not lie to people about what they do produce being the "best they can make". And, since making the best you can costs a) time, b) money, and c) profit, its dangerous, impractical, and possibly disastrous, for a company to take the time, to spend the money, on making the best thing they can, lest someone else make something slightly worse, but usable, and beat them to the market. Nor is there any obligation, requirement, or incentive, for them to tell the public, "We are selling you a poor imitation of what we **could have**, but company Y would have beat us to the market, so we decided to sell you something worse, to beat them to it instead.

The only thing, in fact, standing in the way of this, is government. And, as much as government regulation is hated, it only sets **minimum** standards, and enforces, for most products, rules that say you can't flat out lie about what something does, or doesn't do. It doesn't require the best, require you spend money to make it work 100% of the time, and always correctly, etc. Just that it has to do what you claim, within the bounds you claim, and that it won't... blow up and kill you, while doing it, or similar things.

It's clear to me now, after years of reading lefty blogs, that I've got it all wrong.

It's stupid to examine a political issue from multiple points of inquiry, from different ideological perspectives. In terms that aren't black and white.

It's stupid not to vote Democrat.

We should all be Democrats, all of us.

Those who are not Democrats are selfish fascists, and they are also very likely overweight and ugly.

I love Internet discourse.

I feel empowered by it.

Thanks everyone.

By smokeysizzlebar (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

BTW, my previous comment was written from the perspective of a libertarian-ish person (me! hi!) whose repugnant worldview has been corrected by incendiary leftist bloggers and their well-reasoned diatribes over the years.

Leftists are right -- they are always right, about everything -- and I thank them again for their omniscience and omni-benevolence.

Every leftist on earth is the son of the Godhead; every single one of them; it's as if the face of the Maker opened up their respective gym shorts and made each one of them coo with delight (and also truth and beauty).

So awesome, leftists. Yes.

By smokeysizzlebar (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

smokeysizzlebar @384

"Leftists are right -- they are always right, about everything -- and I thank them again for their omniscience and omni-benevolence."

You are most welcome. (Waves hand in an imperious manner). Now get me shoes. Lots and lots of shoes!!!

By Teddydeedodu (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

PZ, you're a Professor, you teach the young hopefuls. Please, please look up the meaning of "alternate" and "alternative"

By Tom Paine (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Tom Paine @386

"alternate and alternative"

Why is the usage wrong?

alternate streams
alternate time-lines

By Teddydeedodu (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Kel, OM - #381:

If you've read my rants on here about libertarianism, my main problem is when those who are libertarian use it like an ontology and thus any discussion descends into a fundamental defence of libertarianism - because any point made resides in the ontological framework of libertarian and thus has to be defended from first principles.

I fully support the banning of those people.

It's like those who maintain abortion is baby-killing, it's absolutist moralising without foundation.

Okay, I'm waiting for you to say something I don't agree with 100%...

And some inevitabilities flow out of such a position - that if you oppose libertarianism you are immoral because you support an immoral practice.

Yes, but that line of reasoning seems awfully similar to the blog post that preceded this gigantic string of comments. Let's both agree that there is nothing morally wrong with libertarian leanings or taxation. The former is largely a result of personality, and the latter is necessary to fund the essential public goods that non-dogmatists tend to support.

What's wrong with trying to gradually work for, say, a better education system without having to defend the notion that absolute individualism is impossible since we are a social species and our actions can and do affect others?

Pragmatic, open-minded libertarians would never make that argument. Only dogmatists would, and I fully endorse their derision. And I'm more than happy to join along.

I see where you're coming from. Objectivists make the same claims of moral superiority while supporting ideas that you and I would view as inherently immoral - such as the belief that those that produce more are more important than those that produce less, and those that can't produce any have to rely on charities that may or may not exist.

They do that while flaunting their fervent support for entirely unfettered markets, while simultaneously claiming that they oppose all forms of dogmatism. Ayn Rand was a brilliant woman, but that concept could not be more absurd, IMO.

While libertarianism offers some great ideas, it's foolish for anyone to assume that it's a perfect framework for political economy. Instead of wasting time, trapped in rigid ideologies, liberals and libertarians could be establishing taxpayer-funded education up to Ph.D. while implementing school vouchers, or creating similarly liberal/libertarian solutions to nagging problems.

I think most libertarians aren't receptive to liberal ideas because of this sort of name calling, and because they're used to hating the left. Well, the GOP just spent 8 years plowing its libertarian voters in the asses, and I think it's time to call a truce. Just imagine the awesome social reforms that would pass if liberals and libertarians started working together.

By Lonely Libertarian (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

@Bobber #314

And here we see one of the major problems in our communicating with each other, because *I* (damn democratic socialist that I am) would write the same passage in this manner:

In all these cases, it is a failure of private industry to take into account the needs of the community in which it is allowed to function. No one has the right to violate our common environment by pumping their pollutants into our yards or the air we all breathe.

Can you see the difference?

Hi Bobber. Yes, I do see the difference and I agree with the spirit of it. Certainly I am just as concerned about my neighbor's well-being. Of course, a class-action lawsuit would be acceptable too. (In the end, though, these collective terms are just a rhetorical convenience. There is, in some sense, no real "community" -- take away all the individuals and there's nothing left.)

More often than not though, it is the collective terms that get society into trouble. Pollution used to be handled by nuisance claims, but over time, the courts decided that the collective benefit of the manufacturing plant was more important to the community than the soot on the cranky old lady's laundry and courts reneged on their duty to uphold the property rights of individuals.

@'TisHimselfOM #315

What is it with looneytarians and their love of suing people? "Oh no, we can't have a law against pollution, we should sue you to make you stop polluting my little corner of the world."

First of all, court cases are expensive. If I as an individual sue Deep Pockets Inc, their corporate counsels can prolong the case indefinitely until I run out of money to pay my attorney. And don't pretend this doesn't happen.

Second, if an action is legally prohibited, then it's less likely to occur. Pollution laws do reduce pollution. The Cuyahoga River doesn't catch on fire any more.

Third, a combination of the two points above, Deep Pockets Inc isn't outwaiting me but is up against another organization with in-house lawyers. The tactic of waiting until the plaintiff runs out of money doesn't work against the government.

Important points.

In the first case, yes, I agree this happens. But again, libertarians can't be blamed for the current system any more than atheists can be blamed for the current religious fundamentalism of the US. If courts operated properly, the case would be a simple open and shut deal: you dumped your waste on their property; first, stop doing that and second, pay them appropriate restitution. Secondly, if there were good precedents and it was commonly-known that this would be the outcome, would-be polluters would know it was a losing fight and would instead invest their money in clean processes instead of litigation.

If this were the precedent, more money would be invested in clean technologies and the clean technologies would be the de facto standard. Polluting technologies would be old, outdated, and expensive. This would render the second case less of an issue and, even if it didn't, those whose property rights were violated by the river pollution would still have recourse to sue for property damage, thus creating further precedents.

The third instance is also a good point, but there are a few things to consider. First, yes, the government has in-house lawyers that can outlast any big corporation, but at what expense? These funds still come from somewhere. Those funds were extracted from individuals (who may or may not have been harmed by the original offense) in the form of taxation. Say the person being defended is a wealthy down-river landowner in Virginia. Why should a poor, unaffected wage-earner in Wyoming have to pay for protecting his property? Additionally, one has to consider that, more often than not (as was the case in the manufacturing example above), the laws are written to favor those with money, power, and influence (i.e. the polluting corporations) rather than the average citizen.

@'TisHimselfOM #329

Why is it that looneytarians make a point of being historical and economics illiterates. Would it hurt them to read an economics book besides Hayek's The Road to Serfdom and Fiedman's Capitalism and Freedom? If mnphenow had read Bruce Bringhurst's Antitrust and the Oil Monopoly: The Standard Oil Cases, 1890–1911 or Gregory Nowell's Mercantile States and the World Oil Cartel then he wouldn't make such stupid comments as the one above.

...

Hey, 'TisHimselfOM. No, I haven't read those, but I've now added them to my list of books to buy. And while I haven't had a chance to read these books either, it appears that the debate isn't settle on monopoly and antitrust:

http://www.amazon.com/Antitrust-Monopoly-Anatomy-Independent-Political/…

http://www.amazon.com/Antitrust-Case-Repeal-Dominick-Armentano/dp/09454…

http://www.amazon.com/Myth-Robber-Barons-Business-America/dp/0963020315…

Also, over at Mises.org, here are a few articles that make a strong case against antitrust laws and the commonly-accepted Standard Oil story:

http://blog.mises.org/archives/003776.asp

http://mises.org/daily/388

http://mises.org/article.aspx?control=426&FS=Economists+and+Antitrust

At a different level, however, there are still a few issues to work out. First is the issue of whether the corporation in question has actually violated the rights of competing companies or the rights of consumers. All companies everywhere are always doing things to improve their advantages and increase their market share -- those that don't quickly go bankrupt. So long as they are using their own property in a legal way and aren't violating the property of a competitor, then there is no grounds for complaint. Similarly, so long as consumers aren't coerced into purchasing the product in question, their rights have not been violated either.

Second is the question of efficiency. Should the Ford motor company have been sued for monopolizing the personal transportation industry so that horse-buggy companies could "compete fairly." Such nonsense would quickly bring an end to progress as we know it. If a company has a high percentage of the market share in a particular industry because they provide voluntary consumers with a quality product at a low price, who has the right to prevent these voluntary parties from entering into an exchange?

Third is the issue of substitutes. Economies are ever-changing and there are myriad ways to accomplish a given task or fulfill a given need. Who cares who has a monopoly on buggies or phonographs or 8-track tapes or ox-power or horse-power or fossil-fuel power? Yesterday's monopoly is tomorrow's relic. Every monopoly sows the seeds of its own destruction. Monopolies are just as subject to economic laws as anyone else. Raise your rates beyond what can be achieved with a competitor's product or a substitute and you invite endless competition.

The only real monopoly people need to be concerned about is the monopoly on the initiation of violence, otherwise known as the government. This is the organization that can use coercively-acquired money and influence to enforce an otherwise shaky and transient market monopoly.

@'TisHimselfOM #363

I wonder if mnphenow has ever heard of models. Economists have been using them for years. Yes, some economic models have faults. The Austrian School models are notorious for having little connection with the real world. But many economic models are useful for testing outcomes of certain propositions.

Indeed, it is true that the Austrians are the most outspoken critics of mathematical models of complex economies because individual human action cannot be taken into account. They claim that econometric calculations are too mechanical and can't account for the abundance of elusive variables. Thus, they put the least stock in such models and their hubristic predictions. Their study tends to instead be focused on the underlying principles of human action (the study of human action they call praxeology). Using praxeology, they are able to make generalized predictions about the nature of an event, but not necessarily their magnitude or timing. This approach is much more in concert with an emergent, complex system whose machinations are too complex and unpredictable for conventional models.

But, despite disavowing predictive models, the Austrians were the first and most confident and articulate predictors of the economic crises we now find ourselves in. Many were predicting the housing and financial system collapse in the early 2000's. This was made possible by their understanding of the Austrian theory of the business cycle caused by inflationary monetary policy enabled by a government-controlled fiat currency.

@Pacal #365

I just don't know what to say. The fact is that your free market has proved to be all to often a failure when famine strikes. Lets see in Ireland during the famine British soldiers guarded convoys of food being sent out of Ireland for export. Why because more money could be made that way. The operation of price system did NOT lead to mass amounts of food being imported into Ireland. Considering that the huge number of the starving were utterly destitute just how would they pay for it assuming the food did come? The fact is that vastly greater numbers would have died except for various charities and the not sufficient but still important government programs. It also appears that Ireland during the famine produced enough food to feed itself but selling it abroad for various reasons was considered more important than feeding the starving.

...

The arguement you give and link too is totally bogus. As proven repeatidly by actual famines. What works is getting food to people, and ensuring costly food is available does not prevent mass death. I did love your use of the word "encourage" people to ration and prioritize. Yup just like Sophie's choice in the movie where she is given the choice of weather her son or daughter is murdered. Your position is morally bankrupt.

Hi Pacal. This too is an important question. I have not read Amartya Sen, but have added that to my list of books to purchase and read, as well.

I must admit I have not read much specifically about the Irish potato famine, though here's an interesting article claiming that many English government policies contributed to and exacerbated the problems, turning it from a blight to a famine: http://mises.org/daily/2978

In general, though, there are other issues to consider. First, while famines are unquestionably tragic, where does one get the right to steal from one group of people to give to another group of people, regardless of the circumstances? While I would agree that it is the moral thing to do to come to the aid of a fellow human in need, I can only do so with my own property, not by stealing my neighbor's property to give to the needy.

Second, coerced charity has a way of crowding out private charity. When someone is already being coerced to give to a charitable cause, they are less inclined to give voluntarily any additional amount. Left to choose what to do on their own, individuals might have chosen to give more or to provide aid in a more effective way than the government did. Further, governments often use aid money in political ways, arbitrarily deciding who to give to or attaching various debilitating strings. Also, when a charitable undertaking is monopolized by one coercive group, other alternative, perhaps more efficient, means of assistance are often not given a chance to compete, as it were.

Finally, coerced charity, over time, creates moral hazard. It provides people with a dis-incentive to take proper precautions to mitigate risk because they trust that they will be bailed out. This creates a general tendency towards current consumption over savings, which further extends people into unsustainable, risky endeavors and leaves an ever-smaller pool of available savings with which to bail out those effected by misfortune.

What a load of crap. First you say violence and coercion were present throughout any attempt at Capitalism then you say it doesn't have anything to do with Capitalism and that Capitalism prohibits and form of violence and coercion. THat has got to be some of the stupidist hash I've ever read. Capitalism in order to work, like any other social system requires coercion and yes violence to work at all. After all contracts have to be enforced, property rights enforced all by coercion and yes violence. Corporations are hierarchical institutions that work by coercion. And to repeat property rights are enforced by violence. Like when that theif goes to jail for stealing your TV set. In order for Capitalism to work enforced hierarchies must be obeyed, rules observed and all this requires coercion and violence. When a corporation enforces a contract it is using coercion. When strikers are prevented from picketing by private sequrity officers violence is used. You can define it anyway you want the mundane reality is it requires coercion and violence like any other social system.

First, I said that violence was present throughout any attempt at capitalism just as it was throughout any attempt at any other political, social, or economic arrangement. I agree that there is a correlation (as there is with any other system), but I don't think causation has been established.

I never claimed that coercion an violence would magically disappear, I merely claimed that it ought to, always and everywhere, be illegal to initiate violence or coercion. A libertarian society would by no means defy human nature or negate the nature of reality. It merely refuses to give a monopoly on the initiation of violence and coercion to a group of ambitious, self-selected, corruptible individuals who, collectively, call themselves the government.

@TheBlackCat #369

This is not true, which you would know if you had gotten past basic microeconomics. The issue you are missing is elasticity of supply and demand in the market. Perhaps for goods where there are a large number of suppliers with a large surplus of goods and are capable of preparing and transporting their goods long distances in a short period of time and can quickly enter and leave the market (i.e. an almost infinitely elastic supply) and consumers either don't need the good or there are a large number of alternatives (almost completely inelastic demand) your idea might work. But few, if any, markets are elastic enough to work as you predict here. If any of the conditions I listed above do not hold, then you will see a huge increase in price. If there are a small numbers of suppliers, if there is not a large surplus of goods elsewhere, if the goods take a while to prepare, or if the goods cannot be transported long distances in a short amount of time, or consumers need the good and don't have alternatives then things will get really, really bad. There are a lot of things that can, and do, prevent your idealistic scenario from playing out as you predict.

Even if you ignore theory, if you look at situations of shortages of goods prices of even unregulated goods often become exorbitant. If your model does not match what actually occurs in reality, then your model is wrong.

Again, these are good points. There appears to be no shortage of bright people here. It is important to consider the elasticity of supply and demand as well as how well a given theory accords with empirical reality.

As I have mentioned before, it is unfair to assume current conditions and then say, "Ok, let's flip the libertarian switch" and then judge libertarian theory based on the results. We have lived a very long time in varying degrees of non-libertarianism and societies tend to take time to change their fundamental constitution.

As mentioned above, one of the problems of shortages is moral hazard. When there is an expectation of being bailed out at someone else's expense, there is a dis-incentive to mitigate against risk. There is a tendency to favor current consumption over savings for an uncertain future. This tendency certainly contributes to the frequency and severity of various crises. This would be an exacerbation of the inelasticity of demand. If there were no such expectation of coerced charity and no improvements on the supply side, consumers would maintain a reasonable back-up supply of the necessary good, thus easing the inelasticity of its demand.

Similarly, if a good was both of the utmost necessity and had an inelastic supply, it would benefit savvy suppliers to do whatever possible to make their product's supply as elastic as possible, thus giving them an edge over other consumers as being the "emergency" supplier. There would be great profits to be made from such advancements, which, as always would drive other suppliers to follow suit, seeking a piece of these newfound profits, which only further contributes to the supply and alternatives.

Both of these unmanaged, free-market forces work to stabilize markets, prevent exorbitant prices, and serve consumers. But, if they are arbitrarily interfered with -- if prices aren't allowed to adjust freely on the market -- then consumers don't get the signal to save items with an inelastic demand and suppliers don't get the signal to supply items with an inelastic supply.

These are all very important issues and I'm glad you all care about them enough to hash it out with a crazy looneytarian. I don't claim to know all the answers, but I do know they're worth looking for.

I can see where you're coming from, and yes I agree with you. An issue I can relate to is the issue of environmentalism. Again, that is one which has a serious PR problem with wackos making all kinds of weird claims in the name of conservation - and that in turns leads many to dismiss the underlying issues at hand. When people dismiss nuclear out of hand or tie it to alternative medicine, that's undermining the goals at least in my mind of what conservation should be about (that is sustaining the planet for our species and keeping biodiversity)

Then again, environmentalism may be about getting rid of vaccines and eating organic foods and I'm just being naive to think otherwise. But still...

In other words, I think I see your point and I agree with it.

Hmm. I never really liked the idea of vouchers. If 90% of the people trying to get their kids into school are idiots (this is hypothetical, not intended to specifically say anything about 90% of people, but there are some things...), then 90% of the vouchers will go to schools that are defined as "good" not because they teach well, provide correct information, or support critical thinking, but **precisely** because they turn out more idiots.

The solution to the problem is for the majority of semi-rational people to agree that, in principle, the *best* education is useful, then make sure all schools rise to that best. Its not to reward schools that teach the local crazy ideas, promote the most common local revisionist history, teaches the most popular current "controversy", or, even worse, tests real well on standardized multiple guess tests, but does absolutely shitty at teaching what counts. I would rather someone completely ignorant, but possessing good reading skills, and very good logic, who can be bloody talked to, over someone that can quote the constitution like it was Bible verse, but can't figure out that if you add 2 oranges and 2 bananas together you end up with 4 fruit, because they are too stupid to extrapolate that the answer involves something more general than "how many oranges *or* bananas do you have?" If they can think, they can be either convinced of the correct data, or reach it on their own. If they can't think, you can fill their head with every fact on the damn planet and what you have is a damn encyclopedia, not someone that can *use* any of that information to solve problems.

Part of the issue which confronts different political positions is *precisely* a failure, from all sides point of views, for everyone else to see the obvious. Well.. In some cases, like education, logic dictates that you either do it right, or you do it wrong, and self interest *won't* get you to the right path. Why? Because parents "self interest" is to make the kids like them, and the kids self interest? They don't have the information to **make** such distinctions, until they have had an education. If that education was dictated by the self interest of a parent that is a complete imbecile, they **still** have very little chance of being able to make such determinations. This is hardly rocket science for someone to work out.

A lot of models can work on the small scale that don't work on the large scale. Take anarcho-syndicalist communes, for example. You take a factory or some other economic agent, you transfer ownership to the people who run it, and then it can run really well. Since no one is there to take money out of the system in a giant santa sack marked "profit," the proceeds all get reinvested into the industry or distributed as incentives to workers for success. The end result is often a continuously modernized working environment staffed by skilled and motivated workers.

But you can't do everything like that. Without some sort of oversight that has power over all the communes, some "government" as it were, there is nothing to stop one of the economic collectives from starting up a "pirate ship" where the services they provide is "raiding other collectives and distributing their stuff to the members of the pirate ship." If you seriously divided up all of society into a series of utopian communities based around economic collectives ad didn't have a government to oversee the situation, you'd dissolve into Somalia right away.

Yes, you need to motivate each person to work or they won't work. But you still need to have everyone ship in to the government to protect everyone from the threats that could hit anyone. Invasion, crime, fire, flood, and so on.

Heh heh! I was a registered Libertarian an eon ago. But then my state is the base and the form of Libertarianism here is apparently different from past posters here.

There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding and strawman attacks based on what some people think Libertarianism is or is not. Looks to me like some the confusion comes from those who think it's ultra-conservative and those who think the opposite. And that most of the confusion comes from those who aren't clear on the platform division: Libertarians make a clear division between Economic thought and Personal Liberties. Their thinking on the former is absurd while I admire much of the latter platform. Also, the underlying philosophy and the platforms as applied locally are not very interchangeable (I don't know the backstory re: which one PZ is on about).

It was the ultimate-goal, purity-of-ideals type Libertarianism that eventually made me go "wtf"? No schooling except for the wealthy? No highways? No fire departments? Yeah, sounds like a great country! So, because most people are good samaritans, society will be utopian? Hah!

Some of the personal liberty stuff is great but that could be approached through the Democratic party without the corporations-can-fix-the-environment baggage and the free-market-is-god assumption. (A big hint for me was that the ideas began with "in a perfect world ", "all things being equal" or "eventually it would likely").

The Libertarians like to think that their economic ideas are new and have never been experimented with, and like to position themselves as being in opposition to authoritarian oppression, which is somewhat dishonest. Still, I welcome unique parties that promote thought and that don't lay squarely on the typical political non-spectrum. It's a lubricant.

Libertarianism as applied locally has been effective and does not reflect many of the claims in these comments. They run for very local offices and are utilitarian and constructive, not idealistic. I found Libertarians, one-on-one, to be polite, smart, and fancied reason/logic compared to the average person. If a logic-hole was pointed out they wouldn't argue, instead saying "you may be right - that requires further thought and investigation".

Too bad the underlying absolutist philosophy falls apart under scrutiny. It's a nice try but the wacky parts scream over the top of the good stuff.

"No True Scotsman" fallacy does not preclude variety. Some of you are using it to claim "all political ideas are the same no matter what".

BTW, most people who espouse Ayn Rand are projecting their thoughts. Rand herself couldn't make her philosophy succinct. (Guess that's why both political extremes use her to reference the other.)

@40
As opposed to ignoring and then refusing to represent minorities once in congress. Hmmm, which group is worse? Or are you saying minorities shouldn't have voting privileges?

@81
No, in the US it definitely makes you a liberal. As does defending the Bill of Rights and providing for common welfare.

@87
It's just stuff we've needed for a long time. It looks out of hand because of the cost of the war.

@93
Maybe where you're from. Here, they're democrats with old SAABs and ponytails.

@124
I hate to ask, cuz, you know, you appear to be crazy, but how, exactly, are you defining the term "environmentalist"? You seem to use it the way the rest of use "humans". (We all know that 3rd world leaders are always angels and none have ever been corrupt.)

@383
erm...what's yr point?

By TimKO,,.,, (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

"In that event, a libertarian might compare a liberal to a doctor who decides to take a person's cornea to enable a blind person to see out of one eye and, since both patients can now see equally, thus consider himself a hero of "equal seeing rights."

A libertarian might do that. Because they're generally self-possessed idiots who think that everything they have they got through personal virtue.

A more accurate way to say it would be that a liberal is a person who, upon seeing someone who needs a cornea transplant, decides to take one forcibly from a libertarian's stash of several hundred thousand corneas that he acquired from other people "through the sweat of his brow."

By jafafahots (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Capitalism is defined as a system strictly prohibiting any form of violence or compulsion. - mnphenow

I don't have time at present to deal with more than this one piece of particularly egregious dishonesty and idiocy.

1) No, capitalism is the socio-economic system under which we now live. That's agreed by both capitalists and anti-capitalists. You don't get to redefine words to suit yourself.

2) If we were to accept your redefinition, then clearly "capitalism" has never existed, nor been approximated. We have no reason to suppose "capitalism" in your sense - a completely unregulated market without monopolies, cartels or coercion - ever could exist, and every reason to think it could not, because those ready to employ these means will have an enormous advantage over the more scrupulous.

I'll get back to the rest of your drivel when I have time.

By Knockgoats (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

I see no one has provided a single fact to counter my contentions - no one has even tried. The closest thing is Kagehi who apparently thinks that Greenpeace's funding or that its evil sickened one if its founders is some sort of an argument.

As I said, not one word or thought of concern for what these views wreak. And people wonder why I hate pissant Western pseudointellectuals.

By Cimourdain (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

If Libertarians are truly faithful to their ideals they should support the immediate return of US property to American Indians, since it was acquired by an initiating act of aggression.

Most of the nuttiest Libertarians usually counter this by saying that the indigenous peoples of the continent weren't really a culture and therefore could not claim the land as property.

By thehuntbox (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

...which is not saying that I think it's a bad idea, but as a practical matter a massive settlement would probably have to be made -- a whole hell of a lot more than a few reservations and casinos.

By thehuntbox (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Cimourdain,

You know, environmental destruction really can kill people, though you may find it hard to believe. I'd be the last one to say that all environmentalist, or GMO activists in particular, walk on water. I personally think a lot of the GMO paranoia is ridiculous. But at the opposite end of the spectrum there anti-environmentalists who say that banning DDT killed millions. There were suitable substitutes for DDT, but did banning DDT cause the death of some people? Probably. Also was DDT use going to cause the collapse of an entire segment of biosphere, in turn killing millions? Possibly/probably. You see what I'm getting at here? The issue is far more complicated than exposing the environmentalist evil-doers. If you have specific grievances I'm interested in investigating them, and to be honest I won't be surprised if they pan out, but I'm not going to stop supporting environmentalism, and I don't think many other will either.

By thehuntbox (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

Interestingly, some individualist anarchists - such as Wendy McElroy - reject the label of "anarcho-capitalist", for a reason that was alluded to above.

The capitalist economic order, as it exists today, is built on a foundation of state coercion, both historic (colonialism, wars, massive land theft and so on) and current (subsidies, tariffs, quotas, government contracts). It is not, and never has been, actually based on the libertarian idea of completely non-coercive voluntary transactions. And since the current distribution of property and wealth depends to a large extent on all the above coercive state acts, every transaction or transfer of property, even transactions which are in themselves non-coercive, takes place under the aegis of state coercion.

As such, the likes of McElroy don't identify as "capitalist", because they reject the basis of actually existing capitalism. Rather, what they advocate is an economy based entirely on voluntary exchange between individuals, and on property rights acquired by non-coercive means. Don't get me wrong - I don't share their opinion, since I think they're hopeless idealists and I sincerely doubt that such a society could ever work in practice, as those willing to use violence would inevitably have an advantage over those unwilling. But there is an argument for saying that the libertarian version of "capitalism" is a term of art, and does not refer to capitalism as it actually currently exists; a lot of libertarians acknowledge this fact.

Broboxley says, "Most would do quite well to be trainers at McDonalds if they couldnt be teachers"

Well, I was an utter failure as a garbage man, so I had to get a PhD in physics. My proletarian phase definitely enhanced my appreciation of education and the fact that I was partaking of a great privilege. I think the "entitlement" that so many libertarians express--the utter refusal to acknowledge that luck and privilege play a role--has done more to discredit the philosophy than anything else. You can contend that the adherents of a belief system should not be able to discredit it, but what good is a belief system if it doesn't make us better people?

By a_ray_in_dilbe… (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

There were suitable substitutes for DDT, but did banning DDT cause the death of some people? Probably.

In nearly every nation which has laws on DDT, DDT is still legal for use in killing disease-bearing insects. Furthermore, nearly all laws restricting the use DDT did not emerge until years after nearly all populations of disease-bearing insects showed very strong resistance to DDT. The principal reason DDT has been little used for decades is not that it is banned; that's a myth. It has been little used because unreasoning overuse rendered it useless.

Cimourdain,

It is clear that you don't think much of environmentalists but you make the same mistake of painting all those with environmental concerns as the same. Just like libertarians there are a wide range of views.

Your points against environmentalists have focused on two specific cases as far as I can see.

You consider Greenpeace's support for southern African government's request that food aid be non-GMO. As you must be aware this was not about providing food for starving people but being able to choose from the food sources available. My understanding of the situation was that the American government at the time was keen to use the famine as an opportunity to get GMO's into Africa for their own motives. It was not because there was no non-GMO maize. If a government asks for non-GMO food for its starving population, and it is available, why is anyone against just giving it to them?

You also brought up Golden Rice. Others have pointed out the this is not the simple situation you make it out to be (Greenpeace explain some of the issues on their site). Golden Rice is a very high tech solution for a low tech problem. You need to get a vitamin A source to people who currently do not have enough in their diets. Lots of PR hype has pushed Golden Rice as the solution but it is not a proven case while other solutions of just getting appropriate foods into the diets of those in need seem simple with the right education and infrastructure. (http://www.greenpeace.org/raw/content/international/press/reports/vitam…)

OK I have referred you to Greenpeace sites just to annoy you but I'm am sure that as a clear thinker you will see past that and assess the sources for what the information they contain (The paper linked to above does have lots of references from the FAO and WHO among others).

You didn't come back with a response to my request for information on libertarianism and the environment. How do you libertarians go about assessing environmental damage? How would you know when collective action was needed to correct damage to the common environment you share with everyone else?

Those views, however, do not speak for all libertarians, ...

Please, please, please pick a different label, so I don't have to keep remembering that 483 largely unrelated groups are glommed together under the label "libertarians". It's confusing, it's tiresome, and I'm fucking sick of it.

Thanks llewelly. Now I have something to say the next time a wingnut brings up DDT. It seems their topics come in waves from some central clearing house of nuttery.

By thehuntbox (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

If Libertarians are truly faithful to their ideals they should support the immediate return of US property to American Indians, since it was acquired by an initiating act of aggression.

When I was a Libertarian I did indeed support this. I got cussed at a lot for it, especially by people who knew my parents were both immigrants. And by so-called Libertarians who paradoxically accepted war as a legitimate means of validating claims to other people's property--what the HELL is Libertarian about that, I want to know.

It's confusing, it's tiresome, and I'm fucking sick of it.

THIS.

By badgersdaughter (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

A more accurate way to say it would be that a liberal is a person who, upon seeing someone who needs a cornea transplant, decides to take one forcibly from a libertarian's stash of several hundred thousand corneas that he acquired from other people "through the sweat of his brow."

Not quite there yet. Your analogy fails because of its strong implication that the libertarian acquired several hundred thousand corneas he doesn't need, acquired by robbery, and mean-spiritedly hoards in order to prevent others who need them from getting them. I don't believe that you meant that someone with several hundred thousand dollars only needs one of them, nor that taking one of his dollars and giving it to someone in need really accomplishes all that much.

I don't think your analogy is best served by using corneas as the model. Blood, for example, is something that the average person can indeed spare a significant portion of. Try recasting your analogy using that, instead.

By badgersdaughter (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

Saying "there shouldn't be any coercion" is about as much use as saying "it's bad if you fall off mountains", which does not constitute useful advice for actual mountain climbing.

@406: actually, since the marginal utility of money declines as you have more and more of it, taking one of a rich person's many dollars and giving it to someone who really needs it _does_ accomplish something.

By Stephen Wells (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

Knockgoats: when one is being executed in the peoples republic of goatfuckingistan does one's last reflections are on the fact that thank goats that it wasnt being done in that facist state of military republic of goatknockistan? you blathering twat at the far end of the right left spectrum you are in the same space. - broboxley the fuckwit

Comment on the above word salad is perhaps superfluous, but I will note that you originally introduced your idiocy about far left and far right being the same with reference to anarchists and glibertarians. So if Stalinists and fascists are "at the far end of the right left spectrum", and that puts them "in the same space" (they aren't of course), where are anarchists and glibertarians located? In the same "same space"?

By Knockgoats (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

All you teachers out there that took offence, reminds me of the old joke about the short yellow bus driver "he was making fun, he was making fun" a majority of the teachers I have met make very good trainers, therefore my McDonalds analogy. Being able to train people is a good thing but a position far removed from TEACHING, I suspect that most of the whiners are professional trainers.
Got yer suppah swingin

By broboxley (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

Thanks llewelly. Now I have something to say the next time a wingnut brings up DDT. It seems their topics come in waves from some central clearing house of nuttery. - thehuntbox

Well, a few sources - right-wing lie-tanks such as the Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation etc. The DDT lies is one of the oldest and best-travelled. The philanthropic nature of biotechnology multinationals is another. Even if "golden rice" lived up to its hype, which it doesn't, it would be a rare exception (its development was mainly funded by the Rockefeller Foundation).

The aim of companies such as Monsanto is to tighten the stranglehold they have on world food supply, so enabling them to increase their profits. to this end, gaining "intellectual property rights" over as much as possible is key - hence the notorious attempt to patent basmati rice by RiceTel, and Monsanto's suits against farmers whose crop contained "volunteers" from nearby Monsanto varieties. GMOs are largely a means to this end. I have no objection to GMOs which have been properly tested for toxicity, environmental safety, and resilience in the areas they are intended for; and which do not trap small farmers into dependence on a single supplier, or promote monocultures. Currently, these conditions are very seldom met - but the same is true for most new varieties produced by conventional cross-breeding techniques. The problem of mass malnutrition and recurrent famines will not be solved by technical fixes developed by companies aiming to preserve their dominance in global food markets.

I am African born and bred" - Cimourdain

So was Hendrik Verwoerd.

By Knockgoats (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

And by so-called Libertarians who paradoxically accepted war as a legitimate means of validating claims to other people's property--what the HELL is Libertarian about that, I want to know. - badgersdaughter

It's the very epitome of glibertarianism, which is all about protecting privilege. As soon as the "no coercion, no initiation of violence" stuff leads to an uncomfortable conclusion, a loophole is found. In this case, a common one is the "valid transfer of title" mnphenow raised. You see, the land may originally have been stolen, but as long as the current owner acquired it without violence, they are entitled to keep it. Very convenient. Reminds me of an old English story about a landowner finding a poacher on his land. The two get into an argument, and the poacher ends up asking the landowner how it is he owns the land.
"My ancestors fought for it!"
"OK", says the poacher, removing his jacket "I'll fight you for it now!"

By Knockgoats (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

@thehuntbox: DDT banning has cost a ton of lives. I know of one chemist who literally bathed himself in DDT to prove there was no ill effects. If you give me a contact method I can introduce to him. That one particular ban has had a tremendous negative effect on human lives, as well as me personally

Environmental issues always need a watchdog as the ForProfits dont really give a rats ass about humans but that watchdog must not be a pitbull with rabies gout and syphilis

By broboxley (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

I totally agree with this:

Liberal, Conservative, Libertarian... these labels vary so much from country to country that talking about them in an international forum like this is almost pointless

If we are talking about political ideologies, then Libertarians are Liberals in the European and political science sense.

@Matt Penfold, I'm pretty sure you're the confused one.

Somewhere and somehow you have confused liberalism with libertarianism.

Liberalism is the political philosophy that argues for or "individual liberty over centralized control", not libertarianism.

In principle (and social structure) liberals and libertarians have the same goals, i.e. personal liberty.

I don't agree with most people here saying basically that libertarians are heartless, egocentric bastards.

If you look at the primary definition of libertarianism it has nothing to do with economy and many people confuse it. It's similar to communism vs. socialism, mostly, because the two were very closely connected in the Eastern Block, nevertheless, one is a social structure (just like libertarianism) and one if economic organization.

By https://me.yah… (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

@llewelly:

he principal reason DDT has been little used for decades is not that it is banned; that's a myth. It has been little used because unreasoning overuse rendered it useless.

Do you have some cites for this? I have a personal interest especially if you have anything IRT Belize

By broboxley (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

just to add ... I think a lot of you guys got this completely wrong:

what you consider liberalism is actually socialism (within a democratic society, pls don't confuse socialism and communism, which have NOTHING in common).

Libertarianism is actually liberalism when referring to government ideology, i.e. favors no government intrusion into personal liberty, advocates free market, no government control of businesses and opposes federal taxation (of individuals).

This is not what US democrats, i.e. your liberals are doing: they advocate more governmental control over individuals and less political liberty, economic interventionism and taxation by the state beyond that which is perceived to be necessary to maintain individual liberty, peace, security, and property rights.

By https://me.yah… (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

the libertarian ideal is the same as the marxist ideal appealing, fair, equitable until you have humans try to implement it then greed gets stuck in

By broboxley (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

Jesus Christ, 400 posts later and they're still playing the No True Libertarian card...

Am I the only person actually shocked that this thread didn't result in two or three people being awarded their very own dungeon cell?

By badgersdaughter (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

what you consider liberalism is actually socialism

Yawn, what a dweeb getting that wrong. But then, that is expected from libertarians, who couldn't recognize facts if they tripped over them.

By Nerd of Redhead, OM (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

@tsg:

Jesus Christ, 400 posts later and they're still playing the No True Libertarian card...

are you trying to imply that Jesus was a true libertarian?

By broboxley (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

You consider Greenpeace's support for southern African government's request that food aid be non-GMO. As you must be aware this was not about providing food for starving people but being able to choose from the food sources available.

Not true. They spread the most stupid and vicious lies to prevent this food from reaching the starving. Same thing with the Golden Rice.

This is far worse than the anti-vax insanity.

Get it straight. People are dying because of this.

There's the usual load of obfuscation about DDT use; yeah, it wasn't banned in the Third World, countries were only told that if they didn't stop using it they'd have their aid cut. What is undeniable is that malaria was a minor problem prior to DDT's restriction; following the ban, it is the second largest killer worldwide.

Absolutely wonderful.

As regards your link to Greenpeace - and I trust these scum about as far as I can thrown them - they outline a series of possibilities that'd might work, if they could be instituted all over the place, at some point in the future. As opposed to a provable solution that could have been done right now. Which Greenpeace opposed.

Here is my link to you:

http://www.eco-imperialism.com/content/conts_excer.php3

How do you libertarians go about assessing environmental damage?

Look, I never said that there should not be redress for provable damages. If someone sprays toxins over your land, or pulls a stunt like the one at Bhopal, you should be able to sue their asses into bankruptcy. In those few instances where that is insufficient - the smog crises, to take an example - you need common law, but that has to be under the basis of provable damages.

Yet all of this is under the conservationist, not environmentalist, premise. That is, the premise that we should preserve the environment as a good for man's use and pleasure. I'll toss my cash into a collection to make sure my kids can still see the rhinos of my youth, I'm happy to do my bit that the treasure house of the amazon stays, to the extent that I can afford it.

None of this is environmentalist. Environmentalism is the belief that nature has an intrinsic value, beyond and above whatever human use it may be put too. And this is why, wherever you look, you find environmentalists sacrificing human life to the rights of blind nature.

I remember the day that this became clear to me. I'd been asked to take part in a brainstorming session about dealing with malaria that was plaguing a community. I said to do the obvious: drain the local swamp and cover the place in insecticide. The greens hit the roof.

By Cimourdain (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

@badgersdaughter: post 442 thats no more science than astrology.
Geology, Biology, physics(most of it)hard science

psychology is studying entrails of a dead owl and making theologic statements sound like certainties is at most a soft science like theology or atheology if you prefer

By broboxley (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

Actually, if you follow the Language Log post, it's not even a very good study. But I thought it might be amusing and diverting.

By badgersdaughter (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

Libertarianism is actually liberalism when referring to government ideology, i.e. favors no government intrusion into personal liberty, advocates free market, no government control of businesses and opposes federal taxation (of individuals).

I can tell this hard for you, but please stop thinking liberalism is the same thing as libertarianism. Liberalism has no problem with personal taxation at any level (most countries are not federal, so taxation at a federal level is a silly comment to make).

By Matt Penfold (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

In principle (and social structure) liberals and libertarians have the same goals, i.e. personal liberty.

I don't agree with most people here saying basically that libertarians are heartless, egocentric bastards.

If you look at the primary definition of libertarianism it has nothing to do with economy and many people confuse it.

False.

Everything positive about libertarians -- the reduction of police power, legalization of drug use, protection of the right to an abortion, an end to aggressive war -- all of this is shared by left-liberals, greens, progressives, democratic socialists and left-anarchists.

The only uniquely identifying characteristic of libertarians is their extreme-right-wing economic policies. Therefore far-right economics is the defining aspect of libertarianism, not incidental but absolutely central to the definition.

As for freedom, if we want freedom, economic inequality is not conducive to freedom.

This much is recognized by the undeniably capitalist Fund for Peace and Foreign Policy magazine, who jointly publish the Failed States Index, which counts uneven economic development along group lines as one of the indicators of dangerous instability. On this particular measure, by the way, the United States scores more than half as bad as Zimbabwe.

There's more detail from the Equality Trust (thanks again to Knockgoats) on how economic equality buys us all the kind of society that is conducive to freedom.

Right-wing economic policies, though, tend to favor the consolidation of wealth, at the expense of other freedoms.

This is short-sighted. In the long run it's not even safe for the rich, because highly unequal societies eventually collapse into violence. Tim Wise gives a good description of how privilege ultimately hurts those who have it; he's talking about white privilege but you can easily see the parallels to class privilege.

Right-wingers are famously short-sighted. That's one of the reasons many libertarians don't like to be identified with them. Being tough on crime and tough on terror and tough on any foreign country that looks funny is short-sighted. Yet libertarian economic policies, in line with other right-wingers' economic policies, are similarly self-destructive.

Nobody is really free in the chaos and violence of a failed state. But even in a relatively stable state, the poor live under threat of violence and coercion.

And so today in the United States, even if we could get immediately rid of the PATRIOT Act and the war on drugs and the border walls and the cameras and the high-tech police cruisers and all the other obvious manifestations of the police state, and the corporate lobbying and the military-industrial complex and the military bases around the world and the constant state of undeclared war -- and we should get rid of all these things immediately, but even if we did -- life in the United States, for a substantial portion of the citizens, would still be more about violence and fear than freedom and opportunity.

And there is no laissez-faire policy that will address this reality.

By strange gods b… (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

I know of one chemist who literally bathed himself in DDT to prove there was no ill effects. - broboxley

This would of course prove nothing of the kind: differences between bathing and inhaling, one-time and chronic exposure, healthy and already sick, men, women (especially pregnant women) and children... What a stupid stunt.

Glibertarian morons like Cimourdain recyle right-wing lies without the slightest compunction. DDT is not banned for use in house-dusting in many if any poor countries; it is rightly banned from agricultural use, both because of its toxicity, and because such use causes a rapid appearance of resistance, making it useless for the control of malarial mosquitoes. It was this build-up of resistance that led to the suspension of spraying programs and contributed to the resurgence of malaria - there were many other causes as well. See this letter from a Professor of parasitology.

psychology is studying entrails of a dead owl and making theologic statements sound like certainties is at most a soft science

And broboxley demonstrates his idiocy once again.

By Knockgoats (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

are you trying to imply that Jesus was a true libertarian?

No, I'm flat out saying that Libertarianism is like Christianity: there are as many versions of it as there are believers and each of them has the One True Faith Philosophy. It's like playing ideological whack-a-mole.

At least we have the homophobic Cimourdain here as a visual aid against the dogma that libertarians are good to gay people.

By strange gods b… (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink
If Libertarians are truly faithful to their ideals they should support the immediate return of US property to American Indians, since it was acquired by an initiating act of aggression.

When I was a Libertarian I did indeed support this. I got cussed at a lot for it, especially by people who knew my parents were both immigrants.

Somewhere someone said that less than 2%, I think it is, of the American Indians use their land to make any real money, and its all from casinos, the rest of them, I have to assume, are like the idiots where I grew up, who, lets see... while I lived there they, on one occasion, narrowly avoided all being shot by the non-AI, because the younger members of the tribe where pissed off about something and planning to attack the rest of the city, but got told to back down by the tribal elders, when it was made clear how many of the non-AI had guns ready (one of those rare cases where having one may have helped the situation). Then, there was the yearly occurrence of several of them throwing things through their own windows, getting it fights and destroying their buildings, etc., where someone had to go in and use government money to repair all of it, because they didn't have the money, didn't own the house, and damn sure where not going to waste time trying to figure out how to replace it themselves.

In other words, we have a tiny fraction that own businesses, most of them one tribe, and that one tribe is **barely** even American Indian, by blood, any more, and the vast majority doing jack to make things better for themselves. Or, at least that was the trend 10-15 years ago. I supposed its possible *some* others have, I don't know.. opened more casinos since then? Hell yeah we should give them back the land. It would level the damn playing field, and remove about half of the stupid issues we have with the pretty much constant, and unending, "reparations", including, as I said, to some tribes whose only claim to the title is that one member, 4 generations ago, might have once lived in the tepee. But, maybe this is just my personal experience biasing the complete lack of anything constructive I see among them, other than, of course, casinos.

> If, as a USian citizen, I agree with what
> the Declaration of Independence and the
> Constitution say about individual liberties,
> while also agreeing with what they say about
> the reciprocal obligations of citizens and
> societies, what is that called?

That's called being a Paine, as in Tom Paine.
Take what 'libertarians' would excise from the United States, and that's Tom Paine.

He wrote, for example:

---------

"... Whatever wisdom constituently is, it is like a seedless plant; it may be reared when it appears, but it cannot be voluntarily produced. There is always a sufficiency somewhere in the general mass of society for all purposes; but with respect to the parts of society, it is continually changing its place. It rises in one to-day, in another to-morrow, and has most probably visited in rotation every family of the earth, and again withdrawn.

“As this is in the order of nature, the order of government must necessarily follow it, or government will, as we see it does, degenerate into ignorance.

” … by giving to genius a fair and universal chance; … by collecting wisdom from where it can be found.

“… As it is to the advantage of society that the whole of its faculties should be employed, the construction of government ought to be such as to bring forward, by a quiet and regular operation, all that extent of capacity which never fails to appear in revolutions.”
—————————————–

Tom Paine, The Rights of Man
http://www.ushistory.org/Paine/rights/c2-03.htm

----------

By hankroberts (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

@knockgoats: thanks for the link to the prof of parasites, explains a lot

By broboxley (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

@Kagehi: how very white of you, a couple of links might help
my crew http://www.beringstraits.com/index.html construction mining communications service industry
the wife's crew
http://www.calistacorp.com/
we are so lazy some tard missouri democrat wants to stop us from working for the feds, apparently we must be getting into the defence contractors part of the trough
as for the never ended subsidies no problem give us all the money you made from the oil you take then re-negotiate the deal

By broboxley (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

psychology is studying entrails of a dead owl and making theologic statements sound like certainties is at most a soft science like theology or atheology if you prefer

I really should talk to my educational psychology faculty. All this time and we still haven't stirred owl entrails. Maybe that's a fourth year thing?

As an aside, the SAT you mentioned before is a standardized test, the kind of test studied and developed under that discipline of psychology called psychometrics.

For a general overview of psychological testing, including Classical and Modern Test Theory, there's a decent textbook:

Kline, T. J. B. (2005). Psychological testing: A practical approach to design and evaluation. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Other examples in the literature about standardized testing, psychometrics, psychology, and education include (but certainly aren't limited to; also, I tried to pull some recent references to within about 10 years, but there's more going back further):

American Psychological Association. (2000). Guidelines for computer-based testing. Washington, D.C.: Association of Test Publishers.

Ferdous, A., & Plake, B. (2008). Item response theory-based approaches for computing minimum passing scores from an Angoff-based standard-setting study. Educational & Psychological Measurement, 68 (5), pp. 778-796.

Guemin, L., & Lewis, D. (2008). A generalizability theory approach to standard error estimates for bookmark standard settings. Educational & Psychological Measurement, 68 (4), pp. 603-620.

McCauley, R., & Strand, E. (2008). A review of standardized tests of nonverbal oral and speech motor performance in children. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 17 (1), pp. 81-91.

Murphy, K. R., & Davidshofer, C. O. (2001). Psychology testing: Principles and applications (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Murphy, L. L., Plake, B. S., Impara, J. C., & Spies, R. A. (Eds.). (2002). Tests in print VI. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.

Zimmerman, B., & Dibenedetto, M. (2008). Mastery learning and assessment: Implications for students and teachers in an era of high-stakes testing. Psychology in the Schools, 45 (3), pp. 206-216.

Zwick, R., Sklar, J., Wakefield, G., Hamilton, C., Norman, A., & Folsom, D. (2008). Instructional tools in educational measurement and statistics (ITEMS) for school personnel: Evaluation of three Web-based training modules. Educational Measurement: Issues & Practice, 27 (2), pp. 14-27.

Still learning,

Robert

By Desert Son, OM (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

Just after Lonely Libertarian softens me up, I'm reminded once more of how fucking narrow-sighted and selfish libertarians can be.

Hell yeah we should give them back the land. - Kagehi

I guess you mean the entire continent - because pretty much all of it was stolen. But don't think you're coming back to Europe if that's where your ancestors were from - we have enough home-grown bigots, thank you.

By Knockgoats (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

Hey, Kagehi... if we called the remnants of the people on the occupied land, oh, let's say, "Saxons," and the invaders, say, "Normans," all of a sudden the resistance of the remnants becomes heroic and their surliness an estimable refusal to submit to injustice. I guess it just depends what side you're on, eh.

By badgersdaughter (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

@Desert Son, OM: want to study psychology take some time off to work as a carney :-)

By broboxley (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

mnphenow #389

Indeed, it is true that the Austrians are the most outspoken critics of mathematical models of complex economies because individual human action cannot be taken into account. They claim that econometric calculations are too mechanical and can't account for the abundance of elusive variables. Thus, they put the least stock in such models and their hubristic predictions. Their study tends to instead be focused on the underlying principles of human action (the study of human action they call praxeology). Using praxeology, they are able to make generalized predictions about the nature of an event, but not necessarily their magnitude or timing. This approach is much more in concert with an emergent, complex system whose machinations are too complex and unpredictable for conventional models.

The Austrian School advocates a rejection of methods which involve directly using empirical data in the development of falsifiable theories. They refuse to accept that application of empirical data is fundamental to the scientific method. Mises has been described as the mid-20th century's "archetypal unscientific economist." Mises wrote of his economic methodology that "its statements and propositions are not derived from experience...They are not subject to verification or falsification on the ground of experience and facts."1 Murray Rothbard was an adherent of Mises's methodology (and though Rothbard assigned a sort of empirical description to it, he comments that "it should be obvious that this type of 'empiricism' is so out of step with modern empiricism that I may just as well continue to call it a priori for present purposes"2). Hayek stated his belief that social science theories can "never be verified or falsified by reference to facts."3 Such rejections of empirical evidence in economics by the Austrian School have led to the school being dismissed by the mainstream.

Another general criticism of the School is that although it claims to highlight shortcomings in traditional methodology, it fails to provide viable alternatives for making positive contributions to economic theory.4 In his critique of Austrian economics, Bryan Caplan5 notes that Austrian economists have often misunderstood modern economics, causing them to overstate their differences with it. He argues that several of the most important Austrian claims are false or overstated. For example, Austrian economists object to the use of cardinal utility in microeconomic theory; however, microeconomic theorists go to great pains to show that their results hold for all monotonic transformations of utility, and so are true for purely ordinal preferences.

Note: If you need any of the above translated, just ask. I'll be happy to explain it.

1Ludwig von Mises. Human Action: A Treatise on Economics. Gilbert, AZ: Laissez Faire Books, 2008. Page 72.

2Murray N. Rothbard, Murray N. In Defense of Extreme Apriorism. Cheltenham, Glos.: Edward Elgar Publishing Limited, 1991. Page 38.

3Friedrich August Hayek. (1996), Individualism and Economic Order. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 1996. Page 154.

4 Bruce Klein. "Book review: Competition and entrepreneurship". Journal of Political Economy 83: 1305–1306: 1975.

5Bryan Caplan Why I Am Not an Austrian Economist.

By 'Tis Himself, OM (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

KG is, as usual, being wrong about everything:

his would of course prove nothing of the kind: differences between bathing and inhaling, one-time and chronic exposure

Survivors of the Nazi camps were bathed in DDT to save their lives. There have been voluntary tests of people actually eating the stuff for two years.

ianmhor, you may get the impression that I'm not even trying to reason with certain abhuman morons on this thread. There's a reason for this. I've had my share of run-ins with them before now. First time round, we got sucked into an argument about P.Z.'s ridiculous comment that real terrorists don't have funny arabic names, but ones like MacVeigh. I pointed out that there was a lively slave trade in black slaves to the Middle East and the genocide which has just finished in Darfur. The response I got was "It's not in America, why should I care?". The second time around, I was pointing out that the Darfur genocide (thanks all you multilateral fetishists, btw, thanks a great deal) was classic Jihad and I got the response that "that's just the way things are in Africa; who can understand them?".

Now earlier I pointed out that I did not accuse anyone of racism, but now I feel that I must. You see, the two rodeo-clowns KG and strange were very quick to call my views racist before they knew my origins. That accusation has mysteriously vanished. There's only one possible reason for their mysterious shutting up. In other words, they consider my ancestry determinative of my moral character, not my ideas. That is racism defined.

By Cimourdain (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

Real libertarians are a rare specie. As such, they are radicals with a systematic approach to politics and economics and pose little threat as such - someone I can live with.

A libertarian will never try to touch other people's freedoms or shackle reason in any way. But at the same time, they would also stand by idly when someone else was dying or sick, and they might vote down public education or healthcare.

Worse than libertarians are the libertarian-friendly Ron Paul supporters who are some combination of big business acolytes, social conservatives with subdued religious tones, and the rabble that hates taxes and, because of its great ignorance, fears its own shadow.

By kilternkafuffle (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

Cimourdain:

This is not an easy place to voice the sort of opinions you hold and those here who have spent much longer attacking such opinions just do not have the patience to ask the same questions again and again and never getting answers. You admit to having taken them on a few times before so you must know what to expect. I personally like the rough house approach as it challenges people to put up or shut up.

No doubt some have spent decades involved in politics in various forms fighting against the sort of approach to the government of human societies you are in favour of. Expect nothing less that strongly voiced derision. They have been through all the issues many times and you shouldn't expect them to listen again.

I am fairly new here so I am still less inclined to go for the jugular but I suspect with a little more practice I will get there. ;-) After all I am well aware that in your eyes I am one of the evil environmentalists and to me you are a deluded libertarian. That doesn't mean we can't have a good argument but I am pretty certain we have no common ground so it would go round and round the circles already carved deep into this thread.

The last point you make is treading on very dangerous ground. You know little or nothing about the people who comment here but what they have written and it is all to easy to see things that are not there. But remember the sort of people this blog attracts. What I can say, and of course you don't have to believe me any more than any of the others, is that I know one of those two quite well and you are wrong.

The only real monopoly people need to be concerned about is the monopoly on the initiation of violence, otherwise known as the government. This is the organization that can use coercively-acquired money and influence to enforce an otherwise shaky and transient market monopoly.

Oh bullshit. I really wish you looneytarians would stop whining about the big, bad gummint. Several months ago I wrote a post on the real coercive factor in modern society.

The source of the greatest direct duress experienced by the ordinary adult is not the state but rather the business that employs him. A worker receives more or-else orders in a week from a foreman or supervisor than he or she gets from the police in a decade. If one looks at the world without prejudice but with an eye to maximizing freedom, the major coercive institution is not the state, it's work.

By 'Tis Himself, OM (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

Cimourdain,

I certainly haven't abandoned the view that you're a racist. It was based on your statements, not any supposition about your origins: "born and bred" Africans can be racist: I mentioned Hendrik Verwoerd, and I'll also mention Idi Amin. As it happens, I don't recall seeing the thread in which you claimed to be "born and bred in Africa", nor, since you are a habitual liar, do I necessarily believe it.

Survivors of the Nazi camps were bathed in DDT to save their lives. There have been voluntary tests of people actually eating the stuff for two years.

So what? Has either population been followed up for decades afterwards? Where are the scientific reports of these events and this follow-up? You may recall that exposure to asbestos dust can result in cancer decades later. The toxicity of DDT for human beings remains debatable, although it is known to be toxic to many other vertebrate species. I know you too well to think that a mere review of recent scientific evidence will undermine your smug certainty, but others might be interested in The Pine River Statement: Human Health Consequences of DDT Use.

In any case, I was simply right in saying that the stunt broboxley described would prove nothing.

Whether to spray with DDT is a complex question, depending on the balance between hard-to-assess risk, and benefit - the latter depends on what other control measures are available and effective. But of course, you're only interested in the issue as a stick with which to beat environmentalists - despite the fact that its use in vector control has not been banned in any country with a significant malaria problem; and despite the fact that opposition to its use in IRS (indoor residual spraying) is clearly based on fears about effects on human health, not environmental damage.

By Knockgoats (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

#391 - Kagehi:

Hmm. I never really liked the idea of vouchers.

If a school is taxpayer-funded, why wouldn't the separation of church and state still apply? Like it or not, we NEED a market for education. Have you been in an inner city school any time recently?

Continuing to deny those children school choice and a competitive market for education is, IMHO, unconscionable at best.

#427 - strange gods before me:

Right-wing economic policies, though, tend to favor the consolidation of wealth, at the expense of other freedoms.

In my experience, most libertarians are genuinely concerned with this, but view government interference in the marketplace as a more potent and dangerous creator of such inequalities.

I think that both extremes are right and wrong in their own respects. While some wealth redistribution (which, again, Hayek and Friedman both favored to an extent) may be necessary to ensure our liberties, government should also be limited so that it can't pick winners and losers at the expense of the people, like it has in the all-too-recent past.

Anarcho-syndicalism would address those two issues, but I've found no reason to believe that libertarian anarchism is anything more than a Utopian fantasy.

By Lonely Libertarian (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

Like it or not, we NEED a market for education.

Why is it that in Europe and Asia they are achieving high results without such a system in place?

want to study psychology take some time off to work as a carney :-)

Thanks for the career advice.

Still learning,

Robert

By Desert Son, OM (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

Real libertarians are a rare specie.

is that a typo, or a joke?

Like it or not, we NEED a market for education.

this will work as well as the "free market" for healthcare: the private institutions will pick the cream of the crop, and kick out anyone who makes them look bad/actually requires some effort and investment, dumping the "leftovers" back into the state system, which will now be even more severely underfunded, and thus produce even worse results.

and what Kel said. in countries where more than half the politicians don't try to dismantle and/or underfund any and all social services at all costs, State funded and run education produces excellent education which benefits its poor as much as its wealthy.

By Jadehawk, OM (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

#436 - Kel, OM:

Just after Lonely Libertarian softens me up, I'm reminded once more of how fucking narrow-sighted and selfish libertarians can be.

On Facebook, I subscribe to a page for the Foundation of Economic Education, a free market think tank.

I noticed today that they posted a link to the climate denialist website, climatedepot.com. The link referenced Climategate, which I found particularly surprising because there was no fucking Climategate.

I responded, asking what evidence they have of this vast global warming conspiracy.

The organization responded with a link, claiming that it offered "more information on the consensus that wasn't."

The link pointed to a paper by Calvin Beisner from the Cornwall Alliance.

It's a creationist website. He's a creationist.

Liberals and libertarians are just fine until they get caught up in the act of deciding what is or is not a fact. When they start doing that, people on their own side need to be willing to call them out on their bullshit.

By Lonely Libertarian (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

and what Kel said. in countries where more than half the politicians don't try to dismantle and/or underfund any and all social services at all costs, State funded and run education produces excellent education which benefits its poor as much as its wealthy.

This is what I find odd about American libertarians I've come across on this. A government system failing? Don't look to copy successful models of how other countries have dealt with such situations - instead open it up to the free market!

If such systems are evidentially working in other countries, then why go for the untested ideological route instead of one of the many evidentially successful routes available?

I suspect my extreme upset at the moment is more about being ashamed of myself than for what you said here. Oh, I've enjoyed you lambasting fundies, the wrong sorts of atheists and new agers. There were times when I felt a bit uncomfortable as you posted over-simplified, verging on abusive stuff about various belief systems. But it never made me stop reading you. Because I guess I'm as guilty as the man who the poem about "They came for the Jews . . ."

Well, now you've come for me. I'm a registered Libertarian. Obviously only being angry now, when I probably could have been angry all along when you stepped over the line, is hypocrisy. I know that defending myself and my political leanings is futile, though I could go on for hours about how intelligent people don't need a government to tell them how to live when they are perfectly capable of creating lovely sustainable, democratic local communities that facilitate the good of all and only need a minimal federal government to oversee a few things. So I will just say goodbye and welcome to the list of angry white male atheists whose blogs I no longer read.

#447 - Kel, OM:

Why is it that in Europe and Asia they are achieving high results without such a system in place?

I was suggesting that we copy Sweden. Do you honestly think that children that are forced to attend dangerous schools in Baltimore City and Washington DC shouldn't have the right to choose a better and safer school?

We can create a much more efficient market for education by implementing school choice reforms. This would bring down the cost of education, making it much more practical to offer universal education to all, while allowing good students in unsafe communities to find safe schools.

By Lonely Libertarian (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

I live in Australia where the government plays an important part in providing services such as education, welfare and healthcare - and I really can't think of how they intrude on my life at all. At the moment, my spouse is going through a visa application, I did my tax last October - but beyond that they really don't touch on my life at all. The only real gripe I have with them is that they are too draconian in their censorship of material for adults (especially games) - but aside from that this notion of a nefarious government intruding into my life is largely a fabricated myth.

Meanwhile I was able to get a decent education at a government-funded university and public schools before that, I have been able to get treatment when need be without sending myself or my family bankrupt, there's half-decent public transport available which is great for me since I don't drive - and I'm meant to fear the government?

Maybe in America it's different, I can't really say. But here I am in a country with healthcare for all, public-funded education and welfare - and at what point does this intrude on my life or civil liberties? If anything, I'd argue it aids civil liberties by enabling me to be educated, by taking the worry out of being sick, and by generally allowing me to go about my everyday business in peace. But I digress.

I just can't fathom how much I hear Americans talk about the government as if they lived in a totalitarian state. I wonder just what reality they live in and wonder why they haven't migrated to places like Europe or Australia / New Zealand where people don't seem to complain about these things much at all.

while allowing good students in unsafe communities to find safe schools.

and what about the "bad" students? the ones who have troubles at home, or have learning or mental disabilities that make them "difficult" students?

what you're proposing is a very half-assed solution that abandons those who need the help most, and that only looks to tinker with the symptoms of a problem, rather than addressing the underlying cause: which is the systematic dismantling of American infrastructure coupled with a systematic dismantling of all systems that prevent the runaway-increase in inequality which are at the base of creating the "unsafe" schools to begin with.

By Jadehawk, OM (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

gtpooh #452

I know that defending myself and my political leanings is futile, though I could go on for hours about how intelligent people don't need a government to tell them how to live when they are perfectly capable of creating lovely sustainable, democratic local communities that facilitate the good of all and only need a minimal federal government to oversee a few things.

I'm perfectly willing to listen to looneytarians. However, in all the years I've been discussing matters with them, I've discovered three things are generally true:

1. Their knowledge of history and economics is poor.

2. They play the No True Libertarian with enthusiasm. "Oh no, my brand of libertarianism doesn't suffer from the that particular flaw, it's those silly libertarians over there who believe that nonsense."

3. Their ideology is only loosely connected with the real world. Faced with compromising ideology in a real world situation, ideology über alles almost every time.

So I will just say goodbye and welcome to the list of angry white male atheists whose blogs I no longer read.

Here's the scores for gtpooh's flouncing off: 5.6 from the Canadian Judge, 5.6 from the Japanese Judge, and a disappointing 5.4 from the Kenyan Judge. Too bad, that puts him out of medal contention.

By 'Tis Himself, OM (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink
Real libertarians are a rare specie.

is that a typo, or a joke?

Speaking as someone who actually owns a few silver Liberty Dollars, I'm calling it a joke.

By badgersdaughter (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

Just after Lonely Libertarian softens me up, I'm reminded once more of how fucking narrow-sighted and selfish libertarians can be.

This sums up the problem for me, LL included.

By strange gods b… (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

I was suggesting that we copy Sweden.

What's that you say? Sweden? Wow, that's completely new to everyone here at this blog. No one's ever brought any Swedish model up. Boy, you've sure thrown us all for a loop with that novel reference!

Now earlier I pointed out that I did not accuse anyone of racism, but now I feel that I must. You see, the two rodeo-clowns KG and strange were very quick to call my views racist before they knew my origins. That accusation has mysteriously vanished. There's only one possible reason for their mysterious shutting up. In other words, they consider my ancestry determinative of my moral character, not my ideas. That is racism defined.

You'll have to excuse my memory, homophobe Cimourdain. I don't recall hearing anything about your 'origins' unless that rumor was true about Alpha Draconis. I also don't recall ever ceasing to identify your racist views as such. But as you seem to be confused about it, you're a racist.

By strange gods b… (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

Kel, OM #454

I just can't fathom how much I hear Americans talk about the government as if they lived in a totalitarian state.

Consider the looneytarian utopia of of Somalia: Unregulated markets, all the guns you can buy up to and including artillery, drugs, prostitutes, and best of all, no government to tell you what to do. Sure, there's an oligarchy, but that's what happens when the government vanishes.

It's interesting that people who have good government are the ones who complain about it. Most folks in Somalia would love to have a functional government, one that could protect them from the warlords. Seems to me that paying for a functional government is a good investment over paying for the feudalistic oligarchy that libertarians are pushing for.

By 'Tis Himself, OM (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

gtpooh,

Well, now you've come for me.

On the chance that you haven't left yet, and may still read this:

One of the things I've come to realize about Pharyngula is that no one is special. That doesn't mean no one is respected, though.

This is complicated, and I don't know if I'll be able to explain what I'm trying to get at, but I'll try.

Sometimes it can seem like there's no respect at Pharyngula. I think it is definitely true that PZ, and others are willing to take to task an organization, individual, philosophy, movement, or what have you. Pharyngula (the community at large, including PZ - and I hope I'm not speaking out of turn here, and if I am, I apologize and will happily stand corrected) isn't necessarily a "nice" place, and those who come to it and are willingly, profoundly, and proudly ignorant and unwilling to learn (important qualifier) are in for a sound typed thrashing.

But I don't think that means Pharyngula is not a place of integrity. When commenters provide solid evidence and solid argument and demonstrate a willingness to engage with content with intellectual integrity, they are respected, even if there is still disagreement.

But no one at Pharyngula is special. What I mean by that is that no one gets a pass. That's actually a good thing, because it helps prevent stagnation, and complacency, and it helps reinforce the social network that makes people feel welcome to visit and contribute.

Of course, feeling welcome to visit and contribute at Pharyngula can mean getting thrown into the mix, and there aren't really too many kid gloves around this mix.

So, one way to look at this thread is it's the "Typed-smackdown-on-Libertarians" thread. Another way to look at is, PZ (and others who visit Pharyngula) are challenging Libertarianism to represent itself to its fullest and best, if it can. I say that as someone who doesn't like Libertarianism, but as someone who keeps coming back to this thread to learn something.

For example, one thing I've noticed from this thread is, at least among those who align themselves with the label Libertarian, there's no agreement on what Libertarianism is. Now, I think those of us who don't care much for Libertarianism as a philosophy are tired of the "no-true-Libertarianism" we see, as tsg and others have eloquently pointed out. Another way of putting this: I don't find it particularly endorsing of liberal views that there are people who feel like pyramid-crystal chants and homeopathy are among the most staunch advocates of policies I like, such as support for gay marriage or ending the drug war (I notice many who say they're Libertarian support that one, too). But as a liberal, I have to own that those people claim the label "liberal," as well. I don't get to say they're not liberal just because they think some cosmic force in the universe is looking out for all our well-being when I know full well there's no evidence for that.

It hurts, too, to have something you care about, and care about deeply, called a name, or labeled worthless, or similar. Back about a year or more, something I feel close to, something I value as a worthwhile pursuit (the study of literature) was called worthless as a study pursuit. I got upset. But I'm still here. I never convinced the person who intimated that literature was a useless pursuit that it isn't useless, anymore than I'm likely to convince broboxley that psychology is a worthwhile pursuit, and a legitimate science (though certainly not one that enjoys the precision and strength of predictability that, say, physics does).

But, if you can come to this forum and represent Libertarianism (allowing that Libertarianism includes some real prize-winners) then people will hear you. They will. You have to allow, though, that it's possible the people here haven't heard anything convincing yet, and in fact, have significant evidence contrary to the philosophy of Libertarianism as a viable and worthwhile socio-political system.

No one here is special. I recommend a search through some of the threads to find those times when commenters, including some familiar handles, have called PZ out on some point or another. That doesn't mean that PZ automatically concedes the point, either, but in all the dealings I've seen with PZ, he's been honorable and honest, and the same for the lion's share of the commenters here.

Finally, Pharyngula is PZ's blog, and he's allowed to operate it, within the law, as he sees fit. It's kind of like private property on the Web (although I'm sure any intellectual property lawyers at the forum can correct my oversimplification of the case). Libertarians respect private property, right? That's certainly been my understanding of one aspect of Libertarianism. So, make a case here, and make a good one, if possible (I'm not saying you can't - I honestly don't know). Or set up your own blog. But if you come here to complain that you're not being treated fairly, or that someone called you bad names, or your philosophy bad names, well, then maybe Pharyngula isn't really the place for you. That's not a judgment, either. I still have days where I feel like I'm not tough enough for this place.

I'm not saying stay, either. That's got to be your decision, as you already know. You must be free to make that decision. I would assume that's a sentiment you can appreciate.

I don't feel I did a particularly good job explaining about some of the dynamics I see here at Pharyngula, but I hope that maybe this has been another perspective to think about when thinking about Pharyngula.

Still learning,

Robert

By Desert Son, OM (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

Lonely Looneytarian #446

In my experience, most libertarians are genuinely concerned with this, but view government interference in the marketplace as a more potent and dangerous creator of such inequalities.

After all, deregulation brought us airlines raising prices while reducing services, Enron stealing millions from California by exploiting unregulated energy, and the sub-prime fiasco. And the economic illiterate looneytarians want more of the same.

Without government regulation the marketplace becomes a battlefield where the most ruthless prevail and all others lose. This is not a fantasy, this is what history of the real world teaches us. But the real world is something that historically illiterate looneytarians disdain. They hate the real world because it's just full of examples of how looneytarianism is a bullshit fantasy THAT DOESN'T WORK! Yes, looneytarians, your fantasy and the real world are not a match.

By 'Tis Himself, OM (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

#455 - Jadehawk, OM:

what you're proposing is a very half-assed solution that abandons those who need the help most, and that only looks to tinker with the symptoms of a problem, rather than addressing the underlying cause: which is the systematic dismantling of American infrastructure coupled with a systematic dismantling of all systems that prevent the runaway-increase in inequality which are at the base of creating the "unsafe" schools to begin with.

I don't recall ever saying that school choice was the solution to all of our problems. I just suggested that it may at least alleviate two.

#454 - Kel, OM:

Maybe in America it's different, I can't really say. But here I am in a country with healthcare for all, public-funded education and welfare - and at what point does this intrude on my life or civil liberties?

I do think it is different in parts of America, and I know too many people in those parts that would benefit tremendously from vouchers.

I have absolutely no problem with taxpayer-funded healthcare, education, and welfare. I DO take issue when the government tries to get involved in functions that it can't do more efficiently or equitably than the private sector.

Government services generally aren't very efficient, and libertarians tend to get upset about the costs while glancing only briefly at the benefits.

Liberals tend to do the opposite, and neither views accurately reflect reality.

By Lonely Libertarian (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

Here's seven problems I have with libertarians:
1. Arrogance
2. They don't understand economics
3. Arrogance
4. They don't understand politics
5. Arrogance
6. They have to get in the last word
7. Arrogance.

By Nerd of Redhead, OM (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

I don't recall ever saying that school choice was the solution to all of our problems. I just suggested that it may at least alleviate two.

you know how people who don't have health insurance will self-medicate with aspirin, because it alleviates some of the symptoms, but then it turns out they have cancer and they die because they didn't get the problem fixed when that was still possible?

well, vouchers = aspirin.

By Jadehawk, OM (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

Government services generally aren't very efficient, and libertarians tend to get upset about the costs while glancing only briefly at the benefits.

like what? things like state funded universal healthcare, or even just single-payer insurance, for example run far more efficiently than the market ever could. already the private insurance companies spend a larger part of their budget on bureaucracy than medicare does, so clearly at least sometimes, the government is more efficient (i'll also point out that in all the countries that do have UH/SP, people pay less for insurance per capita, but more people are insured and insured sufficiently) than the market

By Jadehawk, OM (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

#463 - 'Tis Himself:

After all, deregulation brought us airlines raising prices while reducing services, Enron stealing millions from California by exploiting unregulated energy, and the sub-prime fiasco. And the economic illiterate looneytarians want more of the same.

Are you suggesting that Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, ultra-loose monetary policy, the pro-ownership tax code, and forcing banks to loosen lending requirements had no effect on the housing bubble?

I think we both would agree that Gramm-Leech Bliley was a mistake, but suggesting that the financial crisis was purely a result of deregulation indicates that you're either woefully uninformed or willing to twist facts to support your worldview.

Besides, financial institutions are very different from regular businesses because they don't create anything. They don't add value. They shuffle money around. Our standard of living doesn't increase and poor people don't rise out of poverty as a result of financial deregulation.

In most industries, that's simply not the case. You would have a very tough time finding reputable economists that agree with your description of markets.

By Lonely Libertarian (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

RE 389:

I must admit I have not read much specifically about the Irish potato famine, though here's an interesting article claiming that many English government policies contributed to and exacerbated the problems, turning it from a blight to a famine: http://mises.org/daily/2978

That article is nothing more than a rehash of free market mythology. I've heard it all before. It is in other words a collection of lies. Virtually all modern experts on the Patoto famine agree the governement did too little and was far to much in the ideological coils of Lassiz-faire. The fact is that the Brtish governement was much obssed with leaving the solution of the Irish Famine to the free Market and many member thought, including th Brtish governement minister responsible for Famine relief in Ireland that this represented a great opportunity to modernize and rationlize Irish agriculture by getting rid of "surplus" people. Yup Brtish government did indeed exasperate te problem by A) doing to little and then in 1848 b)during another almost complete failure of the Potato ending virtually all assistance. The website you are refering to is nothing but a collection of crap from true believers. I got nothing but chuckles from them.

First, while famines are unquestionably tragic, where does one get the right to steal from one group of people to give to another group of people, regardless of the circumstances? While I would agree that it is the moral thing to do to come to the aid of a fellow human in need, I can only do so with my own property, not by stealing my neighbor's property to give to the needy.

I was referring to the situation in which starving people steal food from hoarders and food being taken away from famine areas for sale elsewhere. Do you really think that there is anything moral about hoarding food in a Famine area in expectation that prices will go up? Or exporting food from such areas for sale? Do you seriously think I'm going to get upset over starving people looting such morally bankrupt assholes. What I specifically mentioned was procedures designed to discourage hoarding by providing enough food in oder to make hoarding in expectation that prices would go up a bad idea. And by the way I do not think that coercing people to discourge hoards of food in order to save their fellow humans from death is stealing from them to me it is simple humanity. Oh and the one of the first things the Imperial Chinese governements did in during Ching times, before the administration became corrupt and impued with Western ideas of Lassie-faire was to forbid the export of food from famine areas and to forbid hoarding in such areas and thus force the sale of such food that was available. That along with tax relief, food supplied proved quite effective in aliviating famine. Later efforts relieing on the free market and the "prce system" helped to produce some of th most horrible famines in Chinese hiastory in the late 19th and early twentieth centuries.

Second, coerced charity has a way of crowding out private charity. When someone is already being coerced to give to a charitable cause, they are less inclined to give voluntarily any additional amount. Left to choose what to do on their own, individuals might have chosen to give more or to provide aid in a more effective way than the government did. Further, governments often use aid money in political ways, arbitrarily deciding who to give to or attaching various debilitating strings. Also, when a charitable undertaking is monopolized by one coercive group, other alternative, perhaps more efficient, means of assistance are often not given a chance to compete, as it were.

Yup we have ideological purity here. I just love it competion during a famine? No doubt the starving rationally weigh who is going to feed them for top efficency. I know damn well that governements damn well often have string to their aid. So? The fact is that private charities also frequently have strings, essopecially Church based charities. May I also point out that I have worked with private charties providing relief during the Ethiopian famine and I can tell you we WANTED governement heavily involved because the resources that governements have vastly exceed virtually any private charity. I further point out that giving is very often a fashionable activity and if a charity or famine is not fashionable than there may be very little money avialble for private charities, (by the way many of the private charities get governement money) to do much in a given situation. I just love the concit so if people are "coerced" they might be less likely to give? Really. Just how are they "coerced"; by paying taxes some of which goes to famine relief? In point of fact the people who are discouraged by taxes and so called "coercion" from giving to charities aren't likely to give anyway.

Finally, coerced charity, over time, creates moral hazard. It provides people with a dis-incentive to take proper precautions to mitigate risk because they trust that they will be bailed out. This creates a general tendency towards current consumption over savings, which further extends people into unsustainable, risky endeavors and leaves an ever-smaller pool of available savings with which to bail out those effected by misfortune.

Your not being clear here. You can fantasize about coerced charity all you want. Are you saying that coeced charity discourages people from saving money that they then could give to charity? If that the case you are being disingenous. Virtually everything in our society encourages people to spent and borrow and discourages saving. Why because it supposidly makes the economy grow. The result is mass debt.

If you are saying that it discourages people from saving etc., because if they starve they will be bailed out and thuis discouraged from being rational, and prudent and this is morally unacceptable. Then I can only tell you to fuck off. I've heard this morally repellent shit before. My contempt for it is unbounded. THe people who starve during a famine are prescisely the marginal, the desperate those at or close to bare subsistence at the best of times. Their capacity to save etc., is stunningly limited. The fact is subsistence farmers and others already have a powerful incentive to be careful and prudent because at the best of times they barely have a enough to eat so risk taking is a definite no-no. The fact is those who have survive famines those who have little or nothing have a hard time. During the late 19th early twentieth centuries many British Bereaucrats in India were much excised by the moral fibre of the Indian people being destroyed by food aid and this encouraging them to be wasteful and not plan for the future and be prudent and work hard. They were so concerned that the Indian people not be corrupted that 15 million+ died. I've worked with subsistence farmers in India and Ethiopia and you have no idea how utterly disgusting this passage is if it means what I think it means. Well I guess starving to death might be an incentive to good moral behavior?! How utterly 19th century of you.

I think I will go and vomit, this is enough moral cretinism for a year.

I have absolutely no problem with taxpayer-funded healthcare, education, and welfare. I DO take issue when the government tries to get involved in functions that it can't do more efficiently or equitably than the private sector.

I guess this is where I have a philosophical difference to you. I don't care that at times the private sector can do a job more efficiently, there are some things where even a more efficient system is less desirable than having public ownership of necessary systems. What are necessary factors to ensure the civil freedoms and prosperity of those within?

Government services generally aren't very efficient

This is the great looneytarian myth. The reason why they can point to governmental inefficiencies is because, for the most part, government is transparent. Corporations aren't. So we learn about government screwups but not corporate screwups. That is unless the screwups are so horrendous (google Union Carbide Bhopal) or so enormous (google AIG liquidity crisis) that the corporations can't hide their mistakes.

No, looneytarians, the government is not more inefficient than any other large organization. I would claim it's less inefficient because everyone looks at the government.

By 'Tis Himself, OM (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

RE: 389:

I never claimed that coercion an violence would magically disappear, I merely claimed that it ought to, always and everywhere, be illegal to initiate violence or coercion. A libertarian society would by no means defy human nature or negate the nature of reality. It merely refuses to give a monopoly on the initiation of violence and coercion to a group of ambitious, self-selected, corruptible individuals who, collectively, call themselves the government.

Yup Governement = evil, Business = good, manichean bullshit. Of course coperations and the courts would continue to have the power to coerce. An those institutions do not have corruptible individuals and they are not in any way self selected. Of course powerful individuals who own vast amounts of property woul not be able to coerce anyone and would of course be incorruptible!?

Of course you forget about what happens if the governement is Democratic? isn't is accountable to the people in some sense. Unlike a corporation or business which has little acountability except to the bottom line.

Do you have any idea why statements like this make people think Libertarians can't help but utter loonytunes nonsense.

on those folks dissing Somalia
If I wasnt married and have kids to worry about a stint in Punt might be very interesting. My tech knowledge and natural acumen with a good local knowledge of the sea lanes I might become the next James Brooke
Arrr

By broboxley (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

#467 - Jadehawk, OM:

like what? things like state funded universal healthcare, or even just single-payer insurance, for example run far more efficiently than the market ever could.

How do you know that universal healthcare is more efficient than the free market ever could be? Do you think that we have a free market for healthcare now?

I regretfully agree with you to an extent, though. Markets for financial services and healthcare, as I said above, don't create value. They shuffle money around.

A single payer system can be much more efficient than the private sector because it doesn't have to pay exorbitant advertising costs. The problem is that it needs to be set up in a way that doesn't stifle medical innovation.

A truly libertarian healthcare system (think of what Milton Friedman proposed - abolishing the AMA and all that radical shit) would eliminate the monopoly, drastically lower healthcare costs, and encourage innovation. It's never going to happen, though, so there's really no point in discussing it.

By Lonely Libertarian (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

The problem is that it needs to be set up in a way that doesn't stifle medical innovation.

you know where a lot of innovation happens? at NASA, and at various state universities, and through state funded grants.

just because something is paid for and structurally part of the government, doesn't mean innovation suddenly dies. that's absurd.

By Jadehawk, OM (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

#470: Kel, OM:

I guess this is where I have a philosophical difference to you. I don't care that at times the private sector can do a job more efficiently, there are some things where even a more efficient system is less desirable than having public ownership of necessary systems. What are necessary factors to ensure the civil freedoms and prosperity of those within?

I don't care about the level of efficiency; it's the consequences that concern me. Our elected representatives often take on new tasks with the best of intentions and wind up punishing poor people in higher prices and lost jobs.

What do you think are systems that, regardless of their efficiency or lack thereof, should be owned publicly to ensure freedom and prosperity?

#471 - 'Tis Himself, OM:

The reason why they can point to governmental inefficiencies is because, for the most part, government is transparent. Corporations aren't.

Do you at least acknowledge that, because of the profit motive, private businesses have a greater incentive to be efficient than elected representatives?

Believe it or not, economists look at actual, quantitative data to build their models and determine how economically efficient markets and government programs are.

If you want me to believe the opposite of what most of the experts believe, at least show me where I can find some peer-reviewed evidence that supports your claim.

By Lonely Libertarian (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

Lonely Libertarian,

Believe it or not, economists look at actual, quantitative data to build their models and determine how economically efficient markets and government programs are.

Believe it or not, in the portion of response I've quoted, you're addressing an economist.

Still learning,

Robert

By Desert Son, OM (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

A truly libertarian healthcare system (think of what Milton Friedman proposed - abolishing the AMA and all that radical shit) would eliminate the monopoly, drastically lower healthcare costs, and encourage innovation.

a truly libertarian system would NOT abolish monopoly. competition is not efficient, and as such, a truly free market would collapse into a monopoly or an oligopoly as the biggest player(s) begin to do the cost-efficient thing and buying out the competition.

but let's assume that somehow, magically, you can keep the different insurance companies from buying each other or otherwise diminish the number of players in the playing field. which, do you think, would be the "fittest" insurer? not the one who offers the best rates to the widest section of the populace; the one who is capable of correctly picking those who won't ever need, and weed out the rest, and those who have the best PR while at the same time being able to refuse as many claims as possible. or do you honestly thing in a free market, people would be able to tell which company is least likely to fuck them over? that's only possible with strict government oversight.

so yeah, those who have pre-existing conditions or bad family history, etc are simply liabilities. what businessman in their right mind would take on such liabilities?

By Jadehawk, OM (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

Do you at least acknowledge that, because of the profit motive, private businesses have a greater incentive to be efficient than elected representatives?

I don't. It can in some circumstances, but I don't think it necessarily does because efficiency is not being selected for. Then there's the human factor: greed, corruption, competition for the best people to run the damn thing driving up wages, massive advertising budgets, lobbying, PR, etc. Those things start to really add up.

I'm not buying the whole efficiency thing, especially after the GFC.

Do you at least acknowledge that, because of the profit motive, private businesses have a greater incentive to be efficient than elected representatives?

efficiency isn't everything. it isn't even much, for that matter. after all, efficient systems are more prone to catastrophic failures when the conditions change, or the conditions where different than predicted, or when anything at all changes or fails; on the other hand systems with built in redundancies are more stable since they have multiple ways of responding to changes and failures somewhere within the system, and therefore generally preferable.

relevant and funny

By Jadehawk, OM (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

Jadehawk, OM:

you know where a lot of innovation happens? at NASA, and at various state universities, and through state funded grants.

just because something is paid for and structurally part of the government, doesn't mean innovation suddenly dies. that's absurd.

My point was that the profit motive gives people incentives to innovate and be efficient.

You managed to find another issue that I'm not "libertarian enough" on - in fact, I think we should spend more public money on scientific research.

The libertarian approach fails with regard to scientific inquiry because individuals in a free market won't purchase the research that we collectively need; they'll purchase the research that makes them a profit without concern for the public good.

The social benefits of markets in most exchanges of goods and services are nonexistent in special cases like healthcare, science, military, prisons, etc.

By Lonely Libertarian (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

I have been an avid follower of PZ and Pharyngula for a few years now – love it! And I do enjoy the agressive nature of Pharyngula when it comes to laying smackdowns on those who so richly deserve it. But alas, I too have now come before you – in my first comment on Pharyngula no less! -- to confess that I too am a registered libertarian.

I am not quite sure why I am doing this actually after reading the previous 450+ comments. Surely, I should run for cover. However, as I write this comment, I feel quite liberated. I have to admit that I had seen hints of the disgust for Libertarianism on Pharyngula before; I even wrote to PZ directly once politely objecting to his lumping together of Libertarians and Right Wing-Nuts regarding some other topic – never heard back from him – which is quite understandable. But, I must admit to feeling a little “dirty” at times while visiting and enjoying Pharyngula so much while harboring this deep, dark secret.

Ironically, my adoption of the Libertarian philosophy owes much to my disdain for all things religious. I was a self-identified liberal until about 10 years ago but I found that religious ideas/notion/concepts were far too ingrained with the majority of the Democrats I supported. They may have very well been paying it lip service – they have to do so to get elected after all – but it was definitely there in the background. However, as I came across the Libertarian philosophy and studied it in depth, I found it completely devoid of anything religious – this greatly appealed to me. The notion that the government should stay out of my private life and thus not force any religious nonsense upon me was quite appealing indeed. You all may call serious BS on that but it is what it is.

Now, as I said before, I called myself a liberal a while back and I have had some difficulty reconciling some of those ideals I held before with the other aspects of Libertarianism. But, what I have found is that, on balance, the Libertarian philosophy is the “best fit” for what I subscribe to. It’s certainly not a perfect fit – just the best fit for me. I won’t try to argue the intricate details of Libertarian philosophy – many others on this comment thread have done a much better job than I could at that and have been told in no uncertain terms that they do not know what Libertarianism is.

What I do want to do is to ask a question. Whenever we hear talk of Liberals and Conservatives, we often also hear about radical liberals and conservatives, moderate liberals and conservatives, even “liberal” conservatives and “conservative” liberals. In other words, it seems as if there are “ranges” of liberals and “ranges” conservatives up and down the spectrum. I would assert that most of us here would not take issue with that. However, what I have seen and heard since Day 1 of becoming a Libertarian and I have seen in copious amounts on this comment thread is that if someone calls themselves a Libertarian, then they *must* adhere to a very rigidly-defined set of axioms that cannot be deviated from in any way shape, manner, or form. Even if a Libertarian says they don’t necessarily agree 100% with some generally agreed-upon aspect of the Libertarian platform, they are either lying or they are invoking the “No True Scotsman…” argument. Indeed, from the majority of the comments in this thread, it would appear that the one thing one could say for sure about a self-identified Libertarian is that the person identifying themselves as a Libertarian has no idea what Libertarianism is about!

When I have had discussions about this very topic with liberal friends (yes, I do have liberal friends – most of them in fact), I have taken to describing myself as a “left-leaning Libertarian”. And that is my question: Does such a beast exist? Or, is this a huge cop-out?

Is it honest and/or possible to think that protecting the environment is a good thing *and* that a limited government is also a good thing? Is it possible to think that homosexual marriage should not even be an issue we need to spend two seconds talking about *and* that private companies can provide goods and services more cheaply and more efficiently than the US Government? If someone else can provide a better “fit” for my worldview then I will give it a good looking into.

My number one passion though is to see religious nonsense – in all of its forms -- expunged from our society. I do truly believe that it is the root of all evil. I will continue to read Pharyngula for that reason – because PZ and you all fight the good fight. If the majority of folks here think I am a looneytarian, a fucktard, or some combination thereof for subscribing to Libertarianism, so be it – I have far too much in common with them and far too much invested to bail out now.

My point was that the profit motive gives people incentives to innovate and be efficient.

not really. most of the innovation is highly superficial. as long as the system is in equilibrium (-ish), changes that actually make a difference are rarely pursued because it's not efficient to start from scratch or reorganize more than a little. then you get catastrophic failure and then, maybe, some innovation crawls out from somewhere to establish a new system, which will just repeat the whole damn cycle. the market is reactive; we need something that can act proactively, and as flawed as it sometimes is, democratic government is the only way to accomplish this. and it has to be a large government, that can poke at ALL parts of the private system to force proactive movements out of the market. it needs to be large and transparent and responsible to actual voters (not polls, not apparent voter interest as measured by media exposure, not astroturfing and direct lobbying) though, and we're not doing well on the transparent part. so yeah, the American system is in dire need of an overhaul, but merely shrinking it or making it more "efficient" is just going to do even more damage.

By Jadehawk, OM (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

... choose to die ...

By strange gods b… (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

The social benefits of markets in most exchanges of g