Who Is Wesley Mouch?

Why Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged matters today

Tonight, my Fox Business Network show about Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged will finally air. That should stop the emails like this one from Karen Cooper:

"Oh for the love of god! 'Atlas Shrugged' explains about 99 percent of what's wrong in all of the arenas of topics: health care, education, climate change, unions, the economy, etc. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE cover 'Atlas.'"

Cooper makes a good point. Even though Rand published Atlas in 1957, her descriptions of intrusive and bloated government read like today's news. The "Preservation of Livelihood Law" and "Equalization of Opportunity Law" could be Nancy Pelosi's or Harry Reid's work.

The novel's chief villain is Wesley Mouch, a bureaucrat who cripples the economy with endless regulations. This sounds familiar. Reason magazine reports that "as he looks around Washington these days," Rep. Paul Ryan "can't help but think he's seeing a lot of Wesley Mouch."

Me, too. I also saw a lot of him under George W. Bush.

So I'm conducting this unscientific poll: Who is our Wesley Mouch? Hank Paulson? Tim Geithner? Barney Frank? You can vote here: http://stossel.blogs.foxbusiness.com/2009/12/31/atlas-shrugged-poll/

Personally, I think Chris Dodd's ridiculous financial proposals ought to win him the honor. But he isn't among the choices on Fox's list. As I write this, Geithner, President Obama, and Barney Frank lead the voting.

My first guest on the show (FBN, 8 p.m. Eastern Thursday, repeating at 10 p.m. Friday) is BB&T Chairman and Atlas fan John Allison. Allison's bank, the ninth largest in America, is doing very well, but he's angry the government forced him to take TARP money.

Allison once told The New York Times, "To say man is bad because he is selfish is to say it's bad because he's alive."

I'll pack the audience with some Atlas haters. That shouldn't be hard. My daughter's boyfriend offers up his Yale classmates. Many "liberals" agree with the "South Park" episode in which one character said that "because of this piece of s--t, I am never reading again." Rand brings out ferocious hatred in some people.

Also, I'll get a fish pedicure. Really.

This is a dubious Turkish idea that's become popular in Asia and is now trying for a foothold (pun intended) here. Instead of scraping dead skin off their feet, people have little garra rufa fish gently chew on them.

Fourteen states have banned fish pedicures, claiming they are unsafe, and other local governments have proposed bans. OK, compared to the assault on entrepreneurship described in Atlas Shrugged, this is sort of a dumb example, but look—I work in television—dumb examples can make good points.

The bureaucrats say the fish can't be sterilized without killing them. They say customers will get infections. People could die! It's not safe! And it's cruel to the fish!

Has anyone died? Can you refer me to someone who got an infection? Anyone? The bureaucrats' answer is always no. But it's better to be cautious, they say.

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  • JB||

    Now if we could just put every Democrat politician in a train tunnel, that would be a good start.

  • jj||

    Only the democrats?

  • JB||

    I'd be happy to start with them. The big-spending Rs could come next.

  • Some Guy||

    It hasn't been that long. Don't you remember what happens when you leave the big spending R's alone in power?

  • ||

    The Dems would be one hell of a good start.

  • DADIODADDY||

    lawyers too, let's not forget them.

  • Mr. ?||

    What do you call 400 Congressmen at the bottom of a lake?

    A good start.

  • ||

    How about all would-be tyrants, regardless of label?

  • JB||

    But you do have to start somewhere.

  • ||

    HURR DURR
    I'M AN INDEPENDENT LIBERTARIAN
    ALL SIDES ARE BAD
    VOTE REPUBLICAN
    HURR DURR

    Libertarians: closeted Republicans.

  • brotherben||

    When I am king you will be first against the wall. With your opiion which is of no consequence at all.

  • ||

    When I showed my mommy that I can put my weiner in my mouth she said, "let me help you with that, cuddley-crayon."

    I love my mommy!

  • ||

    Libertarians:
    rugged, bootstrappy, individualist independents who always happen to vote Republican...

  • ||

    I'm a Libertarian. I voted for Hillary Clinton. I'd rather she was president than Obama or McCain.

    I doubt Hillary would have tried pulling HillaryCare II because even though she's a woman, she wouldn't count as an Affirmative Action Preident like the dumbass we have now.

    Go put your weiner back in your mother's hole, dipshit.

  • ||

    Hitlary creeps me out almost as much as Pelosi. I wouldn't be surprised to see Obama pick her as a running mate in the next POTUS election, because for some reason I have yet to figure out, she is popular. Between Obama, McCain, and Hillary, I would choose to vote for the LP candidate.

  • MNG||

    "Affirmative Action Preident"

    Do they have Affirmative Action for bad spellers?

  • ||

    Do they have Affirmative Action for bad spellers?

    Why yes. Here's the number:

    1-800-EET-SHIT

  • Sean W. Malone||

    Yeahhhhhhhhhh.... I've never voted democrat or republican in my life, crayola. I think you'll find many of the folks here to be the same.

  • ||

    I'd argue that most libertarian vote Republican, except for the ones who vote for the Libertarian Party.

    For further proof, see:

    RON PAUL!

  • Geotpf||

    Ron Paul (and his total failure in the primaries) is proof that there are few libertarians voters, period.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Actually, Geotpf, it proves that Republicans were more willing to vote for an idiot like McCain.

  • ||

    +10000

  • ||

    HURR DURR
    I'M AN INTERNET COMEDIAN
    I AM SMARTER THAN LIBERTARIANS
    PAY ATTENTION TO ME
    HURR DURR

    crayon: obvious troll.

  • ||

    HURR DURR
    MY COMEDY IS ORIGINAL
    I'VE USED THIS JOKE HUNDREDS OF TIMES
    NO ONE ELSE DOES THIS
    HURR DURR

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Liberals:

    whiny, dependent, collectivist state-worshippers who almost always happen to vote Democrat... except when they vote for Ralph Nader.

  • ||

    I'd argue that most libertarian vote Republican

    You'd argue wrong.

    As usual.

    Had they done so they would have held their noses and voted for McCain as the lesser of two evils.

    We need more libertarians to start whining and get working and educating.

    When it comes time to vote that usually entails voting for the lesser of two evils, which is usually the out of power party. This avoids the wild swings, which always advance statism in great leaps.

    In between times they need to educate people so the lesser of evils gets ever lesser.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    crayon:

    A spoon-fed, brain-damaged twit who thinks people who refuse welfare are terrorists.

  • KPres||

    Officially, Libertarians vote 70% Republican and 30% Democrat. It's no surprise, as Goldwater Conservativism was originally a very Libertarian movement. Conservatives at least recognize that freedom is the ideal, they're just too weak to understand that freedom is a two-way street. Progressives, OTOH, are philosophically and fundamentally opposed to freedom.

  • Yeah, yeah, yeahyeahyeah||

    Don't feed the trolls.

  • JB||

    I swore never to vote for a Republican or Democrat again and broke that when Obama ran. I saw through his lies and his campaign played out and saw what a crazed Leftist he might be. He has far exceeded how bad I thought he would be.

    I viewed voting against him like punching every Obama-zombie in the head. For now, that will suffice. It would not surprise me if it eventually evolves into dealing with Obama-zombies with medical procedures.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Prove it, cocksucker.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    That was for crayon's Democrat-fed talking point about "closeted Republicans".

  • ||

    For proof, see:

    RON PAUL!

  • Mr. ?||

    "Proof" of... what, exactly? That he's not a Democrat and, therefore, inferior?

  • ||

    Proof that the only "libertarian" candidate to gain any kind of momentum, no matter how pathetic, was a Republican.

    Not a Libertarian Party candidate, not an independent, a fucking Republican!

    So spare me the whole "libertarians think both sides are equally bad" bullshit.

    libertarians think both sides are equally bad, so vote Republican.

  • ||

    Not a Libertarian Party candidate, not an independent, a fucking Republican!

    So barring a perfect candidate we should allow the worst candidate to win?

    Grats that's what happened in 2008.

    Let's hope libertarians learned their lesson.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    crayon, in the last twenty years, I have voted Republican... twice.

    Once for a local-level official, and for Ron Paul in the last primary.

    In that same timespan, I've voted for THREE Democrats... though none beyond the local level.

    Otherwise, it's been all-Libertarian voting for me.

    So... what's YOUR voting record?

  • Some Guy||

    Where do you live that you actually have Libertarians at the local level to vote for?

  • Sean W. Malone||

    Proof that libertarians will vote for a guy who's not changed his philosophical stance since he ran for president on the Libertarian Party ticket in 1988?

    Yeah, crazy... It's almost like many libertarians were capable of looking past the label "republican" and were actually voting based on governing philosophy and past record (which... you know... isn't exactly in agreement with any of the other R's or D's out there...)

  • ||

    +1

  • ||

    If we killed all would-be tyrants, the Earth would be depopulated enough to delight even the most wild-eyed environut.

    Dream whatever dream you want. But you don't get to impose it on me.

  • ||

    That last part was for the tyrants, not our dear Pro Libertate.

  • ||

    Is that dear as in expensive?

  • ||

    Think "treasured."

  • ||

    Aw.

  • Lester Hunt||

    I think the person who performs functions closest to Mouch's office of Top Coordinator is Tim Geithner. Plus, he looks like him.

  • Tonio||

    OK, I haven't read AS, but was Mouch an actual bureaucrat or an elected official? Whichever he was, my only suggestion is that you restrict the Mouch comparisons to the same class of people.

    Thanks for bringing Libertarian thought to the mainstream media, even though I wish we had a more human, sympathetic standard-bearer than Rand.

  • Mr. McGinty||

    Mouch begins the novel as a lobbyist for Rearden, and turns against him to work for the government. My understanding is that he's an unelected bureaucrat that finagled the position through his familiarity with the reigning political machines. He's actually somewhat negligible as characters go--there's not so much a villain in AS as a loose consortium of representative villainous archetypes. I suppose Rand's implicit argument is that Mouch gets the position precisely because he's such a negligible and mediocre presence--the world she portrays isn't interested in rewarding merit, only in rewarding compromise.

    So he really is a very minor character (as are all the villains in AS--no Ellsworth Tooheys here).

    Thus the question, "who is Wesley Mouch?," seems just a little wrong-headed to me.

  • BakedPenguin||

    It's not Obama's fault! He needs wider powers!

  • ||

    Yes, because he wants more transparency and bipartisanism, but you know, that Nancy and Harry are just out of control. Well, there is that threat of a veto, but that would just be obstuctionist and who wants to be associated with that party of 'NO', when you can be associated with that ever growing more popular by the day 'Progressive' party.

  • Barack Obama||

    Workin' on it, Penguin.

  • Xeones||

    ...even though I wish we had a more human, sympathetic standard-bearer than Rand.

    Heinlein. As works of revolutionary libertarian fiction go, The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress kicks Atlas Shrugged's ass. In this man's opinion, anyway.

    A case has been made for C.S. Lewis, too, although i understand that the atheists tend to find him yucky.

  • JB||

    Brevity is on Moon's side. However, Anthem has it beat in that column.

  • MNG||

    It's hardly a surprise JB likes Anthem, it's an almost childishly simplistic and laughable book.

    Rand has one book worth a shit, and it is actually very, very good: We the Living.

  • MNG||

    When the guy writes "Ego" on the rock I actually dropped the book in laughter. When an artist lets their politics rape their art like that the result is always bad.

    Oh yeah, and "Prometheus", that was some funny shit too.

    Not too subtle that work...

  • ||

    It's called romantic realism, dumbass. It's not supposed to be subtle.

  • JB||

    It is simple. That's something a troll like you would never understand because you like to think you are so 'complex' with an advanced degree in poli-sci.

    Twat.

  • jesus||

    Anthem, it's an almost childishly simplistic..

    Unless ye become as little children ye shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. Great truths are supposed to be simple and obvious to even a child.

  • Barack Obama||

    Hold on there, "jesus"... I'm here now. You run along and turn water into something that fits EPA regulations, and I'll go about doing the Messiah bit, 'kay?

  • T||

    Yeah, with Anthem you get to skip all the tedious exposition and plot and get right to the thirty pages where she beats you over the head with her message.

    Of course, I base this off reading Anthem and The Fountainhead. I think of the first as the short & sweet version of Roark's courtroom diatribe from the second.

  • ||

    Lewis was an atheist. That is until G.K. Chesterton got ahold of him.

  • Big John||

    Then, thank goodness for G. K. Chesterton.

  • zoltan||

    Fuck G.K. Chesterton, as those Narnia books fucking blow.

  • ||

    I think you mean CS Lewis

  • zoltan||

    I meant Chesterton, as he is the one the OP credits with CS Lewis's Christianity and therefore his Narnia series.

  • ||

    Not Chesterton, Tolkien.

  • mr simple||

    Agreed on the Heinlein. I was just going to suggest him. That book finally gave me the words to explain clearly to my wife why I don't care when she tells me something is illegal. Rules are for people who need rules. I make my own moral decisions.

  • DADIODADDY||

    better watch that kind of thinking pal, something bad could happen to your dog (or wife) if you get my meaning.

  • Tonio||

    Heinlein: Absolutely. Been reading him since I was only a lad, and he was my intro to libertarian thought. Always surprised me that TMIAHM hasn't made it to the big screen.

    Lewis: Yes atheists do find him extremely yucky. Even when I was agnostic/buddhist I found the Space Trilogy to be unbearably treacly, preachy and condescending. Screwtape letters is his only worthwhile work IMHO.

  • andy||

    +1000
    want Moon movie NOW!

  • ||

    TANSTAAFL!

  • ron||

    +1 to The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress

    ...also Vinge has a couple of good ones..

  • DADIODADDY||

    I think fish pedicures are only dangerous if you use sharks or pirahana or kraken...

  • ||

    Why would anyone give a fish a pedicure? They got no feet.

  • ||

    Can I admit that I have never read Atlas Shrugged and still be a Libertarian? I intend to read it, but just have not read it yet. Have to read the Heinlein novel mentioned here also, I almost picked it up once when I was in the mood for some sci-fi, but instead opted for Vernor Vinge A Fire Upon the Deep. Not particularly about Libertarian ideas, but I remain fascinated about his visions of the kind of things the internet may evolve into and the implications of that for future politics and government.

  • BakedPenguin||

    There are plenty of libertarians who haven't read Rand. Lots of others who have, but don't care for her, or at least don't care for aspects of her writing. Given that Rand herself professed to hate libertarians, I don't see why it should be a requirement.

  • ||

    Interesting. I have to read something of hers now though just out of curiosity.

  • ||

    A 'never read Rand' libertarian here.

  • ||

    I've read her books, but I was a libertarian far before I even heard about her.

  • ||

    Rand actually was very close to the libertarian/conservative movement during the time she wrote her fiction. She was later angry at the movement because she thought it had stolen her ideas.

  • kinnath||

    Never read Rand.

    Grew up with Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein though.

  • Prick||

    You must be very old.

  • kinnath||

    So my grandchildren tell me.

  • MNG||

    Always prefered Bradbury over Asimov, and P.K.D. over Heinlen.

  • MNG||

    I always liked Asimov's "popular" science books though. Great stuff.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    A Bradbury fan? Well, shit. Now I have to think kindly of MNG, at least for a few moments.

  • ||

    Read Rand, but long after Heinlein. I think she's a terrible figurehead for what I believe. Right message, extremely off-putting delivery.

  • ||

    It's because of the so-called "off putting" delivery that people are still reading Rand. Her ideas leave no room for being slowplayed.

  • MNG||

    I agree but certainly for different reasons. Rand's ideas were pretty simplistic and goofy, the off-putting delivery is what her fans like about her. She said what angry selfish people would love to have someone with an audience say, what they never would hear a serious thinker like Hayke say, she stuck it to the (collectivist) Man! She was kind of the Glenn Beck of her day, but on paper instead of TV and with lots less public weeping...

  • MNG||

    Hayek that is!

  • ||

    Salma?

  • ||

    You almost had a semi-credible post going there. Dismissive, snooty, although certainly nothing that hasn't been said about Rand 5 billion times already.

    Then you went and compared her to Glenn Beck. I eagerly await the arrival of his new work on epistemology now that he's finished with The Christmas Sweater.

  • MNG||

    It's called The Christmas Sweater for Witch Doctors!

  • MNG||

    Or The Christmas Cape...

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    "Selfish".

    Wow, yeah, MNG, we libertarians never volunteer, contribute money or food or clothing, and we hide when friends ask us to help move furniture or old ladies ask us to help them cross the street.

    Way to play to stereotypes. You sound like Tony and Chad with that talking-point.

  • ||

    As life-long, activist, even well-connected libertarian, who subsequently has undergone a great deal of personal tragedy, I can say from personal experience that libertarians sadly do live up to their poor reputations. I've never been so disappointed in my fellow man as I was when I finally needed assistance and discovered that there was no one amongst my libertarians friends even available to drive me to the store when needed, let alone willing to offer support so that I wouldn't have to take handouts from the government. Multiple health crises have left me all but bankrupt and forced to subsist off of the government programs that libertarians claim the private sector will provide for, if only government would get out of the way. However, virtually none of the libertarians in my life, including a few fairly wealthy individuals, have contributed anything to demonstrate in my situation that they are willing to put their own money where their philosophy is. The proof is in the acting, and in that regard I've personally been disappointed to witness too many libertarians fail the test not once, but on multiple occasions.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Exact opposite in my experience - my compatriots and I have not only helped each other out, but we've also helped others with donations where we can and donations of time for some volunteer efforts on the local level.

  • zoltan||

    They probably just don't like you.

  • ||

    de Bohun, hope you are well but I am curious if you consider your experiment with libertarianism over?

  • ||

    It sounds to me like you're dealing more with objectivists than just libertarians, any one can label themselves however they feel, it doesn't make it accurate.

  • ||

    Don't go giving vague compliments to great thinkers. It lends you credibility.

  • JB||

    Go read Accelerando for a mindfuck:

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0441014151/reasonmagazineA/

  • zoltan||

    Seconded. Though not particularly libertarian in nature.

    It was...guhhhhhh.

  • falcon||

    Why does one have to have read a certain author in order to be a Libertarian? Does being a Libertarian not entail the basic desire for government to butt the hell out of our business? To let us make our own decisions based on personal responsibility and morality? To apply both the Golden Rule and the Constitution equally?

    I like Heinlein, too, but that doesn't make me a Libertarian. My desire for government to stay the hell out of my business does.

  • ||

    I hear they ship the fish in in Corvairs

  • ||

    I'd suggest Jeffrey Immelt, Bill Gross, Warren Buffett, and Lloyd Blankfein as our biggest modern day Orren Boyles.

  • Barry Loberfeld||

    Rand was not the fanatic others (including "official" followers ) have made her out to be.

  • ||

    In the twisted up world of Teabaggery, Ayn Rand would be a Bible-thumping conservative.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    And if (thank God he didn't) McCain had won, Democrats would have their version of the Tea Party movement.

    Whoops, too late... they have more than one of those.

  • JD||

    What I find funny/depressing is that when you bring up the idea of the market being policed by consumer choice, you usually get responses like "But big corporations don't care if they hurt us! What about those Audis that accelerated all by themselves, huh?" (Investigated and found blameless by the NHTSA; Audi sales dropped catastrophically, though.)

  • ComradeZero||

    So a pile of dead bodies and years of costly litigation are preferable to an outside safety check during manufacturing?

  • Xeones||

    I'd suggest Jeffrey Immelt, Bill Gross, Warren Buffett, and Lloyd Blankfein as our biggest modern day Orren Boyles.

    Ok, then who is John Galt?

  • Marc||

    Is that a rhetorical question?

  • ||

    Burt Rutan?

  • ||

    We are.

  • ||

    Read Atlas Shrugged in 1962 while in the U.S. Navy. I have started to read it a 2nd time.

    99.9% of all politicians are in the akin to Wesley Mouch.

  • Big John||

    John
    "Read Atlas Shrugged in 1962 while in the U.S. Navy."

    I read it while in the Navy in 1968. It has influenced me over the years, but a little to Libertarian for me.

  • ||

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
    You fucking parasite!

    Living on money stolen from the US taxpayer while reading "Atlas Shrugged" and thinking you're not part of the problem.

    Hypocrite.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    They worked for it, you stupid prick.

    Funny, though, how you defend stealing taxpayer money - as long as it doesn't go to national defense, which is one of the few things government is SUPPOSED to do.

    Why don't you go back into hiding, crayon? Life here was a little more pleasant without your worthless diatribes.

  • been there||

    Parasite? Living on money stolen from the American taxpayer? Living as a goddamned slave to the American taxpayer is closer to the truth! There was a military draft in the 1960s; for guys who came of age then they could either "volunteer" for some branch of the military or get conscripted into the Army or the Marine Corps - and probably shipped off to 'Nam. There wasn't any damned "Lottery" then either, not 'til '69. If you were of age, met the mental, physical, and "moral" requirements - and couldn't get some kind of deferment, you were going, man. Parasite? Fuck you, twerp - go stick your weiner back in your mouth and shut the hell up.

  • Bill Clinton||

    Like Dick Cheney, I didn't serve in Vietnam, either. But we both sent troops into useless wars, and look at us now!

  • ||

    Maintaining the military is constitutionally mandated. The government (by law) provides for the military and protect the country's interests.

    Rand would have not disapproved of this, as she was in favor of having a strong military to protect the homeland and the freedom of the United States from foreign incursion. She would likely not have agreed with Bush's decision to invade Iraq, even though she was not a fan of the governments of the ME.

    Members of the military earn their pay and benefits and deserve it.

    Politicians don't.

    You have not read Rand.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    +1

  • ||

    Ever hear of conscription? He's a hypocrite for being enslaved by the government? So african american slaves were hypocrites for wanting to be free all the while accepting food from their owners.. ingrates!!

    You're pathetic, truly.

  • Geotpf||

    It's just not good business to hurt your customers. My 30 years of consumer reporting taught me that businesses rarely do this, and—here's the market's self-regulation—those that do don't stay in business long.

    Explain the existance of cigarette manufacturers then. Using Stossel's logic, they should have all gone out of business decades ago.

  • ||

    Addiction is a motherfucker.

  • Geotpf||

    Of course. But Stossel's statement is easy to prove false.

    There are other examples. Without government regulation, many safety features in automobiles (and other products) would not exist or would be expensive options not everybody would choose to purchase. It is more profitable to kill a certain number of your customers than to make such safety features standard.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    Actually the question is about consumer demand, and most safety features that exist now aren't by government mandate.

    But the real point is that people (should) have the choice to drive a car that balances their various concerns and values. Safety is one, price is another, speed, comfort, and satellite radio are other issues. Ultimately, *EVERYTHING* has risk associated to it, especially driving.

    There's no way to make a perfectly "safe" car, because the issue is almost invariably the driver that makes the thing dangerous! So what do the car makers do Geotpf? Make big foam bubbles on wheels?

  • Tony||

    You can't make a perfectly safe car but you can make it safer with reasonable requirements that are one of the costs of doing business in this great country. Consumers can make their demands known by their purchasing choices. But citizens can also have demands, which they satisfy via the democratic process. Sure car companies can market safety as a feature, but government can set minimum standards so that there is at least a baseline of safety as demanded by the citizens that put it in power.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    One of Nader's hinge points was the Corvair's "unsafe" handling characteristics... and yet, he didn't excoriate Volkswagen for the Beetle's engine placement/suspension setup, which was pretty much the same as the Corvair.

    Rear-engine/rear-wheel drive cars handle differently than front-engine/rear-drive cars (and even more differently, front-engine/front-wheel drive setups).

    IOW, Nader made his fortune on a lie.

    As for this crap that car makers would not have implemented safety features until Nader started his bleating... Nash made seatbelts an option in the 1940s, and they weren't the only automaker to do so. There were American cars with padded dashboards in the 1940s, if not earlier, as well.

    But Sean has a point... we can't Nerf-coat everything. It's impossible to make the entire world safe from sharp objects and bruised elbows.

  • Tony||

    But we don't have to do nothing either. I swear to God you really have to stop this slippery slope shit on every single thing. I do not want government controlling all aspects of life no matter how many times you say I do. Being in favor of reasonable regulation is not the same thing as wanting authoritarianism. Is that too complicated for you to understand?

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    When your party starts showing restraint, I'll take notice, Tony. But so far, they're acting like mirror images of conservatives when they have all the power cards.

    Your side, btw, starts "this slippery slope shit" when anyone suggests we could do without increasing the size, scope, and cost of government.

    I never said "we don't have to do nothing", for the record. What I have been saying is that government doesn't have to do everything - nor CAN it do so, let alone be allowed to try.

    Maybe *you* don't want government controlling all aspects of life, but your party sure as fuck does - or as close as it can get to "all". Just as the Republicans want to control morality-based actions, your side wants to control economics, for instance. It can't be done in either case, but the self-appointed experts in Congress beg to differ.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    Tony, the "citizens" are the ones buying the cars, no? Last I checked more people own cars than vote, too... So which process is more democratic again?

  • KPres||

    "You can't make a perfectly safe car but you can make it safer with reasonable requirements that are one of the costs of doing business in this great country. Consumers can make their demands known by their purchasing choices. But citizens can also have demands, which they satisfy via the democratic process. Sure car companies can market safety as a feature, but government can set minimum standards so that there is at least a baseline of safety as demanded by the citizens that put it in power."

    Government is hamstrung by it's requirement to provide equal protection under the law.

    INOW, if only a few people want seat belts, their collective demand creates a profit opportunity, and more than likely the market will provide an option for seat belts.

    Democratic governments don't get to serve "the few" that way. It's one law for everybody, else open yourself up to runaway corruption. Everybody has to wear seatbelts or nobody at all. That's how gov't regulations work, and why they're so cumbersome and inefficient.

    It's insane.

  • ||

    Geotpf|1.7.10 @ 3:31PM|#
    ".....It is more profitable to kill a certain number of your customers than to make such safety features standard."
    False dichotomy. Bastiat had your number before you were born.

  • zoltan||

    Like the seat belt?

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Go here for a brief history of American automobile safety devices:

    http://www.aa1car.com/library/timeline.htm

    A few excerpts:


    1924 - First car with safety glass windows as standard equipment is offered by Cadillac.

    1950 - Nash-Kelvinator introduces the Rambler, the first car to offer seat belts.

    1954 - Safety padding on dash board offered by several vehicle manufacturers.

    1964 - The four major U.S. auto manufacturers install two front-seat lap belts as standard equipment.

  • zoltan||

    I was responding sarcastically to the person who said we wouldn't have safety features in automobiles if it weren't for government mandate. Thanks for the additional info about it, though.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    I know you were, zoltan. That was for the benefit of the Tonyite faction.

  • ||

    Without government regulation, many safety features in automobiles (and other products) would not exist or would be expensive options not everybody would choose to purchase.

    Why should they purchase options if they don't want to?

    Babies drown in buckets and pools.. should we outlaw them? More people die walking drunk than driving drunk, should we outlaw walking drunk? Or outlaw being drunk again? that worked well.

    More people die from cancer in countries with government health care than we have here with still (barely) market health care.. perhaps we should outlaw government health care!

  • ||

    "More people die from cancer in countries with government health care" Citation needed

  • ||

    http://www.ncpa.org/pub/ba596

    It's not like it's hard to find data. But for the people who argue without knowing wtf they are talking about there you go.

  • ||

    www.ncpa.org:" to provide priv.....confusion.

  • ||

    NCPA mission statement: to provide private sector, free-market solutions to public policy problems." I meant unbiased real data. Sorry for the confusion.

  • ||

    rankingamerica.wordpress.com/2009/02/19/the-us-ranks-89th-in-cancer-mortality/

  • ||

    The data are the data. That is unbiased data.

    You keep citing overall mortality rates which is completely asinine. In most countries people don't live long enough to get cancer because they live under collectivist regimes.

    I would ask the question, why do statists always pull that crap, except I know why. The real data show you out.

    The data which I cited are survival rates and they are accurate. If you get cancer there is no where else in the world you want to get treatment. You are not more likely to live you are much more likely to live in the U.S.

    There's a reason the people who can afford it come here to get treated. It's not to die.

  • ||

    faithkills,"The data are the data. That is unbiased data." CRAP! That means the global warming data is genuine. The data examples I gave you are unbiased. Foreigners do not come here for the latest and greatest (stem cell therapy) medical treatments. In fact, "The Medical Tourism market is currently valued at $20 billion annually. These numbers are expected to double by 2010. In 2008 more than 200,000 Americans traveled abroad for healthcare, and that number is expected to double by 2010. The primary destinations for US patients include India, Thailand, Mexico, Costa Rica and Singapore."
    There's a reason the people leave the US to get treated. It's not to die. FIFY

  • ||

    The data examples I gave you are unbiased.

    The data you presented are irrelevant. Cancer survival rates are important. Not cancer acquisition or mortality rate. Somali cancer rates aren't too interesting when they most don't live long enough to get it.

    The primary destinations for US patients include India, Thailand, Mexico, Costa Rica and Singapore...

    Holy irrelevant data batman!

    Oh that's true of US tourism those destinations are the most common.

    But that is a total non sequitur since most medical tourism overall is TO the United States. The destinations of US medical tourists is interesting but completely irrelevant to the point.

    http://www.lindsayresnick.com/.....Travel.pdf

    Are you ignorant or just don't bother to read what you copy/paste?

    No need to reply right away NPRBot, I think it's time for your dose of Koolaid.

  • ||

    faithkills,the data examples I gave you are unbiased. "... data...irrelevant. Cancer survival rates are important. Not cancer acquisition or mortality rate. Somali cancer rates aren't too interesting when they most don't live long enough to get it." Holy disingenuous bull, Batman! Don't be clever and try to compare the US with a third world country. You know damn well we compare with Canada but they have government health care and they don't go bankrupt trying to survive catastrophic illness.
    ("POW!", "BAM!", "ZONK!")


    The primary destinations for US patients include India, Thailand, Mexico, Costa Rica and Singapore...Holy irrelevant data batman!" Maybe to you but good luck if you need treatment and can't pay for it. Medical tourism is 50%+ cheaper than care here. Btw, you may be right about feeling like a tourist because the health care is first rate.


    "But that is a total non sequitur since most medical tourism overall is TO the United States." Google McKinsey & Company.


    "Are you ignorant or just don't bother to read what you copy/paste? " Thanks for making me spit my coffee.

  • ||

    Most medical tourism is to the United States.

    There's a reason.

    Cancer outcomes are the best in the United States.

    There's a reason.

    Wave your hands all you like.

    OF the Americans that go places they do go places like Costa Rica because it's cheaper and nearly as good. How could that possibly be?

    Because Costa Rica has a much more free health care market.

    Moreover they manage to have a health care safety net on top, because they didn't screw up the rest of the market with regulations and mandates and corporate cartels protected interests.

    We could do the same.

    The problem with fascists and socialists is a little is never enough. They just can't stop themselves until they slice up the golden goose that feeds them.

  • ||

    faithkills,"Most medical tourism is to the United States." Really? Did you know that medical tourist come from what is known as first world countries. Your statement is beyond absurd. The whole industry is based on the fact that healthcare has become too expensive in countries similar to the US. Americans go to places like Argentina, Brunei, Cuba, Colombia, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Jordan, Lithuania, Malaysia, The Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand, and recently, Saudi Arabia, UAE, South Korea, Tunisia and New Zealand because procedures "can be one-tenth of what it is in the United States or Western Europe, and sometimes even less. A heart-valve replacement that would cost $200,000 or more in the US, for example, goes for $10,000 in India--and that includes round-trip airfare and a brief vacation package. Similarly, a metal-free dental bridge worth $5,500 in the US costs $500 in India, a knee replacement in Thailand with six days of physical therapy costs about one-fifth of what it would in the States, and Lasik eye surgery worth $3,700 in the US is available in many other countries for only $730. Cosmetic surgery savings are even greater: A full facelift that would cost $20,000 in the US runs about $1,250 in South Africa."

    We could not do the same here. In fact, employers have started offering deals to employees who use medical tourism. Insurance companies have also: "In 2000 Blue Shield of California began the United States' first cross border health plan. Patients in California could travel to one of the three certified hospitals in Mexico for treatment under California Blue Shield. [41] In 2007, a subsidiary of BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, Companion Global Healthcare, teamed up with hospitals in Thailand, Singapore, Turkey, Ireland, Costa Rica and India.[42] A 2008 article in Fast Company discusses the globalization of healthcare and describes how various players in the US healthcare market have begun to explore it."

  • ||

    Really? Did you know that medical tourist come from what is known as first world countries.

    Wow more irrelevant data. The relevant data is that 40% of all medical tourism is TO the U.S.

    Twist and turn all you like there is no other country that people go to more than the U.S.

    We could not do the same here. In fact, employers have started offering deals to employees who use medical tourism.

    Of course we could if we'd defuck the health care market. The reason people go to Costa Rica is it's cheaper. It's cheaper because it's a much more free market than here. And yet the quality is close (for the things they specialize in, mostly elective procedures) to the U.S.

    In fact we'd already be that cheap if government would take their stranglehold off the market.

    1) End the AMA monopoly on providers.
    2) End insurance mandates. Catastrophic coverage is effectively illegal due to various lobby groups pushing for their specialties to be covered by law. People tend to needlessly utilize coverage for stuff that they don't need, but are forced to pay for. This raises demand. Supply is controlled by special interests. (AMA) Therefore prices go up.

    3) End state insurance monopolies. Allow intrastate insurance purchase.

    4) Tort reform. Take the ABA's fangs out of the market. Loser pays. (End the ABA's monopoly in legal providers while you're at it)

    5) Devolve all health subsidies for people who do not need them. Move the tax break from employer to individual until that is complete.

    6) Devolve all tax subsidies to industries period.

    7) Allow people to keep funds in HSA's after a certain period. HSA's are a better idea but if people don't have the option to keep the money eventually, (5 years?) they will utilize services needlessly. Again this drives up demand, driving up price in the face of controlled supply.

    8) Subsidize those HSA's for people at poverty. They still must be able to keep unused funds eventually or you haven't done much.

    9) Allow drug reimportation. The costs of maintaining big pharma's IP is too high. Yes this means drugs will be a bit slower to be developed. This can be addressed by:

    10) Eviscerate the FDA. FDA becomes advisory only.

    All these measures will drive down the price of health care, and rapidly. (see more free market areas of health care like cosmetic surgery which are CHEAP) Health care costs won't break most people anymore. But for the severely unfortunate..

    11) Devolve all public health care for people above poverty. Consolidate it into a single public health care system of last resort. Yes you have to be impoverished or go bankrupt to avail yourself of it, but we will take care of you.

    Currently we subsidize people who can afford health care. This is insane. This merely subsidizes the health care industry.

  • 1 crook u can vote out||

    "The relevant data is that 40% of all medical tourism is TO the U.S." Wrong and don't try to cite another report from the lobbying arm of the industry .

    1) "End the AMA monopoly on providers." I totally agree.

    2) "End insurance mandates. Catastrophic coverage is effectively illegal"
    Catastrophic coverage is a high deductible HSA and is not illegal but you are somewhat correct because you are required to keep an insurance policy to compliment the coverage.

    3) "End state insurance monopolies. Allow intrastate insurance purchase." I like competition but insurance companies will still pick and choose who they want and that will still be discriminatory.

    4) "Tort reform. Take the ABA's fangs out of the market. Loser pays." Already took place in Texas and has made no difference to the consumer but the doctors love it.

    5) "Devolve all health subsidies for people who do not need them. Move the tax break from employer to individual until that is complete." I am for this too but people will never go for it because it will be a shock to see how much you pay without your employer contribution.

    6)"Devolve all tax subsidies to industries period." I agree with this but good luck with that idea. The insurance lobby donates millions to Republicans and Democrats alike for this reason and control.

    7) "Allow people to keep funds in HSA's after a certain period. HSA's are a better idea but if people don't have the option to keep the money eventually, (5 years?) they will utilize services needlessly." The option of keeping the money is already in place because you can roll funds into an IRA. The funds tend to be used up by the end of the year and accumulation becomes a moot point.

    8) "Subsidize those HSA's for people at poverty. They still must be able to keep unused funds eventually or you haven't done much." You have this half right because people in poverty will never be able to afford a HSA but neither will the working poor and most people who do not have a good deal of disposable cash will have trouble with this type of insurance.

    9) "Allow drug reimportation. The costs of maintaining big pharma's IP is too high. Yes this means drugs will be a bit slower to be developed. This can be addressed by:" Totally agree but again the lobby power of the pharma industry is too overwhelming to fight.

    10) Eviscerate the FDA...these measures will drive down the price of health care, and rapidly...costs won't break most people anymore. But for the severely unfortunate...11)" Devolve all public health care for people above poverty. Consolidate it into a single public health care system of last resort. Yes you have to be impoverished or go bankrupt to avail yourself of it, but we will take care of you. Currently we subsidize people who can afford health care. This is insane. This merely subsidizes the health care industry." Wow, a libertarian who does not say let them die or the charity solution but I don't think It should be a the point of bankruptcy.

  • ||

    I'm a libertarian because I go by results. Not because I don't care about people. Many libertarians are the same. There are actually very few who the popular caricature of the left aptly describes.

    But yes when you keep stealing from people trying to provide for their family and give it to people who have finally capitulated personal responsibility to the system designed to get them to do just that, you may get some people to say 'let them die!'

    I would love a utopia on earth. The problem is it doesn't work. Socialism destroys prosperity.

    As we see.

    To the point in question.

    One health care costs will decline as we reduce subsidies, just as they rose as we increased subsidies. I said 'devolve' not 'remove'. You can't undo the economic damage caused to the health care market over a century in a year.

    HSA's do exist but as you say the poor can't afford them. Even if they did they may have other needs they have to balance. Committing funds they must use for health care is unlikely even if they had them.

    Hence subsidy for them.
    Hence they must be able to withdraw all funds unused after a period of time, including the subsidy.

    There must be no extra incentive to utilize services other than the one adverse effect we must provide, the subsidy in the first place.

    Here's how it works.

    The public health system and the HSA subsidy are funded from the same pool, and funding is allocated according to participation. People may swap into public health at will. People may swap out if they don't use public health for two years.

    As funding follows participation the more we spend on public health care the more incentive there is to be in the (more) free market HSA system since the personal HSA subsidy goes up. Thus the more people participating in the market mechanisms that reduce price and increase quality.

    And yes there's no case to provide any subsidy or care to people above poverty. We're saving lives not saving people from financial discomfort due to their fiscal malfeasance. We don't bail out any more AIG's and we don't bail out people either.

    We take care of them and that's it.

    We provide a safety net not a safety hammock.

    Pay your bills, provide for your family just like we all must. Or go bankrupt and we'll provide a subsistence, and opportunity to pull yourself out. But you are free to fail as you will be free to succeed.

    The simple fact is anyone can start subscribing to health insurance with their first job. Or they can start saving with their first job. There's no reason to go bankrupt over medical bills.

    But if you do, I do think we should tend to you. But don't expect the exact same lifestyle as people who were responsible.

  • T||

    I can also tell to why the War on Drugs will always fail, too.

    People like a buzz.

  • Tony||

    I dunno about fish pedicures, but I do know a lot of innocent people have suffered because of a lack of regulations in the financial sector.

    Oh, and Atlas Shrugged, to me, is two weeks of my life I could have spent being productive. What a piece of god awful shit that book is.

  • ||

    Lack of regulations in the financial sector. I'm trying to think of an industry that's more regulated. Maybe healthcare?

  • ||

    Electric Utilities.

  • ||

    Obviously you never worked in the financial sector.

    Medicine, transportaion, utilities, and manufacturing are far more regulated.

  • ||

    shrike,

    Wrong again. I'm not saying it's the most regulated industry, only that it is heavily regulated. My God, banks often have three separate regulators to deal with!

    One thing, too, is some of the super-regulated industries really control their regulators, not the other way around. Like utilities.

  • T||

    Regulatory capture? Hank Paulson might have a word or two to say about that.

  • ||

    Fair enough - it runs the gamut.

    Deposit institutions are supposed to be highly regulated.

    I-banks, hedge funds, trading desks and others see no real regulation or they know how to evade it all.

    Mutual funds have modest regulation.

    I worked in the industry and have a wide definition of it - Enron was a financial firm, for instance.

  • ||

    Fair enough - it runs the gamut.

    Deposit institutions are supposed to be highly regulated.

    I-banks, hedge funds, trading desks and others see no real regulation or they know how to evade it all.

    Mutual funds have modest regulation.

    I worked in the industry and have a wide definition of it - Enron was a financial firm, for instance.

  • ||

    I think the problem with viewing financial services--including the pure securities operations--as sparsely regulated is the idea that if something can get through the cracks, the industry isn't regulated enough. Frankly, most of the big disasters have involved activities that were already actionable. A lot of accounting shenanigans that were already of questionable legality could've been used to stop Enron and Worldcom in their tracks. Regulators don't do their job when the number of regulations is manageable, let alone when they become logorrhea incarnate.

  • Tony||

    Regulators not doing their job is a problem, and it often comes from idiotic antigovernment ideologies infesting the agencies responsible.

  • ||

    Who are you? Really. No way that's a real person statement.

  • ||

    "Regulators not doing their job is a problem, and it often comes from idiotic antigovernment ideologies infesting the agencies responsible."

    I think the Illuminati is a more likely reason. Are you seriously going to argue that lazy regulators are actually fervent anti-government activists? Anthony goes off the deep end...

  • Tony||

    Alan Greenspan anyone? Just about every Bush appointee? Hello?

  • ||

    I seem to remember something called the "Greenspan Put" which basically convinced investors for nearly two decades that there was no serious risk of decline in asset prices. Yes, if you combine that sort of wanton intervention into the market with a "hands off" policy on speculative excesses, it's likely to blow up in your face. But the smart thing to do would be not to encourage the excesses, and not to provide them with government sponsorship, in the first place.

  • ||

    You're Alan Greenspan? That's cool. So, when did you decide that the government should control the economy and crap all over your libertarian roots?

  • Prick||

    Reagan nominated Alan Greenspan.

  • ||

    Deposit institutions are supposed to be highly regulated.

    And they were also some of the biggest problem institutions behind the meltdown, much more so than the much maligned hedge funds. FDIC deposit guarantees provided the banks with a huge base of disinterested investors providing low cost capital. This, of course, bears no resemblance whatsoever to an "unregulated" market.

    What I find amusing is the presumption that regulators are some kind of super-beings impervious to a strong societal trend toward speculation and risk-taking, who should therefore be trusted to rein in the markets when they're getting out of hand. It's actually a part of the financial cycle that after a bust, new regulations are put in place to prevent the crash which has already happened. These are invariably repealed once the voters decide they want to have a bubble again, and elect a government to give it to them.

  • Tony||

    It's actually a part of the financial cycle that after a bust, new regulations are put in place to prevent the crash which has already happened. These are invariably repealed once the voters decide they want to have a bubble again, and elect a government to give it to them.

    That seems to be so... but I prefer boom/bust mitigation half the time rather than never.

  • ||

    That seems to be so... but I prefer boom/bust mitigation half the time rather than never.

    It's actually boom/bust aggravation, because the screws are tightened on the financial system when it is already contracting and returning to reason, and are loosened when it is going crazy. Manias are often even actively encouraged and sponsored by government programs such as the GSEs, tax favoritism toward capital gains, dividends, and mortgage interest, and, of course, bailouts for failed speculators.

  • Tony||

    I think this is belied by historical evidence. Prior to regulatory innovations boom/bust cycles are commonplace, neverending, and result in a lot of misery. Ideally manias wouldn't be encouraged, and they weren't until a particularly strong wave of deregulatory zeal took over. Maybe it's inevitable, but the optimist in me says that Reaganomics isn't something that's inevitable.

  • ||

    Prior to regulatory innovations boom/bust cycles are commonplace, neverending, and result in a lot of misery.

    This is a cartoon progressive historian's view of financial history. The worst depression the U.S. ever suffered didn't even come along until after the Federal Reserve had been put in place and after the progressive "reforms" led to a larger governmental role in the economy.

    The panics of the nineteenth century were frequent and sharp, but they also did end, and cleared away the dross from the financial system.

    We already know that more highly regulated financial systems can have a bigger mania (since the 1982-2007 mania is the biggest in the history of the United States). As for whether more highly regulated financial systems suffer less severe busts, the next few years will be especially telling. Let's wait until all the cyclical returns are in, shall we?

    Ideally manias wouldn't be encouraged, and they weren't until a particularly strong wave of deregulatory zeal took over.

    You're reversing cause and effect. The urge for a mania takes over, and leads to the deregulatory zeal. So exactly when investors are at their most imprudent, the people they are depending upon to watch out for them are asleep at the switch (or, worse yet, captured by the very industry they're supposed to be regulating). Throughout the 2000s investors would have been better off with no SEC whatsoever because it would have removed the false sense of security that "someone" would prevent Bernie Madoffs and Enrons and Lehmans from happening.

  • Tony||

    We already know that more highly regulated financial systems can have a bigger mania (since the 1982-2007 mania is the biggest in the history of the United States).

    But 1982–2007 was certainly not the era with the strictest financial regulations. Compared with the rest of postwar history it had the laxest, and that's my point. There were a lot of specific causes of the collapse that could have been prevented by regulations that had already been invented.

    As far as cause and effect, I suspect it feeds both ways, but I don't think you've made the case that the psychological factors at play cause more harm with regulations in place than without. A "false sense of security" surely is a weaker motivator than profitmaking itself.

  • ||

    But 1982–2007 was certainly not the era with the strictest financial regulations. Compared with the rest of postwar history it had the laxest, and that's my point.

    Right, but it had more stringent regulation than was in place during the nineteenth century, and we had a bigger bubble than we did throughout that entire period where regulation was almost nonexistent. So on the spectrum from least regulated to most regulated, you have

    moderate bubbles > MASSIVE bubble > no bubble

    Bubbles very rarely reappear within a few decades after a major crash like the early 1930's. It takes a long time for investors to forget those lessons and become greedy again. You are simply assuming that because the more stringent regulations and a relatively calm period in the financial markets occurred at the same time, that one must have caused the other. But in fact, history suggests that a long lull follows every major financial crisis, no matter the level of regulatory enthusiasm that prevails in its aftermath.

    Actually, we're not even painting an accurate picture of the regulatory landscape here. There were many ways in which the financial system of the 50s and 60s was more freewheeling than that of the nineteenth century, particularly in the advent of consumer credit and very long term fixed-rate mortgages. The nineteenth century also had double liability on stock shares in banks, while the 50s and 60s did not.

  • JoshInHB||

    Actually bubbles re-appeared every 7 years on average in the 19th century.

    They are an inherant part of fractional reserve lending.

  • andy||

    Helloooo! Central Banking much?

    When we get a Central Electricity Board, maybe you can start to think of being close...

  • ||

    I read slowly.

  • ||

    two weeks of my life I could have spent being productive.

    Which is more fantastical? That Tony could read a book of any size in two weeks or that he Would have done anything productive otherwise?

    I don't believe the detestable piece of shit could do either.

  • ||

    In a true free market, people don't suffer because of a fault in the system. They can only blame themselves.

  • ||

    Tony|1.7.10 @ 2:57PM|#
    "but I do know a lot of innocent people have suffered because of a lack of regulations in the financial sector."

    Your number, too. I'll bet you know a lot of 'innocent' people who have profited by it also.

  • Mr. ?||

    But, Tony, how much of your life have you wasted reading god-awful pieces of shit by, say, John Maynard Keynes or Al Gore?

  • Sean W. Malone||

    Oh now, Tony's never read a *single* work of economics literature in his life... And I'm being incredibly generous by including Keynes in that category to begin with.

  • Mr. ?||

    +1

  • ||

    I dunno about fish pedicures, but I do know a lot of innocent people have suffered because of a lack of regulations in the financial sector.

    Lol the markets that are most screwed up are the most regulated markets.

    Health care.
    Financial.
    Banking.
    Education.

    Of course you can't explain that.

  • Xeones||

    Explain the existance of cigarette manufacturers then.

    Easy. People decide the pleasure they receive from tobacco is worth the risks of using it. I'm not saying the choice is necessarily based on a realistic assessment of the risks, but it is their choice.

  • Tony||

    Addiction by definition removes some measure of choice. Cig companies make up for the fact that their customers tend to die by making their product highly addictive. Just one among an infinite number of examples of the profit motive not resulting in optimal outcomes.

  • ||

    Not optimal according to you, Anthony. The optimal outcome from an objective, reasoned standpoint is freedom. People can and do quit smoking. If they really wanted to they would. The market isn't supposed to make a perfect utopia by your standards, it's supposed to give people what they want in a non-coercive system.

  • Tony||

    But the original point was that Stossel was fibbing when he said that companies that harm customers tend to go out of business. It's just not true. Lacking the force of regulation, it's just a simple cost-benefit analysis, and cig companies are a perfect example of entities that remain highly profitable not only in spite of harming customers but by harming customers (making them addicted to their product). What could be more coercive than addiction?

  • ||

    Stossel is a consequentialist. He doesn't exactly embody what I think of as the core libertarian values.

    If the consumers of cigarettes willingly chose to consume the product, knowing the risks of said product, you cannot say that the companies coerced anyone. You keep saying things like, "the company MADE them addicted." No companies injected them with nicotine or forced them to smoke a cigarette. Should we hold gun manufacturers accountable if one of their products is used to kill someone? No, we hold the murderer accountable. We can't punish the tobacco industry just for providing a product. The consumers have the responsibility to take care of themselves.

  • Tony||

    I don't think it's all or nothing. In a real way the product of cigarette companies is a delivery device for an addictive substance.

    As a smoker I accept some measure of personal responsibility for my actions, but by definition an addiction is a partial abrogation of individual choice. Maybe the first few cigarettes were a 100% personal choice. The next gazillion aren't 100% personal choice.

    Cigarette manufacturers know this (and have known long before they admitted it), and this is their primary business. It is not a huge leap to say they do harm to people for profit. At any rate the obvious point is that merely harming or killing people isn't enough of a market force to weed out the offending industries in all cases. Hence the need for regulations in the market.

  • ||

    You chose to take on the risk of becoming addicted when you tried your first cigarette. Saying that addiction makes it harder for you to make certain choices is not a justification to go after the tobacco industry. When not being coerced, your actions are your own responsibility.

    It's not a huge leap to say cigarettes are harming you, but it is a huge leap to say the tobacco industry has done anything wrong to you. YOU chose to consume the product.

    Before you can say we need this and that regulation because they will do this and that good thing, you first need to justify what the regulation is actually doing. My point is that you can't justify restrictions on the free will of a company when the company hasn't done anything wrong, regardless of how much good they would do.

  • Tony||

    The company has infringed upon consumers' free will by playing some role in addicting them to their product. It's no secret that addiction itself is their primary product. It distorts your ability to act rationally and self-interestedly by definition. It's not exactly morally equivalent to shooting someone with a gun, but it's not exactly morally equivalent to causing no harm at all, either.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    "It's no secret that addiction itself is their primary product."

    Tony... you (obligatory insult here)... Do you not realize that if something is "no secret", you cannot claim that the company is at fault when you voluntarily agree to take on the risk!?

    The fact that cigarettes are addictive hasn't been a secret ever as far as I'm aware, and certainly not within the past 100 years or so. Everyone knows that that's part of the risk with smoking, and they choose to pick up their first cigarette anyway. Alternatively, there are a myriad ways to quit if you choose.

    What's irritating to me is that you're sitting there abdicating responsibility for smoking, all the while admitting that YOU KNOW THE DANGERS!!!

    If you know that it's addictive, then you can't fucking blame the company for making you an addict.

    I never put a single cigarette in my mouth, Tony... You know why? Cause even when I was getting peer pressured at parties in high school, I actually recognized that it's up to me what I put in my goddamn body, and that I didn't want an addictive habit... So guess what, quit blaming other people for something you can control.

  • Tony||

    I'm not assigning 100% blame to cigarette companies. I'm just saying it's not 0%. The whole point of this tangent is to debate the necessity of safety regulations. If companies can exist that market and sell things that will addict and kill a large amount of its customers and still profit, then we can goddamn well have some regulations on the product.

  • ||

    "The company has infringed upon consumers' free will by playing some role in addicting them to their product."

    Thank you for completely ignoring what I wrote. In order to addict them to the priduct, the company must have used some kind of coercive force to make them buy the product. Did they? No! For the hundredth time, the consumer had FULL responsibility for becoming addicted because the consumer had FULL choice in consuming the product. The "blame" for addiction goes 100% to the consumer.

    "If companies can exist that market and sell things that will addict and kill a large amount of its customers and still profit, then we can goddamn well have some regulations on the product."

    If companies were defrauding customers by telling them that their poison was harmless candy, then you would have a case. But there not, and you don't.

  • Tony||

    If companies were defrauding customers by telling them that their poison was harmless candy

    They certainly tried to do just that for a long time, to the extent of heavy lobbying of congress and getting news reports killed on the subject... you know, interfering with the means consumers have to become informed and rational.

    I agree that starting smoking is a choice. But starting smoking isn't what harms you, continuing to smoke is, and continuing to smoke isn't as much of a choice.

  • ||

    "They certainly tried to do just that for a long time, to the extent of heavy lobbying of congress and getting news reports killed on the subject... you know, interfering with the means consumers have to become informed and rational."

    Yes, and then the company gets sued for fraud. That's how these things work.

    "continuing to smoke is, and continuing to smoke isn't as much of a choice."

    I already explained this. You took on the risk of becoming addicted when you started smoking. Therefore you are responsible for future addiction. The tobacco industry is not.

  • Tony||

    Yes, and then the company gets sued for fraud

    Fraud? Why isn't fraud a legitimate business practice? If it increases profits, it must be ipso facto good, no? AND you'd need an evil government regulation to prevent it.

    So a business can be legitimately prevented from merely fibbing, but not addicting me to a poison?

  • ||

    Scuba diving shops know that if they operate long enough and take enough customers on dives, eventually one of them will get hurt. What cigarette companies are doing is a difference of degree, not kind.

  • Tony||

    I disagree because I consider causing addiction to be a direct harm. But hell I'm pretty sure even SCUBA equipment has safety requirements.

  • ||

    If cigarettes were harmless (or better yet, good for you), would "causing addiction" to them even be a harm at all? Clearly not, so your appeal to addiction as some kind of special factor here is a red herring.

    Yes, scuba equipment has safety requirements, just as the cigarette companies cannot lawfully lace their products with toxic chemicals. Still one always assumes a risk when engaging in diving or smoking, and since everyone is now well-informed of those risks the responsibility for them is properly borne by the divers/smokers.

  • Tony||

    It is a side point, but yes even if cigarettes were good for you I'd consider causing addiction to be causing harm, precisely because it removes some amount of individual choice (or liberty).

    For the sake of argument let's say I agree that the first few cigarettes you smoke are all on you as a matter of personal responsibility. But a few cigarettes aren't going to kill you, it's the thousands you smoke after you get addicted that do. At that point your ability to be personally responsible in the choice has been weakened.

  • ||

    You are causing yourself to be addicted when you consume the product. The company doesn't cause you to become addicted when you buy the product. Yes, you're choice is limited after you become addicted, but you chose to take that risk before you were addicted. The tobacco industry isn't responsible for your limitted choices, you are.

  • Tony||

    I'd say we share responsibility. They market and sell a product with the single goal of addicting you to it. That's not 0% responsibility.

    I actually water down my beliefs for this site (despite already being accused of being a fascist), so if I were being honest I'd say I believe in a lot of regulations meant to protect people from themselves. But even if I throw that aside I still think it's pretty brutal to say the single mistake of starting smoking makes you forever after 100% culpable for the consequences.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    We know you're a fascist who doesn't believe people can make choices for themselves, Tony. We know.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Tony reminds me of a caller I heard on the Ed Schultz radio hoedown:

    "It's the responsibility of government to save us from ourselves."

    No wonder we're in so much trouble - people actually believe stuff like this... and half of them helped put Obama in office.

    At least half, I should say.

  • ||

    "They market and sell a product with the single goal of addicting you to it. That's not 0% responsibility."

    No, it is 0% responsibility. You can't be responsible for a crime you haven't committed.

  • ||

    The tobacco company lied and Tony died.

  • Barack Obama||

    I hereby declare it illegal to smoke while scuba diving.

    I have Spoken.

  • ||

    Tony|1.7.10 @ 4:11PM|#
    "But the original point was that Stossel was fibbing when he said that companies that harm customers tend to go out of business."
    Boy, you're full of them today. People are 'harmed' by, oh, riding in an auto instead of walking.

  • ||

    Don't forget the coffee growers. Maaaaan, that's a monkey on my back.

    I'm pretty sure their customers die too.

  • ||

    Marketing a dangerous product while hiding the danger is legally actionable, as we saw. There's nothing unfree market about suing someone for deliberate malice.

    While it was mishandled in lots of ways a reasonable outcome was reached through the judiciary.

  • KPres||

    "Addiction by definition removes some measure of choice."

    False. Addiction, no matter how powerful, is still just a feeling, and can always be overcome by reason. (Notice how psychologist can never come up with a real definition for 'addiction?' That's because an addiction is just something that you like and somebody else thinks is bad for you.)

    "We are not punished for our sins, but by them."

    Every pleasure in life presents an opportunity for addiction. If you want to rid the world of addiction, you have to give up everything. Sex, drugs, movies, religion, knowledge, tasty food...all addictive in the end.

    Nice world you got there.

  • ||

    tony, addiction is something that makes non-coercion basically impossible, but how can you say what balance is optimal? is no one ever dying from smoking optimal? 1000 people a year? the very act of saying there is an optimal outcome is conceding the idea that you just want your coercion to be the strongest.

  • Tony||

    Of course 0 deaths is optimal, but it's not realistic. I don't want to ban cigarettes because I don't think the government should attempt to rid everyone of all their vices. (I DO think a case can be made that cigarette companies are liable for doing harm to people.)

    Some number of deaths has to be considered the preferred threshold, for this, cars, and everything else. My point is that I'd rather have people whose goal is human safety deciding the acceptable number of deaths rather than a for-profit company.

  • ||

    "Of course 0 deaths is optimal, but it's not realistic."

    I wouldn't even go as far as to say that no deaths is optimal. Only the individual can decide what is optimal for him/herself. Not everyone wants to live forever. At some point the optimal choice for some people is to die.

    As I explained above, the tobacco industry didn't do any harm. If I offer to sell you a poison that you can use to kill yourself, am I liable for your death if you choose to drink it?

    "My point is that I'd rather have people whose goal is human safety deciding the acceptable number of deaths rather than a for-profit company."

    Again, you place responsibility in the wrong hands. You and I decide what products we want to use, what actions we want to take. Neither governments nor companies can decide that for us.

  • Tony||

    Lacking regulations there's no reason to believe that I'd even have the ability to choose, say, a safer cigarette or car. All cigarettes and all cars (and all food and all everything) would be less safe, since it costs money to make things safer and, as has been amply demonstrated, businesses aren't going to self-regulate out of the goodness of their hearts but only to the extent that it maximizes profits, which usually means an unacceptable level of unsafeness.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    Tony, businesses do their best to meet consumer demand. Whatever that happens to be. If people want to do something dangerous, like skydive, race cars or smoke, then some savvy individual will find away to cater to that desire. You continually fail to understand that value is subjective... So you think that your personal balance of risk vs. "benefit" is the right one, without realizing that everyone has a different conception of value.

    Many people I know personally find the relaxing nature of smoking to outweigh the health risks. And everyone I've ever met with half a pair of cajones has been perfectly responsible about admitting that it's their choice to take risks with their own health.

  • Big John||

    +1

  • Tony||

    You're not getting what I'm saying. I'm not blaming cigarette companies totally. I'm saying that since their product is addictive, some amount of consumers' ability to make a rational choice about consuming it is taken away. I take full responsibility for starting smoking (I will ignore marketing--I started smoking because it was fun and all my friends did it, period). Now that I'm addicted--not only to cigarettes but to a particular brand of cigarettes--my freedom to make a rational consumer choice about this product is lessened by a large degree. Wouldn't any company like that amount of customer loyalty? But it's not loyalty based on rational self-interest, it's loyalty based on chemical addiction.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    Oh no, Tony... I haven't missed the point at all.

    The point you're making, and I think we're all clear on this, is that you're a pussy and a joiner who bows to peer pressure and doesn't have the balls to accept responsibility for your own actions.

    Smoking was marketed to me too... and I had plenty of friends who did it. The first time I found out one of my friends smoked, my response was to pull the cigarette from her mouth and throw it on the pavement and tell her she was being an idiot... It was really easy to do, even.

    So lets recap...

    1. Tony: Giant pussy, who caves to anything his friends were doing because he's too insecure and weak-willed to stand u up for himself - and years later, he projects that on everyone, continuing to reject personal responsibility.

    2. Me: I had the balls to stand up for my own individuality, tell my friends that they were being retarded and self-destructive, and did not cave to peer pressure.

    And even after all that, Tony, you're still wrong. It's still rational self-interest because you KNOW IT'S ADDICTIVE!

    So, knowing that it's addictive, you have the power to go down to a drug store and buy the patch to help you unaddict yourself. It's still a choice - one that you're making every day you smoke.

    And one that you made when you first started.

    Just to repeat for the record one more time... Your choice back then was to be a follower and a pussy - and you don't even have the guts to accept responsibility however many years later. Sad.

  • Tony||

    On the broader point that consumer demand is enough to make products safe (or rather, products are as safe as people want them to be as demonstrated by their demand, and that's good enough): I just don't think people are as omniscient as they'd need to be to make truly rational choices in matters of personal safety for every product they consume. Sometimes you just have to take a collective view of things. Without regulation X, Y many more consumers of a product die. As a civilized society we should be able to decide democratically what level of harm is acceptable when the market won't do it itself.

  • ||

    Tony|1.7.10 @ 7:33PM|#
    "I just don't think people are as omniscient as they'd need to be to make truly rational choices in matters of personal safety for every product they consume."
    And, of course, governments are, right? Regardless of the fact that those choices quite possibly cause harm through unintended consequences.
    Your claims of defining 'harm', 'welfare', etc are *exactly* the reason you and other lefties should be ignored.

  • Tony||

    But I can point to regulations and the differences in the numbers of people who died before and after they were enacted. Because government decisionmaking isn't necessarily perfect, that means it shouldn't even try? That's nonsense.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    No, but does government have to try so much?

    Would it be too much to ask for it to succeed more often, while they're trying?

    There are millions of grown adults in this country, Tony, and the majority of them are of sound-enough mind to make their own choices and live their own lives. If they step out of line - say, rape someone or rob a bank at gunpoint - they get shithammered and, hopefully, sent to prison. But the majority of grown, sane Americans don't commit crimes (unless they get elected, then the numbers shoot up). Therefore, we don't need saving. We can dress ourselves, go to work, pay taxes (I'm giving you an opening to gripe that taxes aren't high enough, so go ahead and take it), and live our own damned lives. We don't exist just to provide income to the machine and give them more reasons to tell us how to live.

    That's why 99% of Republicans AND Democrats are full of shit and do not deserve to hold high office. Plain and simple. Even a crayon can understand it.

  • FrenchHash||

    HURRR DURRR

    CRAYON DONT UNDERSTAND

    HURR DURR

  • KPres||

    So what? Government regulations could keep us all alive so long as it outlawed driving, outdoor sports, or anything else that incurred the slightest risk. Make it illegal to leave your living room after work and spoon feed us whatever they think is the healtiest food. But who the hell wants to live like that?

    Being rational =/= being safe, and avoiding risk isn't goal of life.

    I want to take risks, because I want to live life to what I define as the fullest. Who they hell are you to tell me I can't risk my own well being if I feel the potential benefit outweighs the risk?

  • Mr. ?||

    All cigarettes and all cars (and all food and all everything) would be less safe

    If companies offered only crappy food and shoddy merchandise, they wouldn't make any money because people would only buy the non-crappy, non-shoddy goods offered by the competition.

  • Tony||

    If the naked marketplace had innovated adequate protections like you and Stossel claim it should there wouldn't be a need for government regulations. But it doesn't. The motivation to figure out how to make the most money just can't do everything. It's not magic.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    Say it with me, Tony... "Adequate" is a subjective term!

    What's adequate "protection" to you, is an exciting and only marginally risky venture to me. Your views on what is or isn't safe is entirely relative to your personal tolerance for risk vs. reward, and ultimately it all comes down to cost benefit, and that's nothing you can impose on anyone else.

  • Adam R||

    Which is why laws are supposed to be limited by broad, concrete principals, so every dickhead with a gift for oratory can't go outlawing behaviors that don't DIRECTLY harm a citizen's, life, liberty or property just because they looked up the definition of "correlation".

    Given sufficient time and thought any activity can be deemed "dangerous". The automobile has cause communities to sprawl. Making the need for a viable means of commute a requirement to be gainfully employed. Are these people not just as "addicted" to their need for transportation? Which is far more dangerous than cigarettes. Does that mean we should sue Germany for the body of Karl Benz and let every citizen with a morning commute desecrate his body? No, cause it's common knowledge that driving is dangerous.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Good points. Too bad it falls upon deaf eyes.

  • KPres||

    "Lacking regulations there's no reason to believe that I'd even have the ability to choose, say, a safer cigarette or car. All cigarettes and all cars (and all food and all everything) would be less safe, since it costs money to make things safer and, as has been amply demonstrated, businesses aren't going to self-regulate out of the goodness of their hearts but only to the extent that it maximizes profits, which usually means an unacceptable level of unsafeness."

    Business don't self-regulate from the goodness of their hearts, the self-regulate from the fear of competition!!!

    If better options exist, by definition, an opportunity for profit arises.

    You say it costs money to make things safe. Why is that? Because the supply of safety apparatuses and technologies is limited. However, when the demand for safety exceeds the scarcity, it becomes profitable.

    When the gov't forces safety, all its doing is forcing the consumer to take something he doesn't want.

    Now, he may actually want it to some degree, but he wants something else more, which is why he's not demanding the safety. If the gov't forces him to take the safety apparatus, it necessarily prevents him from buying the other thing he wanted more.

    Money doesn't grow on trees, and if you spend on one thing it's only that much less you have to spend on something else.

  • ||

    Explain Consumer Reports and their reports, and then also tell me that their reports are due to government regulation.

    Explain the Volvo ad campaign. "We're built like tanks.", is the one I'm referring to.

    Safety sells. Go look at the new baby section of stuff at Wal-Mart.

  • ||

    I DO think a case can be made that cigarette companies are liable for doing harm to people.

    I agree IF they knew it was harmful and lied about it. Which they did. And they were held accountable.

    As of now however, no one is under the impression that tobacco is safe, if they chose to partake that's their problem.

    Or it should be.

    I expect you would like to take care of them and then use that 'care' as an excuse to exert coercion on the populace.

    Well if I 'have' to take care of people who give themselves cancer then I have the right to tell them what to do.

  • ||

    Read it via audiobook:

    For those of you who haven't read either Rand's The Fountain or Atlas Shrugged, I would encourage you to do it via audiobook (either by purchasing online or going to your library and getting it, then putting it into your iPod). There's something much more riveting about these books when HEARING them. I haven't started Atlas Shrugged yet, but the reader for The Fountainhead is awesome.

  • Mr. McGinty||

    Oh brother.

    I'll watch Stossel's show for this, but I have to say I'm not exactly optimistic. Ayn Rand's books are interesting for their radical political philosophy, but the prose is risible garbage. Part of the reason why the Left has such a hard time taking libertarians seriously is because of this book--the writing is recognizably bad to literate people. Ergo, if you like this book, you must be some kind of idiot. Ergo, if you like this book your political views are idiotic.

    If libertarianism is ever to be recognized as something other than a fringe or subcultural phenomenon, we need to distance ourselves from this book. As art goes (not philosophy, mind you), it's well worth distancing from.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    Agreed.

  • ||

    I enjoyed both the prose and philosophy of Ayn Rand. I enjoyed her style of writing, romantic realism. Most people who complain that she is a bad writer have not actually read her books, and are just propagating what they heard from their other liberal mainstream friends. Of course, their complete disagreement with her entire philosophy has nothing to do with their negative review of her prose.

  • Tony||

    I've read her books, majored in English and am a writer and editor and I say her writing is crap. But so is her philosophy.

  • ||

    I suppose you presume you could write better?;)

    Her prose isn't crap. Her prose is however very emotionally unsettling to people with life inferiority issues. Her prose isn't the best I've read, but I've read much worse.

    Galt's speech was really hard to get through.

    I didn't identify with Galt or Reardon. I identified with Wet Nurse, who was trying to be a better person.

  • Tony||

    I've read her books, majored in English and am a writer and editor and I say her writing is crap. But so is her philosophy.

  • Al Gore||

    I know you don't include MY work in the "crap philosophy" category, faithful minion...

  • Tony||

    Never read Gore's books to tell the truth. Life is depressing enough.

  • Theodore Kaczynski||

    I loved Gore's work!

  • Sean W. Malone||

    Tony was an English major... Shocking.

  • Pedantula||

    McGinty, your last post includes a couple of very odd premises:

    1.) That people on the Left actually know the difference between good prose and bad (I grant that they often pretend to know this, but 'tis not the same thing).

    2.) That Rand's prose is somehow worse than the many hack authors cherished by many across the Left spectrum.

    3.) That there exist people who are open to the idea of libertarianism, but who would yet allow themselves to be stopped from considering it by the artistic style of just one of its representatives.

    None of these points make sense, but the last one is flatly ridiculous.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    All true, but it doesn't make Rand's prose any better. I recently re-read Atlas and I gotta say, it was a tough slog. On the one hand, I'm sitting there constantly being awed by how perfectly relevant it is to the events of today. On the other, I was tearing my eyes out for how bad the actual dialogue is most of the time.

  • ||

    Oh come on!

    Cherryl:

    "I'M Mrs. Taggart. I'm the woman in this family now."

    "That's quite all right," said Dagny. "I'm the man."

    That's gold:D

  • Pedantula||

    I prefer a slightly more naturalistic style myself, and there are definitely elements in Rand's fiction that make me (or at least the adult version of me) cringe.

    But let it be resolved, contra McGinty: the great contest between political systems will probably be decided by something other than a showdown between opposing prose styles.

  • ||

    Went through an Ayn Rand phase in High School. Her worship of self-interest has appeal to a libertarian but there is a place for altruism in this world. In her world I think all mentally handicapped people would be left to starve. They are not productive enough. Her lovers are not even capable of loving unconditionally which is far more heroic than the love she advocates. One thing I do recall that I thought was funny - not sure if it was Atlas or Fountainhead - the heroine is going to run this fantastic passenger railroad, okay? She wrote in the 40's and 50's and guess which industry was soon to be killed by the airlines. So this great company would probably end up being subsidized by now -- a la Amtrak. I guess she was a philosopher but she sure was no visionary.

  • smartass sob||

    Her lovers are not even capable of loving unconditionally

    Neither are anyone elses. There is no such thing as "unconditional" love; in fact, it's really a contradiction in terms. Love is what one feels toward someone or something precisely because certain conditions are met by that someone or something - else why would one feel love? Even the Christian god's love is not unconditional - he'll consign one to hell, if one displeases him sufficiently. Nor is a mother's love unconditional - one must meet the condition of being her child.

  • Kid at Obama Forum||

    Why do they hate you, Mr. President? They're supposed to love you!

  • ||

    tony, you can point to legislation that saved lives, but are you seriously arguing that one cannot point to a mountain of other examples where the free market and consumer demand accomplished the same thing.

    you are using examples where people literally want to (or dont care whether they) hurt themselves as examples of the failure of free markets to protect them. what about all the situations where consumers do want to be safer, or more protected? do you deny those?

  • Tony||

    Every single day I eat food, drink water, drive a car (on streets and bridges), use electricity, use personal grooming and household products, and use appliances, and do so while other people also use these things in my vicinity. How the fuck am I supposed to figure out whether it's all safe on my own? I'd much rather pay a little in taxes and have appropriate regulatory bodies ensure a certain baseline of safety for me so that I don't have to live in a constant state of paranoia that I will be poisoned, crashed, or burned to death because I made the wrong product choice.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    So... without shitloads of government... companies would sell nothing but poisonous, unsafe products.

    Just amazing how you people think.

  • Tony||

    Can you make an argument just once without using bad faith straw man hyperboles?

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    I have yet to do so, Tony. Read your own post above, and call me a liar again. I dare you. C'mon, do it.

  • Mr. ?||

    I have never heard a liberal say "I'd much rather pay a little in taxes". Usually, they bitch because taxes are too low - Chad comes to mind on that one.

  • Tony||

    I'm about to start ignoring you completely, because the only thing you ever have to say in response to my posts is some stupid self-serving exaggeration about how I want Hitler dictating the terms of your every bowel movement.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Now who's being disingenuous?

  • Mr. ?||

    Nobody forces you to be here, let alone respond, Tony.

    Maybe if you weren't a big-government liberal, you'd fit in better here. But for now, we all still have the right to disagree, so... enjoy it.

  • Tony||

    And I have a right to call TLG out when he does nothing but respond with straw men and slippery slopes.

  • Mr. ?||

    Your definition of "straw men" must include "people who disagree with me".

    BTW, where is this right of which you speak? Time to break out the Constitution...

    Just yankin' ya, comrade.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    I must have had hundreds of arguments like these with liberals, ?, and they are all basically the same... we can't get rid of ONE government agency, can't get rid of any redundant or unnecessary laws, and Deity of Choice forbid we live within our means and not make life more complicated and costly.

    Tony makes the mistake of equating anarchy and minarchy, and assigning them equal standing against the treat-adults-like-toddlers mindset of RepubliCrats. I find it insulting, and there are a lot more Is out there.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    shit shit shit

    Back to Remedial HTML for me!

  • HTML Squirrel||

    I strike again! Huzzah!

  • Tony||

    If you believe taxation is by definition theft, then you have no choice but to be an anarchist, because no government function can be legitimate.

    If you are in favor of a limited amount of policies, fine, say we have policy disagreements. We're both in favor of some amount of government, I'm just in favor of more than you. What is irritating is the moral superiority you grant yourself and the moral condemnation you heap on me and liberals when the only difference in our beliefs is what policies should exist.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Tony, I'm of the "night watchman state" school of thought. Government should only have a few basic functions, and that's it. Which would still be more than enough to have a functioning society... and a freer one, in terms of cost and personal autonomy.

    I still hold a grudge against O'Reilly for conflating libertarian with libertine - a trait I see echoed by liberals. I have never been an "anything goes" type - that fits the anarchist mold (and remember, anarchists can be left- and right-leaning), and I didn't come out of that mold.

    Thirty years ago, I was like you, Tony. Twenty years ago, I thought Reagan was a good president. Not long after *that*, though, I realized I was wrong... twice.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Put it this way:

    Would I rather have my life dictated by Rick Santorum, or Bernie Sanders?

    If I were faced with those two "choices", Tony, and had no third-party alternatives... I'd probably just eat a bullet. Being lorded over by the far-left is no more preferable to being hounded by the far-right, in my never-humble opinion.

  • Hitler||

    I wish I could dictate mein own bowel movements, but here in Hell, mein arschloch is too full of the pineapples to have the movements...

  • Satan||

    That's enough, Hitler. Breaktime's over, motherfucker. Back to the Pit of Eternal Rick Astley Loops for you... and don't forget, your next pineapple enema is up in fifteen minutes. Enjoy!

  • Sean W. Malone||

    You don't have to do it on your own, dumbass. You have a bunch of private organizations helping you out NOW!

    Underwriters Laboratory ring a bell?
    Consumer Reports?
    Better Business Bureau?
    Car & Driver?
    CNET?

    What rock do you live under that you can't figure out how to ask people which products are good and which aren't? And why don't you realize that when a company does something people don't like or don't want - judged by losses, generally speaking, they go out of business? Happens every freaking day.

    The government has no such information gathering ability, and their regulatory bodies like the FDA are often easily captured by the companies whose products they're supposed to oversee, and they don't go out of business cause they're the government.

    And also, try using your own brain as well... Once I was talking to a friend about why food safety ratings are unnecessary as he was buying me a bacon-wrapped hot dog from a vendor on Hollywood Blvd. And in the same breath, he asked me how we would know if our food was safe, while simultaneously asking the vendor to select one of the more fully cooked dogs.

    It was delicious.

  • Tony||

    Maybe it's easier for a food vendor to simply lie to me about the safety of their food than go to the trouble of making it safe. We'd need a regulation to prevent that. Or maybe they calculate that they can optimize profits, that is stay in business while not spending too much on safety, when, say, 1000 people die a year. There is no guarantee that market forces are adequate to meet the demands of consumer safety, and even if they did so eventually, why should I have to wait around for the market to trim off the food producers who poison people, when we know how to prevent it in the first place?

  • JB||

    Tony: Regulations magically make things safe!!1!

    What we need is a regulation banning fetuses like Tony. They are unsafe.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    The market is quick and pretty damned dynamic, Tony... Government is not. Likewise, businesses have direct feedback from their customers in terms of profits and losses, and if they screw up enough times, they go out of bsiness... The Government, on the other hand, will never go out of business regardless of their success or failure. Which do you suspect has a better chance of working to cull the bad seeds faster?

    I'll give you another guess if you need it.

    Big brother isn't there to watch over the shoulder of every cook & chef in the country, Tony. So how exactly would they have protected me from a raw bacon-dog with poison relish? What's more, is that because I actually take care of myself and have friends largely smart enough to do the same, I never expect someone else to take care of me. But you've already exposed your infantile attitude upthread. Most adults are quite capable of doing their own consumer research and using their own best judgment in purchasing decisions... I don't think we want to encourage any more people to expect to be taken care of by an inept nanny state. There are enough babies like you as it is.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    +2, Sean. Excellent post.

  • Food Policeman||

    Sean, we're going to have to take you down for interro- er, questioning in regard to the Demon Hog Franks you and your friend were ingesting.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    All I can think of in response to this is the Dragnet-esque music Alton Brown always plays when talking about the FDA.

    Anyway - you'll never catch me, copper!

  • TSA||

    We're watching you, too, Malone. Next time you fly, your ass is ours... and we can plant a LOT of shit in your luggage while you're being distracted by the Package Inspection.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Tony, I have a challenge for you:

    http://www.usa.gov/Agencies/Federal/All_Agencies/index.shtml

    Slog through the above list (it's from usa.gov, so I know you can trust it) and find ten things you would feel Americans absolutely cannot live without.

    I think we could shitcan at least a quarter of the list, and be perhaps a little inconvenienced. Maybe kinda-sorta.

    Seriously, this is a philosophical exercise. Show us just how committed you are to the bigger-is-better paradigm, and how we simply cannot live without what's already in that list - let alone more.

    Bonus:

    Flip through the latest Matthew Lesko tome of government "freebies", and give a rough estimate of how much they cost in total.

  • ||

    How the fuck am I supposed to figure out whether it's all safe on my own?

    The same way you figure out which neighborhoods police are effective enough to make it safe to pass through or which which lakes are safe to fish from or which municipalities have drinking water that's reasonably safe to drink or which politicians you have to bribe to get a business permit.

    Look I understand you feel incompetent to run your own life, but really, your competence is probably higher than both you and the posters here assume.

    The real question is why you assume that all these regulations and bureaucracies really do, or care to, make you safer. What they mainly do is make you feel safer and indemnify businesses from prosecution (the FDA approved our product!) for malfeasance and provide businesses a much easier path to profit. Instead of spending resources on making their products safe to protect themselves from market loss or competition, they instead have an easier option, bribe the regulatory bureaucrat.

  • ||

    Why, without government intervention, are you so paranoid?

    You act out of your own self-interest. Companies do also, and they recognize that everytime you use their product, you are their golden goose. Why would they seek to kill you?

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Mr. ?|1.7.10 @ 11:28PM|#

    What do you call 400 Congressmen at the bottom of a lake?

    Campaign finance reform.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Only 400 Congressmen?

  • ||

    +1

  • ||

    Good show. One nit-pick: when the audience member complained about "thieves and politicians" regarding selfishness, the reply regarding rational self-interest failed to mention that a rational person is a producing member of society, without which the thief or politician would have nothing to steal.

    I would like to see you do a show on other libertarian authors of note. "Huck Finn" would be excellent. Robert A. Heinlein is another, and where I first disacovered my libertarian leanings, at a much earlier age than I read Rand (I think I was 8 or 9 when I first started reading him). He is at least as important to libertarian thought as Rand, IMHO.

  • Allan Gotthelf||

    John,
    Rand pronounced his name to rhyme with "couch". She said once, at an NBI question period, that it was a combination of "mouse" and "mooch".
    Thanks for the show.
    Allan Gotthelf
    author, *On Ayn Rand*, Wadsworth Philosophers series, 2000.

  • I Heart Capitalisms||

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  • ||

    tony,
    do you reject the premise that government safety regulations can never be 100% safe?
    I bet you don't. And it is true that market forces cannot guarantee 100% safety either.
    But what examples do you have where market forces failed, and govt regulation fixed the problem.

    You might mention cigarettes, but you strain credulity to say the surgeon general's warning and the ban on under 18 smoking have had significant impact on the relative decrease in smoking related deaths, compared to the social stigma placed on smoking. The changing societal perspective on smoking is why the smoking rate is always shrinking. Even to the extent that you could mention laws against smoking in places, such as public buildings, that wouldnt suffice. Those bans are epiphenominal. People didnt stop smoking cuz of the bans, the bans were approved because a majority of people dont want to be around cigarette smoke.

    and your example of saying that it might be easier or more profitable for a hot dog vendor to make unsafe food and lie about it than to be honest. That may be true, but how is regulation better than public opinion at ending that practice? The vendor could be just as unscrupulous with regulation, especially if they were to arguably follow the letter of the law but contramand its spirit.

    and lastly, do you think regulations protect ebay from fraud? no, those who wish to defraud are not inhibited by them in the least. but what keeps the majority of ebay transactions honest? their reputations. reputations have far more weight in keeping deals honest, because the regulations of fraud are almost never adequately enforced on ebay transactions, but the loss of reputation is immediate and easily observable.

  • Tony||

    Government regulation in no way precludes all the normal social/market stuff from happening. It can just provide a baseline so that reasonable minimum standards are met across the board, so that every time a new product comes out we don't have to have 100 people die before customers wise up to its flaws. What's the difference between me selling you tainted meat and me squirting poison in your coffee? Why should one be a crime and the other just a flawed business model?

    The changing social perspective on smoking were certainly helped along by large amounts of government-funded education/propaganda. Though I certainly have no problem with people informing themselves via journalism and other private means, the whole point of government sometimes is that it's the only entity powerful enough to counter the abusive actions of large corporations, such as tobacco companies, which could afford to fund large amounts of its own science and journalism.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    You realize that the government makes huge piles of money from taxing the tobacco industry, right?

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    For no good reason, one should add...

  • ||

    Not sure who - so many choices - How about on the local level? Mayor Bloomturd?

    PS, miss you over on 147/8

  • ||

    I don't believe anyone has carried the anti-crony capitalism banner longer or more effectively than the editorial group at the Wall Street Journal. Someone there should be able to give good examples and explanations.

  • ||

    John

    i am pretty libertarian but you are forcing me to poke holes in this part:

    > It's just not good business to hurt your customers. My 30 years of consumer reporting taught me that businesses rarely do this, and—here's the market's self-regulation—those that do don't stay in business long.

    Now, if you are saying that you are judging the ability of a business to self regulate based on 30 years of reporting, well, when exactly did you observe businesses outside of all government controls. and let's remember the oldest form of government control: the civil action for tort damages. Part of the reason why it is bad business to harm your customers is because you could get sued. i mean there is that, you know.

  • EFC||

    Some libertarians want to get rid of tort. These libertarians tend to be the right wing randian worshippers of big business types like stossel.

  • ||

    Keep up the good work, John!

  • ||

    My cable TV provider doesn't offer Fox Business Network. Does anyone know if this episode will be released on the net?

  • ||

    It should be fun to find a good match for the Fred Kinnan character.

    Brandon Davis, Andy Stern, maybe an old AFL-CIO guy?

    Kinnan's simple union ethos is: "I'm the boss leg-breaker, I have the most thugs, my thugs have clubs, we can shut down any business or shut down the country, so you politicians just mouth all the platitudes you want, but in the end give me what I want or I'll shut you down.

  • ||

    As opposed to reality?

    "Union: We want a raise."
    "Company: Fuck you. I'm moving to China."
    "Union: WTF?"
    "Company: Enjoy your AIDS lol"

  • ||

    Actually I liked Kinnan's character for his candor and his calling the others for their bullshit.

    I like to suppose, had he been in a free society he would have adapted as well to that. As he wasn't, he determined to be top dog looter rather than fight what he saw pointless and futile fight.

  • ||

    John, great article. We seem to have lots of Orrin Boyles and Jim Taggerts in the business world today. It will make a good show. But who are the John Galts out there today? What business leader is willing to make a mockery of a senatorial hearing? Was Howard Hughes our last Galt? This country would cheer a business leader who would stand up to Pelosi, Reid, Dodd, etc. and rake them over their hypocritical coals! C-Span would be on fire and it needs to happen soon.

  • Saranac Lake||

    I can see why some people have a problem with those fish pedicure, it is downright decadent and degenerate. On the other hand, big deal, a little decadence makes life interesting

  • ||

    John, You are a breath of fresh air. The air has been rather fetid since 1/20/09, so I take deep breaths around you.

  • ||

    For Orren Boyle update, see Lloyd Blankfein.

  • Jenny Hatch||

    Wesley Mouch, hmmmm.. This may sound odd, but I would vote for Bill Gates.

    As a confirmed Depopulation Eugenist and elitist who thinks he is God, Gates typifies the "death merchant" who was Wesley Mouch. In Atlas the resources of the government were lined up with private industry to produce a weapon that would depopulate and terrorize the people. "Scientists" who took government money in a state funded institute were used to provide cover/credibility for this invention.

    Gates has engaged in similar tyrannies with his funding and push of Vaccines on innocents to cause sterility and death. His Gates Foundation money has been used to manipulate the people with bogus science spewed all over the airwaves on news programs, and his funding of vaccine research to shove/force toxins on innocent people, especially in the third world, in the form of vaccines lines him right up with Mouch as a "scientific terrorist".

    Rand proves herself quite prophetic when she tied state run science with the death and infertility merchants of today.

    She correctly identified innovation and new technologies with those individuals who had no ties to taxpayer money.

    Until we divorce our "science" from taxpayer money, every penny of it, the death merchants will continue to disable, kill, and sterilize as many people for profit as they can get away with. This is called Genocide and it is happening in America today in the form of toxic vaccines. And Bill Gates and his wife Melinda are up to their eyeballs in the whole bogus scheme.

    Jenny Hatch
    WWW.NaturalFamilyBLOG.com

  • zoltan||

    FUCKING NUTJOB.

  • ||

    Interesting. I just read Atlas Shrugged last week. Here's what I can't reconcile, though:

    I'd like to believe that a free market would sort out everything. I certainly think it's more efficient and less corrupt than any bureaucracy ever could be. But what's just happened with the mortgage industry and the derivatives they were creating out of bundles of bad loans seems like a strong argument for some kind of regulation. When a WaMu loan officer fudged somebody's application he got a commission and the customer got a loan; it was a win-win situation. For everybody except the shareholders. Only the execs knew they'd walk away with their bonuses regardless, if things went south. In Ayn Rand's universe, as far as Atlas Shrugged goes, those executives would be out panhandling right now. But the fact is that they didn't win their bonuses by having pull in Washington; if anything, Washington's trying to stop them from running off with their shareholders' money now, and the Republicans are screaming bloody murder about it.

    So I guess my question is, can you have Ayn Rand's system when it's easier to make a buck by disseminating bad information? Remember, she had a love for invention and creativity; but she had no patience for the maggots and profiteers who sprung up with dishonorable schemes, no matter how creative they were about it. Maybe this is only an issue because the whole market has become so distorted by the original sin of government regulation... but it still seems to me that no one can make intelligent economic decisions when the system is so jammed with noise and bad information, mostly propagated by the people who stand to make the most from putting one over on their shareholders and customers.

    Put another way, in Ayn Rand's world, Bernie Madoff, however despicable she would think he is (and maybe she wouldn't), would be free to move to the Bahamas and never be seen again, with all his clients' money, because they were foolish enough to invest with him. That's actually NOT THAT DISTANT from what happens in Atlas Shrugged; "stupid" investors, in her opinion, deserved to lose their life savings, provided they were not the primary creators of wealth themselves.

    It might feel good for some of us to live in a world like that, but I submit that it would be a very different world, one with a much smaller economy, many fewer cars on the roads, many fewer conveniences available to the traveler, and a division so wide between rich and poor that no amount of money would keep the rich safe from savage attacks on their person.

    Sometimes paying taxes is a form of self-defense, you know.

  • falcon||

    So, are you saying that stupid people should be protected from themselves by the government? That's like asking the fox to guard the hen house. Who takes advantage of stupid people? Smart, evil people (and you don't get to be evil by being stupid, just cruel). So how do stupid people protect themselves? By getting smarter. Reading, researching, learning, understanding. Unfortunately, our public schools are only set up to teach people how to be dependent, not self-aware and independent. So they become "stupid" people that have to be "protected" by our government.

    If you have to pay taxes (and our self-defense must be funded somehow), consider the Fair Tax (which you can learn more about at http://www.fairtax.org). I'd just as soon pay a 23% consumption tax on things I buy anyway as opposed to having the government take it from me under the protection of the 16th Amendment. The Fair Tax is a free tax, meaning we pay it of our own accord, as opposed to the Income Tax which simply steals it from us in violation of the 4th Amendment.

    Sometimes doing something without having to do it is a form of self-defense, too.

  • KPres||

    "When a WaMu loan officer fudged somebody's application he got a commission and the customer got a loan; it was a win-win situation."

    Horseshit, when the WaMu's superiors find out he's dishing out bad loans they can his ass!

    Why?

    Cause WaMu doesn't want to go under!

    In fact, the very threat of being canned is what keeps loan officers from handing out money to any joe who walks in the door.

    ...of course, when the gov't offers and implicit bailout guarantee, or worse, implements regulation FORCING you to give loans to risky borrowers, the market forces that prevent this kind of underhanded practice from happening are stripped away.

    Now WaMu has no incentive to fire the dishonest loan officer, because their risk has been mitigated by the gov't.

  • KPres||

    INOW, the only thing that prevents markets from self-regulating are monopoly enterprises, and the only monopoly in existence at this time is the Federal Gov't.

    ...actually, the ratings agencies had a monopoly, because gov't licensing regulations prevented new competition from entering the market, not to mention prevented the agencies themselves from improving their methods, which were strictly regulated as well (and those regulations weren't designed to handle the exotic securities, although private entrepreneurs certainly were. Too bad they were prevented from fulfilling their true regulatory role in the market.)

  • KPres||

    "Put another way, in Ayn Rand's world, Bernie Madoff, however despicable she would think he is (and maybe she wouldn't), would be free to move to the Bahamas and never be seen again, with all his clients' money, because they were foolish enough to invest with him. That's actually NOT THAT DISTANT from what happens in Atlas Shrugged; "stupid" investors, in her opinion, deserved to lose their life savings, provided they were not the primary creators of wealth themselves."

    If that were the case, and Madoff got to walk off scott free, then that would create an incentive WITHIN THE INDUSTRY to prevent ponzi schemes from happening. The industry would self-regulate because public trust is important to it's bottom line. And who better to root out the rats than the industry itself?

    After all, the gov't had tons of beurocrats working on the case and none of them caught up with Madoff. How is that possible?

    Gov't is an inefficient regulator precisely because it's not driven by profit. The market would have handled the situation better.

  • KPres||

    Bottom line is this....

    Free markets aren't "unregulated", they're "self-regulated."...so long as gov't doesn't intervene and screw up all the incentives.

  • jp||

    self-regulated? hmm.. you sound like an anarchist.

  • Some Guy||

    All good choices, but I went Gietner because it would have been hard to pick one of the two Presidents, since they're basically the same guy.

    And I'm not sure how Bernanke didn't make that poll. He doesn't have legislative power, but he probably did much more to shape the direction we went on the bailouts in 2008-09 than Pelosi or Ried.

  • S. H. Murphy||

    "Many "liberals" agree with the "South Park" episode in which one character said that "because of this piece of s--t, I am never reading again." Rand brings out ferocious hatred in some people."

    I do hope that Mr. Stossel is aware that South Park's Trey Parker is a devoted Libertarian, and that the comment in question was entirely tongue-in-cheek. South Park is in fact pretty much entirely Libertarian-oriented satire.

  • wffwe||

    "Put another way, in Ayn Rand's world, Bernie Madoff, however despicable she would think he is (and maybe she wouldn't), would be free to move to the Bahamas and never be seen again, with all his clients' money, because they were foolish enough to invest with him. That's actually NOT THAT DISTANT from what happens replica omegareplica IWC in Atlas Shrugged; "stupid" investors, in her opinion, deserved to lose their life savings, provided they were not the primary creators of wealth themselves."

  • abercrombie milano||

    My only point is that if you take the Bible straight, as I'm sure many of Reasons readers do, you will see a lot of the Old Testament stuff as absolutely insane. Even some cursory knowledge of Hebrew and doing some mathematics and logic will tell you that you really won't get the full deal by just doing regular skill english reading for those books. In other words, there's more to the books of the Bible than most will ever grasp. I'm not concerned that Mr. Crumb will go to hell or anything crazy like that! It's just that he, like many types of religionists, seems to take it literally, take it straight...the Bible's books were not written by straight laced divinity students in 3 piece suits who white wash religious beliefs as if God made them with clothes on...the Bible's books were written by people with very different mindsets...

  • ||

    Really, fish pedicures? How about regulation of food production. That has eliminated illnesses that used to be routine. The Clean Air Act or the Clean Water Act. Cleaned up pollution that used to be commonplace. When I was a kid there were many rivers and streams that you couldn't fish because the fish were all dead. Now, 35 years after those regulations I can take my kid fishing. Sensible regulation of public goods makes sense.

  • Mike||

    You guys do know Atlas Shrugged is romance novel, don't you? Total chick book. As she navigates the plot, she and her four suitors struggle with their feelings for one another. She is only satisfied when she discovers the impossibly handsome, brilliant, and principled Galt- but alas fate and duty threaten keep them apart. Will she ever get her chance to be thrown down and bent over by Galt the way REARden did it to her? Will Readren be upset that she found a more perfect man? Is Francisco a little gay for Galt? And poor Eddie Willers- he wanted her all along, but he's far to submissive for our heroine. Yep, Romance novel. Granted, Dagny is more appealing to a male reader since she is in a mans role, but that's the hook.

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