Philosophy and Consequences

Liberty and good public policy are not the same thing.

Libertarianism, from A to Z, by Jeffrey A. Miron, Basic Books, 224 pages, $24.95

The cover of Libertarianism, from A to Z, by the Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron, offers to “take the reader beyond the mere surface of libertarian thought to reveal the philosophy’s underlying—and compelling—logic.” In fact, the book fails to reveal much underlying philosophy at all. It offers a lot of good sense in a small package, but it’s really a handbook on public policy rather than a guide to libertarianism. Miron’s conflation of the two raises important questions about whether liberty is a value in itself or merely a means to some other end.

Miron locates libertarians within the liberal tradition, writing that “liberalism used to be the term for the perspective now generally known as libertarianism.” A short digression into the origins of liberalism and the emergence of the term libertarian may shed some light on the discussion here.

The term libertarian came to be used in Anglo-Saxon countries, particularly the United States, as a replacement for the older term liberalism, which had gone into sharp decline at the end of the 19th century. The ultimate insult was the appropriation of “liberalism” by illiberal thinkers who advocated replacing plain ol’ freedom with one or another sort of “higher” or “authentic” or “true” freedom, the achievement of which required using what the old liberals would have denounced as arbitrary power. As the free market economist Joseph Schumpeter later noted, “As a supreme, if unintended, compliment, the enemies of private enterprise have thought it wise to appropriate its label.”

Both liberal and libertarian are built on the root term liber, Latin for “to be free.” Thus the etymology of liberalism and libertarianism direct us to a philosophy that focuses on human liberty. In the great tradition derived from the Spanish Scholastics, the English Levelers, the radical Whigs, and others, enjoying individual liberty means not being subject to the arbitrary power of others or, alternatively, not being subject to the use of force initiated by others. In his Second Treatise of Government, John Locke defined an individual’s freedom as “a Liberty to dispose, and order, as he lists, his Persons, Actions, Possessions, and his whole Property, within the Allowance of those Laws under which he is; and therein not to be subject to the arbitrary Will of another, but freely follow his own.” Much discussion has since gone into the problems of what constitutes an “arbitrary will,” what constitutes “whole Property,” what constitutes force, what role rights play in defining liberty, and so on.

Miron’s focus, by contrast, is not the nature of liberty but the nature of good government. The classical liberal historian Lord Acton wrote: “Liberty is not a means to a higher political end. It is itself the highest political end. It is not for the sake of a good public administration that it is required, but for security in the pursuit of the highest objects of civil society, and of private life.” Rather than focusing on the role of good government in securing liberty, Miron instead focuses almost exclusively on “good public administration,” providing short essays on such topics as monetary policy, externalities, drug prohibition, and unintended consequences. 

Philosophical arguments for freedom, Miron writes, “can seem difficult to evaluate because they start from assertions that are not readily amenable to analysis or empirical examination.” Instead, he offers what he calls “consequential libertarianism,” based on his belief that “most government interventions are undesirable because they fail to achieve their stated goals or because they generate costs that are worse than the problems they purport to fix.” For Miron, “The consequentialist approach is thus a cost-benefit calculation, albeit one with a broad view of costs and benefits.”

Although Miron concludes the book by noting that “Whether one argues that the goal of government is protecting individual rights or promoting policies with the greatest ratio of costs to benefits, the answer turns out to be similar,” it muddies the water to confuse the two. Acton also wrote, “liberty and good government do not exclude each other; and there are excellent reasons why they should go together,” but concluding that they “go together” does not make them identical. Policy makers should be mindful of tradeoffs, alert to perverse incentives, and ready to compare costs and benefits, but that mindfulness, alertness, and readiness are not ipso facto libertarianism. 

Miron does offer what seems like an olive branch to “philosophical libertarians,” as he believes their view “is in fact a consequentialist perspective; it has simply concluded that principles like ‘always respect individual rights’ are useful rules-of-thumb for balancing the positive and negative consequences of interventionism.” The “philosophical” argument for rights, he suggests, is invariably based on a hypothetical imperative, along the lines of: If you want prosperity, health, and long-life, you should respect rights to manage your own life, and to acquire, own, and transfer property in a free market economy.

But there’s a lot of “philosophical” content smuggled in there. For example, what constitutes a good or a bad consequence? Many anti-libertarians have explicitly preferred war over peace, for example. Consider such illiberal writers as the political theorist Carl Schmitt, whose works are much in vogue again, or a wide variety of nationalist, racist, and chauvinist movements. Or consider the Marxists, who reject liberalism because they disagree on the nature of humanity, arguing that man is a “species being.” When Lenin and his cohorts exterminated “class enemies,” they believed nothing was really lost, for the individual human entity is not what matters; the individual is merely epiphenomenal, a mere moment in the process of the attainment of human self-awareness, the overcoming of history, and the conscious determination of mankind’s own future.

To make his consequentialist case for limited government, then, Miron has to rely on “philosophical libertarian” arguments about the importance of the individual. Without them, he can’t determine which consequences are good and which are bad.

Moreover, Miron’s argument is circular. He tells us freedom is valuable because it generates good consequences, but among the good consequences he counts is…freedom. Discussing advertisements, for example, Miron places much weight on freedom as valuable for its own sake: “Restrictions on advertising are infringements of free speech. Existing jurisprudence in the United States holds that commercial speech does not deserve the same legal protection as political speech, but this distinction is meaningless. Earning a living is a crucial freedom, and advertising helps many people earn a living. Indeed, technologies like the Internet make it difficult for governments to restrict freedom, and advertising is one mechanism that supports the Internet. Commercial speech is therefore an important protector of the freedoms safeguarded by political speech.” So freedom is one of the consequences of good policies, but freedom is valuable only because of the good consequences of respecting it. This seems less than tightly argued.

All that said, Miron does a good job of explaining what outcomes different public policies may unleash. One of the book’s insights, brought home again and again, is that consequences and intentions are not the same. As Miron notes, “interventions change incentives, sometimes in ways that are hard to predict.” If you guide policy entirely by intentions (what you want to happen) without attention to incentives (how people will react to the changes as they affect them), you are almost certain to cause more harm than good. Furthermore, uncertainty about the rules can generate its own set of perverse incentives, which is why libertarians put so much emphasis on the rule of law. Miron does a good job of explaining how this applies to issues ranging from antitrust policy to campaign finance controls and from prostitution to the war on terror.

Even here, though, there are gaps. One reason Miron rejects “philosophical libertarianism” is that “philosophically based defenses of libertarian policy conclusions seem to be assertions that lack factual justification.” Yet for all the important material it contains, there is very little factual evidence presented anywhere in Libertarianism, from A to Z.

In contrast, in another short work, What It Means to Be a Libertarian: A Personal Interpretation (1997), Charles Murray offered specific evidence and a general method to verify claims about public policies: the trend line test. Rather than merely measuring the outcomes that came about after the enactment of a policy, Murray suggested looking at the trend line before the change. It often turns out that the line was trending down or up at about the same slope before the policy’s enactment, which tells us to be suspicious of claims on behalf of interventionism. Something like that simple scientific test would have greatly improved Libertarianism, from A to Z. And since Miron is a distinguished economist whose empirical work (notably on the disastrous effects of drug prohibition) is formidable, he could have included a bibliography at the end pointing to data that support his assertions about the failures of interventionism.

I encourage Miron to implement the insights of two other economists, Adam Smith and David Ricardo, who explained how the division of labor and specialization on the basis of comparative advantage generate value. It seems that his comparative advantage is explaining incentives and using data to evaluate policies, rather than plumbing the depths of moral and political thought.

Tom G. Palmer (tom.palmer@AtlasNetwork.org), vice president for international programs at the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, is the author of Realizing Freedom: Libertarian Theory, History, and Practice (Cato).

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  • Tim||

    Is libertarianism compatible with "natural Law" ?

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Tim,

    Is libertarianism compatible with "natural Law"?

    Yes.

    Next question?

  • Tim||

    Thanks, it was bothering me.

  • Old Mexican||

    Philosophical arguments for freedom, Miron writes, “can seem difficult to evaluate because they start from assertions that are not readily amenable to analysis or empirical examination.

    Read: I am too lazy to think.

  • Old Mexican||

    For Miron, “The consequentialist approach is thus a cost-benefit calculation, albeit one with a broad view of costs and benefits.”

    "Broad," as in ultimately meaningless, or "broad" as in "I can make them to be anything that strikes my fancy"?

  • William||

    where she's narrow, she's as narrow as an arrow; and she's broad where a broad should be broad . . . . .

  • Old Mexican||

    Miron’s focus, by contrast, is not the nature of liberty but the nature of good government.

    Which is a question-begging notion in itself.

    I listened to Miron during a Q&A session in C-Span, and I have to say I was overwhelmingly unimpressed with this guy. His "consequentialist" analysis suffers from the same problems as utilitarianism, in that one purports to know the future so as to moraly justify present actions [cost-benefit analysis is A-Ok for finance and planning, not so much to justify ALL actions.]

  • Fiscal Meth||

    Also, implicit in that kind of consequentialist attitude toward liberty is the notion that tyranny would be preferable to individual rights if the results were better for the good of the nation or the middle class or some higher[individual swallowing]collective.

    In other words, collectivists have the moral high-ground but individual freedom, in all its depravity, is better for the collective purpose.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    Who gives a fuck about the retarded logic these harvard jackoffs come up with?

  • ||

    Yeah true, your retarded jack-off logic is much more valuable.

  • Tony||

    [L]iberalism used to be the term for the perspective now generally known as libertarianism.

    Nah. Liberalism evolved to incorporate economic liberty in the 20th century, once it had had some success in achieving the most basic forms of liberty for people once treated by society as chattel. Libertarians are either proto-liberals who missed the boat, or more often it seems, capitalist apologists who dress up their illiberal philosophy with the language of liberalism.

  • Corn Sugar||

    Obvious troll is obvious.

  • Spazmo||

    For Christ's sake, stop replying to Tony's posts. You've all been trolled

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    Right.

    If by "economic liberty" liberty you mean "taking money away from people because they have it and we want it" and "doing what you're told because same faceless functionary in an office far away knows better than you".

  • Tony||

    You have the plutocrat talking points down nicely. You're still not gonna convince me you're for more individual liberty for more people.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Tony,

    You're still not gonna convince me you're for more individual liberty for more people.

    Is that because you're unwilling to be convinced, or because you prefer not to be convinced? And no, they are NOT the same thing.

  • Tony||

    There's nothing to be convinced about. You guys define liberty in the narrowest possible way: liberty from government. Real liberals just believe that there are other forces in the world that threaten liberty, and that people should be allowed to establish protections against them too.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Tony,

    You guys define liberty in the narrowest possible way: liberty from government.

    That's YOUR strawman, Tony.

    Real liberals just believe that there are other forces in the world that threaten liberty, and that people should be allowed to establish protections against them too.

    And? Why would that be different from Libertarian philosophy? People still establish protections against charlatans and thieves without requiring government.

  • Edwin||

    "That's YOUR strawman, Tony"

    It's not a strawman, libertarians frequently rail against only government intrusion into people's lives. And even in that case, they aren't even always consistent they're so reactionary

    The first thing that comes to mind is the assumption that judicial systems are better than legislation. It's nonesense, even from a libertarian perspective. Both the judiciary and legislation represent government. They are both government-based strategies of conflict resolution. There's nothing that says that the judiciary is always better. On a few items, legislation is better, because of the consistency and predicatability it brings, and it's action as preventative of problems in the first place, compared to the very limited reparation-extracting abilities of the judiciary, among many other advantages. The main things are environmental pollution and land use control/nuisance prevention.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Edwin,

    It's not a strawman, libertarians frequently rail against only government intrusion into people's lives.

    If I took umbrage at my mother-in-law's intromission in my life, would that mean I necessarily have an anti-mother-in-law philosophy, Edwin?

    And even in that case, they aren't even always consistent they're so reactionary.

    Victim: "Don't rob me!"
    Robber: "Stop being reactionary!"

    You are not very good at logical discourse, Edwin, I am sorry to have to say it.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    "On a few items, legislation is better, because of the consistency and predicatability it brings"

    Consistency is a key element of liberalism. If a simple regulation efficiently protects people and their property against direct harm by another, these are considered legitimate concerns of government. You are wrong about judicial conflict resolution being a universal method of government in liberalism.

  • DK||

    Tony,

    I'm amazed that you still can't wrap your head around this. It's been repeated over and over on this forum. Let's try doing it directly. Libertarians do NOT define liberty as liberty from government. We define liberty as freedom from coercion by force in any manner whatsoever. That government happens to be the only body which claims legally legitimized use of force makes it a massive target for libertarians.

    None of this stops libertarians from being opposed to other uses of force. It just happens that the vast majority of abuses are only possible due to government policies. For instance, think about eminent domain used for the benefit of private entities. The eminent domain infraction requires an act of government covered by the legal legitimization of force. Were a private entity to use force w/o the cover of government, libertarians would still oppose it. I can think of many other examples of this general principle.

    You accuse libertarians of defining liberty in a narrow manner, yet you seem incapable of understanding these nuanced differences. Please consider things for more than 1/2 second before spouting your diatribe. Thanks!

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: DK,

    Libertarians do NOT define liberty as liberty from government. We define liberty as freedom from coercion by force in any manner whatsoever.

    Tony cannot and will not see a difference, DK. He will ALWAYS construe the freedom from aggresion or coercion as "freedom from government," as his favorite social programs ARE coercive and violent in nature.

  • Edwin||

    The problem is that one little principle is hardly enough to describe morality or government legitimacy in a complex world so full of faults.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Edwin,

    The problem is that one little principle is hardly enough to describe morality or government legitimacy in a complex world so full of faults.

    And, so, you dont even TRY, right You simply take other people's reasonable disagreements as reactionary.

  • Edwin||

    no, I'm open to reasonable disagreements. But libertarians are frequently insane and unreasonable. It's all just spazzing out about government.

  • ||

    I don't see what's 'insane and unreasonable' about spazzing out about government actions that are 'insane and unreasonable'.

  • Martin||

    I'm deafened by Tony's silence.

  • Juice||

    Martin,

    Honestly, I don't like to debate 5 people at once either.

  • ||

    I'm new to this game.

    What do libertarians think about protecting individuals from corporate coercion?

    Also, what happens when corporate interests interfere with government policy?

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Adam,

    What do libertarians think about protecting individuals from corporate coercion?

    Like what? "Buy my apples or else" kind of coercion? I don't understand.

    Also, what happens when corporate interests interfere with government policy?

    Like what?

  • ||

    Well, kind of like that. How about seeds (e.g., Monsanto et al)? A farmer has little choice as to where to get her seeds. (And there is the threat of lawsuit.)

    By corporate interference I mean when corporations influence politicians to alter government policy to improve (i.e., "free") the operating environment for business.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    Government imposed market interference to benefit specific industries most certainly does NOT free the operating environment for business. Look around on this web site, crony-capitalism is one of the main subjects of libertarian discussion. A free market does not include policies that favor specific corporations.

  • Tony||

    That government happens to be the only body which claims legally legitimized use of force makes it a massive target for libertarians.

    Key word is legitimized. That makes government the instrument of the people to guard against all those other, non-legitimate, forms of force that exist in the world. And you want to tear it down!

    Liberals and libertarians have long been in sync with regard to government abuses of power, and there are plenty of things yet to work on. But while we're working on all those other sources of abuse, you're still talking about taxation being theft and all that nonsense.

    Liberals are trying to expand upon individual liberties where they are still lacking. You guys are still trying to implement the Magna Carta.

    If you're an Arab in the wrong place at the wrong time or a drug user then there are abuses of government you may have to contend with. But we have entities polluting our environment, bankrupting us for healthcare costs, gambling our retirement savings away, and you just want to give them more power to do it.

  • Mike||

    "more power to to it"... What? When have you EVER seen someone here promoting giving corporatist puppeteers MORE power? We want to give everyone an opportunity to play by the same rules, and TAKE AWAY the power that many corporations have through overreaching government intrusions into commerce. All these big conglomerates would be WAY less harmful in a system that didn't allow them to buy legislation. We will never be able to monitor and stop ALL corrupt deals without simply taking away the ability of the government to intrude and affect the competition. You just can't do it. You can put as many well-meaning bleeding-heart saints on these regulatory boards as you want, but it will never go away... some of them will retire, die, or lose their principles. Taking AWAY government power here is the only way to take AWAY corporate power over America.

  • Edwin||

    take away corporations' power to do bad things like pollute... by getting rid of all pollution regulations? Please...

  • Colonel_Angus||

    "take away corporations' power to do bad things like pollute... by getting rid of all pollution regulations?"

    Yeah, thats exactly what Mike said, dipshit.

  • DesigNate||

    That is an EPIC logic fail!

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    Real liberals just believe that there are other forces in the world that threaten liberty, and that people should be allowed to establish protections against them too.

    Right. Liberals try to deny the true nature and natural order of things. In reality, life involves risk. Liberals hold this childlike belief that with just the right, really smart people in control of government making really smart laws, we can get rid of all that scary risk and make sure nothing bad ever happens to anyone. Mostly be making sure nobody gets too rich and that money gets spread around instead.

    The classical liberal (i.e., Jefferson) understood that government existed primarily, if not exclusively, to protect the rights of individuals. NOT to impose the will of some perceived "majority" upon the rest. The only threat to individual liberties always was understood to come from government.

    At the same time of course, it always was understood that with great liberties come great responsibilities - i.e., your right to swing your fist ends at my nose. You have the right to the use and enjoyment of your property, except to the extent that it interferes with my use and enjoyment of my property. Which is what the courts are for.

    The idea of government's purpose being to make sure everyone has a nice, safe life and nothing bad happens to them would be antithetical to classical liberals. It is not the government's job to make your life "safe."

  • Tony||

    Liberals try to deny the true nature and natural order of things.

    Sorry, that ship sailed when people started farming. That is truly a bizarre comment.

    The classical liberal (i.e., Jefferson) understood that government existed primarily, if not exclusively, to protect the rights of individuals. NOT to impose the will of some perceived "majority" upon the rest. The only threat to individual liberties always was understood to come from government.

    Well, liberalism has evolved since the days of Jefferson, because civilization has evolved. Even he couldn't stick by his government minimalism when he was president. And it had hardly been a utopia of individual liberty, which originally certainly was meant only for prosperous white males. We've been working on extending it to others. You've been mentally masturbating about imagined glory days.

  • Jorj X. McKie||

    So libertarianism was a nightmare in America and also it never happened.

  • Oswald Mosley||

    Real freedom is economic freedom. Economic freedom cannot come until economic chaos ends ; and it cannot end until a Government has power to act. Real freedom means good wages, short hours, security in employment, good houses, opportunity for leisure and recreation with family and friends.

  • calebthegnome||

    How well has this idea of government creating "economic liberty" even worked out? It seems to me that all government welfare has done is further entrenched the economic elites you seem to hate so much, while creating a lower-class that is perhaps more "happy" in a sense, but also more sedated and obese than ever before. The lower classes are no more free than before, just lobotomized. Those in control of the government would never want to give everyone true "economic freedom" (if that were even possible), because then who would they have power over? Who would they pander to for votes?

    If you don't agree with libertarianism's premises, you should at least read the works of the Frankfurt school (e.g. Herbert Marcuse), to see how your beloved liberalism fails by its own terms.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    Those in control of the government would never want to give everyone true "economic freedom" (if that were even possible), because then who would they have power over? Who would they pander to for votes?

    Well said.

  • Old Mexican||

    Tony: "Yes! That's it!"

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Tony,

    Libertarians are either proto-liberals who missed the boat, or more often it seems, capitalist apologists who dress up their illiberal philosophy with the language of liberalism.

    Explain to me what's illiberal about capitalism [the use of one's property to create more property].

    Please.

  • Tony||

    Explain to me what is liberal about capitalism as you want it to be, essentially a darwinian system? What if you don't have any property to begin with?

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Tony,

    Explain to me what is liberal about capitalism as you want it to be[...]

    There cannot be capitalism without freedom - THAT is how liberal it is. Slaves are not capitalist.

    [...]essentially a darwinian system?

    What the frak are you talking about? You sound like a creationist, and I don't mean Scopes Monkey Trial type creationist.

    What if you don't have any property to begin with?

    Don't you own your body? Don't you own your mind? You CAN'T be without property.

  • Tony||

    What the frak are you talking about?

    In the sort of laissez-faire system you favor, success and failure come about by essentially darwinian means. Both genetic and situational luck play a large role in one's success. Even if you posit the existence of some amount of fairness, you can't escape the luck factor (which I'd be happy to expound upon). And as in all darwinian systems, the few prosper while the many perish. We can do better.

    Don't you own your body? Don't you own your mind? You CAN'T be without property.

    You got me there. If someone doesn't have anything but her body, she can always turn it into a commodity!

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Tony,

    In the sort of laissez-faire system you favor, success and failure come about by essentially darwinian means.

    What? You mean that success or failure does not come from personal effort or lack thereof?

    Both genetic and situational luck play a large role in one's success.


    Depends - success on what? Certainly I am not as talented as Michael Jordan, but that does not mean my sense of being a successful person is contingent only to my skills as a basketball player.

    And as in all darwinian systems, the few prosper while the many perish. We can do better.


    What the hell are you talking about, Tony? Who perishes? In regards to what?

    You have an extremely simplistic view of the world, Tony. VERY simplistic.

    You got me there. If someone doesn't have anything but her body, she can always turn it into a commodity!


    You're delicious, Tony - I guess actresses are also prostitutes, and singers, and mimes, and . . .
  • Vaccine||

    And as in all darwinian systems, the few prosper while the many perish. We can do better.

    Presenting Tony, the Eugenics Economist! You do realize your blind, irrational belief in the power of central control makes you the William Jennings Bryan in this argument, right?

  • MJ||

    "You do realize your blind, irrational belief in the power of central control makes you the William Jennings Bryan in this argument, right?"

    Well, Bryan was one of the early leaders of the American Progressive movement.

  • ||

    And as in all darwinian systems, the few prosper while the many perish. We can do better.

    The fit prosper. Their is no restriction on how many are fit.

    And the unfit live out their lives without ever knowing they've been superceded. Some even prosper in their own way. But again, they may be many, they may be few. There is no numerical limit that makes one 'unfit'.

    Eventually, everyone will be fit. That is the Darwinian way.

    How do we do better than that?

  • Tony||

    Azathoth,

    Everyone will be fit... if you define everyone as "the small minority of survivors." That's how evolution works and it's how laissez-faire capitalism works too. We can do better by providing a floor that no person is left to fall below. If we can afford it, we are compelled to provide it. Anything else is letting society be run by darwinian culling rules and on no planet are those considered "fair."

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Tony,

    Everyone will be fit... if you define everyone as "the small minority of survivors."

    You watched "Wall Street" too many times. The market is NOT a zero-sum game, despite what Gordon Gekko said on the screen.

    That's how evolution works and it's how laissez-faire capitalism works too.

    Which tells me you do NOT know how evolution works nor how the market works. Natural Selection is not a market process, and the market is NOT a natural selection process.

    We can do better by providing a floor that no person is left to fall below.

    Good! How high?

    If we can afford it, we are compelled to provide it.

    Non sequitur. Why would affordability compel someone to part with their money?

  • Tony||

    Which tells me you do NOT know how evolution works nor how the market works. Natural Selection is not a market process, and the market is NOT a natural selection process.

    You just want to make them as similar as possible. It is not guaranteed or proved that the market rewards people in a just way. Without some types of controls it really only rewards the most ruthless.

    How high?

    We can have that debate as soon as you get over your anarchic utopian fantasies.

    Why would affordability compel someone to part with their money?

    I think a wealthy society is morally compelled to provide a basic standard of living for all of its members. But morality is subjective, so let's go with practicality. A society in which all the resources are concentrated with the few is an unstable one for everyone, not least the few, whose necks might find themselves in a precarious place.

    But you can't get beyond the nonsense about how all taxation is theft. So you can't even tolerate enforcement of contracts or an army. So what's the point of going further in this?

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Tony,

    You just want to make them as similar as possible.

    Am I? I just told you, they are NOT similar in any way. Did you read my post? It's in English, by the way.

    It is not guaranteed or proved that the market rewards people in a just way.

    Oh, man - you're BEGGING THE QUESTION. What's just? Who says? Why?

    Outcomes from a market transaction are ALWAYS just, as two parties exchange when it is advantageous for both. Otherwise, they would NOT exchange. What you're talking about is a person that feels envy for someone else's property - that's not something the market can solve, only a priest or a shrink.

    Without some types of controls it really only rewards the most ruthless.

    Non sequitur, begging the question. What controls? Why? What do you mean with "ruthless"? Is your grocer ruthless when he sells to you? Are you ruthless when you buy from him?

    We can have that debate as soon as you get over your anarchic utopian fantasies.

    That's a cop-out. You brought out the issue, let's be serious about it: HOW HIGH the floor?

    I think a wealthy society is morally compelled to provide a basic standard of living for all of its members.

    Again, begging the question. What's a "basic standard of living"? What's society? Who is society? The only ones with wealth are individuals, so you're saying individuals are compelled to give other individuals a "basic standard of living"? Why? For what reason?

    But you can't get beyond the nonsense about how all taxation is theft. So you can't even tolerate enforcement of contracts or an army. So what's the point of going further in this?

    Why would tolerating an army be a good thing, or why mention it? What makes you think contracts can only be enforced if there's previous plundering? Who guarrantees this? You? Me? Your dog? My cat?

  • ||

    hookers: "world's oldest capitalists"?

  • ||

    Read what you typed..Don't you own your body? Don't you own your mind? You CAN'T be without property.

    Really that's debatable concerning owning his own mind.

  • ||

    That is precisely what capitalism/free market is not. And of course, like Michael Moore you will point to our current corrupt system and the resulting vast, inexcusable inequality of wealth and opportunity and call that capitalism which it so is not. It is a system where those with wealth, power and influence are able to use their wealth, power and influence over the machine of governance to exponentially and perpetually acquire more wealth, power and influence at the expense of everyone else.

  • Tony||

    And in the absence of (or reduced scope of) government, the powerful and wealthy will magically stop exploiting people? How does that work?

    There is no perfect form of capitalism, and left unchecked to become its most extreme form, like communism, it can cause a lot of misery.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Tony,

    And in the absence of (or reduced scope of) government, the powerful and wealthy will magically stop exploiting people? How does that work?

    You feel exploited by the wealthy, Tony?

    There is no perfect form of capitalism, and left unchecked to become its most extreme form, like communism, it can cause a lot of misery.

    Communism is not capitalism. I don't know from which ass you pulled that one . . .

  • Tony||

    I don't feel exploited by the wealthy, I am exploited by the wealthy. Just like everyone else. THAT's the natural order of things, or didn't you notice all of human history? Governments have for the most part been their tools to exploit, tis true, but we have tried to improve upon that over time, and what we have now is better than anything that came in the past, ever.

  • ||

    "I don't feel exploited by the wealthy, I am exploited by the wealthy"

    How were you exploited?

  • AA||

    "Governments have for the most part been their tools to exploit, tis true, but we have tried to improve upon that over time, and what we have now is better than anything that came in the past, ever."

    Agree. And I would say that is because government got out of the way and let markets and competition evolve naturally.

  • DesigNate||

    Where did the wealthy touch you? Show me on this doll.

  • ||

    Mandatory auto insurance that doubled my car insurance rates.

  • Bill McGonigle||

    >What if you don't have any property to begin with?

    There are innumerable examples of property-less immigrants trading the value of their labor for currency and their currency for wealth. The smart ones run that cycle to ever-increasing values. It's accessible to those with the motivation and drive.

    A free society should be concerned about equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome, as the values of outcomes can't be objectively measured. I know of a fellow locally who's a career dishwasher because he's very much interested in philosophy and does his thinking at work, and writing when he gets home. He's simply not interested in attainment of property wealth or a 'knowledge-worker' job. Other people value leisure over wealth. etc.

    That said, our government schools do an abysmal job of turning out pupils with the tools necessary to engage in entrepreneurism. That could be improved. Even from a wealth-building and taxation perspective, the government should be incentivized to do this, as its revenues should surely rise. Only if it values a dependent populous over revenues does the current set of policies make sense.

  • ||

    +10000

  • DesigNate||

    Unfortunately, I believe that the political class wants that and has worked on bringing us to that point for the last 80-100 years.

  • prolefeed||

    What if you don't have any property to begin with?

    Nobody is born with property. A few inherit property, but most people who succeed do so by their own efforts.

  • Tony||

    Citation needed.

  • AA||

    Why would a citation be needed for that factual comment?

    By asking for a citation are you saying most people succeed by efforts not their own?

    How can I succeed without effort?! I really wish I knew!

  • Edwin||

    Gee, I don't fucking know, genius. Maybe by having been born to a rich family? Luck? Maybe those fucking things might fucking help. You dumbfuck

  • AA||

    Wow, do you realize how stupid you sound with all of the name calling? Grow up.

    Most people succeed by their own hard work and effort, thats a fact. I have known plenty of kids born to rich parents who ended up being nothing because they didn't... wait for it... show any effort. The rich kids who did end up successful still worked hard and had to put forth effort.

    Try to lay off the name calling and cursing, you sound as stupid as you probably are.

  • Tony||

    Ah anecdotes as irrefutable evidence. Even without numbers surely you can agree that people born in wealthy countries to wealthy parents probably, on average, have a higher chance of succeeding than those who aren't, right?

  • Edwin||

    Bullshit, you fucking fuck of a fuck fuck. God damnit I hate you so much.

    It's a lot fucking easier to do well if you start off well off. Even if all you have is a stable family that providses a good upbringing, that's a better start than a lot of people get.

  • AA||

    "Even without numbers surely you can agree that people born in wealthy countries to wealthy parents probably, on average, have a higher chance of succeeding than those who aren't, right?"

    Right. But my point was that it is no guarantee. Wealth can be waisted as easily as it can be made and given to your children. That wealth was made somehow, someone had to work to get it. But this also comes back to whether it is a zero sum game or not.

    I think we need to be able to recognize what creates all of this wealth. You mentioned people being born in wealthy countries; why are those countries wealthy? Why is a country like the USA wealthier than a country with a similar amount of natural resources like Russia for examle(with its own terrible history of exploitation and violence)?

  • Tony||

    The USA was at its most prosperous, innovative, and powerful at a time when it could fairly be said that the rich were being soaked. Low taxes on the rich are simply not meaningfully related to the success of a country. Postcommunist Russia is a good example of a radical free market system: it was looted by the elite and left to rot. Standard of living has decreased since its transition to capitalism.

    I know, I know, that's not "real" capitalism. Someday you'll have an example of that to point to.

  • AA||

    citation needed on all ;) ha!

    What is meaningfully related to the success of a country then? How much should you tax the successful? At what point is one too successful? Who should then get the taxed success and why?

  • Tony||

    AA I don't have specific answers to those questions, I just know that forever reducing taxes is not responsible policy. In general I think taxes should be structured so that we pay for the government we want, nobody is burdened by taxes, and a robust middle class is cultivated--because that's what's meaningfully related to a country's success.

  • AA||

    Well I think we can both agree that is not what we have now, and very few in DC(or any level of government) are working towards that.

    I can say that the less government encourages hatred and resentment, the better off we'll all be. I believe taxes play a role in encouraging that.

  • Edwin||

    I'm a stupid fucking cunt who's still a virgin and I live in my mom's basement. I have no balls because they fell off after I left the rubber band on too long while watching 10 hours of MSNBC and jerking off.

  • ||

    yep.
    People breathe air. Being hungry makes you want to eat.

    [citation needed]

  • mad libertarian guy||

    Because Tony believes that everyone who isn't poor is such because they inherited riches, and he believes it inherently wrong that someone who has earned money should have the right to give it to whomever he/she chooses.

    In other words he's a douche who thinks that one's work belongs to someone else.

  • Old Mexican||

    All that said, Miron does a good job of explaining what outcomes different public policies may unleash.

    I take great issue with this idea that MY freedom is contingent to this so-called "good policy." There's a not-so-thinly veiled assertion here that people act only within the framework of government action, instead of as self-interested individuals. In a sense, Miron is actually a socialist, not a libertarian.

  • Ayn_Randian||

    That's a bit of a stretch. Everything government does or does not do is "policy", and your assertion seems to assume people do not respond to incentives, which is wrong.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Ayn_Rand,

    That's a bit of a stretch. Everything government does or does not do is "policy", and your assertion seems to assume people do not respond to incentives, which is wrong.

    That's not my argument against Miron. My argument stems from his assertion that good actions derive from good policy.

  • ||

    Nor is it true that everything government does or does not do is policy. Were government confined to acting as agents for the people, then the government would be merely agents or the agent for the people that is the objective and recognized mediator between the people concerning rights disputes.

  • ||

    My argument stems from his assertion that good actions derive from good policy.

    Huh? Where does he make that assertion? I don't see anything about that above. More importantly, why exactly is it problematic?

  • ||

    Try reading the article, particularly the paragraph concerning free speech.

    As for why is that problematic, it assumes that we need to have a policy to end up with what we should have in the first place, such as free speech helping people to earn a living. The problem is that rather protecting freedom being the desired result, it is people earning a living. The natural flow of logic then is that if the freedom of free speech was "considered" to be an impediment to people earning a living, then the policy needs to be changed.

    The perversity of this kind of logic is seen in the distorted use of the commerce clause where peoples freedoms are violated because they may interfere with commerce. In Wickard vs. Filburn a man was denied his right to grow however much wheat he wanted, because it may have negatively affected other people's opportunities to engage in commerce.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Rhayader,

    Huh? Where does he make that assertion?

    Here, my friend:

    Instead, he offers what he calls "consequential libertarianism," based on his belief that "most government interventions are undesirable because they fail to achieve their stated goals or because they generate costs that are worse than the problems they purport to fix."

    Clearly, he leaves the door wide open to "good government interventions," whichever these may be.

    And:

    Miron instead focuses almost exclusively on "good public administration," providing short essays on such topics as monetary policy, externalities, drug prohibition, and unintended consequences.

    The above citations from his own work tells me he believes "good government policy" should lead to "good outcomes," which in itself is saying that good government leads to good people, as only people act. This is pure socialism, there's nothing libertarian about his approach.

  • ||

    You guys are making something out of nothing. Extending a consequentialist defense of libertarian policy does not mean Miron is rejecting the notion that personal liberty has intrinsic value. You do realize that one can simultaneously believe that liberty is both morally and pragmatically superior to alternatives, yes? The two assertions are not mutually exclusive.

    As for why is that problematic, it assumes that we need to have a policy to end up with what we should have in the first place, such as free speech helping people to earn a living.

    This is what I mean. Where does Miron talk about consequentialism to the exclusion of intrinsic freedom? He's not saying we "need" to have this or that outcome; he's saying that pushing policy in a more libertarian direction will have positive outcomes. Apparently this is really scary to you guys.

  • ||

    Oh come on now. We're really calling Jeffery Miron a socialist? As far as I can tell, he never asserts that individual freedom is "contingent" upon policy outcomes. It's just a different (and, if you ask me, complimentary) framework, that's all.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Rhayander,

    Oh come on now. We're really calling Jeffery Miron a socialist?

    No, I am calling him a socialist, because that is what he is. His own words demonstrate this.

  • Edwin||

    A guy is espousing free-market policies and you call him a socialist?

    Christ, you really are a retard.

  • Bill McGonigle||

    One useful aspect of Miron's work is that it's accessible to those who do not value freedom philosophically. The net outcome of a 'liberal' policymaker reading the book ought to be more liberty, if for the wrong reasons. Shouting "taxation is theft!" at a socialist isn't practically productive.

    I think he's also trying to address the fundamental conflict held by minarchist libertarians that "a little bit of wrong is good."

  • ||

    Yes, thank you.

    I love the sense of betrayal among some here; how dare he justify libertarian policy by citing benefits and advantages to the public? Heaven forbid we try to convince people by, you know, pointing to positive consequences. Unforgivable and traitorous.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Rhayander,

    I love the sense of betrayal among some here; how dare he justify libertarian policy by citing benefits and advantages to the public?

    He's not justifying libertarian policy - he's trying to justify good government policies when they lead to seemingly libertarian outcomes.

    Heaven forbid we try to convince people by, you know, pointing to positive consequences.

    The problem stems from the question-begging "positive outcomes" canard. I don't want the government to "allow" me to be free because that leads to beautiful, positive outcomes. I want to be free for freedom sake, even if I want to act as a selfish bastard and lead my life to a "bad" outcome, as long as I don't step on anybody else's freedom or property.

  • Edwin||

    Well, that's too fucking bad for you, because all you fucking nerdo douches have got is utilitarianism. Few people are such fucking detached nerds that they think some magical over-arching "logic" can answer every question. And they especially won't follow you when your fucking logic leads you to weird perverse places, from the better known civil rights position, to the lesser known but even crazier positions that child prostitution should be legal as long as you pay the kid, or saying that that guy a few years back who shot a kid for crossing his lawn had the right to do so.
    In other words, they know that the libertarian idea of "freedom" is frequently anything but. The only hallmark of the libertarian idea of "freedom" is a certain mimic of being intelligent and consistent, that only socially detached aspberger cases would take up to tell themselves that they're smarter than everyone else to make themselves feel better about the fact that they can';t get laid and no one can stand them.
    People quickly learn that the libertarian idea of "freedom" is perverse. That's why NO ONE FUCKING VOTES FOR LIBERTARIANS. You're movement is NOT expanding. It is NOT succeeding. You want to talk about freedom? Well guess what? Everybody exercises their freedom every election day to NOT be libertarian, to NOT live under a libertarian government.

    One day, you jagoffs might get your heads out of your asses and stop being such DETESTABLE, digusting fucking losers, and then you actually might start SUCCEEDING and ACTUALLY doing some good for ACTUAL freedom in the world... but I doubt it.

  • Fiscal Meth||

    (a crying Edwin stamping his feet)

    YOU BETTER AGREE WITH ME OR ELSE YOUR A FART FACE!!!

    (While his peers usually go with the argument by intimidation [only an immoral person would think...], Edwin resorts to the argument by tantrum)

  • Edwin||

    Avoiding addressing any points I made, eh? Classic libertarianism. That's why you guys can't get elected.

  • AA||

    Almost all Libertarians I know(including me) do not support child prostitution or slavery.

    I know I get laid more than you. Just look at your personality on here, what woman would want you?

    You spend your internet time railing at Libertarians, who's core line of argument is adults not initiating force or violence(oh my god! peace is so scary!!!). What could possibly be more pathetic than freaking out at a philosophy you claim is so irrelevant(and one you prove you don't even understand)?

  • Tony||

    Yes AA you guys are all for non-initiation of force and unicorns and lollipops, you just expect us to believe that they'll come about by magic all on their own. I'm a pacifist too but I don't expect it to happen if we just believe hard enough. Peace is something that requires work.

  • Banjos Kick Ass!||

    "Peace is something that requires work."

    Got that? We all want peace, Tony just wants it through force and coercion. Don't let the cognitive dissonance give you too much of a headache.

  • Tony||

    So the solution to the Israel/Palestine issue is so simple! Just do away with their governments and let peace descend from the heavens... And to think we've wasted all this time negotiating.

  • AA||

    I would think their governments have a lot to do with the problems they have over there.

  • ||

    1. Stop having states threatening war against the opposing ethnic group/state.
    2. Stop feeding the propaganda wars on whichever side with state-controlled media.

    That might be good for a start.

  • AA||

    I agree with you... I guess?

    But what do you mean by "work?" What are we not doing? So because we are for low taxes we are not "working" towards peace? Because we are for freedom of association, and not forcing(through violent means if necessary) people to associate with each other we are not "working" towards something?(just pulling out some possible arguments I've heard you make against Libertarianism) I don't get it. I don't think its "magical" that people will get along with each other and help each other if governments primary function is to keep individuals from injuring and stealing from each other. Common sense isn't "magical."

  • Banjos Kick Ass!||

    Edwin is upset because we refuse to argue on his terms, play by his statist rules. Many statists have this same reaction. In a fit of frustration they go off on a temper tantrum. If we are all a bunch of unfair poopy heads who refuse to play the game right, why does he keep coming back to this park to play ball with us?

  • ||

    I don't want the government to "allow" me to be free because that leads to beautiful, positive outcomes.

    Yeah, being oppressed in the midst of misery and suffering is vastly preferable. Good call.

  • the power of one||

    Good review of A to Z.

    For a more stupid take on the book, go to http://www.amazon.com/review/R.....linkCode;=

  • Trespassers W||

    I should have known better than to click on that link.

  • the power of one||

    You have to love a review of book by someone who hasn't read the book.

  • Almanian||

    That was totally worth the read - that comment clearly has helped me understand libertarianism better than the book could.

    Returning to my Kingdom - good day, fellow billionaires!

  • prolefeed||

    The stupid is strong with this one.

  • the power of one||

    I see Amazon dropped that moronic "review". Finally.

  • Ayn_Randian||

    Tom G. Palmer of the Atlas Economic Research Foundation examines whether or not Miron's book delivers on this promise..

    *sigh*

  • Wegie||

    Another useless pissing match with Tony.

  • El Duderino||

    The problem with government is its ability to make laws. Even legislature seriously crippled by constitution eventually finds a way around its limits as is the nature of humanity.

    I say just create a government without a legislature.

    If I were to fall into a world completely devoid of government, I could do all sorts of things like grow food, purchase land, make contracts and create anything my mind and body can create. My freedom is not a value imposed upon me, but rather the natural result of my existence. Enforcement of any law or rule always results in an infringement on liberty even if the outcome of that enforcement is "better" than the outcome of not enforcing the rule. "Better" is the key word here, as it is a subjective examination of the outcome.

    When I say there should be no legislature, I am not implying there should be no law. What I would propose is a constitutional law, one that punishes those who do harm to you, steal or damage your private property or break contracts you have made with others. Of course, this can get out of hand if a judge decides to read too far into the authority granted by the law. This of course means that this society would need civilian oversight -- a check on judicial interpretation. Furthermore, a constitution could define just how far a judge can go to enforce the law, for example they cannot hand out government money or influence the free market to enforce a contract.

    In short, lawmaking cannot be controlled. Over time, this power becomes corrupting even with limitations and checks on this power (just look at where we are today for evidence). The problem with current theories on governance is that it is concerned with policy. Policy is the problem. "Good policy" does not exist because policy requires the policy maker to force their values on society and no matter how noble those values are, they are an infringement on my personal freedom.

    If the rules are fixed there may be interpreted poorly on occasion, but if there are only a few essential rules, then the poor interpretations of these rules will not have much room to spread out and morph into an unintended consequence and if it does, it would be easier to reign in a few simple rules than a million complex rules (IRS cough cough).

  • DLM||

    If I were to fall into a world completely devoid of government, I could do all sorts of things like grow food, purchase land, make contracts and create anything my mind and body can create.

    And others could all sorts of things to you.

  • El Duderino||

    Yes, they could do whatever they wanted to me. That is why I suggested MAKING a few LAWS.

  • ||

    People do all sorts of things to you now... AND GET AWAY WITH IT. What the fuck is the difference? A false sense of security or a healthy sense of awareness?

  • Tony||

    What is the fucking point of this seriously... Government did not come into being as a communist conspiracy. It is the way large numbers of people get along. No such thing as good policy? Well that leaves you with the policy choice of a shithole of anarchy, which nobody wants. You're imagining a fantasy world that doesn't even work in theory. What you really want is maximum liberty for yourself, liberty in the real sense, enjoying all the benefits of civilization including the rights that you get but you don't want to have to pay for it and you think you'll get something close to it or even better if only we impose a radically anarchic system, again, something nobody, or very few people want. So what's the point? Surely there's a policy you don't like you can work toward changing. Because the only way you're gonna get your fantasy world is through radical revolution and suppressing the democratic will of your fellow countrymen.

  • El Duderino||

    First of all, anarchy is not the same thing as violent chaos. I only say this, because humanity is a complex self regulating system. Violence (including theft, property damage and contract breaking) have consequences and those consequences deter MOST people. We need some government to deter all the other assholes who do not get that there are consequences to their actions, because some form of government can hasten the consequences and enhance them as needed, or, it can just pull the assholes out of society for a time to keep the normal people safe from their activity. This is also why the ability to own weapons and defend ones self is important.

    Second of all, I am not proposing total anarchy, I am proposing a set of fixed rules that cannot be modified and a system that cannot be corrupted by the power and influence of rule making.

    Natural rights exist as a result of my existance, not because they are bestowed upon me from government. Government only exists to PROTECT natural rights, not PROVIDE them.

    My physical existance requires me to eat, seek shelter and reproduce, that is my human nature. My mind is creative and it is seeking ways to make these tasks less dangerous, more efficient and more effective.

    Because my mind is creative and my body is capable of work (physical manipulation of the envrionment and resources), I am able to produce the things I need by manipulating the resources around me. I can go out and search for untouched and unclaimed resources if I like, or I can make contracts with people who have already secured resources. Most people choose to do the latter, but the former is certainly an option. My ability to work plus my desire to improve my own condition as well as the conditions of my family and friends, necessitates that I contract (collaborate if you will) with others to more effectivly and efficiently find and use resources.

    Because I am able to kill, steal and cheat others with whom I have contracted, it is also a natural right for me to do so. This is WHY government was created in the first place, because first of all, nobody wants to be killed, nobody wants to be cheated and nobody wants to have their shit stolen. MOST people are good, they have a personal code of morality that keeps them from doing these things. For most people this moral code is derived from their religion, but there are many other philosophical reasons why people might adopt this sort of moral code. Needless to say, these actions, (violence, murder, theft and contract breaking) are violations of a persons natural rights. Things like roads, hospitals, libraries, post offices and schools are not individual rights and therefore do not need to be protected, or even provided by the government. These things may be nice things to have, but the fact is, the government needs to take the fruit of my labor to provide a road that I may never use, or a library only a handfull of people care about.

    We can still have these things without government. Take roads for example. Roads have been lauded as the pinnacle of modern government from the Roman Empire to the USA. Roads need not be built by the government. Private citizens and organizations want roads for all sorts of good reasons, but I will focus on trade. Trade routs open doors to expand business and facilitate delivery of goods to more people, therefore anyone who is trading anything they made has an interest in roads and will work to buid them by buying land and or contracting to build through private property. Private roads could be funded by those who use them (tolls), or those who would most benefit from them could ante up the cash to have them built and maintained. Either way, these people have an incentive to build them and an incentive to maintain them. For the government to build roads, they must take tax money and then use it to build roads. The government has no profit motive to build a road and therefore no incentive to build roads efficiently, for example, road construction rules often require a certain number of road cones and barrels as well as one or more cops to direct traffic. Now, I am not anti cone, but for most local road jobs, there is usually only one company renting the cones and they can set whatever price they want. Also, the cop has to get paid a certain amount and work a certain number of hours. These types of inefficiences can be eliminated or lessened if there was a profit margin on the line. These inefficiencies of government, amount to theft, because they have to take simething I earned through my labor or however I earned it to pay for these things. This is time of my life spent just to pay for things that others may have demanded of the government, but not necessarily me or many other people who did not ask for the road being built. In private road building, all the people who wanted the road paid for it, all the people effected by its existance (on their property) get compensated for it and all the people who could care less about it need not use it or pay for it.

    Regarding the "democratic will" of my fellow countrymen. People, including and probably especially Americans, inherently understand that these natural liberites exist despite the fact that they have been conditioned to live according to sombody elses ideal set of rules. The natural state of humanity drifts TOWARDS individual liberty, because that is the way we are wired. We are motivated by our own rational self interests first. This is not the same thing as greed as I will explain later. Rational self interest trumps everything. As government makes more rules, it necessarily limits the human expression of their natural rights as it pertains to their pursuit of their rational self interest (happiness). If you say that I have to have a liscense to sell carrots, then my interest in selling carrots has been limited by this requirement. If I want to smoke pot because it helps me deal with stress or whatever probably BS reason I come up with, then you ahve infringed on my liberty to express my rational self interest even if in your eye, it is "better" for me. The pendulum is swinging TOWARDS liberty, despite the fact that the deaththroes of the interventionalist government has enlarged the influence of government by an alarming degree (from both the left and right). The more people see the possibility of having individual liberty, the more they will be willing to throw out their entitlements in favor of freedom. The revolution might be slow to come, but it is invitable becasue that is what people have done time and time again. This time, technology, communication and education will quicken the revolution and hopefully, the resulting freedom will last longer than any time before.

    And, as promised. . .

    Rational self interest is not greed. Greed is not rational because it has no long term value, only short term gain. The reason why greed is a poor long term strategy is because it requires you to be dishonest or manipulative to make your gains. Each person you cheat is one more person who may figure out your scam and call you out. Once you are called out, your gains will cease and you may end up forfeiting your gains back to the people you cheated. Even if there is no immediate consequence of your cheating, the long term consequence is trust. If nobody trusts you, you will have less favorable dealings if you have any at all. Would you buy insurance from AIG or Bernie Madoff? On the other hand, people who are fair, are not likely to get caught cheating, simply because they are not cheating, but if someone does call them out falsly, they have an established reputation and the people that you have done right by will be able to attest to your honor. Doing the right thing therefore has long term benefits if maybe sometimes it has short term losses, but cheating people can end up in life long failure.

  • ||

    b-b-b-but if you don't have government creeepy monsters will pillage your farm and bands of mauraders will rape your women and take everything you have! It's guaranteed to happen.. why, you might even yourself lose all sense of humanity and become a monster yourself! We MUST have a system of laws that will protect innocents and punish people that hurt others. That's the best way and is sure to work! ....oh shit.

  • ||

    mauraders=marauders.

  • El Duderino||

    Eh close enuff...

  • El Duderino||

    They will rape my farm and pillage my women.... But the govt is here to help, question is who are they helping.

  • ||

    I'm just tired of hearing this 'absolute chaos' nonsense when faced with an anarchist-ish/extremely limited government proponent. The ones constantly reminding you of the bad people in the world and that this is why a government is needed are likely the same ones that would do you violence absent an omnipotent authority.

  • El Duderino||

    More laws = more people probably breaking the law.

  • Tony||

    Not taking the time to read all this for at least two reasons:

    1) It's really long
    2) It seems to be premised on a theory of natural rights, which is mystical bullshit.
    3) I happened to read your thing about a "fixed set of rules that nobody can change" and that is the ultimate in not being pragmatic.

    You want simple answers to complex questions. I won't presume to say it's because you're simpleminded. Everyone has this tendency. But there is not a simple set of rules delivered from the sky that can make human existence in societies work perfectly, and to expect as much is to be incomprehensibly silly.

  • ||

    Natural rights are derived from evolutionary processes which is certainly not mystical bullshit.

    Natural law, for example, would be different for a sentient species that evolved from ruminant herbivores. (if that's possible, which I doubt)

    Now Keynesianism is the quintessence of mystical bullshit.

  • El Duderino||

    So this response represents the real issue here. All you know is you are right and I am wrong so you dont want to take like 3 minutes to read the entire post. As if that wasnt telling enough of your lack of intellectual curiosity, you are also not interested in formulating a thoughtful response to the points I made, aside from simply saying everything I have said is "myth". Ya know what, I dont even know why you bothered to come to this site or read this article when you can just go to the DailyKos and join in on the circlejerk over there.

  • AA||

    It took less than 3 minutes to read and I enjoyed it.

  • El Duderino||

    I am a slow reader, even of my own words.

  • El Duderino||

    and thank you.

  • El Duderino||

    "But there is not a simple set of rules delivered from the sky that can make human existence in societies work perfectly, and to expect as much is to be incomprehensibly silly."

    This proves to me that you obviously do not understand anything about self organizing systems. Humanity is one such system and this was the very premise of at least half of my post. People do right because most people know it is in their long term self interest to do the right thing, not because the government tells them not to.

    I am not going to go on about this. Just do some research on the topic of emergent order and you will see that it is possible for the outcome of the interactions of all the individual parts of a complex system to result in order. Ants dont know how to make anthills, they dont even have the mental power to conceptualize one, yet a colony of ants, following nothing more than their own rational self interest somehow create a community and an anthill. This is not a myth and it can be expressed algorithmically. Humanity is considerably more complex, but we are still nothing more than a complex system like an ant colony.

  • DesigNate||

    The only thing I would say about your post is this: The main reason civilizations since the Roman Empire have built and maintained roads is for the quick movement of the military through the bounds of said empire (or country). People may have used the main roads for trade, but they weren't necessary for it.

  • El Duderino||

    This is true, and as a matter of fact, many of the roads in this country were also built for military purposes, but many more were built for mail delivery and commerce. It really doesnt matter why the government build the roads they did, my point is it is and was an inefficient process.

  • ||

    including the rights that you get but you don't want to have to pay for it and you think you'll

    He doesn't get any rights, he has rights. If he gets something it's taken from someone else whose rights are abridged.

    You can't pass resources through a bureaucracy and get more out at the end any more than you can pass meat through a dog and get anything useful. On the contrary, you get about the same results.

    Because the only way you're gonna get your fantasy world is through radical revolution and suppressing the democratic will of your fellow countrymen.

    Is that so? Is that why you resist peaceful political change then? So you can equate wanting change with being a violent radical?

    Oh and racist!

  • Tony||

    He doesn't get any rights, he has rights.

    Faith you have to know this is either complete bullshit, or a completely pointless distinction.

    People cannot have rights innately, otherwise why didn't they enjoy them for most of their existence on earth? People have always had liberties, some more than others. Rights were invented relatively recently. Yes Mr. Jefferson gave them the imprimatur of a deity, but of course that's silly, and so is any other appeal to mystical forces.

  • El Duderino||

    There are different kinds of rights.

    Rights are not the same as liberty as liberty is the natural state of the human individual. Rights can be Natural, Traditional or Legal.

    Legal: You have the "right" to a speedy trial. This is a condition imposed by law only.

    Traditional: This is a right bestowed by cultural influences but not enforced by law. In certain cultures, tradition bestows certain rights on people depending on their situation. Sharia law in many places amounts to traditional rights except where this law is the actual law of the land.

    Natural: Natural rights are those rights that are SELF EVIDENT. I have the right to eat and defend myself from harm.

    The only "rights" that are not imposed on people by force are those that we are born with. Even traditional rights are inherently violent because the community will enforce these "rights" through whatever means they can and this can and often does involve violence.

    A right is not the same as a liberty, but one could use the terms interchangeably as long as they are referring to NATURAL rights.

    I hope this was short enough for your goldfish like attention span. If not, consider Rittalin.

  • ||

    People cannot have rights innately

    Yet that exact assertion is the basis for our nation. Will you go on record saying the Declaration of Independence is complete bullshit?

    Don't be afraid to answer because I never really thought you believed otherwise.

    Regardless, rights are not invented. They exist and you can impute them from human behavior when there is no coercive government. People self organize to protect property (territorial instinct), life (preservation instinct) and have a sense of justice (generalization of mammalian nurturing instinct), etc.

    People self organize first to protect the lives and property of the group.

    There are also predators. The result of these is various forms of collectivism (fascism, racism, communism, socialism, aristocracy, monarchy, etc etc) essentially a means for some groups to prey on others.

    Obviously predation cannot be a right because rights must exist for all and clearly predation is not a right all may enjoy. Again this is the core of collectivism, the formal distinction of predator and prey.

    But not everyone is a predator and we needn't, and shouldn't, enthrone predation in any case.

    But everyone has the desire to protect their life, property, and freedom.

    Essentially Natural rights are the set of values we all have that aren't mutually exclusive with other people having.

    This is a definable set. It exists. It's not tangible, but like Pi or c it certainly exists.

    You may reject them, as I know you do as one who fancies himself in the predator group. But whatever your excuse for preying on others, whether it's race, wealth, class, gender, or a statistical artifice like 'majority' or 'minority'; you are obliged to violate the natural rights of others, and this will always ultimately invite resentment, enmity, and ultimately violence if you persist. The reason is these rights are indeed universal among humans.

    The moral justification of collectivism is simply the moral justification of predation. Nihilism. To a predator of humans, to a predator of others who have natural rights, force is it's own end.

    Without the moral underpinning to validate your actions which natural rights would provide, and as a would be predator you cannot embrace, you live by the sword (or the vote) and may have no logical objection to dying by the sword. (or the vote).

    This is one reason collectivists usually appeal to emotion. As amoral beings they may be able to understand a logical or moral argument, but they can't imagine one would be heeded, since they do not heed moral or logical arguments themselves.

    So they don't try. Instead, they coerce if they can and manipulate if they cannot.

    This is the fatal flaw of collectivism, because the ultimate goal of collectivism is predation, the ultimate result of governments that go too far down the collectivist path is abandonment of the 'principle' upon the particular form of collectivism is based (race, class, etc) by those with power in favor of new more productive distinctions between prey and predator. Hence our current state. We're on the path and we're ruled by the political class and the bankers. Proceed further and you get a smaller and smaller group of rulers.

    This is exactly why the more 'progressive' policies we adopt the greater the income disparity. This trend will continue. As it's advancing rapidly under Obama.

    The trick is to fool the rubes, like you, into thinking your the predator class, of course the real predator class reduces their number as fast as they can. Tony is prey that thinks he's a predator. Useful idiots in another era.

    Once you embrace theft, slavery, or murder you must logically accept you might be victim. In fact, you already are, you just cannot accept it.

  • El Duderino||

    I agree completely, unfortunately, this post may be too long. You may have lost him at "yet that exact".

  • I hate tony||

    I hate tony

  • ||

    I love Tony. He and Chad make for fertile ground to make the case for freedom. People won't read a screed. People will read a trouncing. Education is the intended byproduct.

    I've said before. If Tony did not exist it would be necessary to invent him;)

    Sometimes I do wonder if he may not be doing this intentionally to support the cause. Such nearly intelligent but always subtly flawed and easily refuted arguments make me suspicious. Should this be the case, I salute you, Tony.

  • El Duderino||

    "If Tony did not exist it would be necessary to invent him;)"

    Communication between like minded individuals is masturbation, communication between people with completely different points of view is procreation.

  • ||

    Ok, I'll try this again...
    I'm tired of hearing this Absolute Chaos thing, because Chaos is what you get when there are too many laws. Or is Sy suggesting " Nillisim "? The two are mutually exclusive of each other.

  • ||

    I'm a consequentialist libertarian too. I can make the case for idealistic and consequential libertarianism better than most idealist libertarians.

    This debate is old and this is the same critique Rothbard had of Hayek, and to a lesser extent Mises.

    We all have different strengths and ways to further the argument. I don't denigrate those who make the case from natural rights or even divinity. This is a useful approach, but it won't appeal to consequentialists.

    And we need to.

    Like libertarianism can accept collectivism for others who choose it so long as it doesn't encroach, so too can consequentialist libertarianism accept idealistic libertarianism as being a positive can useful force to appeal to idealists.

    But like collectivism cannot accept others want to be free, idealistic libertarians seem to have difficulty accepting others who want to find freedom in their own way for their own reasons.

  • El Duderino||

    Well put.

    The problem most people have with arguments driven by natural rights are that they cannot see past the basic rights to an actual community structure.

    In a limited government society where natural rights are the only rights protected by force of law, an entire community could get together and form a commune. Hell the hippies actually formed communes in the 60's. There is nothing wrong with this as long as everyone involved is involved voluntarily.

    The reason why they fail to recognize this possibility is because they all of a sudden have to deal with one of the major shortcomings of a collectivist society and that is that in order for the values of the collective society to be maintained for any extended period of time, the values must be imposed by force. When the rules cannot be enforced through voluntary submission the shit hits the fan and the whole system collapses.

    Collective communities can exist in a semi-anarchistic society, but only until they collapse. People who defend government imposed "rights" regardless of whether they believe in communism or similar theories of governance or not, must ultimately accept that force is necessary to impose these values and deep down understand that once this door is open, then all sorts of "rights" will be enforced until the society drifts into a collective form of governance and they convince themselves they are okay with it. But because they have convinced themselves they are okay with it, they have to necessarily avoid considering how the same system would fare without the option to use violence or force to impose the values. It is called cognitive dissonance and nobody is immune to it unless they are truly open to considering new ideas without bias.

  • ||

    Cognitive dissonance is a liability of idealists. A consequentialist's focus is on results, not methods, so dissonance is at worst transitory and generally nonexistant.

  • El Duderino||

    To a certain degree you are right. Idealists by their nature have to accept all sorts of conditions that may contradict more pragmatic concepts so their minds are therefore more hardwired to their ideals which makes cognitive dissonance more prevalent, but cognitive dissonance is a feature of the mind, not a failure.

    Cognitive dissonance sounds bad because it can lead to people making justifications for their strongly entrenched ideals and in this respect, it is not helpful at best and dangerous at worst. But cognitive dissonance is one of the minds more complex systems. In a way, cognitive dissonance leads rational minds to explore its own entrenched values and ideals so that the ideals do not get so entrenched that they cannot be modified when confronted with new information. Without this mechanism, we would never learn or have any desire to innovate (Columbus would have taken the regular route to India).

    Breaking cognitive dissonance is difficult, but all the mind really needs is a permissive event or concept. A good example of a permissive concept is the concept of economic liberty. If a social conservative begins to feel strongly about economic liberty and begins to explore liberty through this lens, then they will also be free to explore social liberties like the "war on drugs" through the same kind of lens. If they are to defend economic liberty, they will have to deal with the cognitive dissonance that they experience when they think about the underground marijuana market and slowly, they will be able to open their minds to these types of liberties because their mind will reshape the associated neural patterns around the established pattern that represents the concept of individual liberty.

    I have no idea how to break cognitive dissonance in liberals, but my best guess is use pot legalization as an example of economic liberty and then you can begin to infuse the concepts of individual liberty soon after. This will probably work with most center left people, but the idealists will more than likely just dig in deeper.

    And if anyone is thinking it, no, this is not manipulation because there is no dishonesty involved, all people need to hear and understand is the concept of individual liberty. This concept resonates with people because they understand freedom through their own experiences working for their own rational self interests (aka people want to eat, they dont want to die and they want to get laid).

  • ||

    Oh indeed.

    As for liberals I think the method is the same. They have been more deeply indoctrinated so there's more work to do however. Which is ironic since they view themselves as the enlightened predator class.

    But the logic of freedom is the same. Use the logic of freedom to defend their position against the other guys. Ultimately the logic of freedom is the only one which doesn't require cognitive dissonance. (well other than the full on cognitive shutdown of fundamentalism, and even then it's hard to maintain)

    So we just provide the tools. The tools are powerful and hard not to use. But they can't be used for coercion of statism.

    I guarantee you progressives and conservatives here go to forums of their opposites and use our arguments against their opposites when it suits their purposes. But to formulate these arguments they have to understand the logic. More dissonance.

  • El Duderino||

    Concepts like political philosophy are generally processed differently than basic human needs. We rarely use the part of our brain that lusts for fatty foods to rationalize a philosophical argument, even the most elastic brain has boundaries defined more probability.

    Individual liberty is on one hand a political philosophy and on the other it is rooted in our basic survival mechanisms. Gathering food, finding shelter, and finding shelter with a supermodel who has an oral fixation are all fundamental survival mechanisms built into the brain by evolution. These mechanisms can very easily overrule most cognitive dissonance.

    There are two ways people use these evolutionary mechanisms to break cognitive dissonance and for most part, I dont think they know they are doing it. The first way is by appealing to the emotions most closely associated to the mechanism. For example, we can easily empathize with a hungry person because we do not want to be hungry so the progressive would argue that we need this or that government program to prevent people from going hungry and you might buy into it if you are presented with enough emotional information.

    The other way these survival mechanism are used to manipulate people is by suggesting that they are not capable of survival on their own. If you put basic survival just out of reach of the audience (regardless of the fact that it is not out of reach) they will have little choice but to associate the concepts of redistributive governance with their survival mechanism.

    Both of these methods are manipulation because they require deceit. Telling a person that the only thing stopping them from growing and selling their food on the street corner is a vending permit (and probably a bunch of other things like zoning and health codes) is not manipulative, it is a fact. And when that person understands that if there were no government enforcing these things they could set up shop and immediately begin pursuing their self interests, they will understand the concept of individual liberty because this is when it becomes self evident.

    It is my opinion that while it is probably easier to just inundate a person with emotional information, it is more effective communication if that person is able to really understand it on their own.

    When you say: "But to formulate these arguments they have to understand the logic. More dissonance." This suggests that the dissonance is not met with a permissive concept, but instead, the logic they "understand" is turned into a dark secret in the mind, like a sexual perversion. This deviant thought is suppressed because it represents the antithesis of their world view and it only gets trotted out for masterbatory purposes such as to trump an argument. If a progressive, who does not believe in individual liberty because in their mind, liberty is granted by government, tries to argue with a person who thinks that marijuana should not be legalized, they will likely go back and forth arguing over the relative safety of pot. Once the anti-pot side pulls out some kind of emotional appeal (I have no idea what one would be so I will leave it to your imagination) the pro pot progressive will then have to use some argument based on individual liberty, such as the popular "what do you care what people are smoking in the privacy of their own living rooms". Then once the argument has been trumped successfully, the progressive tucks that bit of mega-chubby chaser porno back under the bed sheets so that it cannot contaminate their arguments for global warming legislation or universal single payer healthcare.

  • El Duderino||

    and my apologies to anyone who is a mega chubby themselves or a fan of mega-chubby chaser porn... it was an easy target (pun intended) and so I took the shot.

  • ||

    This suggests that the dissonance is not met with a permissive concept

    Rather might not be met and need not in all cases.

    Permissive concepts are not required for example.. by consequentialists;)

    If you don't peg your philosophy to some arbitrary standard, which most usually don't even fully comprehend, then that is not barrier to your cognition.

    For me liberty philosophy was a natural and probably inevitable path due simply to the force of it's logic.

    More than that, I think everyone is a consequentialist if you raise the stakes enough, and I think they are pretty high at this point in history.

    I think idealism is the aberration, and it is one imposed as a control mechanism. (whether consciously so or not)

    But yes, nevertheless many people, perhaps most, do need permission, but we needn't always provide it; in fact would be hard pressed to guess what would work for any given person.

    IMO our job is merely to provide the tools so when the permissive concept occurs the opportunity is not lost.

    Unfortunately probably the most effective method is controlled by progressive academia. While social constraints are being destroyed often a political meme is implanted along the way. How many college kids get converted to progressivism or even marxism by some hot member of the opposite sex? Lots.

  • El Duderino||

    "Unfortunately probably the most effective method is controlled by progressive academia."

    This is still somewhat true, but the paradigm is shifting and technology is facilitating this shift. Academia, at least the "big school" version of it is dying. People still need the paper they provide to get a job, but the information is available to nearly everyone in the country. Some subjects are more available than others just by their nature, for instances, many sciences are difficult to learn outside of academia because big schools have the resources (labs etc...) to facilitate this kind of learning. Things like computer science, philosophy, politics, history and literature are completely open to anyone willing to spend some time on the internet, they just need to be careful of how they choose their sources.

    Political philosophy is particularly easy to learn outside of academia, but people are generally wary of learning outside of a big school and for good reasons. Progressive political philosophy requires so many concepts, conditions and standards (arbitrary or otherwise)that the volume of information becomes staggering. I don't think you can know political philosophy if you dont know progressive political philosophy, but that said, much of the progressive philosophy is a stack of rationalizations for an end result.

    Where the casual learner gets lost is that for progressives "freedom" is the end result and the means is the complex machinations of government, but for libertarian philosophy, freedom is not the ends, it is the means and the ends. Casual learners will eventually figure this out, but it helps to balance the conversation, because most of the people I know who have a "casual" political philosophy education are really only parroting progressive philosophical concepts or at least co-opting them to support their particular cause. Because the means of libertarian philosophy is liberty, many people dismiss it as too simplistic so they never bother to learn about the consequences of liberty, or the consequences dont seem plausible because they have already committed their minds to understanding how the progressive machine would generate freedom.

    Fortunately, concepts of liberty are being discussed more openly today than in any time before in my life and the lives of my parents and since the cornerstone concept is simply natural liberty more people are willing to commit their minds to the concept because you really dont need to read half the internet to figure out the core philosophy or the consequences thereof. If I had to guess, I would say that Obama and all of the other progressives in government are actually accelerating the casual study of libertarian philosophies because people are seeing the machinations fail or adversely impact their personal freedom.

  • ||

    Totally. And you've returned the conversation to the starting point, consequential vs non-consequential libertarianism;) As originally started I'm a libertarian because of the consequences of libertarianism. I know a lot of people are libertarians because they believe in freedom.

    This is still somewhat true, but the paradigm is shifting and technology is facilitating this shift. Academia, at least the "big school" version of it is dying

    True, but I wasn't talking about so much the direct influence academia has but the indirect.

    The impact of a hot chick or hot guy proselytizing marxism cannot be underestimated.

    "Oh he is so deep (read hot) and intelligent (read hot) and sensitive (read hot)"

  • El Duderino||

    "True, but I wasn't talking about so much the direct influence academia has but the indirect."

    There is a distinct advantage of academia to influence people. Most people who attend college are young people, but even older people generally attend at a point in their lives when they are in some sort of transition. I remember college fondly, it was a permissive time and if a professor casually let out that he is open minded, I generally believed him regardless of whether or not they actually were. My point here is I wanted to branch out and explore and my academic experience was an ideal playground for this desire to play out. This doesn't necessarily exist in a technologically driven education, or at least not as much.

    Regarding the sexually driven adoption of a political view, I have a hard time with this one, only because I never really experienced this myself. I can see how it could happen though, but my friends and I were really the outcasts in college. My collection of friends was something close to the land of misfit toys and while they all had very strong political views ranging across the entire spectrum, we were never really political. To us getting laid was getting laid so we sought out partners that were compatible with our group. I think the phenomenon you are describing is more likely to happen to an apolitical student who happens to find him/herself in a group that is ideologically homogeneous. In this regard, I suspect that I was unique as compared to others in my class (besides my small group of misfits).

    There is good news and bad news in all of this. The good news is, only a very narrow segment of people actually go to college, even fewer actually attend the heavily political campuses. The bad news is these people are the ones who tend to have the politics bug. Our current political system attracts certain personalities. These personalities are highly motivated, type-a individuals who generally hold their views in higher regard than the views of others even though they may not consciously believe this to be true, it is nonetheless. At best these individuals are effective communicators because they are connectors and have a strong social network. Good communication ability only goes so far and it is at best a neutral quality because it depends on the value of what is being communicated. Our president is a good example of this, though one could now argue he is not really that effective, because people are abandoning his messages in droves. At worst these personalities are buried in their own personal convictions and if you try to pull them out, they will just dig deeper.

    I really think that government service from POTUS to Police Man should be about the same as jury duty. The community can choose from every viable individual in their community and then hold a vote on that big pool of candidates. The trick to making this work is eliminating the legislative power. so that for most part, these representatives are nothing more than watchdogs and mouthpieces for when something goes wrong with this extremely tiny bit of power we give to the government.

    Sorry, I get off on tangents all the time.

  • ||

    I didn't mean that as a criticism:) I agree with you. I have a bad habit of focusing on the tiny nit and ignoring the large areas of consonance.

  • CE||

    ...the goal of government is... promoting policies with the greatest ratio of costs to benefits...

    I think someone finally figured it out.

  • ||

    If that is the goal of government then we should abolish the institution immediately for millenia of abject failure to produce results and in fact causing the opposite of it's intended purpose.

  • El Duderino||

    This is not what government does. They dont do it because they have no reason to do it.

    Sure, elected officials may feel the consequences of poor policies, but they are also AWARDED for bad policies because people who benefit from these bad policies like social security, medicare, and billion dollar bailouts either become dependent on these policies or simply see the expansion of these policies as an opportunity to satisfy their own self interests at the cost of the tax payers who are funding the policy.

    If you give government the power to make policies, they will eventually find a way to abuse the power and they will use good intentions to get away with their theft.

  • No||

    Tony wishes that he could be the progressive version of El Duderino.

    El Duderino writes such wonderful posts. It's like my mind is being tickled by a thousand beautiful young ladies, and with each continued tickle it falls more and more into a utopian lull.

    El Duderino, are you a philosopher, or are you just God?

  • El Duderino||

    LOL. . . You had me at "tickled by a thousand beautiful young ladies"

  • El Duderino||

    and thanks for the compliment and the image, it should keep me up. . . err at night.

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  • رش مبيدات||

    Regarding the sexually driven adoption of a political view, I have a hard time with this one, only because I never really experienced this myself. I can see how it could happen though, but my friends and I were really the outcasts in college. My collection of friends was something close to the land of misfit toys and while they all had very strong political views ranging across the entire spectrum, we were never really political. To us getting laid was getting laid so we sought out partners that were compatible with our group.
    شركة تخزين اثاث بالرياض شركة تخزين عفش بالرياض I think the phenomenon you are describing is more likely to happen to an apolitical student who happens to find him/herself in a group that is ideologically homogeneous. In this regard, I suspect that I was unique as compared to others in my class (besides my small group of misfits).

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