Libertarianism in an Age of Economic Crisis

Why being truculent, oppositional, and hard to pigeonhole are not signs of ideological death

Many aspects of America’s future are at risk as politicians and public intellectuals respond to the current economic crisis. The politicians are shaping how (far too much of) Americans’ money, resources, and precious bodily fluids will be expended, both now and in the very far future. Beyond the (completely insane) spending explosion per se, the specifics of how banking and technology policy will be dealt with, along with the detailed shopping list of Washington spending, show that D.C.’s strength in shaping how agents in the “free market” (that is, us human beings out here) move through the world is growing at an alarming rate. The incentives—and yes, even whims—of free individual choice are increasingly losing out to the commands and decisions of special interests in Washington. That will prove more dangerous in the long term than even the spending.

That this crisis is changing America in ways as significant as the Great Depression and the New Deal appears to be the settled opinion of both those who cheer that fact and those who lament it. But the real sea change arising from the crisis—if a sea change is really at hand—is more a matter of ideology and perspective than one of government action.

After all, though the partisans of both George W. Bush and Barack Obama have muddied our view of this, the Bush years (indeed most of the American postwar experience) have been a time of constant stimulus and deficit spending, and a gradual (sometimes stop-and-start) centralization of the control of resources and decision making.

Which is why what the politicians are doing right now isn’t the most significant thing that might be changing. Centralizing power is what they always do and have always done. But in a crisis that was largely caused by government yet is being sold as largely a crisis of markets, libertarianism (hell, any vestige of market freedom at all) is seen by public intellectuals on all sides as staggering on the ropes, moments from the sort of embarrassing face plant that its detractors just find too delicious to look away from.

The disdain for, or doubts about, libertarianism in the Current Crisis comes from different directions and for different reasons. Leading the chorus was Jacob Weisberg of Slate and Newsweek. Substantively, he hasn’t got much but unregulated derivatives to blame on “libertarian” thinking. He otherwise ignores everything from Federal Reserve policy to “too big to fail” bailout thinking as possible contributors to the mess. Rhetorically, he’s trying to drive anyone who questions the wisdom of any particular government action from the the “serious debate.”

The libertarian preference for hands-off policies during times of perceived crises, both domestic and international, is often parried by pointing to the fecklessness and irresponsibility of hand-sitting when confronted with serious problems—even whan those problems were caused by years or decades of government not having a hands-off policy. (It’s still worth remembering that it is not yet clear that the Current Crisis will end up much worse than other recessions most adults have lived through).

It’s not an indictment of libertarianism that it’s hard to see a quick and clean noninterventionist, nonactivist solution to the terrible dilemmas libertarians warned about (and predicted) when they advised nonintervention and nonactivism in the first place—whether it be in Afghanistan or Iraq or the money supply or mortgage markets. The one area where government programs unerringly succeed is in legitimizing more government programs.

While some are happy to declare libertarianism crisis-hobbled, others, often more sympathetic to the generic small-government message, take a different tack on how the crisis wounds the philosophy. They are stressing not intellectual irrelevance per se, but libertarianism’s supposedly inherently contradictory and confused basic stance on modernity—or its obvious electoral and coalitional fecklessness.

Conservative writer Austin Bramwell has pointed out that different temperaments show through in different writers and activists within the rough libertarian coalition. Some of them (for example, Reason’s Matt Welch and Nick Gillespie) have an optimistic sense that the manifest benefits of even the relatively free markets and technologies of the modern West have created explosions of options and choices that are worth celebrating on their own terms, and that likely presage social and political change toward a greater appreciation of individual autonomy and unbridled choice, in both economic and personal lives.

Some libertarians, however, (the Mises Institute-associated writers gathered at LewRockwell.com are good examples of this) are more apt to stress the various nightmarish problems and crises that government action creates, whether overseas or at home.

Of course, libertarians are not required to justify, defend, or make sense of everything other self-described libertarians may say. But even within the rough limits of “sees a much more limited role for government force in social decision making than we currently see,” it’s silly for Bramwell to suggest that something contradictory or merely emotive lies at the heart of the libertarian worldview.

For instance, there is no inherent contradiction between celebrating the fact that we live in a country where almost everyone has incredibly cheap access to communications and information tools of wild depth, breadth, and speed, and noting that some people’s Internet stock option fortunes in the 1990s might have been based on mistakes and misjudgments by either the Federal Reserve or by pros and amateurs buying and selling stocks.

That is, it does not indicate confusion or contradiction to celebrate the liberatory aspects of modernity while recognizing the ways in which government mucks up, complicates, or limits such liberation, or embeds it in ethical conundrums and crimes. That wide libertarian worldview is, rather, a properly nuanced and full-circle vision of what quasi-capitalist modernity really looks like.

However, having that balanced view of the modern condition doesn’t make you “politically relevant,” either. Especially not in a world where the dominant political and ideological forces are convinced that every failure and problem, from economic slowdown to health care expenses to weight problems to educational failures to regimes we don’t like overseas, can and ought to be solved by more control of resources and decisions in Washington.

Thus, another of the big debates about libertarianism’s health and role in the Crisis Age grapples with how libertarianism can and should fit with the dominant paradigm’s current avatars and guardians in the liberal/Democratic Party segment of the ideological spectrum.

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  • ||

    Bush really screwed us over. He talked about free markets, but ended up being a bigger centalizer than any who came before. Unfortunately the public's perception is based on a selective subset of what he said, not what he did.

    Thus we have the Obama moving to do the opposite of what Bush said, instead of the opposite of what he did. When you think Hitler is the epitome of capitalism, it's no wonder you gravitate towards Stalin.

  • ||

    Iowahawk did a priceless photoshop of that picture, in case anyone here isn't a regular at his website.

  • ed||

    Does that mean libertarianism is dead in the water?

    "Dead" is open to debate. Libertarianism as a philosophy is treading water, making no headway toward firm ground, but keeping its head above water. In the longterm...who knows? Historians know that periods of human freedom and success are short, separated by long periods of doom and stagnation and brutality. Happy Presidents Day.

  • Lester Hunt||

    One weird way that libertarianism is relevant today is via the fact that Obama repeatedly refers to such ideas as if they are main alternative to his sort of policies. Whether he is denouncing the deregulating laissez faire policies of G W Bush or making repeated references to non-interventionist theories in his first press conference, he keeps campaigning against ideas that are basically libertarian. Of course, what he is really doing is cynically trying to commit the straw man fallacy, painting his opponents in colors that he assumes will make them look crazy, but the mere fact that the ideas are out there to be abused constitutes progress of a sort. I've never seen a president who does what he is doing here.

  • ||

    Weisberg and his ilk (...love that pejorative..) are statists. Sorry for the obvious. They are children who seek something bigger than they are, children young and old who need a savior.
    There are two possible reasons for their "told you so" intellectual emptiness and criticism of free market environments:
    (1) They truly are devoid of a structured and logical thought-process, completely ignoring basic facts re government spending/borrowing/intruding of the last hundred years (and especially the socialistic government paradigm of the last ten).
    (2) They do recognize that regulation has expanded drastically, but they are sick liars, embarrassed to open their eyes and face the reality of the true underlying causes.

    It is deep in their psychosis. They will say anything (even lying to themselves) to insist that something bigger than you and me and them is required for civilization to survive and thrive.
    It is the mentality of the slave, first cousins to the wretches of every age who believed and waited for a king, a president, a general, a leader, a bureacrat, anybody that will save them.
    And if that leader trampled on the rights of others, it didn't matter, so long as the slave felt secure that he was protected.

  • ||

    "Liberaltarianism"

    I like the idea. I've always thought libertarians were not doing themselves any favors by being perceived as more aligned with the ultra-right.

    The right opposes social safety nets because they have--until now--been able to get elected by appealing to racial resentment, with the added bonus that getting their constituents to reject social safety nets on racist grounds also means less of a tax burden on their real constituents, their wealthy campaign donors. It's a tactic no libertarian should want any part of.

    Liberals and libertarians probably will never agree on the need for social programs, or at least about how much of them we need. But liberals are on the right side of social liberty compared to conservatives. That isn't nothing. Perhaps by joining the already big tent of the Democrats libertarians can have a more useful role than they've had in the past: providing intellectual excuses for regressive policies. If there are truly sound libertarian arguments about how the economy should work, they should be able to convince some liberals . But it needs to be an intellectually honest debate and not one tarnished by ulterior motives.

  • Derrick||

    One thing we libertarians have going for us is that we're all essentially on the same page on most things, despite being split up into hundreds of factions. I would rather have a million voices saying the same basic thing, than to have 20 million voices loosely stitched together into a big quilt of incoherent babble like the modern left.

  • ed||

    I look forward to the day when geneticists have finally isolated the libertarian gene. Surely it exists in less than one-half percent of the population. The other 99.50% dream of tribal power. It has always been thus. Such is our history to date. Should we be optimistic, or realistic?

  • ||

    "I would rather have a million voices saying the same basic thing, than to have 20 million voices loosely stitched together into a big quilt of incoherent babble like the modern left."

    But a million people will never get anywhere on policy. All democracies depend on coalitions. The Democratic party is in power because they have been able to amass enough support from different constituencies to get the votes they need. The Republican party, meanwhile, is rapidly becoming a permanent minority party that appeals only to a couple demographics.

    In a democracy you don't get everything you want. If you're in a fringe group, the best you can hope for is to join a coalition and influence it from within.

  • ||

    "Liberaltarianism"

    I like the idea.


    Its nice in principle, but at the end of the day very few modern lefty liberals are willing to slow down any extension whatsoever of the Total State, much less roll it back.

    Theoretically, of course, there are issues in common around civil liberties, but where modern lefty liberals aren't actively pushing for more violations of civil liberties in practice (gun control, Fairness Doctrine, etc.), they are notably unwilling to spend any political capital actually defending civil liberties.

    I'd love to be able to make common cause with lefty libs. I just look around in vain for any libertarian project of theirs I can support, or any project of ours that they are willing to commit to.

  • ||

    "I've always thought libertarians were not doing themselves any favors by being perceived as more aligned with the ultra-right."

    If anyone perceived libertarians as aligned with the ultra right, then he was an ignoramus.

    The big tent of the Democrats is a tent of group-think collectivists that want to tell everybody (but themselves) what to do.
    Just as the Republicans do.
    They are both the same. The same. Both arguing about which group (not person, but group) should be supported by which other group.

    So they give out tax breaks to CEOs; they create suburban zoning rules to keep the poor out of certain neighborhoods; they define marriage when it's no business of the government (and the Democrats are all for defining that too); they steal money from one and decide to hand it to another; they trashed the inner cities with the Great Society bullshit, relegating generations of poor into the cycle of poverty and neglect; they both support interventionism; they both order young men and women to their deaths to support the latest wet-dream utopian strategy on someone else's soil, they both spar over how to inhibit free-speech; they ignore the explicit second amendment because they are, both are, elitist thugs.
    Both of them --- Republicans and Democrats.

    Because they are the same. They worship at the altar of the state. Ultimately their arguments devolve into which leader should be telling everyone else what to do, and which set of rules/intrusions should be prioritized.

    The regressive policies to which you speak apply to your so-called big tent. Just as they do to the other buffoons represented by the elephant.

  • ed||

    lefty libs....I just look around in vain for any libertarian project of theirs I can support

    Do any of them still publicly advocate drug decriminalization? That's something the "left" has traditionally supported, albeit privately. Who amongst the new high-profile lefty media stars (Rachel Maddow, Keith Olbermann) will risk their newfound fame in supporting Michael Phelps and Alex Rodriguez? Anyone? That's right. Not a single one. They sell their souls.

  • ||

    Fine, continue being irrelevant. See if I care. I'm a socialist so I don't particularly want arch-capitalists invading my party (which I feel is way too right-leaning these days). But if you actually knew what American liberals believe on the most part, you'd know it has nothing to do with state power for its own sake. One good thing libertarian ideas have given us is the notion that the state should be just as large as it needs to be and no larger. We just disagree about how much it needs to be. I would argue that liberals and libertarians both value individual liberty equally; we just disagree about the extent to which market regulation inhibits or promotes liberty.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "The right opposes social safety nets because they have--until now--been able to get elected by appealing to racial resentment, with the added bonus that getting their constituents to reject social safety nets on racist grounds also means less of a tax burden on their real constituents, their wealthy campaign donors"

    Wrong.

    They oppose entitlement programs because they are unconstitutional. There is no ennumerated power delegated to the federal government in the text of the Constitution (as is required by the 10th Amendment) that authorizes it to enact any such programs.

    The federal government simply has no legitimate authority to mandate charity.

  • ||

    Gilbert, since when have Republicans demonstrated that they care about the constitution?

    The racial resentment narrative is well documented. Perhaps it just so happens that they believe in more regressive policies philosophically, but you can't deny the tactical aspects.

  • ||

    Tony-

    At the end of the day, socialism is incompatible with individual liberty. Socialism is all about the assertion and imposition of state power. Ultimately, the socialist, when pushe comes to shove, and it always does, will choose coercion. If he does not, then he is not a socialist.

  • ||

    But if you actually knew what American liberals believe on the most part, you'd know it has nothing to do with state power for its own sake.

    Oh, I have no doubt that lefty libs don't go around saying "we should grow the power of the state for its own sake."

    But, nonetheless, every single project that they are willing to commit any resources to seems to require the growth of state power to accomplish.

    One good thing libertarian ideas have given us is the notion that the state should be just as large as it needs to be and no larger.

    Which, according to you, Tony, is no service at all, because no one wants to grow the power of the state for its own sake.

    Libertarians are the appendix of the body politic, I suppose, serving no real function, and to be excised from polite society whenever the become inflamed.

  • ||

    The racial resentment narrative is well documented.

    Oddly enough, there is a well documented racial resentment narrative on the left, as well. One might also think that racial resentment could be harnessed to any political agenda, and has been.

    How convenient, though, to be able to pigeonhole as regressive racists anyone who disagrees with your opinions on how much of their money should be taken by the state and given to others.

  • ||

    Libertarians have always had their greatest successes not through electroal politics but by influencing the public debate, getting our ideas out there, and influencing the positions of the two major parties.

    We've been very sucessful at that on everything *except* economics. You can theorize a lot about why that is.

    The Republican party is in decline at the moment, and caught in a conflict between two directions it mgiht take. It could continue to play the social conservative formula, hoping for bible-belt votes, or it could move towards a kind of moderate libertarianism. I think the latter is the only gamble that stands a chance of getting them back in power, but then I'm not unbiased.

    Don't be too sure the Republicans will be a permanent minority. Being in power means you get blamed when shit goes wrong, and it's all on the Democrats now. The electorate has a short attention span. The Republicans will do well playing the limited government card - especially with the Democrats busy confirming everyone's worst suspicions about them at the moment. They'll lose seats next midterm election. Debt and social security are going to become big problems, and that's on their heads.

  • ||

    "But, nonetheless, every single project that they are willing to commit any resources to seems to require the growth of state power to accomplish."

    Yet government has grown most in recent history under Republican presidents and Congresses. They have no credibility on size-of-government issues anymore, and their reputation for being the party of small government outlasted reality for far too long.

  • ||

    At the end of the day, socialism is incompatible with individual liberty. Socialism is all about the assertion and imposition of state power. Ultimately, the socialist, when pushe comes to shove, and it always does, will choose coercion. If he does not, then he is not a socialist.

    This will obviously go nowhere fast, but I'll try.

    Socialism is reality. All advanced countries on the planet are to some extent socialist. America is if anything behind the curve. And given recent Republican disasters, the large majority in this country is asking for more government assertion of power over industry. The people want government healthcare and to more strongly regulate the financial sector.

    They want these for obvious reasons. Not going bankrupt paying for surgery and not having your retirement fund disappear through no fault of their own motivate more people than an abstract ideal of liberty. I believe in liberty. Liberals are the most ardent defenders of basic rights there are. I just don't agree that having an unregulated market and an ineffectual government do anything to promote liberty.

    The government is always going to have power over people, by definition. Democracy is supposed to be about spreading the rewards and risks of that power to the people. It is the one entity meant to stand in the way of other natural forces (such as, I'd argue, the market) when they abuse people unacceptably. How does letting, say, profit-centric corporations fill a vacuum of power do anything to promote liberty?

  • ||

    But if you actually knew what American liberals believe on the most part, you'd know it has nothing to do with state power for its own sake.

    No, but the problem is that liberals (really left-liberals) always use the government to accomplish their social ends. Which inevitably requires an expansion of state power.

    I don't think liberals (er left-liberals) really have some upper limit on what the government should do either. There is no end to the number of "next things" that are intended to "make the world a better place" that could be invented.

    As each "problem" is resolved, new problems (many of them unintended consequences) appear, and you end up in an endless cycle of expanding state power to deal with it.

    The problem is the left's constant conflation of government with society and hence an inability to take seriously the idea that government could ever do too much. As far as they are concerned, anything that a majority votes for is acceptable, barring a few tweaks such as freedom of speech. The government is the will of the people, and "the people" always have a moral obligation to make improvements to society.

    Never heard anyone say that once we reach a certain point we can stop "making the world a better place". It's a constant missionary activism. The Lord's Work is never done.

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    We've been very sucessful at that on everything *except* economics. You can theorize a lot about why that is.



    Public choice problem, I image.

    Most folks will put aside whatever libertarian impulses they might have if the choice is between them and Aunt Tilly's disability check. Or cousin Jose's minimum wage bump. Or granny's medicare drug benefit. Or, or, or...

    Even for a federally funded new lane on that busy stretch of their commute.

    Moral hazard if one of the big roots of governmental evil.

  • ||

    Democracy is supposed to be about spreading the rewards and risks of that power to the people.

    That's another problem. What do you mean by "The people"? I think the left is largely infected with a collectivist idea of "the people" as a monolithic proletarian class, with a kind of independent will of it's own manifested in the powers of government.

    I hate this idea. I've never been one with "the people" in my life, and I don't want it assumed that "the people's" will represents my own. I reject "the people".

    "The people" are the kind of trend following morons who repeat the drivel fed to them in social studies classes. Idiots engaged in perpetual group think that believe that their majority status entitles them to shut their brains off. "The people" are insular cliques inclined to ostracize anyone that thinks differently, that questions one of the rules or that challanges a social norm. This is an exact description of liberal social circles.

  • ||

    Tony, you tit turd, you're playing word games.
    Any sensible definition of a "socialist" society would require a mammoth government.
    If you're too fucking stupid to realize that, then why don't you and Noam Chomsky go give each other a reach around.
    Libertarianism is the antithesis of socialism. You fucking ape cunt.

  • Sadistic Voyeur||

    A self-proclaimed socialist trying to convince libertarians that they would be better served to side with the left is amusing to me.

  • MJ||

    "But liberals are on the right side of social liberty compared to conservatives."

    I call BS on this. Leftists are very interested in controlling how people conduct their social lives. They differ in what they focus on and what arguments they use to justify their intrusions. For instance in choices related to health. Wanting "society"" to pay for health care gives "society" an excuse for controlling large portions of our private lives as every decision a person makes has an impact on his health.

  • ||

    "Yet government has grown most in recent history under Republican presidents and Congresses. They have no credibility on size-of-government issues anymore...."

    If you paid attention, you'd realize they never had any real credibility on it. Reagan, the so-called small government advocate was in for two terms. Government size increased.

    You've had what you want -- an imposing busy-body state, with no compunction whatsoever to disregard you and your family, depending on the crisis du jour, be it terrorists, evil executives, foreign crop growers that offer sugar at reduced costs...

    Hazel hits it out of the park. The racial injustices are invited by both of your major parties. And always have. How you blithely ignore the cynical vote-mongering by the "compassionate" left, via their social nonsense giveaways, creating generations of inner-city government-dependent lost souls. Not a far cry from the waste that was inflicted upon the native Americans.

    But not to worry. Your stick-it-to-the-"capitalist" legislation will fix it all. Only problem is, it's written by.... no, not your kindly lefty Congressman. It's written by the corporate lawyers.

    But we'll fix that. We just need more laws, and the right persons in office. One day, someday soon (though we've not seen it since the dawn of time, but it surely must be coming), we will have the right leaders that can ensure we will all be protected and wealthy. Just a few more laws, that's all.

    We're beind the curve all right, re the socialist democracies on the planet. Go research the limits on free speech in EU. Rising every day. And all in the name of safety.

    You must have loved Reagan, and Bush, and Clinton, and Bush II, and certainly Obama. They continued, and continue, to feed the monster. Just as you want.

  • cuernimus||

    Socialism is reality. All advanced countries on the planet are to some extent socialist. America is if anything behind the curve.

    America also has a higher GDP than the totality of Europe while possessing less than half their total population. China is moving away from a command economy towards a freer market and is moving millions from poverty into a comfortable middle class existence. Saying that being ahead of "the curve" would help more people is probably incorrect, saying that it can help certain at risk persons would be more precise.

    How does letting, say, profit-centric corporations fill a vacuum of power do anything to promote liberty?

    Because the the vacuum of power would be filled mostly by individuals not corporations, because barring regulations, corporations have no legal authority over you. Also, it is much easier to successfully sue a corporation for a rights violation than it is to sue the people writing the laws.

    Liberals are the most ardent defenders of basic rights there are.


    From a libertarian perspective, liberals only differ from social conservatives in that the conservatives base their desire to impose their beliefs on you from a 2000+ year old book, whereas scientists have yet to discover the "I know better than you" gene that motivates most liberals.

  • ||

    Overheard a friend (and Obama supporter) state that he was in favor of ending the WoD, so that "we can tax pot". That's not libertarianism, that's just another tax happy liberal.

  • MJ||

    "As far as they are concerned, anything that a majority votes for is acceptable, barring a few tweaks such as freedom of speech."

    When push comes to shove, not even that (see the liberals's recent enthusiam for "campaign finance reform" and the "Fairness Doctrine")

  • MJ||

    "How does letting, say, profit-centric corporations fill a vacuum of power do anything to promote liberty?"

    A corporation has no more power over you than you are willing to give it, or a government is.

    Government has real power over you, and I don't find the idea of letting its small minded bureaucrats and corrupt politician exercise more than is minimally necessary to be an attractive thought.

  • ||

    Tony, glad you want to open a nice and honest debate. Here are my points:

    I like the idea. I've always thought libertarians were not doing themselves any favors by being perceived as more aligned with the ultra-right.

    Neither do I, but there is one thing to point out: ultra-right wing fascists are now sounding more libertarian, not the other way around, because the Democrats are in power.

    The right opposes social safety nets because they have--until now--been able to get elected by appealing to racial resentment, with the added bonus that getting their constituents to reject social safety nets on racist grounds also means less of a tax burden on their real constituents, their wealthy campaign donors.

    This statement is misleading, and also, I believe you're committing a fallacy called "Poisoning the Well". Just because some people may have opposed social programs out of purely racial reasons, it does not follow that opposing such programs must mean the opposition is doing it with racist intentions, or even to help white campaign donors. It can be perfectly argued that social programs, as managed by the State, are both immoral and unconstitutional.

    It's a tactic no libertarian should want any part of.

    You must be careful when arguing so as not to indulge in innuendo - this recommendation you forward gives a somewhat nuanced insinuation that opposing social programs is akin to being a racist.

    Liberals and libertarians probably will never agree on the need for social programs, or at least about how much of them we need. But liberals are on the right side of social liberty compared to conservatives. That isn't nothing.

    Again, this gives an impression that being in favor of social programs makes one be on the "right [i.e. correct] side" of social liberty. It can be argued that social programs, managed by the State, actually limit social liberty and even threatens it. A case can be made that social programs as managed by the State are an affront to liberty and not its helper.

    Perhaps by joining the already big tent of the Democrats libertarians can have a more useful role than they've had in the past: providing intellectual excuses for regressive policies.

    Tony, again, you give the impression that Libertarians have not been on the correct side of the aisle and that their arguments actually have been used as justification for awful policies, but this again is innuendo and question-begging: Just because Libertarians have pointed out the problems with certain social policies, and just because some conservatives happen to agree with the libertarians, does not mean that Libertarians support "regressive" policies. What is so "regressive" about the idea of letting people decide how, when and by how much they are to be charitable?

    If there are truly sound libertarian arguments about how the economy should work, they should be able to convince some liberals.

    Actually, there are Economic arguments about how the economy WORKS, not how it SHOULD work. Economics is not a normative science. And there are truly libertarian arguments in favor of free markets, which is what I believe you meant.


    But it needs to be an intellectually honest debate and not one tarnished by ulterior motives.

    Again, Tony, you beg the question: You assume there are "ulterior" motives behind opposition to certain policies. Even if some people had "ulterior" motives, the real question is if their arguments are SOUND, not if their motives are pure.

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    Libertarianism is the antithesis of socialism.



    Hmmm...

    If you're the kind of libertarian that accepts the propriety of a government for basic policing functions, would you accept (assuming the evidence favored for utility was there) that the peacekeeping dollar could be properly spent of ``socialist'' support?

    If it is to be strictly avoided, it that because it is a step down the road to tyranny, or capitulation to the threat of force?

  • Derrick||

    the cynical vote-mongering by the "compassionate" left

    the left has played the "compassionate" card a little bit too long, and we've allowed them to do it. i say we start adopting their rhetoric just to make their heads explode. we should start saying stuff like "if you don't support libertarian policies then you must hate the children."

  • Civil Libertarian||

    I think Liberals tend to see 'civil rights' as group rights not individual rights. And that is a huge distinction. Hence the use of civil rights vs civil liberties.

  • ||

    Tony, glad you made those points. It is always good to discuss things since that is how one learns. To answer your points:

    Socialism is reality. All advanced countries on the planet are to some extent socialist. America is if anything behind the curve.

    This is true. However, the real question is if Socialism is compatible with liberty? For I take you would prefer to live free than to live as a slave, even if a slave of a benevolent State, would you not?


    And given recent Republican disasters, the large majority in this country is asking for more government assertion of power over industry. The people want government health care and to more strongly regulate the financial sector.

    Actually, I do not believe you can know that just by looking at the recent election. Also, you cannot argue that Socialism (as described above) has moral ground or validity just because people want it (a Ad Populum fallacy). In California, people voted in favor of limiting marriage to one between a man and a woman, and one could argue that such a definition is valid since people voted for it.

    They want these for obvious reasons. Not going bankrupt paying for surgery and not having your retirement fund disappear through no fault of their own motivate more people than an abstract ideal of liberty.

    But is it valid, Tony? Would you argue that because people want something, it must be valid? I can say the same about many things that you may find despicable, and yet I can use the same arguments you are wielding.

    Again, analyze the SOUNDNESS of what is being proposed. Universal health care means that the Government manages health services, with all that such entails. This means that your doctor would become another bureaucrat and that you will be cared as you are cared by any bureaucrat you have ever had the displeasure of meeting. As for financial institutions, the fact is that these were already regulated and even so they imploded, but the culprit is elsewhere.

    I believe in liberty. Liberals are the most ardent defenders of basic rights there are.

    I cannot subscribe to that statement when it is liberals the very first to want to limit people's economic freedom. One person cannot be free in only a few categories and still call him or herself truly free.

    I just don't agree that having an unregulated market and an ineffectual government do anything to promote liberty.

    I don't understand why not. You will need to elaborate.


    The government is always going to have power over people, by definition. Democracy is supposed to be about spreading the rewards and risks of that power to the people. It is the one entity meant to stand in the way of other natural forces (such as, I'd argue, the market) when they abuse people unacceptably.

    Tony, you must not truly believe this. In the first place, the idea that people have power over their government does not coincide with reality and history. People can be manipulated by politicians to vote any way politicians need, and when people try to protest, then politicians simply ignore them. How would such be a shield against the forces of an unfettered market is beyond me.

    From your comments, it is clear to me you have an incorrect definition of markets - the Market is just the common name given to the network of decisions made by everybody, every day - purchases, sales, transactions, trades, relationships, et cetera. Why would people need to SHIELD themselves from that which they create spontaneously is not something I understand. You will need to elaborate.


    How does letting, say, profit-centric corporations fill a vacuum of power do anything to promote liberty?

    They wouldn't - corporations have no more power than what they can obtain from the State through lobbying. Take away their concessions, and corporations would have to submit themselves to the caprice of the free market (i.e. the people).

    I believe you think corporations are inherently not good because of the power they currently have, but in fact this power comes from regulations and concessions imposed or awarded by the state on their behalf, which limit the entry to competitors and lowers the power of the consumer. Take the State away, and that power disappears.

  • LObo||

    This is what you get for settling for Crony Capitalism or should i say Corporatism. What a bunch of maroons. Enjoy your years of crying.

  • Andy||

    Since we're trying to be accurate here, libertarianism is the antithesis of totalitarianism, not socialism. Economically speaking, libertarianism is the antithesis of socialism, but obviously there are "socialist" (read: mixed) societies that are socially pretty free. Yes, I know, big state, ever growing power, on and on.

    The bottom line is that libertarians need to make allies where they can. On a decent amount of social issues, we agree with liberals. And don't forget foreign policy. And conservatives on economics. I know again, neither party is very principled or ballsy in defending their freedom-leaning positions, but maybe we can help them change that. People can be stubborn, but the parties aren't solidified. They've shifted before, and they can again. We should try to be a part of it, andmaybe get some influence for a change. That means some people working from the right, some from the left. I'll do it from the left myself, but i respect people who come from the right, maybe we'll meet eventually.

  • ||

    Economics is not a normative science.

    Great insight. Economics has it's own force. Much of it by sheer mathematical necessity. You can't create wealth out of a vacuum. A business cannot survive if it can't turn a profit. People won't do things if there is no financial incentive.

    The left largely seems to refuse to recognize simple truths like this. They seem to view economics as some sort of artificial social construct that can be molded at will.

    They consistently make errors such as assuming that stock market paper losses are real losses in wealth. "OMG! A trillion dollars just vanished!" Etc. Hence you get this thinking that the government can just create prosperity by some kind of magic. If a trillion dollars can vanish, then it can pop back out of a black hole. Prices can be fixed by fiat. Raising wages will create wealth. Spending money will magically create more money.

    As far as they are concerned it's all a big collective hallucination, so why not?

  • Joshua Holmes||

    Libertarianism is orthogonal to socialism, not opposed to it. It's entirely possible to have a society of labor unions, co-operatives, worker-owned businesses, syndicates, communes, etc. that are freely entered and left. That's both libertarian and non-capitalist.

    Tony is, of course, not proposing that. He's proposing social democracy. Ironically, social democracy has somewhat egalitarian results by income but deeply inegalitarian class structures. Those classes are locked.

  • BDB||

    "Ironically, social democracy has somewhat egalitarian results by income but deeply inegalitarian class structures. Those classes are locked."

    That's right, and not something a lot of people realize. Try being a young worker in France.

  • ||

    The parties have shifted before? The only shift the major parties make is the shift toward growth and spending.
    Socialist societies are not free.
    Economic and personal freedom are one and the same -- they are the freedom to be left alone.
    The socialist bureaucrat leaves nobody alone. And if you insist, he's got some firepower behind him, to boot.

  • ||

    Unfortunately the public's perception is based on a selective subset of what he said, not what he did.

    Yeah, the same thing happened with Regan, and Newt Gingrich. They know that people want to be free, so they'll give it lip service, but when you get right down to it they're just out for power.

    -jcr

  • ||

    Liberals and libertarians probably will never agree on the need for social programs, or at least about how much of them we need.

    The question isn't whether they're needed, the question is whether the need for them is so great that theft to support them is justified. I'm all for whatever social programs people may freely choose to support. It's when they try to rob me to fund them that I object.

    -jcr

  • ||

    Yeah, the same thing happened with Regan, and Newt Gingrich. They know that people want to be free, so they'll give it lip service, but when you get right down to it they're just out for power.

    Actually, I disagree. I think both Gingrich and Reagan genuinely believe (or believed) in limited government. But they both had to deal with a left-leaning intellectual orthodoxy and an opposing party controlling congress or the white house. Hence they were forced to compromise on some issues, while buying votes and placating opposition with social programs.

    My personal belief is that we're still in the socialist/Marxist wave, which has been going on for over a century now. Reagan was onyl able to fight a holding pattern, which is precisely what was meant by "Standing Athwart 'History' yelling Stop."

    The 'History' that is referred to there is the History of Hegel and Marx: historical materialism, and the doctrine that History (writ large) is progressing inevitably towards a socialist future.

    There was some hope that the collapse of the Communist empire would bring about the downfall of socialist ideology, but it was clear by 1999 that that wasn't going to happen.

    Apparantly, bad ideas die hard.

  • alan||

    Socialism is reality.

    Yes, but so was monarchy at one time. It is the hope of some of our more Utopian Libertarians that the state will go away in the same manner as chattel slavery which for most of human history the most influential opinion makers thought was an inevitable part of the human economy.

    And, yes, socialism is a reality, the tragic and dark side of democratic government really, but it is so fundamentally flawed that socialist organization can only be sustained by a perpetual escalation of monies going into the system. TANSTAAFL.

  • ||

    Some who do care about (or at least have some sympathy for) libertarianism, from National Review's Jonah Goldberg

    Saying Goldberg has sympathy for libertarians is like saying Joseph Goebbels had sympathy for the French.

  • ||

    I think this needs to be repeated:

    ape cunt

  • nonPaulogist||

    Limited government is not possible because the state always uses it's rule-making power to change the rules that limit it's power.

  • ||

    I can't believe anyone wastes effort on arguing for the principles of a politicians, be it Reagan, Clinton, Gingrich, or Obama. Come on -- the very nature of people who strive for government office proves the need to strictly limit their scope of power. I would challenge anyone to prove that a politician has held fast to a limited government philosophy while in office. Don't say Ron Paul if you're for open borders . . .

    Tony, you're an ape cunt, and a stupid one at that. Good luck saving the world -- we're all grateful for your salvation.

  • Chad||

    Libertarians NEED big government. Why?

    Because if government were small, your theories could be put to the test, and they would likely fail. But when government is sufficiently large, as it is now, it touches everything. Therefore, no matter how badly the free market completely @#$@#ks stuff up, you can always find some connection to government, and shunt the blame through that connection.

    No one believes you, of course, but it is enough for you to maintain your delusions.

    One thing I want to particularly respond to.

    Also, you cannot argue that Socialism (as described above) has moral ground or validity just because people want it (a Ad Populum fallacy).

    Libertarianism and free markets have one moral failing that they will never escape: Current generations will not place enough, or indeed much of any, value on future generations. History shows this repeatedly - resource depletion followed by collapse. The few exceptions (for example, Japan is heavily forested despite its high population density) are due directly due to strong government policy.

    This, of course, is morally unaccepteble and is alone enough to refute libertarian ideology.

    Libertarianism simply does not work. Get over it and move on.

  • A T||

    Yes. Country full of trees, and huge national debt. That's the solution for future generations of americans.

  • Naga Sadow||

    What the fuck Chad! Did you really just say resource depletion followed by collapse? Jarred Diamond fan are we?

  • ||

    Chad: "Because if government were small, your theories could be put to the test, and they would likely fail."

    There's nothing to fail. What would exist would be people who are free to help, support, create, sit on their asses, do nothing, do everything, be left alone, create communes, avoid communes, start a business, succeed in business, fail in business and try again, give to the poor, avoid those who do not give to the poor, marry who they want, say what they want....
    We ask for only one protection -- respect my space and my person. Your alternative is to give others control of yourself and your family.

    Chad: "But when government is sufficiently large, as it is now, it touches everything. Therefore, no matter how badly the free market completely @#$@#ks stuff up....",

    Do you have any idea the contradiction and logical fallacy in your statement?

    Chad: "Libertarianism and free markets have one moral failing that they will never escape: Current generations will not place enough, or indeed much of any, value on future generations....."

    Suit yourself if you don't give a damn about your children. I care plenty for mine, and I suspect most people on this thread care about theirs, as well.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "Chad: "Libertarianism and free markets have one moral failing that they will never escape: Current generations will not place enough, or indeed much of any, value on future generations....."

    What a hoot!

    It isn't libertarianism (or conservatism) that has created massive entitlement programs with unfunded liabilites that saddles future generations with the enormous burden of paying for handouts to people today.

    The only "value" socialism places on future generations is the value of a tax slave to be perpetually yoked to the plow.

  • ||

    "The only 'value' socialism places on future generations is the value of a tax slave to be perpetually yoked to the plow."

    Very elegantly stated. And deserves to be restated.

  • Tyler||

    "History shows this repeatedly - resource depletion followed by collapse."

    Let's not forget that libertarians believe in strong individual property rights. Most of the "resource depletion followed by collapse" in history is due to either:

    a) The government, who forced people off their property then trashed it.

    b) Irresponsible individuals who then suffered the consequences of their foolish decisions (as it should be).

    c) Was clearly a violation of property rights, such as polluting someone's stream without permission.

    You should look into the work of Ronald Coase. It's impressive what free individuals can accomplish with well-defined and protected property rights!

  • Mike M.||

    Limited government is not possible because the state always uses it's rule-making power to change the rules that limit it's power.

    Mao Tse-tung was absolutely correct about one thing: political power grows out of the barrel of a gun. And eventually, that it will once again be limited as well.

  • ||

    History shows this repeatedly - resource depletion followed by collapse.

    Its like nobody's ever heard of Julian Simon winning his wager with the paleo-greens of his time.

    What these Disaster Socialist types resolutely refuse to realize is that capitalism and free markets are fundamentally productive, and that production extends even to (a) more efficient uses of depletable resources (b) discovery of additional sources of depletable resources, and (c) discovery of substitutes for depletable resources.

    What you cannot find is a capitalistic market economy that has ever collapsed, or even contracted, because of resource depletion.

  • ||

    This is true. However, the real question is if Socialism is compatible with liberty? For I take you would prefer to live free than to live as a slave, even if a slave of a benevolent State, would you not?

    See I don't believe that I am a slave to a state that is a functioning democracy. The purpose of a state properly organized is to free me from being a slave to the whims of nature, including human nature. All of the liberties you care about are enhanced by a properly functioning democratic state. The question of whether our state is properly functioning is another matter.

    Actually, I do not believe you can know that just by looking at the recent election. Also, you cannot argue that Socialism (as described above) has moral ground or validity just because people want it (a Ad Populum fallacy). In California, people voted in favor of limiting marriage to one between a man and a woman, and one could argue that such a definition is valid since people voted for it.

    A lot of responses here are perilously close to being anti-democratic. It's not an ad populum fallacy to assert that what most people want in a democracy should be; it's democracy.

    Exempting certain practical constrains on democracy in the name of individual liberty, what alternative is there? Imposition of libertarian ideas on an unwilling populace because you think it's a good idea? That's just tyranny.


    But is it valid, Tony? Would you argue that because people want something, it must be valid? I can say the same about many things that you may find despicable, and yet I can use the same arguments you are wielding.

    Majority will is the most basic arbiter of policy in a democracy. It's not the whole story, but it's the starting point. To me, it's preferable to the anarchy many posters here seem to prefer.

    Again, analyze the SOUNDNESS of what is being proposed. Universal health care means that the Government manages health services, with all that such entails. This means that your doctor would become another bureaucrat and that you will be cared as you are cared by any bureaucrat you have ever had the displeasure of meeting. As for financial institutions, the fact is that these were already regulated and even so they imploded, but the culprit is elsewhere.

    We should not make arguments based on stereotypes. I'm a pragmatist. I believe in facts. The fact is that countries with socialized medicine have more efficient, less costly, and more universal healthcare than our own. My sense of morality says that cheaper, better, more universal healthcare is more of a moral necessity than allowing people to have the freedom to pay more for worse care.

    I cannot subscribe to that statement when it is liberals the very first to want to limit people's economic freedom. One person cannot be free in only a few categories and still call him or herself truly free.

    As in all things, one person's liberty can mean another person's lack of liberty. Society requires us to constrain certain freedoms (crossing intersections any time you want) in order to promote greater freedom (ability to drive without wrecking at every crossing). I don't exempt the whims of the market from this. It's a force of nature just like any other, and it's the government's job to promote maximum liberty by finding ways to constrain some of these forces.

    I don't understand why not. You will need to elaborate.

    Liberty to me is not an abstract state of being. It's about what you're practically able to do with your life. Without a functioning government looking out for everyone's interests, other powers will fill the void, powers that aren't accountable to democratic will. I believe that good regulations and restrictions on certain "freedoms" actually promote more liberty overall. Anarchy may mean freedom from government, but government isn't the only entity capable of enslaving people, and anarchy results in minimum liberty for the maximum amount of people.

    Tony, you must not truly believe this. In the first place, the idea that people have power over their government does not coincide with reality and history. People can be manipulated by politicians to vote any way politicians need, and when people try to protest, then politicians simply ignore them. How would such be a shield against the forces of an unfettered market is beyond me.

    That's a rather cynical view, and might very well be true. I'm not saying our government is perfect by any means. I don't worship the government. I see it as a means to maximum liberty.

    From your comments, it is clear to me you have an incorrect definition of markets - the Market is just the common name given to the network of decisions made by everybody, every day - purchases, sales, transactions, trades, relationships, et cetera. Why would people need to SHIELD themselves from that which they create spontaneously is not something I understand. You will need to elaborate.

    Again, I agree that the market is a spontaneous (i.e. natural) force. But we shore up against hurricanes and constrain the wilderness by paving it, in the name of freedom: freedom from greater risk. An unregulated market has boom and bust cycles, generating a lot of misery in the process. If that can be tamed, why not tame it? Every country in the world does to some extent. It's just a matter of how to do it. Reasonable people can disagree.

    They wouldn't - corporations have no more power than what they can obtain from the State through lobbying. Take away their concessions, and corporations would have to submit themselves to the caprice of the free market (i.e. the people).

    I believe you think corporations are inherently not good because of the power they currently have, but in fact this power comes from regulations and concessions imposed or awarded by the state on their behalf, which limit the entry to competitors and lowers the power of the consumer. Take the State away, and that power disappears.


    I believe that corporations will do whatever they are allowed to do to maximize profit; that's there job and I don't blame them for it or think them evil. And I certainly find the money-for-favors system we have now abhorrent. In the absence of state intervention, factories will pollute, bad meat will be sold, etc.

    My main point is that government isn't the only power that can affect individual liberty, and properly formed one of its basic roles is to promote actual liberty.

  • ||

    "The fact is that countries with socialized medicine have more efficient, less costly, and more universal healthcare than our own. My sense of morality says that cheaper, better, more universal healthcare is more of a moral necessity than allowing people to have the freedom to pay more for worse care."

    This is probably one of the most misleading statements / arguments for universal health care. Yes, for your yearly checkup, maybe perscription drugs will be cheaper and easier to get. But what happens in socialist-leaning countries when you get really sick. When you get cancer. When you have a genetic organ failure. Europeans and Canadians are still coming to the US for those types of treatments because they know here all they have to do is be able to pay the bill and get treated right away, instead of waiting in line and dying before you can get treated because 'we need to see everybody'.

  • ||

    Eric,

    There is absolutely no defense of the American system when compared to more advanced systems.

    You can in fact get the best medicine in the world in the US, but only if you can afford to pay for it. That's the problem.

    Socialized medicine often requires treatment rationing. This means you may have to wait longer for elective procedures, but nobody is dying waiting to be treated for cancer.

    Countries with socialized medicine outperform the US in practically every metric, such as lifespan and quality of life.

    So say it's an abridgment of freedom, whatever. It's not better by any other standard.

  • ||

    "Democracy is supposed to be about spreading the rewards and risks of that power to the people"

    By spreading around you mean stealing right? If I break into a neighbors house, take his stuff, and give it to the rest of the neighbors, is that democracy in action or theft?

    Also Tony, you seem to believe in that UN bullshit of freedom being things like freedom from hunger, or freedom from disease. However, those freedoms are just chains for your fellow man, making him a slave to your "needs".

    Freedom is being able to do what you want (as long as it doesn't harm others). Freedom is not the requirement that others have to care for you.

    Your arguments are actually broken down very well in a book called Faith of the Fallen by Terry Goodkind. It's demostrates how false your arguments are in your desire to ensalve your fellow man.

  • ||

    No, democracy is not like stealing. Democracy means the people get to have a say in their government. It's not perfect, and not everyone gets his needs and wants met. But the point is that it has legitimacy because it exists by the consent of the governed. This presumes that people exist in an interconnected society and aren't totally autonomous. To me this is manifest fact. I realize Ayn Rand and Goodkind might disagree.

    Now you must either believe in legitimate government or not. If you're an anarchist, fine, just say so. If you believe in such a thing as legitimate government, then can't reasonable people disagree about the scope of its power? Why is providing armed forces protection not theft, but socialized medicine is?

    Freedom is being able to do what you want (as long as it doesn't harm others). Freedom is not the requirement that others have to care for you.

    I agree, but there is always a tradeoff when it comes to freedom. Your freedom to do one thing might impede someone else's freedom to do another. We can be enslaved by other forces besides governments or other people; we are slaves to our genes, to our birth circumstances, to our age. Sometimes that type of enslavement is far worse than being asked (by consensus of your fellow citizens in a democracy) to pay a tax.

  • ||

    Oh sure, I would agree with you that government should exist, it can provide useful services, I would even agree that in certain circumstances, the government needs to intervene in matters because private indviduals, or the market can't/won't sort things out (externalities like pollution is one of the best examples, IMO.).

    But, I think that while acknowledging that sometimes government needs to interfere, it's main goal should be to be as small as possible, and to interfere as little as possible. Let people live their own lives.

    As for the difference between the military and socialized medicine, the military (protection from invasion) is a public good, healthcare is a private good. Requring me to pay for your healthcare is much different than requiring me to pay my share for national defense.

    Of course the worst thing is we really already have a socialized medical system, it's just implemented in the most inefficient and expensive manner possible. IE, emergency room care, and at 65.

  • ||

    Oh, and I'm not against paying all taxes, I'm against redistrubtion of wealth.

  • Kreel Sarloo||

    Socialized medicine often requires treatment rationing. This means you may have to wait longer for elective procedures, but nobody is dying waiting to be treated for cancer



    There are all kinds of stories about people dying of cancer waiting to be treated in Britains NHS and Canada's system.

  • ||

    It's exactly when the so-called serious thinkers have decided that we're all socialists now

    Seems to me that was the "serious thinkers" around Reason, just a few months ago.

  • Will||

    I understand the arguments for socialized medicine, and could even accept that it works half-efficiently in Sweden and France, but to think it could be done that effectively in America is absolute madness. Our government was not set up to perform such a service; our cultural mindset is not set up to accept such a service. The government of the United States does few things well, but regulate and control anything it does not.

    This is not simply a conceptual argument. If anyone wants to know what socialized health care looks like in America, look at the Walter Reed scandal. That is how we treat free healthcare for the most vaunted citizens in our society, that serve the most heavily funded public sector.

    I understand extremely well how much medical costs escalate to in this country- my mother had cancer for 13 years; and I am right now paying for a series of scans, MRIs etc. my 2 year old had to go under(save as I may, I am too poor to have health insurance). Still, I would rather go bankrupt paying for the high quality care I recieved rather than wait in line for it and be subject to a vast bureaucracy.

  • ||

    Of course (to play devil's advocate) there can be a differce between socialized medicine, and single payer healthcare.

    IE, you would still have private doctors etc, just all the billing would go to the government.

    Of course the government will still resort to rationing healthcare to control costs,

    but then again something will be done eventually, we can't allow healthcare costs to continue to grow at 6-8% a year, while GDP only grows at 3%. It's just not sustainable.

  • ||

    Still, I would rather go bankrupt paying for the high quality care I recieved rather than wait in line for it and be subject to a vast bureaucracy.

    Really? Dealing with inevitable losses of efficiency because of universality (not that it would necessarily be any less efficient than it is now for most people), yet not having to worry about cost, is worse than going bankrupt?

    I dunno. To me health care is fundamental a necessity as any other government provided service. I'd rather have a health care system that provides health care as its primary purpose rather than making a profit.

  • Will||

    Allow me to rephrase. You're going to pay a lot either way, one way through choice and the other way through coercion.

    I would rather go bankrupt because of having to pay for some vital surgery, than compromise the quality of my health care.

  • Chad||

    FD | February 17, 2009, 9:20am | #

    Do you have any idea the contradiction and logical fallacy in your statement?

    No, I don't. Please explain why the government having even the smallest, tiniest, whee bit of a connection to something implies that the government then is responsible for anything that goes wrong. I would love to hear your argument.

    For example, Fannie and Freddie and the Community Reinvestment Act were only related to a few percent of the sub-prime loans that sank Wall Street. yet you guys cling to blaming them instead of those responsible for the other 95+%. Talk about ideological blinders...

  • Chad||

    FD | February 17, 2009, 9:20am | #

    Suit yourself if you don't give a damn about your children. I care plenty for mine, and I suspect most people on this thread care about theirs, as well.


    Your kids? Sure. Grandkids? Yes, them too. Other peoples' kids...not so much...as yet unborn grandkids...probably not even a thought...

    But what have you done for your great-grandkids lately, other than ensure that there won't be a drop of oil anywhere worth drilling and that half the species that were on the planet when you were born won't be when they are, and completely roll the dice with respect to their climate?

  • Colonel_Angus||

    Health is so expensive precisely because the government has it tweaked so much- dictating insurance plans, keeping the number of doctors artificially low, government regulations that lead monopolies of suppliers for specific drugs, and things of that business. Fuck that shit. You already have your bureaucratic health system and it sucks nuts.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    What are the odds, Chav the camel twat bumps up before me.

  • ||

    Allow me to rephrase. You're going to pay a lot either way, one way through choice and the other way through coercion.

    Is paying for necessary medical treatment really a free choice?

    I would rather go bankrupt because of having to pay for some vital surgery, than compromise the quality of my health care.

    Socialized health care doesn't have to be of poorer quality, as is evidenced by the fact that almost every country that has it is better than the U.S. on nearly every health metric.

  • ||

    (1): Free markets depend on the discipline and ability of agents to act rationally. They depend not just on the availability of data, but the step-wise rendering of them as meaningful information. It has to be used and understood.
    (2): Given this, the question becomes whether agents should be allowed to derogate their own liberty at the expense of all. Allowed by whom?
    (3): The Americans had an election. So did the Germans, British and Canadians. All of these mature capitalist economies with access to a plethora of political choice (largely via the Net) went with the liberal-left. They looked at libertarianism, and looked away.
    Finally: If libertarianism wishes to retain its self-selected radicalism, are peaceful means any longer relevent? Anarchists are more honest, if also more trivial, in this matter. Isn't it time to accept that elections are useless at this stage of developement in terms of meaningful transformation? Direct action, or a more peaceful turn to the courts, seems to be in order.
    Gentlemen, what are your intentions?

  • ||

    bagehot,

    You've sort of made a point I was trying to make but didn't quite get across.

    If we have the natural right to be free to choose the way we live our life, we must also have the choice to willingly relinquish some personal liberties for a social payoff that, in turn, benefits us in ways less trivial than the liberty we gave up. In a legitimate democracy relinquishing some petty freedoms in the name of greater social good is a legitimate act of a free citizen.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    A legitimate democracy can also vote itself out of existence when the majority willingly relinuish it to a dictator. That's why I favor a democratically elected republic style government that is severely restricted by the intangible power of a constitution (more than our current constitution) as well as the much more measurable power of firearms. I would gladly take anarchy over pure democracy, rather than give my liberties up for everyone else's idea of social payoffs.

  • ||

    In this regard, Chad:
    "But when government is sufficiently large, as it is now, it touches everything. Therefore, no matter how badly the free market completely @#$@#ks stuff up....",

    How is there a free market [to f--k everything up], if you've submitted that the government is large and touches everything?

    You need to study the underpinnings of Austrian economics and libertarian philosophy. And I say this with no disrepect nor haughtiness. But this paradigm is not some strawman Ferengi from Star Trek. (Sorry, popped into my head since I was clicking the other night and stopped at Sci Fi for a moment.)

    Protection of property begins with protection of you, Chad. Nobody has a right to trespass on you or your property.
    If you try to make a case that we (or the planet) are doomed because only I and a few others care about our children and grandchildren, then you should give up there. There is no hope for the human race, none whatsoever, if most human beings don't give a crap for their own.
    And if that were the case, no government could save you.

  • ||

    How can Obama think he can violate the constitutional protection for the right of contract? There is no other way to explain his decision to try to mandate reductions in loans for housing mortgages.

  • DannyK||

    Here's my problem with libertarianism:

    In the real world, it sometimes results in this:
    1) Deregulation frees up market forces!
    2) A burst of innovation and growth!
    3) Wise guys figure out how to game the system!
    4) The whole thing collapses in fraud and disaster!
    5) The government cleans up the mess with, yes, your tax dollars.

    I'd be a lot more interested in libertarian policy if it talked EXPLICITLY about how to stay with #1 and #2 and head off #3-5.

    What I mostly see is people talking about "nobody could have seen this coming" and "maybe things would have been even worse the other way."

    Also, can we lay off the virulent anti-statism? We've seen under George Bush that the very same people can talk smack about the state in general while ferociously expanding their own state powers. This is another thing which doesn't impress any more.

  • Will||

    can we lay off the virulent anti-statism? We've seen under George Bush that the very same people can talk smack about the state in general while ferociously expanding their own state powers. This is another thing which doesn't impress any more.

    Good logic for "I'm not a Christian because so many priests are hypocrites." Because W.'s rhetoric was a fraud doesn't make my anti-statism flawed.

    There's a difference between anti-government and anti-statism. It has its place. Your 1-5 isn't far off, though.

  • ||

    But I believe there are significant gaps in your list, which ignore critical milestones:

    1) Deregulation frees up market forces!
    2) A burst of innovation and growth!
    3) Wise guys figure out how to game the system!

    3a) In order to game the system, wise guys lobby congress, in the name of "progressivism."
    3b) Legislatures abandon free market principles and go along with the rules that the wise guys wrote for them.

    4) The whole thing collapses in fraud and disaster!
    5) The government cleans up the mess with, yes, your tax dollars.

    5a) The mess is called free market, and 3a and 3b are never discussed by the media or the bureaucrats.

  • ||

    "We can be enslaved by other forces besides governments or other people; we are slaves to our genes, to our birth circumstances, to our age. Sometimes that type of enslavement is far worse than being asked (by consensus of your fellow citizens in a democracy) to pay a tax."

    *Asked* to pay a tax?

    Does this guy's naivete know no bounds, or what?

    JR

  • ||

    Jeff,

    You live in a democracy. Theoretically, you own every government decision to some small degree. You are not being forced to pay taxes; if you don't like the outcome of the democracy you participate in, you can move somewhere else. Or you can live with it and realize that the price paid for common ownership of government is that you don't always get everything you want. I certainly learned that over the last 8 years. The idea that taxes are tyrannically imposed is only true in a tyranny. (Which some libertarians seem to think would be preferable as long as the tyranny was a libertarian one.)

  • ||

    Pardon my "naivete," but can someone explain to me what Tony did to deserve being called an "ape cunt"?

    He's been polite and stuck to engaging other posters' arguments, rather than resorting to name-calling, and he's rewarded with childish insults based solely on his political opinions? It's a bit ironic considering how often liberals are accused on this board (not without warrant) of presuming that anyone who disagrees with them is merely stupid.

    Since the article topic is the future of the libertarian movement, let me say that I, for one, am frequently on the cusp of diving in and adopting the l-word as a self-description, only to stop short upon encountering such outbursts of self-righteous immaturity.

    I'm not going to say that the Democratic party (or the Republican party) is anything short of hopeless. They're politicians; they know how to play the game and keep their cushy jobs.

    In case anyone's interested, however, I did spend my college years mixed up in left-wing activist circles, and I'd like to point out that the radical left 'fringe', at least in my anecdotal experience, seems to have been moving away from Leninoid statist fantasies for some time now. You might not guess it, but the Che t-shirts and knee-jerk defenses of Hugo Chavez belie a significant growth of quasi-libertarian sentiment.

    If you'll recall, in the early stages of its existence, the "New Left" of the 1960s promulgated a critique of New Deal liberalism that pointed out how centralizing regulatory power in the federal government contributed in practice to the development of a cartelized economy by discouraging not only competing businesses, but also grass-roots efforts to curtail objectionable practices on the part of private-sector interests who enjoy government favoritism.

    This critique seems to have found its way into certain segments of the contemporary libertarian movement, but it also influences a lot of people in, for example, what is somewhat inaccurately referred to as the 'anti-globalization' movement. Among the younger generation at least, state power is widely regarded more as an obstacle to social justice than a tool to be seized and wielded in its pursuit. If a president can, say, appoint a former lobbyist for environmentally destructive industries as the head of the EPA, or use federal authority to block regulation of greenhouse emissions by individual states, then the EPA is not only useless as a means of protecting the environment, but is actually a hindrance to the cause.

    At least among the younger generation, anti-authoritarian revolutionary theorists like Proudhon and Bakunin are far more popular than Marx and Engels. Anarcho-syndicalism seems to be the prevailing ideology; Russia and China are generally cited as examples of how a "workers' state" is no better than a capitalist state, and tribalist fantasies based on New Age Gaia mysticism are widely ridiculed.

    A lot of the people you see demonstrating outside of international trade meetings believe that institutions like the WTO and IMF are simply recreating on a global scale the kind of remote, unaccountable crony corporatism that has driven national policy in the West since World War II. Their end goal is not a return to heavy-handed protectionism, but rather a more open and democratic process for determining what will replace it. They don't want globalization to become a bonanza for corrupt and/or authoritarian governments in the Third World to barter their own populations as cheap labor and captive markets in exchange for favors from corrupt governments and corporations in the First World. This doesn't describe the position of many labor unions, of course--they're all for protectionism--but your average anarchist is pretty skeptical of unions these days anyway.

    Obama's election shows that somebody has managed to, as Naomi Klein would say, "move the center" to the left in the U.S., meaning that some version of ideas incubated among the more radical left--and I don't mean Michael Moore and George Soros--are starting to trickle through the filter into mainstream politics.

    The reason I point this out is that a lot of your Earth Firsters and Foot Not Bombs types aren't big fans of Obama, or aren't going to be for long, and I think libertarian ideas might be able to gain some traction along the margins of these groups if you all play your cards right. They could be receptive to discussion of, say, the role of agricultural subsidies in promoting factory farming, if you're careful not to play into the stereotype of libertarians as a bunch of software engineers who hate poor people and want to turn the national parks into strip malls surrounded by McMansions. Certainly the War on Drugs stands as one of the greatest crimes perpetrated on America's poor in the last century, and the Democrats aren't going to do squat about it in any of our lifetimes.

    You will, however, probably have to refrain from calling people "Ape Cunts" just because they don't want to put Milton Friedman's face on Mt. Rushmore.

  • ||

    Pardon my "naivete," but can someone explain to me what Tony did to deserve being called an "ape cunt"?

    Why don't you ask the one, possibly two people that called him that?

  • ||

    "Why don't you ask the one, possibly two people that called him that?"

    I thought I just did.

  • ||

    You said "can someone explain", not "can X or Y explain".

  • ||

    To be clear, my point is that there are countless people here who did not call Tony an "ape cunt", most of whom disagreed with him explicitly, and some of whom disagreed but did not enter the conversation.

    So I, at least, have to respond to your complaint

    I, for one, am frequently on the cusp of diving in and adopting the l-word as a self-description, only to stop short upon encountering such outbursts of self-righteous immaturity.

    by first pointing out that it is a minority, probably even a tiny minority, that are immature in this way, then pointing out that such immaturity is logically irrelevant to whether you should or should not "adopt the l-word as a self-description".

    Do so (or not) based on whether you think it is right, not on whether some asshole also happens to think it is right (or not). This point is obvious once stated, but nevertheless easy to forget, and so is worth repeating.

  • ||

    /What Jamie Kelley said at Feb. 16, 7:20 p.m.

    To Tony's credit, admitting you have a problem is the first step toward recovery. So maybe with the proper 12-Step Program he can be cured of his socialism.

  • Scarpe Nike||

    is good

  • caibutou||

    thank

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