Michael Lind’s Obtuse Attack on Liberty and Libertarianism

Statists like him are on the wrong side of history

Why are there no libertarian countries? Conservative welfare statist and co-founder of the New America Foundation Michael Lind claimed in Salon this week that that’s “the question libertarians just can’t answer.” There are no countries, he writes, with “minimal government, free trade, open borders, decriminalized drugs, no welfare state, and no public education system.” He quickly adds that it’s “inadequate” to cite semi-private social security in Chile or Swedish school vouchers or some other libertarian-flavored individual policy: A libertarian society in its fullness must exist right now or else that proves that it can never exist.

One can imagine a bewigged intellectual ancestor of Lind discussing politics in a London coffeehouse, perhaps after enjoying a new performance of Wycherley’s bawdy comedy The Country Wife. This 17th-century Lind would inveigh against the presumptuous Earl of Shaftesbury for his “A Letter from a Person of Quality” opposing the divine right of kings to absolute rule. “Thank God that good King Charles II has been restored to the throne!” he would say. “Look across the world. History manifestly teaches that there have been no truly successful countries that were not ruled by absolute monarchs.”

Warming to his subject, the 17th-century Lind huffs that Shaftesbury (and his damnable Whig confederates) are in favor of religious toleration. Shaftesbury would even overturn Clarendon’s salutary statutes reinstating the requirement that officeholders prove their fealty to the established Church and preventing nonconformists from preaching their subversive nonsense. Where, he would ask, have such policies been in place before? Our 17th-century Lind would undoubtedly mock the silly notion that women had rights in need of vindication, since there were no societies in which women had rights equal to those of men. And free trade? What ruinous nonsense! The best mercantilist theorists have clearly shown that the only way for a country to get rich is to restrict foreign goods so that exports can earn good hard bullion; now even the Dutch are raising trade barriers. Show me an advanced nation that has kept its borders open to imports, he would declare, and then I’ll consider your theories.

Here in the 21st century, Lind asks, “If socialism is discredited by the failure of communist regimes in the real world, why isn’t libertarianism discredited by the absence of any libertarian regimes in the real world?” It’s an odd comparison—surely a system’s failure to survive is different from a system’s failure to fully emerge—but libertarians might reply by pointing out the relatively greater success of more liberal countries. Lind attempts to preempt that tactic, though, by sneering that “the free-market right is reduced to ranking countries according to ‘economic freedom.’” (The scare quotes around “economic freedom” are a nice rhetorical touch.)

Lind points out that the economically free countries ranked in the economic freedom indexes produced by both the Fraser Institute and the Heritage Foundation are “by and large the mature, well-established industrial democracies.” He adds that none of the countries is “anywhere near a libertarian paradise.” Perhaps not, but just how does Lind think that the large industrial democracies got be large industrial democracies? Could that have anything to do with the growth of that “economic freedom” that classical liberals champion?

As a matter of fact, it does. As the MIT economist Daron Acemoglu and the Harvard economist James Robinson cogently argue in their new book Why Nations Fail, through most of history tyrannical elites ruled by means of extractive institutions that stifled economic growth by stealing from the poor to give to the rich. As a result, most people suffered abject poverty, intolerance, ignorance, and oppression. Sustained prosperity become possible only with the development of inclusive institutions, defined by Acemoglu and Robinson as comprising “strong private property rights, the rule of law, enforcement of contracts, freedom of movement of people, a free press, and democratic institutions.” Meanwhile, the curators of the Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom Index emphasize “the importance of private property, rule of law, free trade, sound money, and a limited role for government.” Maybe the Fraser folks are onto something with this liberty thing.

Since Lind ignores ratings that look at more than just economic liberty, I should pause to point to another index, issued by the nonprofit Freedom House, that ranks freedom in countries by political rights and civil liberties. It turns out that political freedom and civil rights correlate well with mere “economic freedom.” For example, 15 of the top 20 economically free countries on the Fraser Institute list are also ranked as being politically free by Freedom House. Conversely, only two of the bottom 20 countries on the Fraser list are rated as being politically free. Economic freedom and political just seem to go together. Who knew?

In a yet another of his scattershot arguments, Lind points out that the top five economically free countries—Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, and Switzerland—are all, uh, small. Consequently, Lind dismisses them as “fragments of larger defense systems and larger markets.” In a quixotic effort to illustrate his point about “free riding” off of larger defense systems, he suggests that free-market Switzerland would not have been able to fight off Nazi occupation had the Axis powers won World War II. Maybe yes, maybe no. I’m not sure Lind’s precious social-democratic Sweden would have remained free of Hitler’s yoke either. But let’s move on from Lind’s curious excursion into alternative history to consider his observation about the advantages of a country being embedded in a system of larger markets.

Lind is right about those advantages, but he somehow misses the implications of his own insight. The World Bank reports that average tariffs worldwide have fallen from 26 percent of the value of imported goods in 1986 to 8 percent in 2010. During the same period, average tariffs levied by the 11 wealthiest nation-states dropped from 10 percent to 3 percent. That’s not completely free trade, but it’s getting pretty damned close. (There is, however, some evidence that protectionism is creeping back in the form of non-tariff barriers.)

Meanwhile, according to the Fraser Institute’s calculations, the “average level of economic freedom...has increased from 5.30 in 1980 to 5.76 in 1990 to 6.71 in 2000 and finally to 6.83 in 2010.” Freedom House reports that the percent of free countries has risen from 25 percent in the 1970s to 46 percent today and the percent of not-free countries has correspondingly fallen from around 40 percent to 24 percent. As tariffs fell and economic and political freedom expanded across the globe, so too did trade and prosperity. Since 1990, the World Trade Organization’s index of world merchandise trade was tripled. In 1980, gross world product was $27.5 trillion (in 2010 dollars) and global per capita income was $6,200. By 2011, the world’s economy had nearly tripled to $77 trillion and per capita global income had risen to more than $11,000. This simultaneous increase in freedom and income must puzzle Lind.

Lind also writes that no country has adopted open borders. Actually, the U.S. had essentially open borders during the 19th century, and it’s hard to argue that we’re worse off for it. At any rate, there is contemporary empirical evidence that the libertarian notion that people should be free to live where they want also boosts economic growth and raises average incomes. This is the insight that permits tens of millions of citizens of European Union countries within the Schengen area to travel freely from Greece to Iceland without showing their papers. And in just the last 10 years, the International Organization for Migration estimates that the total number of international migrants has increased from 150 million to 214 million, meaning that one out of every 33 people is a migrant. As global prosperity expands, the trend toward increased international migration is not likely to slow down.

What about that libertarian fetish for decriminalizing drugs? The intellectual tide is turning on this issue. For example, just this week, Human Rights Watch issued a statement flatly asserting, “Subjecting people to criminal sanctions for the personal use of drugs, or for possession of drugs for personal use, infringes on their autonomy and right to privacy.” And there is a recent trend toward decriminalization of various drugs for personal use in lots of countries, including the Czech Republic, Portugal, Norway, the Netherlands, Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Uruguay—not to mention Colorado and Washington State, right here at home.

Finally, I must come to the defense of Mauritius. The Indian Ocean island of slightly more than a million people is number 8 on the index of economically free countries. To illustrate his argument that economic freedom is not all that it’s cracked up to be when it comes to the “shape of the quality of life of citizens” Lind mocks the island nation’s literacy rate as being just 88.5 percent, compared to 99 percent in the United States. The difference, Lind claims, is that the U.S. spends 5.4 percent of its GDP on education compared to Mauritius’ 3.7 percent. He also points out that Mauritius’ infant mortality rate is 11 per 1,000 live births while the U.S rate is 5.9 per live births. Lind’s conclusion: “Economic liberty comes at the price of human survival it would seem.”

But of course the proper comparison is not between Mauritius and the United States; it’s between Mauritius now and Mauritius before it adopted market reforms. Back in 1980, when Mauritius was ranked 68th on the index of economic freedom, the U.N.’s Human Development Index reports that the mean level of years of schooling of its citizens was 4.5 years, and its infant mortality rate was 32 per 1,000 live births. Now that it is eighth on the economic freedom list, the mean level of schooling has reached 7 years, and the number of years that currently enrolled students are expected to stay in school has risen to 13 years. Its infant mortality rate has been cut by two-thirds. Over the same period, by the way, per capita income in Mauritius has risen from $2,000 to more than $15,000 (in current dollars). I should add that, as the ambit of economic and political freedom expanded over the past 20 years, the world’s adult literacy rate increased from 76 to 86 percent and the youth rate rose from 83 to 92 percent. I’m sure that that is just a coincidence.

I am no doubt engaging in what Lind disparages as the “luxury of mixing and matching policies to create an imaginary utopia.” Nevertheless, the data cited above does indicate that ever more countries around the world are doing the same sort of mixing and matching. Lind ends his obtuse little essay by asking, “If libertarianism is not only appealing but plausible, why hasn’t any country in the world ever tried it?” However, a fair evaluation of global trends amply supports the conviction that the arc of history bends toward liberty. Confirmed statists like Lind are on the wrong side of history, just like their predecessors in earlier centuries.

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  • robc||

    shorter version:

    Fuck off, slaver!

  • Hugh Akston||

    God dammit Ron, quit linking to fucking retarded Salon stories.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    God dammit Ron, quit linking to fucking retarded Salon stories.

    I realize that Lind is a fish in a barrel, but, FFS, you've made me dumber for having alerted me to this shitbag in Salon. Since Greenwald moved to The Guardian, that place is nothing but a derphole.

  • Doctor Whom||

    Salon at its zenith was an echo chamber whose writers never let facts or logic get in the way of dogma. Its only redeeming features were that it would publish letters to the editor directly criticizing the articles and that everyone there seemed obsessed with oral sex.

  • ||

    Which makes it exactly like Wonkette, except sub in anal for oral. I don't know what that implies.

  • ||

    Seriously, like Huff I've stopped reading Salon.

  • PapayaSF||

    I don't normally go there, but today I followed a link a read a good article: White pride in my classroom. Short version: Confederate flag-wearing student turned out to be smart, polite, a good student, and seemed to know what he was talking about. Liberal worldview: challenged!

  • ||

    Wil Wilkinson's retort on The Economist's blog was also good reading on this. Which can be odd for Wilkinson.

  • MSD62581||

    Tom Woods' reply was nice as well.

    http://www.tomwoods.com/blog/t.....nt-answer/

  • Tony||

    The problem is requiring a wholesale adoption of laissez-faire economic and social policy, which has indeed never been successfully attempted. If you do advocate for more piecemeal change, then each policy should be judged on its merits, and furthermore you don't get to climb up on a moral high horse about socialism vs. freedom. You're just for somewhat less socialism--and you don't get to absolve yourself of the social consequences.

  • Sevo||

    Tony| 6.7.13 @ 1:40PM |#
    "The problem is requiring a wholesale adoption of laissez-faire economic and social policy, which has indeed never been successfully attempted..."

    Yeah, shithead, that place called Hong Kong never existed.

  • tarran||

    Sevo, you really shouldn't get angry at Tony; when all he can muster is a funny tails I win, heads you lose as he does above, it just goes to show he's got nothin'. You should revel in his articulately illogical commentary.

  • sarcasmic||

    He never lets facts get in the way of the narrative.

  • Tony||

    Hong Kong is not a large nation-state, and furthermore the government owns all the land.

  • MWG||

    "...and furthermore the government owns all the land."

    So... are you arguing that HK is rich because the government "owns all the land" or despite that... or simply spouting an idiot leftist talking point?

  • KDN||

    Tony's been made aware several times that land ownership in HK differs from here in name only - deeds for leaseholdings are defensible in court and are fully transferable but if you don't pay your fees to the state then you can be evicted. Puppets cannot learn, however.

    Hong Kong is not a large nation-state

    It has approximately 75% of Sweden's population, yet somehow the latter can be held up as an exemplar we should all strive towards while the former is just a footnote to be ignored as if it was some atoll in Micronesia. I wonder why that is.

  • grey||

    Resident's skin color? Is Tony a racist?

  • Sevo||

    Tony| 6.7.13 @ 3:09PM |#

    "Hong Kong is not a large nation-state,..."

    Translated from shithead:
    "Hey! Look over there!"

  • JWatts||

    The problem is requiring a wholesale adoption of laissez-faire economic and social policy, which has indeed never been successfully attempted.

    Your first comment makes no mention of a large state.

    Hong Kong is not a large nation-state

    So your next comment is a ridiculous attempt to move the goal posts, because your first argument was indefensible.

  • tarran||

    Tony, you gotta stop man. Your blistering illogic is making me laugh so much I could get fired!

    Can you tone down the non sequiturs just a tad? That way I'll merely be chuckling quietly rather than snorting with derision.

  • ||

    Why the fuck would you respond to it? Especially as if it were anything other than a character?

  • tarran||

    Because he is making me laugh, and I am not convinced that he is a character?

    Listen buddy, you interact with shriek, and so I have the mother of all tu quoque's to level your way.

  • ||

    Uh, I don't interact with shriek in any way, shape, or form, so take your tu quoque and cram it wherever your species traditionally crams things.

  • tarran||

    You're right. It was Tulpa. Sometimes I get the worthless characters confused.

    Tulpa is objectively worse than Tony, so I think my to quoque stands.

  • ||

    I ignore Tulpa now too. Is the tu quoque gonna fit in your cloaca?

  • Irish||

    You ignore Tulpa except when you bring up dumb things he said months ago to talk about how dumb he is. You still bring up his weird gun control arguments in order to mock him.

    That's not the same thing as ignoring Tulpa.

  • tarran||

    That's not the same thing as ignoring Tulpa.

    Ahem, for the purposes of the conversation I'm having with Episiarch, it is.

    I was referring to the episode where Episiarch was taunting Tulpa for returning before the month had run out, claiming it was an experiment.

  • Irish||

    Ahem, for the purposes of the conversation I'm having with Episiarch, it is.

    But if I constantly talk about how much I hate Tony, even while not talking to Tony, can it really be said that I'm ignoring him?

    It's a question that has vexed the philosophers ever since Aristotle discussed the issue in Nicomachean Ethics.

  • ||

    That's not the same thing as ignoring Tulpa.

    The same goes with Dunphy. Either ignore the guys retarded posts, mock him, or respond to him. But the first thing is not the same as the last two.

  • tarran||

    Did you formally register that you were no longer acknowledging the existence of Tulva nee Tulpa on the official Objectivist registry of "Who Has Broken With Whom"?

  • SugarFree||

    It burns when I pee.

  • ||

    Moral: Stay away from Warty.

  • ||

    No. I might change my policy at a whim. I reserve the right to be as mercurial as I choose. For instance, I am now ignoring ProL because his favorite episode of TOS is "The Galileo Seven".

  • Pro Libertate||

    That's a damned lie. My favorite episode is "Where No Man Has Gone Before" because I want to levitate stuff.

  • ||

    tarran, tell ProL that I'm ignoring him. And that no matter how much he wants to, he won't be sleeping with 1966 Sally Kellerman.

  • tarran||

    Pro Libertate,

    Episiarch writes to me that he is fascinated by your insights and wishes you would share more of them.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Oh, he wants me to publish a deep-dish pizza recipe? Why certainly.

    Pizza Dough:
    16 ounces water
    1/8-ounce yeast
    1/2-ounce salt
    2 pounds bread flour
    1/4 cup olive oil
    1/4 cup cornmeal

    Toppings:
    2 cups shredded mozzarella
    2 cups tomato sauce (strangely enough, my favorite tomato sauce is the Walmart generic brand)
    1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
    1/2 cup baby spinach
    1/2 cup grated Romano
    1/2 cup grated Parmesan

    In a mixer combine the water and the yeast and allow the yeast to dissolve. Add the remaining ingredients except for the cornmeal and begin to mix the dough using a dough hook on low speed.

    Once a ball is formed mix on medium speed for 1 to 2 minutes until the dough becomes elastic and smooth. Remove from the mixer and place in a bowl coated with olive oil. Allow the dough to rest for approximately 4 hours.

    Once the dough is rested, place on flat surface and dust with some flour.

    Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Add the cornmeal to the baking pan (I use a layer cake pan). Then, spread the dough using your fingers at the bottom of the pan and make sure to have enough dough to come up the sides of the pan approximately 1/2-inch high.

    Place a layer of the mozzarella cheese on the bottom of the crust. Add the tomato sauce, the toppings and finally the romano and parmesan. Place in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes until golden and crispy.

  • ||

    Nice. Will be making pizza tomorrow with my mother.

    I hope you use Parmiggiano and not Parmesan.

    Big difference.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Okay, when they were first showing Alice Eve in uniform for the new movie, who thought she was supposed to be Dr. Dehner?

  • ||

    tarran, tell ProL that it doesn't matter who he thought Alice Eve was going to be. Because the reboot has nothing to do with TOS.

  • tarran||

    Pro Libertate,

    Episiarch writes that he thought she was supposed to be Whorf

  • Pro Libertate||

    No, he's right, it had nothing to do with TOS, reaching back instead to Krieg der Sterne.

    A Gary Mitchell reboot story beats the heck out of retooling Khan. Khan is Mexican-Indian and played by Ricardo. Since he's dead, Khan is dead.

  • ||

    tarran, tell ProL that no matter how much he wants to, he isn't sleeping with Alice Eve. Or Benedict Cumberbatch.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I'm happily married and heterosexual, so I give Episiarch my proxy with both. Go and sin some more.

  • Rights-Minimalist Autocrat||

    Okay, when they were first showing Alice Eve in uniform for the new movie, who thought she was supposed to be Dr. Dehner?

    Yup, and I figured Sherlock was Gary Mitchell.

  • Rasilio||

    I thought it was "Where No Man Has Gone Before" cause you think Kirk's butt is dreamy

  • Sevo||

    Epi,
    We common commenters can only hope to achieve your level of...
    something or other...

  • Cliché Bandit||

    OOOOOO BURRRNNN!!!!

  • Killazontherun||

    I did recently respond to shriek because he called out a good point of criticism on one of my post. However, I'll put my record of ignoring the trolls up against that of almost anyone. I think it is fair to say that Dunphy doesn't give them any quarter (is my face still straight?).

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Tony, you gotta stop man. Your blistering illogic is making me laugh so much I could get fired!

    Fired? You sound like...an employee. I'll bet you don't even have any child laborers cleaning your dangerous factory machines for pennies!

    Shun. This. Man!

  • ||

    I always laugh out loud in my office at work whenever I read Tony's stuff.

  • Irish||

    The problem is requiring a wholesale adoption of laissez-faire economic and social policy, which has indeed never been successfully attempted.

    So you're basically conceding that every libertarian idea has worked on its own, but still argue that libertarianism couldn't work if tried all together?

    That's dumb even for you.

  • Tony||

    No, I'm saying no libertarian economic idea works on its own, but you guys can conveniently ignore each and every one of those failures on the premise that the system overall isn't libertarian. Low taxes have never been shown to be correlated with economic growth? Less regulation of the financial sector leads to irrational excess? It's not the fault of your policies, it's the fault of the government that's still there!

  • ||

    No, I'm saying no libertarian economic idea works on its own, but you guys can conveniently ignore each and every one of those failures

    If the idea worked, albeit not in isolation from everything statist, then why is it a failure to ignore? I'm not sure what this sentence even means.

    Low taxes have never been shown to be correlated with economic growth? Less regulation of the financial sector leads to irrational excess?

    Do questions make arguments now?

  • Irish||

    Low taxes have never been shown to be correlated with economic growth? Less regulation of the financial sector leads to irrational excess?

    That's interesting, because our highest period of economic growth was the late 1800s and early 1900s, when taxes were much, much lower than today, and Chile has the highest annual growth rate in the world over the last 30 years, while having the lowest taxes in the OECD.

    Argument by assertion on your part, with no evidence to back up your argument. As usual.

    It's not the fault of your policies, it's the fault of the government that's still there!

    This is just funny because it explains your viewpoint more than ours. Government has expanded over the last 30 years. Hell, it's expanded pretty much constantly for 90 years. But don't worry! It's not the fault of the constant expansion of government that the economy is collapsing! It's the few vestiges of the free market that we haven't stamped out yet!

  • ||

    I don't even know if there's such a thing as 'libertarian economic ideas.'

    Libertarians seem to espouse the writings of Enlightenment philosophers in the classical liberal age like Smith, Bastiat and Galliani.

  • ||

    It's like when Krugman complained about some economic ideas as being outside the mainstream, when they were ideas he had espoused in a textbook he wrote with his wife.

    http://stefanmikarlsson.blogsp.....zarre.html

  • Bill||

    Remember that time when Krugman contradicted himself? The answer is always: wasn't that yesterday?

  • Sevo||

    Tony| 6.7.13 @ 3:13PM |#
    "No, I'm saying no libertarian economic idea works on its own,"

    Translated from shithead:
    "A free market doesn't work if we fuck it up enough to make it not anywhere close to free"

  • ||

    which has indeed never been successfully attempted.

    And where was it attempted, such that it could fail?

  • prolefeed||

    You're just for somewhat less socialism--and you don't get to absolve yourself of the social consequences.

    I agree that someone who is only for somewhat less socialism doesn't get to absolve themselves of the bad consequences from the socialism they accept.

    You can be an anarchist who wants complete freedom, though, and still favor piecemeal improvements in freedom if that is all that is currently feasible, because better is better.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    Of course this ignores the role socialism plays in encouraging bad behavior.

  • ||

    You're just for somewhat less socialism--and you don't get to absolve yourself of the social consequences.

    Oh, we're now taking responsibility for the social consequences of our ideas? And how has this worked in your life?

  • Tony||

    Since I don't adopt any political belief that isn't a demonstrated success, I sleep just fine.

  • ||

    Wow, you've never been wrong in your desire to organize humanity? How wonderful. Either that, or you let your define your own idea of success, which is probably the status quo. How brave and imaginative.

    Of course, your decisions have had little to no effect on any policy, so I really don't see what there is to feel guilty about. Unless you're like a sports fan, who feels that, in cheering for your favorite sports team, that, somehow, you win or lose if they do. Maybe you have more in common with Alabama football fans than you think.

  • Sevo||

    Tony| 6.7.13 @ 3:13PM |#
    "Since I don't adopt any political belief that isn't a demonstrated success,..."

    Ya know, shithead, there are times when it looks like you could do decent stand-up.

  • PapayaSF||

    That is pretty funny. I don't think any socialist, or social democratic, or even democratic society is a "demonstrated success" if you look critically enough. Certainly the left is constantly telling us that the USA is a sexist, racist hellhole full of people we've impoverished with out evil capitalism. The social democratic countries of Europe are demographically dying. Etc.

  • Sevo||

    "Certainly the left is constantly telling us that the USA is a sexist, racist hellhole full of people we've impoverished with out evil capitalism."

    Anecdote(s):
    Cdn MD, professional Canadian when he first arrived, singing the praises of Cdn 'health-care'. Dear ol' Mom has difficulties, pulls strings and then pulls more and now is trying to get Mom into the US, fighting frantically to stay here permanently. Anti Obozoscare, now.
    French BF of shirt-tail relative; IT worker, losing employer support for green-card searching frantically for...
    Stated preference vs revealed preference.
    As much as the US sucks, it doesn't suck as much as shithead hopes it would. And I notice shithead has yet to decamp to his fave socialist workers' paradise.

  • ||

    "Success" meaning different things to different people, of course. The Holodomor being an unqualified success at intentionally starving to death undesirables. The fact that Tony considers the consequences of the policies he supports to be "success" should frighten anyone.

  • JW||

    Why are there no libertarian countries? Conservative welfare statist and co-founder of the New America Foundation Michael Lind claimed in Salon this week that that’s “the question libertarians just can’t answer.”

    Because the venal sheep that make up the citizenry turn to sociopathic, power-mad cunts to lead them?

  • Zeb||

    That's probably true. But it may well be an inherent problem in human societies, as much as I would like to believe that it is not.

  • ||

    Ha ha, he's a fat fuck. How unsurprising. I wonder if he supports laws to "control obesity".

  • Zombie Jimbo||

    To paraphrase Dean Wormer:

    Fat, stupid, and a statist is no way to go through life, son.

  • JW||

    Why have so many countries throughout history brutally oppressed their people, engaged in ruinous and kleptocratic economic practices and have murdered tens of millions of people? That's a question that bootlickers like Lind can't answer.

  • sarcasmic||

    Sure they can! The wrong people were in charge! Put the right people in charge, give them unlimited power, and utopia will always emerge! Except that the opposite always happens. Oh yeah! Wrong people were in charge!

  • Irish||

    I've already seen liberals using 'The wrong people were in charge!' in regards to the Obama administration. As scandals pile up, I'm really excited to see them start claiming that Obama was never a true liberal and that all the hero worship in 2008 never happened.

  • sarcasmic||

    Unfortunately they are incapable of understanding that concentrated power, not the individual who has it, is the problem.

  • Zeb||

    Even supposing that the right person being in charge could solve all the problems (which is not something I believe BTW), people seem to ignore the fact that no one has ever found a reliable way to make sure that the right person is in charge. Democracy sure doesn't do it.

  • ||

    no one has ever found a reliable way to make sure that the right person is in charge. Democracy sure doesn't do it.

    Isn't the proletarian revolution supposed to take care of that? Worked in Cuba!

  • ||

    Didn't Obama put most of them there in the first place?

    Why should they take responsibility when their own leader is a master pass the bucker?

  • sarcasmic||

    A libertarian society in its fullness must exist right now or else that proves that it can never exist.

    That argument is a dead giveaway that the person you're dealing with is incapable of abstract thinking.

  • ||

    His sentence doesn't even make fucking sense.

  • sarcasmic||

    I like to lurk on Cafe Hayek. Some of the people who comment there make that exact same argument. "Show me a perfect libertarian society! You can't! That means it can't exist and all the ideas are crap!" Functional retards.

  • ||

    It's just one in a long line of grasping attempts to find a simplistic enough way to dismiss anti-statism that makes sense to people whose reasoning skills are on par with a slug, or possibly a cucumber. It's not a real argument, and it's not for who they're arguing with; it's for them. It salves their fevered little minds.

  • tarran||

    You know, that reminds me, I wonder what happened to muirgeo?

    My guess is that he was jailed after being convicted of rape after he gave an idiot the idiot's first-ever prostate exam.

  • sarcasmic||

    He's alive and well, posting as George Baella (sp? facebook commenting is blocked here at work). Still as stupid as ever.

  • sarcasmic||

    George White is videyos and the unpronouncable Russian name is Methinks. Disingenuous Kuehn shows up from time to time. JohnK (me) refuses to get a Facebook account so he stopped posting when they left Disquis.

  • ||

    I haven't spent time there in years now but it's depressing they switched to FB commenting.

  • OldMexican||

    But of course the proper comparison is not between Mauritius and the United States; it's between Mauritius now and Mauritius before it adopted market reforms


    This notion of comparing different countries with different levels of development is the usual tactic of the obfuscator and the intellectually dishonest. The above correlates well with Lind's brand of circular reasoning, explained in the author's question: "[...]but just how does Lind think that the large industrial democracies got be large industrial democracies?"

    Lind simply assumes those industrial democracies exist and always existed by virtue of their intervensionist governments and not because at one point the population was much more free to pursue their interests and free to trade. Leftists and liberals have always dismissed or misunderstood the uber-important role that SAVINGS and capital formation play in economic activity and economic growth.

  • ||

    Leftists and liberals have always dismissed or misunderstood the uber-important role that SAVINGS and capital formation play in economic activity and economic growth.

    Savings? All that matters is aggregate demand. And how do you get aggregate demand? You have the government spend money! Get with the times, old man.

  • rts||

    I have had discussions with progressive who seriously claim that libertarianism was tried, and failed, in late 19th century - early 20th century USA, when "everyone was free to die in sweatshops".

  • sarcasmic||

    Not only that, but if it wasn't for government everyone would still be free to die in a sweatshop! Oh, and unions!

  • ||

    Yeah, enjoying some of the largest GDP and personal income growth that the world had ever seen.

    But, people didn't have it as good as they had it today, with amazing technological advances, so freedom must suck.

  • ||

    All of these " we don't have a libertarian country, so it must be impossible" arguments are just hasty generalization fallacies. It might mean something if the world was some enormous laboratory, where many different groups of people were trying many different forms of social organization. This is sadly not the case. We're all ancestors of tribal warlords, which gave way to theocratic kingships, which have only recently given way to social democracies, some with more freedom, some with less, and success has correlated very well with freedom. There is hardly enough of a sample size and variation in this population to start making claims that taking freedom further must mean a disaster, because no one's done it yet, so it must be bad.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Brian,

    All of these "we don't have a libertarian country, so it must be impossible" arguments are just hasty generalization fallacies.


    They're also infused with dishonesty. In order to make the argument, the person must assume that libertarianism is in itself an administrative policy instead of being merely a political one. Libertarianism simply means adopting the moral principle of non-aggression; it does not provide a normative structure on how a government is to handle different crises (whether real or invented) or an economy, simply because Non-aggression implies NO such normatives. However, people like Lind and our resident leftist would expect to see a country where libertarianism "rules" as if socialism and libertarianism where different flavors of ice cream, when in fact they're two extremes of a spectrum: towards more liberty = libertarianism; towards more slavery = socialism.

  • sarcasmic||

    When everything is viewed through the lens of asking permission and taking orders, liberty does not compute. It just doesn't make any sense. Who gives permission? Who gives orders? WTF? It doesn't make any sense!

  • Zeb||

    People like that see everything as a system. So libertarianism and laissez-faire must also be systems in the same sense. When in reality, they are pretty much the lack of a system and just let people do what they do.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    If socialism is discredited by the failure of communist regimes in the real world, why isn’t libertarianism discredited by the absence of any libertarian regimes in the real world?

    This has got to be one of the more stunningly asinine comments I've seen on the internet in a long time. Is Lind completely unable to distinguish between a negative result and a non-test? Or is he just being a completely disingenuous power-worshiping prick?

  • califernian||

    Yes

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Tony,

    The problem is requiring a wholesale adoption of laissez-faire economic and social policy, which has indeed never been successfully attempted.


    This is an extraordinary assertion, Tony, especially when such policies would never come from the top, only from the bottom-up. This means that societies tend to be laissez-faire ALL the time (for instance, you don't ask the government for permission to talk to your friends and they don't have to ask permission to talk to you) whereas the intervensionist component is always imposed from above.

    If you do advocate for more piecemeal change, then each policy should be judged on its merits,


    Judged by whom? Right now, most policies are judged by no one except those that are closely related to the politicians that impose such policies, and these tend NOT to favor any sort of reduction in their power that any laissez-faire policy would imply.

    and furthermore you don't get to climb up on a moral high horse about socialism vs. freedom.


    Yes, I get to climb a moral high-horse. I am neither thief nor murderer, the two sine qua non conditions for a socialist.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Here in the 21st century, Lind asks, “If socialism is discredited by the failure of communist regimes in the real world, why isn’t libertarianism discredited by the absence of any libertarian regimes in the real world?”

    Isn't that comparing two different things? How can something that he admits does not exist fail?

  • sarcasmic||

    It's the same broken-brain illogic that produces Tonyisms like "not giving is taking and not taking is giving."

  • Bill Dalasio||

    Yes he is. He's either incredibly stupid or being dishonest. Consider an experiment. The experiment shows socialism leads to awful, terrible consequences. Lind is trying to argue that the absence of an experiment for libertarianism is comparable to the negative results provided by the experiment with socialism.

  • MJGreen||

    Yeesh, that's what Michael Lind looks like?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Unfortunately the problem implementing libertarianism could be the same problem with implementing communism: human nature. While individuals eventually refuse to be moved around a board like chess pieces, apparently they also refuse to let their neighbors be free to engage in certain economic or leisure activities despite the fact that they harm no one. While people ultimately tire of oppression, they also seem to enjoy a little too much the club of government's utility of imposing at least some of their will on others.

  • sarcasmic||

    “Political tags—such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal conservative, and so forth—are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.”

    “Being generous is inborn; being altruistic is a learned perversity. No resemblance—“
    --Heinlein

  • ||

    Sarcasmic, I doubt you'll be back on this thread but I'll ask anyway: Do you read Heinlein? Have a book to recommend?

  • ||

    I think the human nature argument cuts both ways: if we can't let people be free because of their nature, how can we let them, through democracy, dictate who gets to take what from who, and who gets to kill and maim who?

    A lot of these arguments against libertarianism only seem plausible because they're never applied to the state.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I'm not saying we can't let people be free because of human nature, I'm saying it's apparently human nature to not let people be free.

  • ||

    I agree. I just have a hard time believing, as statists would have me do, that that quality of human nature is best overcome by a state, especially since a state embodies the idea of not letting people be free.

    Their logic goes like this: "Hey, some people are really bad, and want to impose their will on others. I know! Let's organize and create the strongest possible central power that we can, whose sole purpose will be to impose its will on everyone that it can. That'll fix it."

  • Tony||

    People, as long as their basic needs are met, tend to be perfectly happy letting their neighbors do as they please.

    The problem is libertarians don't realize how connected people are. Beyond what you're eating, reading, watching on TV, and fucking, what are people doing that has no effect on those around them?

  • ||

    Thinking. Some of us.

  • ||

    I'm pretty sure libertarians realize that people are connected to other people.

    Also, eating, reading, watching TV, and fucking all involve connections with people. You can look it up. Food, books, TVs, and sex partners don't magically appear.

  • Tony||

    Indeed. So we all have something of a stake in the activities of other people. Hence the existence of law and order, and at lower levels of human interaction, etiquette and rules of the house. All of which are enforceable by various more or less formal means.

    I don't even get what you want. Seems like what you want is all the comforts of the status quo, just with lower taxes.

  • sarcasmic||

    I want to sell my beer to my neighbors and make my own scotch. I want to grow plants and sell their flowers. I want to make my own fireworks. I want to run a food truck.

    I cannot do any of those things legally. Some I could do if I asked really nice, paid for several licenses, built expensive outbuildings, and otherwise asked permission and took orders from government idiots. Some I could not do legally under any circumstance.

    In short, I want to be free.

  • Tony||

    I am on board with many of those minor grievances. So stop calling me a Hitler equivalent for also wanting universal healthcare.

    We're all socialists, just to varying degrees.

  • Sevo||

    Tony| 6.8.13 @ 3:59PM |#
    ..."We're all socialists, just to varying degrees."

    No, shithead, *you're* a socialist and a psychopathic liar. Like most socialists, shithead.

  • ||

    You're falling into the is-ought problem again. Everyone is connected, so let's jump to the conclusion that we ought to create law and order.

    Order? Fine. Law? That's a huge jump, much less justification for any particular law.

    So far, you seem to only be able to establish a subjective desire for order. That's not much of a stone's throw away from being John Stossel, so I'm not sure I even get what you want, based on this argument alone.

  • sarcasmic||

    Order does not require being established. Often it emerges.

  • ||

    Exactly. Rules are fine. Rulers suck.

  • Sevo||

    Tony| 6.7.13 @ 3:16PM |#
    ..."I don't even get what you want"...

    That much is clear, and it's the reason you posts are so hilariously wrong, shithead.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Tony,

    People, as long as their basic needs are met, tend to be perfectly happy letting their neighbors do as they please.


    Are you saying that people are no better than animals?

    Because that is what is clearly implied in your proposition: That as long as people feel satisfied, they're not going to interfere with other people's lives. That sounds like no rational beings I know or care for. Maybe what you describe is the kind of company you prefer to keep, but I am more than willing to give you the benefit of the doubt and instead conclude that you have no fucking idea of what you're talking about.

  • Tony||

    Better? People are animals. Like any animal, if we're well fed and comfortable, we take fewer risks. Except we're not particularly well adapted to a global environment and thus we manage to take risks we aren't even aware of. Most species that die out do so because of environmental changes they have no control over. We could be the first animal to destroy ourselves through stupidity.

  • Sevo||

    Tony| 6.8.13 @ 4:01PM |#
    ..."We could be the first animal to destroy ourselves through stupidity."

    No so long as we ignore shitheads like you.
    You and your asshole compatriots have tried; so far, you've been beaten into the ground.

  • Sevo||

    Tony| 6.7.13 @ 3:08PM |#
    ..."Beyond what you're eating, reading, watching on TV, and fucking, what are people doing that has no effect on those around them?"

    Joke or abysmal stupidity?

  • ||

    Tony...you're something else. I consider myself libertarians and realize how connected we are. I give blood, give to charities - heck even give to Reason - maintain cordial relations with my neighbours etc.

    Liberals, for all their garbage social conscience talk, probably do LESS for society when it comes to donating time and money. Just a hunch.

    For the last time, libertarians do understand it, what you don't grasp is we don't accept it being forced upon others through coercive action. We accept some aren't 'connected.' New age crap anyways on some level.

  • ChrisO||

    Somebody please give this guy a boot to lick, so he'll shut up.

  • Killazontherun||

    compared to 99 percent in the United States.

    In the 90's to make some extra cash, I worked part time for a company that graded the proficiency tests of several states. I graded a few hundred thousand in that time. I can easily extrapolate from reading those damn essays* that the literacy rate of Americans is no where near close to 99 percent.

    *there were entire classes of these kids where you could not get through a single goddamned essay without reading with out an education you gonna be stuck rest of your life saying, 'sir, you want fries with that?' My paraphrasing of the actual words used was edited to make me appear less racist.

  • Killazontherun||

    Oh, and Ohio and Michigan, you were the worst.

  • Alan||

    I've seen students' papers hung on the walls of high schools that made this clear enough - these were high schools yet the writing was not worthy of a third-grader. I know exactly what you mean.

    Anyone who says the U.S. has 99% literacy is lying. Anyone who says any nation has 99% literacy is lying.

  • ||

    Well played with Mauritius Mr. Bailey.

    Rest assured now that Mauritius' situation has improved, enlightened progressives will enter the picture to wreck it all. Someone has to think of the children.

    And then history will start from there.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Tony,

    People, as long as their basic needs are met, tend to be perfectly happy letting their neighbors do as they please.


    Are you saying that people are no better than animals?

    Because that is what is clearly implied in your proposition: That as long as people feel satisfied, they're not going to interfere with other people's lives. That sounds like no rational beings I know or care for. Maybe what you describe is the kind of company you prefer to keep, but I am more than willing to give you the benefit of the doubt and instead conclude that you have no fucking idea of what you're talking about.

  • space junk||

    “If libertarianism is not only appealing but plausible, why hasn’t any country in the world ever tried it?”

    Well that is it folks. It hasn't been done before so we cant even think about trying it!

    If everyone thought like this jackass, we would all still be living in caves. Ok, maybe some of us would have preferred trees...

    Just because it hasn't existed yet (political systems, technologies or otherwise) does not mean that it cannot come to fruition. This is just the closed mind of a person who doesn't know how to create or think for himself trying to justify his attitude.

    What a bonehead.

  • Michele||

    I wonder if he ever flies in a plane, or drives a car, or eats with a fork. Oh wait. Heh

  • space junk||

    Well, he may just dig his head right into the food and not bother with utensils. HA!

  • Erik Jay||

    Why not just call Lind the stupid fat fuck he is and be done with it?

  • XM||

    Other countries aren't libertarian because either the ruling class or a large percentage of the nationalist citizenry will reject it. Lots of people actually like the government taking care of them, even at the expense of others.

    If 45% of the white population and the GOP turned completely libertarian, the Democrats will still be force to be reckoned with. They have no shortage of voters who will vote against libertarian ideas in droves. Lefties in LA were REAL glad that the city decided to limit the number of pot shops there.

    If it can't make it here, then it won't make it in some randome Eurozones.

  • owen||

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  • Tejicano||

    Alternate Michael Lind : "My metabolism has never been subjected to diet and exercise so there is no real proof that it would work for me."

  • Michele||

    Bwaahahahaha

  • ||

    Marxian communism was barely a nugget on the top of the shit pile of history, novel, untried and untested, when the revolutions took place and made it into the dominant social and political structure on this entire planet. Of course, Marxian communism is and was an abject moral and practical failure. But the point is, just because something hasn't existed, doesn't mean it can't.

  • hired.mind@gmail.com||

    I'd just like to point out that the early history of the US was almost perfect libertarianism. It was also the era in which humanity made the most progress in a number of different areas.

  • Semper||

    There is a relatively large island in the BVI for sale. Im sure theyd go for independance for a few extra mil. Ill put up some dough. Whos in!

  • Michele||

    Why isn't it discredited by a libertarian regime? Hmmm...gee I'll have to think about that one. But first, I think I'll take a bong hit.

  • BAL1953||

    I used to think that Ron and Rand Paul were pretty wacky but after the scandals of the past 3 weeks it seems that Rand, especially, was pretty prescient. My opinion of Rand changed dramatically when he stood for 13 hours demanding accountability for drone warfare.

    I disagree with some of his stands but if he runs for president I will definitely vote for him. He comes across as a sincere defender of the Constitution.

    A little bit of Libertarianism implemented slowly over time (because that's the only way it can realistically be accomplished) will help our country become the "Land of the Free" once again.

  • ashdex||

    Sadly, I don't think libertarianism will ever gain critical mass in the US. Consider the millions of Americans who willingly ("eagerly" is probably more accurate) waive some of the most basic private property rights in order to live in housing subdivisions that impose all kinds of restrictions on how a property owner can use and enjoy his/her own property. Of course, they give up these rights in exchange for various tangible and/or intangible benefits (sound familiar?). I suspect many self-described libertarians are doing that very thing without giving it the slightest thought. If early America was more libertarian it was only because it had the luxury of a vast frontier and those who favored more freedom could simply move to where they couldn't be bothered and if govt wanted to bother you they had to really work at it.

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