Economics

Abundant Truths

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Imagine an egalitarian world in which all food is organic and local, the air is free of industrial pollution, and vigorous physical exertion is guaranteed. Sound idyllic?

But hold on… Life expectancy is 30 at most; many children die at or soon after birth; life is constantly lived on the edge of starvation; there are no doctors or dentists or modern toilets. If it is egalitarian it is because everyone is dirt poor, and there is no industrial pollution because there are no factories. Food is organic because there are no pesticides or high technology farming methods. As a result, producing food means long hours of back-breaking physical work which may end up yielding little.

There is—or at least was—such a place. It is called the past.

Thus begins an excellent review essay by Daniel Ben-Ami in Spiked of books by green writer Bill McKibben, economist Robert Frank, journalist Robert Frank (yes, very confusing), and reason Contributing Editor Brink Lindsey.

Ben-Ami makes a strong defense of economic growth and a "post-scarcity society."

Read the whole thing here.

Via Arts & Letters Daily.

Read Lindsey's July reason cover story about "The Aquarians and the Evangelicals: How left-wing hippies and right-wing fundamentalists created a libertarian America."

NEXT: Gibraltarians for Paul

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  1. That’s a false dichotomy, though.

    The choice is not: lots of pollution or abandonning technology.

    It is lots of pollution or internalizing the costs of pollution (adding that information back into prices) and thus letting the market move us towards clean technologies.

  2. I think the Greenies argument is “caking and eating it too”.

    Technology will prevail or we’ll die.

  3. Split wood, not atoms!!

  4. Life in the state of nature was nasty, brutal, but at least organic and free range.

  5. Imagine an libertarian world in which all food is wholly unregulated, nobody pays taxes, and there is no social safety net. Sound liberating?

    But hold on… Life expectancy is 30 at most; many children die at or soon after birth; life is constantly lived on the edge of starvation; there are no doctors or dentists or modern toilets. If it is libertarian it is because there is no state whatsoever, and there are not taxes because no one provides public services. As a result, unfavorable weather or some other difficulty results in widespread hunger.

    There is – or at least was – such a place. It is called the past.

  6. Food is organic because there are no pesticides….

    Whatever else one might say on these issues, this is simply wrong. There are organic pesticides.

  7. “As a result, producing food means long hours of back-breaking physical work which may end up yielding little.”

    Only since we gave up the hunter-gatherer society for agriculture.

  8. Nick,

    BTW, you know various varieties of Bt? It is an organic pesticide.

  9. Split wood, not atoms!!

    I prefer to fuse atoms:

    H3 + H3 -> He4 + 2 n + lotsa mev.

  10. Dammit, joe beat me to it.

  11. nice joe,

    except that was called anarchy, not libertarianism.

  12. Imagine an progressive world in which all food is provided by the state, nobody owns anything, and there is nothing but the social safety net. Sound liberating?

    Lasted 80 years or so until the collapse of the soviet union.

    The libertarian ideal may be unproven, the opposite view of life has been tested and it failed.

  13. Yay!! We won over scarcity! Let’s shit everywhere to celebrate! I’m patting my own back, and shitting too! We beat scarcity!

  14. A big chunk of the soldiers that fought for Alexander the Great were in their sixites (the Silver Shields). The old bastrads that followed Alexander pretty much died in their late seventies and eighties (two of them ON the battlefield and another assasinated right after killing one of those other creaky warriors).

    Women, even with the threat of death in childbirth, at least the ones we know about, often lived to a ripe old age as well, except when they were murdered in yet another power tiff.

    This isn’t to say that the average life expectancy wasn’t low, but the industrial revolution didn’t suddenly turn this around.

    I’m trying to remember the life expectancy in industrial England in the 19th century…it was 33 I think, at one point.

    It doesn’t have to be one or the other, I don’t know why folks have a hard time with this.

  15. KenK | August 30, 2007, 2:22pm | #

    “As a result, producing food means long hours of back-breaking physical work which may end up yielding little.”

    Only since we gave up the hunter-gatherer society for agriculture.

    Yeah, before that it was “long hours of walking and stalking while avoiding things that might eat you which may end up yielding little.”

  16. the gathering side of hunting and gathering seems to have been the big caloric boost there.

  17. nice joe,

    except that was called anarchy, not libertarianism.

    It wasn’t libertarianism until the people who had accumulated some stuff realized they needed to figure out a way to keep those without stuff from taking said stuff.

    Food was not a problem for the early American libertarians, however – they had their slaves grow and harvest it.

  18. so dan…got bored with trying did ye?

    i don’t blame you. it’s hard to go stealth. so very hard.

  19. And now we enter the lightning round of Whack-a-Mole; Points are doubled as the posts come twice as fast.

  20. Dan, why don’t you and joe get a room?

  21. Yeah, before that it was “long hours of walking and stalking while avoiding things that might eat you which may end up yielding little.”

    Arguably worse than that, cultures and subcultures with no police force reliably within earshot will decay into “macho” societies that run on personal retaliation instead of the rule of law. Sorry, anarcho-capitalists: Hobbes was right about that. As a carrier of a Y chromosome, and especially as a veteran of a public junior high school locker room, I’m grateful for the complex, post-industrial culture that lets me delegate the tough-guy jobs to the Cavemen (TM), get stoned, and write a blog.

  22. Aresen,

    As compared to the amount of labor in hierarchal agricultural societies or even industrial societies the average hunter gathered worked far reduced hours for his or her supper. This isn’t praise for hunter gatherers necessarily, but it is some perspective.

  23. I’d like to hear more from joe lite! Nice.

    CB

  24. capelza

    You are confusing “life expectacy” with “natural span”. If it is any consolation Rand made the same error in Atlas Shrugged.

    Most cultures did not consider a person to be mature until the age of 30. (The Constitutional requirement that one be 30 years of old before being elected to the Senate comes directly from the minimum age requirement for the Roman Senate.) The fact that most people in the did not survive into what we call “middle age” is not readily perceptible due to the fact that only survivors were able to “tell the tale”. For further evidence, read the “Seven Ages of Man” speach in Shakespeare’s As You Like It.

    The four horsemen killed most people in their prime, not because the people got old quicker.

  25. So was it the economist who said the life expectancy was 30 in the past? Living “close” to the land does cause an increase in accidental death (hence humanities prodigious reproductive abilities), but the truth is a bit more nuanced than that. Silly way to start.

    I don’t actually know many people against “technology”, just some forms of it. (for instance, I have no problem with assembly lines, but I don’t like the uses that the Nazi’s put them to.)

    Straw men. Try brick men. This sounds like a liberal telling me about a libertarian who wouldn’t let the local fire department put out his house when it was on fire because they worked for the government.

    When someone says I don’t like that “form” and you say “Look they don’t like any forms”, you know you’ve got a straw man to burn.

    Although I did meet one of those anti-tech liberals once. They were burned out from the acid and working at Burger King at the age of forty.

  26. Unfortunately, I have no original thoughts. Only a pavlovian response mechanism.

  27. Brian Sorgatz,

    Arguably worse than that, cultures and subcultures with no police force reliably within earshot will decay into “macho” societies that run on personal retaliation instead of the rule of law.

    Actually, in most hunter gatherer groups social behavior was regulated by some fairly clear standards (though they were the sorts of things one would learn orally). Now it is true that say “magic” was often used as a means to deal with a grudge, but no more so probably per capita than bar fights and murders occur in the U.S. due to personal grudges.

  28. joe lite,

    Imagine an progressive world in which all food is provided by the state, nobody owns anything, and there is nothing but the social safety net. Sound liberating?

    No, not even remotely. The reason my quip works, and your doesn’t, it that the “good” situations I wrote actually describe the political beliefs of people reading this thread, while those you wrote don’t.

    Wow, you really got those people who want the government to own everything! Whoever they are.

  29. joe — are you seriously arguing that taxes are a modern phenomenon? The really high levels of government theft taxes we now have are made possible by the prosperity unleashed by capitalism — the taxes and government spending are not the cause of the prosperity.

  30. Johnny,

    I don’t actually know many people against “technology”, just some forms of it.

    It is pretty rare to run across a “deep ecology,” “back to before the neolothic,” etc. type of individual.

  31. Dan and Joe,
    If the three of us guys had belonged to a foraging society, we would essentially have been enlisted by a universal male draft at puberty. A war with an enemy band resulting in one fatality would be the instant death of two or three percent of our entire society. Sociopaths are an alarmingly high percentage of the human population. Imagine all the suffering that all the MicroHitlers must have caused. Isn’t that horrible? Isn’t this life much better than that one?

  32. prolefeed,

    joe — are you seriously arguing that taxes are a modern phenomenon?

    No.

  33. Well, aside from the fact that such a libertarian state never really existed, and that if one such nation did exist, it would have plenty of doctors, dentists, and modern technology, so I would highly doubt that the average lifespan would regress to 30, barring war, pandemics, or the monkeys taking over.

  34. joe — A tapeworm growing really huge in a well-fed person is not the cause of the person’s rich diet. A government growing really huge and extracting enormous taxes is not the cause of the wealth of the individuals being stolen from.

  35. Brian Sorgatz,

    Isn’t this life much better than that one?

    Yes.

    Why do you think your point is somehow contradictory to what I wrote, or think?

  36. To buttress my last comment, there was a smaller adult male body count in Europe during the twentieth century (yes!) than in the low-tech societies people want to romanticize.

  37. i hae no love for the whole “organic” foods thing, mostly in terms of rhetoric (people thinking about their food is a good), but the bringing up hunter gatherer societies as a way of criticizing their stances seems kinda over the top.

    i know some enviro types really are fucking nuts and all, but it would seem like a better idea to just ignore them.

  38. Brian Sorgatz,

    Attacking another village as often as not tended to be highly ceremonial (keep in mind that we’re talking about hunter gatherer populations across a wide range of time and geography) and in many cases sought to capture a single individual. That individual could then become the scapegoat for said group and they would (while treating him rather kindly) pour much of the stress of the group into that individual. In many cases this individual would be sacrificed or simply killed.

  39. CFisher,

    A situation of no taxes, no regulation, and no social safety net most certainly did exist. Like medieval agricultural society, it was a horrible mess of disease, hunger, and misery.

  40. joe, you describe the most extreme forms of libertarian thought (bordering on anarchy if not completely there) and portray them as the mainstream of libertarians.

    I described most extreme form of progressive thought (socialism) which has had many, many vocal proponents for decades and a real-life test as well.

    Don’t bitch about others using your own practices in counter point to your arugments.

  41. prolefeed,

    The fallacy you just commited is knows as “Defining your conclusion.”

    I just thought you might like to know that.

  42. Syloson of Samos

    You’re right. I did overstate. By present evidence, hunter-gatherer societies did work less (at least the males did). However, life was much more precarious than in agricultural societies, which I think is why the switch happened.

    My earlier comments were more a reaction to “Miniver Cheevyism”

    Miniver Cheevy

    by E.A. Robinson (1869 – 1935 )

    Miniver Cheevy, child of scorn,
    Grew lean while he assailed the seasons;
    He wept that he was ever born,
    And he had reasons.

    Miniver loved the days of old
    When swords were bright and steeds were prancing;
    The vision of a warrior bold
    Would set him dancing.

    Miniver sighed for what was not,
    And dreamed, and rested from his labors;
    He dreamed of Thebes and Camelot,
    And Priam’s neighbors.

    Minever mourned the ripe renown
    That made so many a name so fragrant;
    He mourned Romance, now on the town,
    And Art, a vagrant.

    Minever loved the Medici,
    Albeit he had never seen one;
    He would have sinned incessantly
    Could he have been one.

    Miniver cursed the commonplace
    And eyed a khaki suit with loathing;
    He missed the medi?val grace
    Of iron clothing.

    Miniver scorned the gold he sought,
    But sore annoyed was he without it;
    Miniver thought, and thought, and thought,
    And thought about it.

    Miniver Cheevy, born too late,
    Scratched his head and kept on thinking;
    Miniver coughed, and called it fate,
    And kept on drinking.

  43. joe — are you seriously arguing that taxes are a modern phenomenon?

    No.

    Then why did you say so in your 2:20 post?

    Imagine an libertarian world in which all food is wholly unregulated, nobody pays taxes … There is – or at least was – such a place. It is called the past.

  44. In many cases this individual would be sacrificed or simply killed.

    Are you putting human sacrifice and murder into the same moral category? Your dream of anarchy makes me nervous.

  45. joe,

    Medieval Europe was often heavily taxed. Indeed, taxes often set off revolts. As for regulations, they existed as well.

  46. joe lite,

    I’m sure, in your head, liberals are just as committed to universal government ownership of property as libertarians are to the elimination of environmental regulatins, Social Security, and taxes.

    I believe…that YOU believe it.

  47. I mean, in different moral categories! LOL I’m writing too fast. I want them in the same category, obviously.

  48. Joe,

    When you’re tied to land you don’t own by edict of the government and must pay ‘rent’ (read: taxes) to your land Lord, live by his word, and die at the same, that’s not exactly libertarian.

    There might not have been a social safety net in medieval Europe, but there were plenty of taxes and regulations, even if they came from your local tyrant (or clergyman) instead of the national government.

  49. prolefeed,

    Then why did you say so in your 2:20 post?

    I didn’t.

    Imagine an libertarian world in which all food is wholly unregulated, nobody pays taxes … There is – or at least was – such a place. It is called the past.

    Do you really need me to explain this to you?

  50. S of S,

    I didn’t say that a taxless, unregulated society existed during the medieval period in Europe. I wrote that it existed in the past, and that like medieval European society, it was a mess. It is not the lack of taxes and regulations that make it like medieval Europe – it’s being a pre-modern mess that makes it like medieval Europe.

  51. Brian Sorgatz,

    No.

    I have no dream of anarchy.

    My comments on these matters are merely descriptive.

    Aresen,

    However, life was much more precarious than in agricultural societies, which I think is why the switch happened.

    No one knows why the switch occurred. At one time there was a theory that war was the primary catalyst, but given the number of early cities that lacked walls or militaries that seems out as a universal explanation (so much for Hobbes’ notions of the state of nature as well).

    I myself think that religion played a significant part in the creation of cities, as the priests of various religious sects used the ideological power that they had created as a means to foster the creation of hierarchal societies.

  52. CF Fisher,

    See above, to Syloson.

  53. joe,

    This is what you wrote:

    A situation of no taxes, no regulation, and no social safety net most certainly did exist. Like medieval agricultural society, it was a horrible mess of disease, hunger, and misery.

  54. Syloson,
    You’re reversing Stalin’s attributed quote about tragedies versus statistics. One person killed in a war, even a “ceremonial” one (Nuremburg rallies, anyone?), out of a society of fifty people is the equivalent of six million Americans dying violently all at once.

    I know what you’re probably thinking next, but I think Paul Fussell has the right to thank the atomic bomb nonetheless.

  55. Wait a sec … is it just me or is joe talking like a politician, e.g., as in “it depends on what your definition of ‘is’ is.”

  56. Brian Sorgatz,

    Actually, I’m not thinking anything of the like. As I stated (less specifically before) I am describing what the hunter-gatherer world was like. I am not advocating that lifestyle. Can I be any more clear than this?

  57. Yes, Syloson, that’s what I wrote.

    Now, rearead it, and tell me what comes after, and is therefore modified by, the words “Like medieval agricultural society…”

    Are the following words, “there were no taxes or regulations,” or am I describing something else as being similar?

    Punk,

    No. I am not.

    I didn’t think I was being terribly opaque.

  58. joe, first you deny saying that in the past taxes didn’t exist. Then you deny saying making that statement when I call you on it. Then you reiterate that in the past taxes didn’t exist.

    Ever hear of doublethink? Note that in Orwell’s 1984, they had memory holes to dispose of the documentation. Discussion threads, however, do document your bizarre contradictory statements.

    It is historical fact that in Medieval Europe — that in any society run by kings, tyrants, lords, etc. — taxes existed. How else do you explain the relatively luxurious lifestyles of the rulers, their armies and police forces, etc.? You think the peasants, on the verge of starvation, voluntarily offered taxes out of the love of their overlords?

  59. Let’s look at punctuation.

    Consider how this:

    A situation of no taxes, no regulation, and no social safety net most certainly did exist. Like medieval agricultural society, it was a horrible mess of disease, hunger, and misery.

    differs from this:

    A situation of no taxes, no regulation, and no social safety net most certainly did exist, like medieval agricultural society. It was a horrible mess of disease, hunger, and misery.

    Can we put this one to bed now? Everybody clear?

  60. joe,

    It is poorly constructed (IMHO) and thus may cause confusion.

  61. *Rolls eyes*

    Why is this such a difficult point to understand?

    It’s 2nd-grade English construction.

  62. Actually, I’m not thinking anything of the like. As I stated (less specifically before) I am describing what the hunter-gatherer world was like. I am not advocating that lifestyle. Can I be any more clear than this?

    Thank you for the clarification. But now I’m even more disappointed in your way of thinking than before. Why not have the courage to take a side in the debate between the deprivation of the Stone Age and the prosperity of A.D. 2007 and beyond?

  63. Joe, if you can provide a historic example of a libertarian (not anarchist) nation, please do so.

    The history of the world pretty much describes a history of various tyrants reigning over subject peoples. The degree of tyranny may vary, as would the degree of cruelty or kindness to which the subjects were submitted, but aside from perhaps Switzerland, I cannot recall a single example of a libertarian society.

    The United States, perhaps, would fit the bill until ratification of the Constitution.

    However, even this does not really validate your re-working of the initial example, since the examples cited do not hold up. Much of the advances in technology that some environmentalists would decry today are directly responsible for our increased well-being, which is why that initial paragraph has some validity.

    The creation of a libertarian society would not mean rolling back the technological advances that have given us this. It would only create new challenges that would have to be dealt with. Whether or not you believe that these challenges would be more detrimental to individuals than the current challenges created by our current state, will largely determine your political philosophy.

  64. joe lite is a libertarian. Like me, he has the letters j-o-e in lowercase in his screen name.

    Now, for the car, the trip to Aruba, the lifetime supply of turtle wax and the Broyhill furniture: did I just call myself a libertarian?

  65. Timothy! I think that joe and Dan T. are interested in buying your tiger-repelling rock!

  66. joe

    I agree no one knows. I said “which I think is why the switch happened.

    Your comment on early cities intrigues me. I honestly cannot think of any early cities, other than the Aegean Islands, which didn’t have walls. Every Tell excavated in Mesopotamia had not only walls at each level, but clear evidence of sacking at some point.

    There were a few Imperial Cities – Rome, Tenochtitlan, Great Zimbabwe – which expanded beyond their defensive structures, but the were the local superpowers of their day, with agressive military forces that no one wanted to take on.

  67. I understand what joe was trying to say, but he falsely confuses past anarchal societies with modern libertarian movement, much like communism is not the goal of the modern liberal movement.

    The article oversimplified the argument of greenies, which is “they want their cake and eating it too”, so I’m going to guess joe was exaggerating for the same effect.


  68. Ever hear of doublethink? Note that in Orwell’s 1984, they had memory holes to dispose of the documentation.

    ok i’m throwing a flag on this!

    unnecessary invocation of a dead author to make a trivial point, -25 points.

    unless urkobold wants to confer on this i think we can go ahead with the discussion now, folks.

    oh shit it’s a busy day today:

    Thank you for the clarification. But now I’m even more disappointed in your way of thinking than before. Why not have the courage to take a side in the debate between the deprivation of the Stone Age and the prosperity of A.D. 2007 and beyond?

    ok i’m throwing a flag on this too!

    unnecessary false dichotomy even by the standards of the internet, -50 points.

  69. CF Fischer,

    The relationship between pre-government anarchy and modern libertarianism is roughly equivalent to the relationship between pre-government economic life and modern environmentalism.

    I was not claiming that pre-civilization anarchy is the ideal called for by modern libertarians; I was mocking the idea that pre-modern agricultural society is the ideal called for by modern environmentalists.

  70. The article oversimplified the argument of greenies, which is “they want their cake and eating it too”, so I’m going to guess joe was exaggerating for the same effect.

    man i’m running out of flags!

    for trying to inject reasonable comments into an e-dick fight, -1000 points.

  71. Imagine an libertarian world in which all food is wholly unregulated, nobody pays taxes … There is – or at least was – such a place. It is called the past.

    Do you really need me to explain this to you?

    joe, yes I do need you to explain how your 2:20 post that clearly says that quote “nobody pays taxes” unquote, and then goes on to say that such a taxless society occurred in quote “the past” unquote, but that somehow that statement really means that in the past people DID pay taxes.

    Which is it? Was there a taxless society in the past, or not? If so, when exactly did this taxless society exist? And how did the kings, lords, and other tyrants ruling that society get the wealth and armies they possessed?

  72. R-S-N,

    That was S of S.

    LIT,

    The article oversimplified the argument of greenies, which is “they want their cake and eating it too”, so I’m going to guess joe was exaggerating for the same effect.

    Thank you. You’re restored my faith in liber-kind.

  73. dhex,

    In Bizarro world, I win!!

  74. Thank you. You’re restored my faith in liber-kind.

    ok i’m just going to start tossing tissues at this point.

    not everyone is aware of your subtle and wry sense of humor, joe.

  75. Fortunately for you, prolefeed, I already did, at 3:18.

    Was there a taxless society in the past, or not? If so, when exactly did this taxless society exist? There were many such socieites, including every society that existed prior to the development of governments, and they continue to exist in places like the Amazon and Papua New Guinea.

    And how did the kings, lords, and other tyrants ruling that society get the wealth and armies they possessed? In these socieites, there were no kings, lords, and other tyrants.

    BTW, in your spare time, see if you can work your way through this brainteaser:

    In the past, people didn’t have iron tools. And yet, there is evidence of iron tools in medieval Europe.

    Wow, that sure is a stumper, huh?

  76. “A situation of no taxes, no regulation, and no social safety net most certainly did exist.”

    Where and when?

  77. prolefeed: Do you think your insistence is helping your case?

    Joe rather clearly said that taxes aren’t a modern phenomenon, but that there was some time in the past when a society existed that didn’t have taxes.

    See, here’s the problem prolefeed: “the past” is kind of, um, how you say? Really fucking long time and a lot of different societies with varying degrees of order or government have existed throughout the millenia.

  78. Can we at least all agree that the few deep ecologist who do exist and do advocate a return to Stone Age existence are utter retards?

  79. joe,

    OK, it’s clear. You exaggerated for effect.

    But yet you didn’t like it when joe lite exaggerated for effect. And you still claim there was some taxless society in the past.

    We get it.

    *prepares for more whining*

  80. At this point, I think we can all (by all, I mean sane human beings, declaring those not in agreement to be insane) agree we would rather not revert back to pre-industrial times. I like my ESPN Collage Gameday too much for that.

    The problem then becomes how can we restore clean air, water and earth so that we can enjoy our lives and planet. While the members of Greenpeace may fear the potential destructiveness of Nuclear Power, I think if it came down to it or nothing, they’d be all for it (barring the few aforementioned insane individuals)

    Technology will help us, as we’ve already tried life without it and discovered it wasn’t nearly as pleasant.

  81. Sugarfree,

    See my definition of “insane”

  82. “Imagine an egalitarian world in which all food is organic and local, the air is free of industrial pollution, and vigorous physical exertion is guaranteed.”

    This is totally wrong because babies weren’t mobile when they were born, and many didn’t survive until they were old enough to be mobile and therefore did not received the guaranteed ‘physical exertion’ claimed by the author. Therefore this entire book review is invalid.

  83. Joe didn’t just say that there were societies with no taxes. He said there were societies with no taxes and no regulation.

    You might find a primitive tribal society with no taxes, but I really don’t think we can describe persons living in tribal societies as being free of regulation. One is, in my view, free of regulation if there is property and a sphere of activity within which one can operate on the basis of pure individual discretion, without the interference of your polity, however that polity may organize itself. I think we may have to call in some anthropologists here, but I am not familiar with any tribal society where that would be the case.

  84. “The problem then becomes how can we restore clean air, water and earth so that we can enjoy our lives and planet.”

    No!! Either/Or. No middle.

  85. joe — so, in your 2:20 post, are you implying that a primitive hunter-gatherer society with no kings or rulers, no taxes, no regulations, and no social safety net is somehow comparable to a hypothetical libertarian industrialized society that provides such services as schools, law enforcement, charity, and roads via private competing enterprises rather than thru government monopolies? Or are you implying that an attempt to replace these government monopolies with private providers of services would inevitably cause our society to denigrate into a primitive hunter-gatherer society?

  86. Lamar,

    But, but, but my cake, 🙁

    *kicks pebble*

  87. Punk,

    Neither I nor Ben-Ami attributed beliefs to our opponents that they don’t actually hold. Consider:

    Lefty environmetatlists – organic food, clean air, active lifestyles, egalitarian politics and material wealth. Sounds about right.

    Libertarians – no taxes, no environmental regulations, no Social Security. Sounds about right.

    Progressives – everyone gets their food from the state, private property is abolished, and the social safety net is the entirety of the economy.

    One of these things is not like the others.

  88. OK, everyone can stop talking about me now. I finally came.

    Now on to another thread where it can be all about meeeeeeeeeee!

  89. I want to pile on joe, too!

    Seriously, joe, not to pick on you, but in your controversial rewrite, you ignored that any sort of libertarian society would require property rights.
    And that nearly all libertarians are pretty keen on modern technology and do not want any kind of return to an imaginary past ideal.

    Okay, carry on bickering, everybody.

    Now!

  90. ewwwwwwwwwwwwww….gross

  91. TUNE IN FOR THE NEXT EPISODE OF PEDANTIC JACKASS TV!

    there are times when i’m nearly asleep and i think to myself “wouldn’t it be cool if all the annoying republicans and democrats just got raptured away to some eternal hell where they could argue forever (and then make out)”

    the answer, sirs and madames, is yes.

  92. Eeww. Fake joe post makes my opening line seem icky.
    Eeww. Unclean. Unclean.

  93. LIT,

    It’s OK, the middle of the cake is the worst part, frosting deposit are greatest along the edges.

    And really, shouldn’t it be: Environmentalists want to have their non-GMO gluten-free soy flour cake and consume it in a sustainable manner too.

  94. prolefeed,

    Neither.

    I’m mocking the idea that what modern environmentalists call for is a return to a primitive agricultural society, and pointing out the absurdity of the charge by demonstrating how easy it is to utilize the same formulation to make the same charge about libertarians.

    I don’t think anyone actually wants to go back to such a lifestyle, outside of a tiny frings of deep ecologists and another tiny fringe of monarchist religious zealots.

  95. Lefty environmetatlists – organic food, clean air, active lifestyles, egalitarian politics and material wealth.

    You forgot the part about how they shit rainbows.

  96. highnumber,

    That’s because I don’t actually think that libertarian ideals endorse such a pre-modern society, or that their policies are likely to result in one. Of course what I wrote is bogus – it is exactly as bogus as the paragraph quoted in the original post, and for exactly the same reason. That was my point.

  97. Seriously, joe, not to pick on you, but in your controversial rewrite, you ignored that any sort of libertarian society would require property rights.

    joe may have ignored it, but I didn’t. (“It wasn’t libertarianism until the people who had accumulated some stuff realized they needed to figure out a way to keep those without stuff from taking said stuff.”)

  98. Sorry you missed the point, SugarFree.

    There’s a lot of that going around.

  99. joe | August 30, 2007, 3:39pm | #

    OK, everyone can stop talking about me now. I finally came.

    Now on to another thread where it can be all about meeeeeeeeeee!

    How sad for you, dickhead, that you are so incapable of producing anything worthwhile to the conversation that you resort to tearing down others to make yourself feel better about your lack.

    Any Rand had a few choice terms for people like you.

  100. Sorry, joe. I’m dense. I came in late. You all got so nutty so quickly as I read it. I was swept up in something bigger than me. I felt like part of a movement. I wasn’t just highnumber – I was one of many fighting for truth. Leading the great unwashed masses to freedom, lighting the way for truth, burning the bridges of hypocrisy, rolling the stones of righteousness, popping the cherries of virtue, ironing out the wrinkles on evil, and so forth.

    Sorry.

  101. The great thing about Daniel Ben-Ami’s argument is that you could probably use it to make a case against almost anything…”sure, there was once a time when there was no death penalty/abortion/nuclear bombs/dogfighting…it was called the past!!!

  102. Jeez, joe, sorry if pointing out some inconsistencies in some of your posts gets you riled. Nothing personal. Take some constructive criticism like a man.

  103. Brian Sorgatz,

    Because I have my anthropology hat on.

  104. joe,

    No, I got your point, it’s just that the ideological divide that exists between us makes your point sound snide. If I had said:

    Lefty Environmentalists – Do away with modern agriculture (organic food), massive industrial regulation infrastructures (clean air), increase / require through fiat public transportation (active lifestyles)

    Libertarians – Economic freedom (no taxes), energy prices based upon externalities in a free market (no environmental regulations), exemption from a government Ponzi scheme (no Social Security)

    You would have jumped all over me for my characterization of your position, even though both descriptions are correct and fairly non-insulting from my ideological perspective.

    You’ve complained all thread about being read wrong; I read you loud and clear and you don’t like that either. OK.

  105. joe

    R-S-N,

    That was S of S.

    Sorry. Mea culpa.

    OTOH, I have run across a great many “environmentalists” who do embrace primitive communal agrarianism as a panacea for modern ills and romanticize pre-industrial societies.

    I will grant that these tend to be younger, more naive individuals, but they don’t lack for ‘elder statesmen’ either.

    Romanticizing pre-industrial societies is also endemic to Marxist and [Classical] Fascist ideologies. The whole “alienation of labor” concept is built around a romantic notion of a past that never was; hence my earlier reference to “Miniver Cheevyism”. The Pol Pot regime was the apotheosis of this sort of thinking.

  106. You could put that on your cards, highnumber.

    Ironing out the wrinkles of evil, since August 2007.

    Punk,

    Offer something constructive, like a thoughtful man.

  107. I think we may have to call in some anthropologists here, but I am not familiar with any tribal society where that would be the case.

    As someone with an Anthropology degree, I will chime in. Tribal societies, while free of “taxation” and “regulation” in the modern sense, are some of the most restrictive societies on the planet. You are locked into gender roles, have to endure often brutal rites of passage without which you are a perpetual child (in the society’s view), are schooled in a primitive mysticist view of the world, and are bound by countless customs, taboos, totems, and rituals which you must abide by.

    It sucks if you are any kind of individualist, because you are “regulated” in every way possible by your fellow tribesmembers.

  108. Episiarch,

    Look, if you don’t like painting your penis red, then you can just move to a different section of the jungle.

  109. Episiarch,

    All true (to a greater or lesser degree depending on the group in question, with all sorts of caveats and exceptions thrown in). At the same time, they weren’t/aren’t societies of dumb brutes either.

  110. Dan T., it’s not cool for you to post under SugarFree’s handle.

    And besides, the other section of the jungle wants me to paint it blue, and I want green. See? No freedoms.

  111. Episiarch,

    I personally always found the groups where gender and sex didn’t necessarily match to be especially interesting. Female husbands and that sort of thing.

  112. SugarFree,

    I did my best to describe the different groups’ positions fairly, and in a manner that accurately reflected what they believed in.

  113. Aresen,

    It isn’t too hard to find idealization of pre-industrial society among small-government conservatives, either. Here at Reason, the Golden Age was the period of the Articles of Confederation. Over at Raimondo or Rockwell’s sites, it’s easy enough to find Confederate nostalgia.

    Harkening back to the good old days seems to be a universal. What most people mean when they do so is that this or that particular condition from a past society is desireable. Of course Lew Rockwell’s buddies don’t actually want to bring back slavery. They’re making a different point.

  114. I’m mocking the idea that what modern environmentalists call for is a return to a primitive agricultural society, and pointing out the absurdity of the charge by demonstrating how easy it is to utilize the same formulation to make the same charge about libertarians.

    Except that virtually no libertarians are advocating a return to a primitive agricultural society, they are talking about privitizing functions currently performed by government monopolies.

    In other words, you are setting up a strawman of what libertarianism is really about.

    But yeah, it is absurdly easy to mock people if you make absurdly wrong statements about what they actually stand for — as you yourself have complained about people doing with your liberal views.

  115. joe,

    I know you did, but you put halos on the ones you like. You jump on other people for that all the time.

    Also, and I’m not being leading or looking to trap you… would you care to give a quick definition of egalitarian politics?

  116. I did my best to describe the different groups’ positions fairly, and in a manner that accurately reflected what they believed in.

    And I believe . . that you really do believe that.

  117. Episiarch,

    How about you compromise with a sort of barber pole effect? A penis of all nations.

  118. prolefeed,

    Yes, I am setting up a strawman. And I am building it to be as close in every way as it can be to another strawman.

    Of course libertarians don’t want society to be like it was during the stone age. Neither do environmentalists.

    Is this sinking in yet? Because you seem to still believe that it’s a point against me to describe what I wrote about libertarians as a straw man.

  119. Syloson,

    In my experience there were always gender roles, but you could sometimes adopt a gender role that didn’t fit your gender. I studied a number of tribes that had men who lived as women, because that’s what they identified with, and would likely be a transgender person in our society.

    However, adopting a different gender role didn’t change the fact that you had to completely adhere to that gender role’s position and behavior. If you were a man who lived as a woman, you 100% lived as a woman and were treated as such.

  120. Like medieval agricultural society, it was a horrible mess of disease, hunger, and misery.

    Time a.k.a. “guild socialism”

  121. SugarFree,

    In the abstract, I’d define egalitarian politics as a system in which all citizens have equal access to, and equal opportunity to influence, the operations of the government.

    Don’t ask me to describe what a government system devoted to an absolutist commitment to this ideal would look like. Probably a pile of dead bodies – governments constructed on absolutes tend to roll that way.

  122. How about you compromise with a sort of barber pole effect? A penis of all nations.

    My penis would be the UN of penises.

    In other words, it would be a corrupt, talking-shop penis.

  123. It’s just a bogus argument, top to bottom. A thoughtful proto-blogger writing in the midst of the Industrial Revolution in England could have said much the same thing…

    “Yes, the London air will kill you and the mills are dangerous and dirty and employ children, but do we want to return to England in the days of Boudiciea? No, we do not.”

  124. Is the burning of all this straw agriculturally sustainable?

  125. joe,

    The fallacy you commit is false causality. Whereas the arguably libertarian world of pre-technological times did not cause the scarcity that they experienced, the Luddite policies prescriptions of most self-described environmentalists would arguably cause scarcity.

    The modern libertarian movement has two distinct motivations. One is that libertarian governing is morally right, regardless of the outcomes. It argues that the principles, not the ends, define the means.

    The other is that libertarian governing is pragmatically superior to every other known form. It judges different governments as more or less libertarian and argues that the more libertarian ones lead to better ends.

    The first group would rather a just government that left mankind free to destroy itself than accept an unjust government that forced universal prosperity. (The first group also tends to have faith in mankind to seek prosperity on their separate paths.) The second group would be your target audience, but the evidence you present continues to be overwhelmingly weak.

  126. Paul,

    Technically, “guild socialism” was a later development that grew out of, and in response to, medieval agricultural society.

  127. Hunter gatherer societios don’t have villages, they have to be nomadic. You cannot have a village until you have agriculture.

  128. Of course libertarians don’t want society to be like it was during the stone age. Neither do environmentalists.

    joe, I agree that neither group INTENDS to recreate Stone Age conditions. The difference is that what most libertarians want would create the opposite of Stone Age conditions, while what quite a few environmentalists espouse — things like tearing down dams, stopping virtually all new development, getting rid of existing development, drastically reducing human populations — would cause a drastically lower standard of living — maybe not Stone Age, but worse than now. So the environmentalist thing isn’t quite as strawman-like as you would have us believe.

  129. DannyK,

    A thoughtful proto-blogger writing in the midst of the Industrial Revolution in England could have said much the same thing…

    And they’d have been right. Do you think that the rural people gave up worrying about droughts for the grimy city because they were stupid? Do you think that the children gave up begging and whoring on the streets and accepted factory life because they were sheep? Yes, there were enormous downsides to living in Industrial Revolution England, but they were more tolerable than the downsides of pre-Industrial Revolution England to the overwhelming majority.

    The only people who were nostalgic for the pre-Industrial Age were the wealthy who didn’t like seeing middle and lower class people dressing well and the prudes who didn’t like to see people having any time for fun.

  130. To be fair, Okinawans and Sardinians have had longer lifespans and plenty of healthy food to eat before industrialization. On the other hand, they pretty much lucked out geographically and genetically.

  131. joe,

    OK, so it would be a government style that is not so focused on dynasties, high monetary entry barriers, and would be more colorblind? It makes sense, but I can’t imagine how it would work in practice without excluding portions of the population from the political process in order to maintain a balance of say, black/Hispanic/white or rich/poor. Maybe parliamentary proportionality, but then the tyranny of the majority creeps back in…

    OT:

    While the notion of compulsory service is not my cup of tea, has there ever been a real society that choose its leaders by lottery? Sort of a way to get around the whole “if you want this job, you’re not suited for it” aspect of politics?

  132. Rimfax,

    Not agreeing with someone’s judgement of the truthfulness of a proposition is not a fallacy of any sort.

    And I haven’t submitted evidence for an argument about…aw, screw it. If you haven’t figured this out by now, you’re not going to get it.

  133. Trollaphile,

    While not having a fixed village, per se, hunter/gathers are not actually nomadic in the sense most modern people believe. You may move around in a larger area than a “town” might take up, but you don’t actually move away from the streams you know that have good fishing, or areas were berries are abundant, or convenient cliffs to stampede grazing animals off of.

    And while h/g society will fission under population pressure, only one group moves away. They other stays and is supported by the original area, just no longer under population pressure.

  134. Hunter gatherer societios don’t have villages, they have to be nomadic. You cannot have a village until you have agriculture.

    Tell that to the Salish, Tsesaht, Tlingit, Snoqualmie, and other coast native peoples, who were not agricultural but definitely had villages which almost qualified as “cities” by the standards applied to early Mesopotamia. They also had highly sophisticated art, culture and societies.

    Modern archeology is coming to exactly the opposite conclusion: That hunter-gatherers formed permanent settlements in particularly rich areas, then branched into actually cultivating the food crops that they had originally only gathered.

  135. prolefeed,

    See above comment on propositions.

    Rimfax,

    Have you ever heard of the fencing of the commons? I’m pretty sure that the people begging on the streets because the government made it impossible for them to feed themselves through herding, as their families had done for generations, were quite nostalgic for pre-Industrial England, when they weren’t forced off their land. It never ceases to amaze me how eager people on the right can be to accept status-quo conditions as the natural order.

    Sugarfree,

    Colorblindness would be a perfect example of an absolutist government that cared about political egalitarianism to the exclusion of everything else, and ended up tolerating atrocities.

    As would tyranny of the majority. If egalitarianism is all you cared about, protecting the rights of the few against the will of the many would be right out.

  136. There are numerous hunter-gatherer societies in the Amazon that live in permanent settlements.

  137. “There are numerous hunter-gatherer societies in the Amazon that live in permanent settlements.”

    They can’t be. After less than a year a hunret gatherer society will have hunted and gathered all the recources in the area. There are tribes around the world that pick up and move every couple of years, but they farm.

  138. One subsection of this discussion that I’d like to explore more fully is Joe’s assertion that opposition to technology is not a part of mainstream environmentalism.

    I’d really have to question that. It seems to me that a critique of the technological mindset as an approach to problem-solving is squarely in the mainstream of the environmental movement. Even as mainstream a figure as Al Gore presents our environmental challenges as not being fixable using additional technologies, but as requiring a fundamental change in our way of life and our political and economic order. If it’s just a matter of figuring out how to “clean up the air and the water”, then what’s all the rest of the rhetoric for?

  139. Trollaphile,

    They can’t be. After less than a year a hunret gatherer society will have hunted and gathered all the recources in the area.

    That depends on the richness of the area, and the sustainability of their hunting and gathering practices. Oh, and the lack of modern medicine.

    I’m thinking of the Yanomami, although they do engage in a sort of horticulture, tending to naturally-growing fruit trees.

  140. Fluffy,

    Two words: Toyota. Prius.

    Two more: active solar.

    Here’s three: Offshore wind power.

    Have you ever read about Green Buildings?

    How about recycling?

    BTW, the company Al Gore set up to disburse carbon-credit money is building a state-of-the-art hydropower plant in Eastern Europe.

  141. That depends on the richness of the area, and the sustainability of their hunting and gathering practices. Oh, and the lack of modern medicine.

    Touche, if your society has clean air, clean water and organic food, then they’re all dying at age 30. Now we’re right back to where this argument started. Ok everyone, ready, set, go!

  142. “I’m thinking of the Yanomami, although they do engage in a sort of horticulture, tending to naturally-growing fruit trees.”

    Not planting the trees yourself does not mean you are not engaging in agriculture. I don’t think that being a fisherman qualifies you as a hunter gatherer.

    Second of all why were there no permanent settlements until after the neolithic revolution? (when we learned agriculture).

  143. They can’t be. After less than a year a hunret gatherer society will have hunted and gathered all the recources in the area.

    I cited several examples above. joe was also specific about some limiting conditions that do apply.

    I have always been of the opinion that the “let’s settle down and start farming” hypothesis made no sense. Until you are in an area permanently, you cannot begin to plant and tend crops. [If you start doing it before you settle down, either the wildlife or the neighbors will take it while you are absent.]

  144. Trollaphile,

    I guess it’s a matter of degree, at what point pruning a tree or pulling vines off of it counts as agriculture. There is a tendency to draw sharp lines when discussing anthropology.

    ,i>Second of all why were there no permanent settlements until after the neolithic revolution? (when we learned agriculture).

    There likely were. They just didn’t have the building technology, and the non-food-producing specialists, to build in a manner that left recognizeable ruins.

  145. Why don’t fishermen count as hunter-gatherers? Because the ones that exist in post-agricultural-revolution society trade their surplus?

    Actual hunters who live in the modern world trade their surplus, too.

  146. Aresen

    [If you start doing it before you settle down, either the wildlife or the neighbors will take it while you are absent.]

    slightly O.T. but appropos nonetheless:

    Here’s a group of folks that created a community garden, but quickly realized that there was feeling of attachment to that which you put your labor into. Ow…owne… ownershi… something’s coming to mind but I can’t put my finger on it.

  147. Here’s three: Offshore wind power.

    You mean like the one off the coast of Massachusetts the Kennedy clan doesn’t want built because it might spoil the view?

  148. Anyone else remember a time when every thread here wasn’t The joe Show, and the second comment in every discussion wasn’t one of his thread-derailing trolls, and every other comment thereafter wasn’t yet another of his endless series of Declarations of Victory?

    Neither do I.

    Nice site he’s got here, though.

  149. I remember a time before joe. I go waaaaaaay back. To the very beginning, in fact. I remember I a poster named Lefty who liked Hugo Chavez.

  150. Lefty who liked Hugo Chavez.

    Yeah, his name is joe.

    Haa! I kill me.

  151. How long do you think the MoveOn.orgsters would last in such a society?

    I would give them three days at best.

  152. Before the “let’s make snide remarks about joe” fest goes to far, I’d like to point out that joe often brings up issues that libertarians often refuse to confront. e.g. That corporations have often exploited their economic power to the disadvantage of their customers. If you don’t believe that, try taking on an insurance company when they deny your claim. As libertarians, we can argue whether the existence of government makes this better (e.g. Insurance Commissions to control abuse) or worse (due to the fact that the members of those Commissions are beholden to the insurance companies).

    Libertarians are very suspicious of government power, I think rightfully so. But we shouldn’t let that trap us into an “everything about government is bad” mindset. When joe points out some of the unpleasant consequences of what we advocate, we should be honest enough to admit the facts and then decide whether those unpleasant consequences outweigh the unpleasant consequences of growth in government power. We should be ready to defend our position without simplistic name calling. [I know: joe has said some provocative things on his side & I’m still pissed off about an exchange we had at the beginning of the year, but if we can’t defend our beliefs, it means we haven’t thought them through.]

    OTOH, joe’s comments about infringements on individual liberties (other than property rights) have almost always been in full agreement with what we ourselves hold.

  153. Joe –

    It is very true that you can find instances where so-called green technologies are embraced by environmentalists.

    That doesn’t really address the question of whether anti-technology rhetoric is a part of the mainstream of environmentalist thinking and writing.

  154. Before the “let’s make snide remarks about joe” fest goes to far, I’d like to point out that joe often brings up issues that libertarians often refuse to confront. e.g.

    To wit:

    Rimfax wrote:

    One is that libertarian governing is morally right, regardless of the outcomes. It argues that the principles, not the ends, define the means.

    The other is that libertarian governing is pragmatically superior to every other known form. It judges different governments as more or less libertarian and argues that the more libertarian ones lead to better ends.

    A better description of libertarians is rarely espoused in a few short sentences.

    The dishonest libertarian is one who believes himself in the camp of the second group, and then when confronted with facts which may counter that, retreats to the first group.

    Joe does make good points and I feel that the personal attacks are usually unfair.

    Since we’re talking about joe…

    I believe that joe is a pretty honest liberal. I believe this because he’s here. Most liberals waste their time on freerepublic.com, or littlegreenfootballs. Liberals who argue with the arch social conservatives don’t have any huge differences. Let’s face it, they’re arguing about details. Here, joe’s actually got something to argue.

  155. Imagine an egalitarian world in which all food is organic and local, the air is free of industrial pollution, and vigorous physical exertion is guaranteed. Sound idyllic?

    But hold on… Life expectancy is 30 at most;

    For a second there, I thought you were going to say “…and when you get too old, guys in green and black rugby shirts chase you around the domed city as the crystal in your palm turns black.”

    Because, you know, that would be cool.

  156. For a second there, I thought you were going to say “…and when you get too old, guys in green and black rugby shirts chase you around the domed city as the crystal in your palm turns black.”

    Because, you know, that would be cool.

    You wouldn’t think so if you were 56.

  157. You wouldn’t think so if you were 56.

    And had eaten organic all your life.

  158. The “average life span was only 30” is misleading. Because of the huge infant mortality rate, it was common to have 10 kids, with about five dying in infancy. Even if the rest lived to be 60, the average life span would be not much over 30.

    Life in former times was not as idyllic as the greenies would have us believe, but it was not as bad as Mr.Bailey and other libertarians would have us believe.

    Today, there are more people without basics than the total population in former times.

    Those who enjoy the good life are in a minority.

  159. Fluffy,

    That doesn’t really address the question of whether anti-technology rhetoric is a part of the mainstream of environmentalist thinking and writing.

    It just isn’t. Given that you are asserting that it is, can you find some examples of mainstream environmental writing that is anti-technology?

    I would say that there may even be a bit of a bias in the other direction. There is lots of discussion about hydrogen or bio-fuels or fusion or some other technological fix that will solve problems on a scale far beyond their real-world impact.

    Anti-technology is a fringe idea in the environmental movement…even more so than anarchy is a fringe in libertarianism.

  160. Arguably worse than that, cultures and subcultures with no police force reliably within earshot will decay into “macho” societies that run on personal retaliation instead of the rule of law. Sorry, anarcho-capitalists: Hobbes was right about that. As a carrier of a Y chromosome, and especially as a veteran of a public junior high school locker room, I’m grateful for the complex, post-industrial culture that lets me delegate the tough-guy jobs to the Cavemen (TM), get stoned, and write a blog.

    Sorry, Brian, but this is wrong. Your projection of events is not so reliable, and the obvious anarcho-capitalistic counter-evidence is medieval Iceland. While the Icelandic Vikings were fairly macho, they had a rule of law, even though they had a different nongovernmental system for producing it.

    Every year, the godhi (competing private judge-“chieftains” and conflict-resolvers) met at the Althing to discuss the law (the rules to be followed when making judgements about conflicts) and any changes that should be made. In this way the law was made uniform, but it was not necessarily a government monopoly, any more than if competing paper companies decide to all make paper in the size of 8 1/2 x 11 inches.

    The Viking Icelandic system did leave enforcement of the law and judgments in private hands — it had no “police force” — and therefore did not conform to the definition of a government as an organization that claims a monopoly on the use of violence to make and enforce laws within a given geographic territory.

    The lack of a central “objective” government police force did not cause the Icelandic commonwealth to rapidly decay into a war of all against all or a junior high locker room. The sytem lasted for 350 years, indicating that it was at least as stable as our present semi-liberal democratic republic.

    While the Icelandic sagas depict plenty of violent conflict, that’s because such stuff makes for a good story. The intensity of violence in the average American’s life does not match the intensity of violence presented in our own popular entertainments, or even the daily newspaper.

    People did not routinely pursue “personal retaliation” without first getting a judgment in court from a godhi first, who heard from both sides and decided what just course of action they should follow. Acting without or counter to the judgment of a court was itself cause for further action, and while there were feuds and outlaws just as we have crime and criminals, the system had incentives so that the majority stood against the unlawful minority. It seems that people went to court fairly often but the system was not really especially violent.

    The Icelandic commonwealth ended when outside influences (the Christian church’s tithing system and an acquisitive Norwegian monarchy) undermined the system of competing godhi and reduced the system to a few guys of concentrated wealth and power battling for the right to eventually become a semi-bigshot as a vassal of the king of Norway.

    Noting that the sagas carefully listed every person killed and injured in a violent encounter, David Friedman cites research in which someone used the level of violence in the sagas, over the period of years they covered, to extrapolate the level of violence in Icelandic society as a whole. The researcher estimated a rate of about 1 violent death per 10,000 people per year, which is about the same as the US (1970s) rate for murder and non-negligent manslaughter combined. Meaning their society wasn’t significantly more violent than ours. And most of this data came from the final 50 years of the Icelandic commonwealth, which the Icelanders regarded as a nasty time of unusual violence and breakdown of the civil order.

    You don’t have to be a do-it-yourselfer to enforce law by private means, either; you can hire people of specialized means and competence just as we do, just as the Icelanders sometimes did, and just as the residents of a hypothetical anarcho-capitalist society could do. You don’t have to be a brutis caveman(TM) with no time for the arts, either; the Viking folk of Iceland were able to produce a body of decent literature that was substandial in size considering how small their population was (70,000), and that has endured fairly well, considering it can still be found in our libraries and bookstores 700+ years later.

    Anyway. You don’t have to convert to anarcho-capitalism right this second, but its feasibility is nowhere near as easily dismissed as most people assume.

  161. Life in former times was not as idyllic as the greenies would have us believe, but it was not as bad as Mr.Bailey and other libertarians would have us believe.

    Depends on what time, and how far back.

    Today, there are more people without basics than the total population in former times.

    Who? Nomadic tribesmen in Africa who have lived the same way they have for thousands of years? Sure. The homeless guy on the corner with the “will work for food” sign?

    Nope.

    Those who enjoy the good life are in a minority.

    Please explain.

    Neu,

    Given that you are asserting that it is, can you find some examples of mainstream environmental writing that is anti-technology?

    Dicey subject. It’s after five here, it’s Miller Time(tm) for me, but I have little doubt that with a little effort, writings can be found. You may simply quip “I said ‘mainstream'” to which there would be little argument beyond “it is”. I seem to remember some editorials out there from very mainstream sources discussing that such-and-such a technology is nice, but it “takes us off the hook” and allows us to continue to “consume” without guilt.

  162. Anti-technology is a fringe idea in the environmental movement

    !!!!

    Try supporting either Nuclear Power or GM organisms. You’ll see how “fringe” anti-tech is to environmentalism. Try reading Schumacher’s “Small is Beautiful”.

  163. 3quarks daily has a discussion on this going as well…

    http://3quarksdaily.blogs.com/3quarksdaily/2007/08/towards-an-age-.html#comments

    No one talks about joe at all…

  164. Aresen,

    Try supporting either Nuclear Power or GM organisms. You’ll see how “fringe” anti-tech is to environmentalism. Try reading Schumacher’s “Small is Beautiful”.

    Firstly, having a problem with a particular technology is not the same as having a general problem with technology.

    Secondly, the nuclear power question is hotly debated in mainstream environmentalism. There are many reasons to support it, and many to oppose it. Very little of the opposition to nuclear I read starts from an anti-technology basis.

    And C…GM crops are a case where many in the environmental movement have a problem with a technology that they don’t understand. This would be the closest to a mainstream anti-technology meme, but the fact that it is an opposition to a particular technology, and that it countered by advocacy of another techonology (modern organic farming is certainly a technology, and an advanced on at that, as long as you are willing to admit a process or technique under the term “technology”) seems to shield the broader movement from accusations of a general opposition to technology.

    FWIW, this is like the mischaracterization of the Green party as being authoritarian socialists when one of the main principles in their platform is decentralization.

    Nuance is part of life.
    It requires a lack of nuance to characterize the mainstream environmental movement as “anti-technology.”

  165. FWIW, this is like the mischaracterization of the Green party as being authoritarian socialists when one of the main principles in their platform is decentralization.

    They are authoritarian socialists whether they want decentralization or not. Decentralization can easily be steeped in authoritarianism. Even if the grass-roots members have no specific designs on authoritarianism, it is the basic tenet of libertarian belief that authoritiariansm stems from socialism of any kind- whether or not it’s decentralized.

    The Democratic Socialists of America (for instance) claim to want decentralization, reject the notion of a centrally planned economy, and then in the next breath, hold up centrally planned welfare state economies as their preferred model.

  166. It should be note that the Vikings enslaved Irish men and women on their way to Iceland. Viking groups were also lead by chieftans.

  167. Paul,

    Greens are not The Democratic Socialists of America.

    I don’t believe their economic philosophy fits into a socialist framework. And it certainly rejects notions of a centrally controlled economy. The economic reforms coming from the green party are not even close to being aligned with libertarian ideas, but they don’t fit into the socialist box either. Most proposals I have read essentially maintain the current mixed economy, recalibrate the nature of the government intrusions into the economy (reducing more than increasing, fwiw), and change the structure of incentives.

    Like I said. It would be a mischaracterization to call the Greens Authoritarian Socialists, but I have read that accusation frequently on H&R.

  168. It should be note that the Vikings enslaved Irish men and women on their way to Iceland.

    This is true, but not relevant to the question of whether anarcho-capitalism is stable.

    I think I understand your impulse to be fair, SOS, and not idealize a past age that in many ways was quite brutal and unpleasant.

    However, I am not arguing that the society was a utopia, only that it was not particularly unstable or violent. Nor is slavery a particular problem of anarchy. I can name at least one enlightened democratic republic in which people owned slaves much more recently.

    Viking groups were also lead by chieftans. “Chieftain” can be a misleading word in the context of the present discussion. In medieval Iceland, the godhi “led” (actually, served as a judge and connection to the legal system for) only those Icelanders who chose them. Within his quarter of the island, any Icelander could choose to associate himself with any godhi who would have him.

    In other words, in Iceland the “chieftains” were not analogous to a government official who claims jurisdiction over a particular section of land, regardless of who actually owns it. In Iceland, the godhar (which I just learned is the plural of godhi, and they can also be spelled godi and godar) were more akin to private legal and dispute-resolution professionals who had to compete for clients. They did not rule like kings over a particular territory. And there was no central overchief among them. Iceland was an-archic, “without a head,” with competing “rulers.”

  169. Neu –

    Is Al Gore a mainstream environmentalist? A not insignificant section of Earth in the Balance deals with Mr. Gore’s belief that the scientific revolution created a dysfunctional civilization that must be fundamentally changed. If you write a book where Francis Bacon is one of the villains, why wouldn’t you expect me to conclude that you’re anti-science and anti-technology?

    How about Fritjof Capra? Is he a mainstream environmentalist? How about Aldo Leopold?

    Certainly all the ecotainment / ecopopularizers can either be said to be anti-technology, or to employ the depiction of technological dystopia as their primary device. Can we call people like Whitley Strieber or Ursula Leguin anti-technology?

  170. “Imagine an libertarian world in which all food is wholly unregulated, nobody pays taxes, and there is no social safety net. Sound liberating?

    But hold on… Life expectancy is 30 at most; many children die at or soon after birth; life is constantly lived on the edge of starvation; there are no doctors or dentists or modern toilets. If it is libertarian it is because there is no state whatsoever, and there are not taxes because no one provides public services. As a result, unfavorable weather or some other difficulty results in widespread hunger.”

    In addition to the Viking society mentioned earlier (and wasn’t it possible to vote the chiefs out?) there have been some other societies that roughly correspond to the first paragraph above without the corresponding disasters attributed to it in the second. Dubai has no taxation and all public services are paid with private money. And this is key in that the assumption made above is that without taxation then services such as medical care or schooling cannot be provided to the public at large, which is obviously false.

    The reasoning provided above is akin to a couple of people looking at an aging Volkswagon Bug, still running after years of use. One guy, the libertarian says, the main reason the car is still running is due to the sound engineering in the design. The other guy, the liberal, says it’s mainly due to the various band aid devices added on later. Maybe one or two of those additions actually have impeded the car’s function, as they weren’t done correctly. But they are both right to a degree of course though I would argue that the libertarian is right to emphasize the sound engineering. Similarily, the engine of capitalism is much more responsible for the fruits that we receive now than the extras tacked on by the state, which also, in some cases, have arguably retarded the expansion of benefits to all classes.

    For a couple of examples. Take something like modern refrigeration. It was originally only available to the rich. Then gradually, as the costs came down, everyone, even the very poor, could afford refrigeration. Ditto for the electric light bulb, television, stereos, etc. But it wasn’t taxation that gave the poor television but the engine of the free market, which allowed competition to bring prices down.

    Now, I’m not actually an anarcho-capitalist. I favor a Hayekian version of libertarianism. But even if we had an anarcho-capitalist society the vision described above by joe is unrealistic.

    Just one final note. The original review is about people like McKibbon who actually do idealize the pre-industrialism. It is not targeted to more rationalistic liberals like joe, so joe, you not need feel the need to get defensive.

  171. Like I said. It would be a mischaracterization to call the Greens Authoritarian Socialists, but I have read that accusation frequently on H&R.

    I disagree. I don’t think it’s a mischaracterization at all. You might, with careful examples convince me that it’s an overgeneralization. But not a mischaracterization. Many grass-roots socialist organizations often hang their hat on green party candidates. Some green party candidates come from socialist groups because the Green Party is the uber-progressive party that most people have at least heard of. A casual perusal of socialist websites, and it’s hard to come across one that isn’t either linked to the Green Party, supporting green candidates, or involved in activities in which the Green Party is taking part.

    I might agree that if you looked at Green Party rank-and-file members, you’d find an eclectic mix of people who are drawn to the party on the simple basis that they’re disaffected from mainstream politics. The Reform party IMHO has this same pastiche.

    But the party organizers are very linked with socialist activists who espouse a “decentralized” political state.

    The Green Party’s manifesto for a sustainable society (www.greenparty.org.uk) incorporates key socialist values. It rejects privatisation, free market economics and globalisation, and includes commitments to public ownership, worker’s rights, economic democracy, progressive taxation and the redistribution of wealth and power.

    Greens put the common good before corporate greed, and the public interest before private profit. Forging a red-green synthesis, they integrate policies for social justice with policies for tackling the life-threatening dangers posed by global warming, environmental pollution, resource depletion and species extinction.

    And…

    Democrats cashed in this past election thanks to public disgust with Republicans. But when the Democrats don’t change things (again), where will voters turn? What candidates or parties can they expect to oppose the war, take on the Wal-Marts, defend civil liberties?

    Some people are exploring the Greens as a possible alternative. Even some socialist groups are backing Green Party candidates and running for office under its banner.

    In California, a member of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) ran for U.S. Senate as a Green. In Michigan, Workers World Party (WWP) did the same thing. In Washington state, ISO and Socialist Alternative were mainstays in the campaign of a former Black Panther Party leader who ran for U.S. Senate – as a Green.

    Now, in fairness, this is not a slam dunk. Some socialist groups don’t support the green party because it’s not socialist enough. Because it doesn’t express a desire to completely eliminate capitalism. To wit:

    Feeding a fantasy. The Green Party’s structure, program and support for Democrats flow from a pro-capitalist outlook. It accepts the profit system, but wants to make it more humane. This is like asking a shark to become a vegetarian.

    The Green program calls for more democracy, government decentralization, a peaceful foreign policy, and fair international trade that respects workers’ rights. Yet the “Ten Key Values” of its platform say nothing about overthrowing the system that makes these things impossible.

    I also do have to admit (and I didn’t know this until recently) that there are two Green Parties in the U.S. The one we all know, and another, hard-core, unapologetic socialist group more aligned with European greens known as GP/GPUSA. However, there is an informal coilition between the two, and sometimes they endorse the same candidates. So in the end, I think it’s fair to say that it’s not a mischaracterization. Too broadly dismissive? Maybe. But not a complete mischaracterization.

  172. Wow– I came home from work, took a nap, and you
    all are still partying!!

    A couple of notes on medieval anarchism. Besides Viking Iceland, there was Celtic Ireland. The Irish High Kings were mainly ceremonial.They did not make laws, or collect taxes. They could lead in time of war. The society, unlike Iceland, coexisted with the RC Church, and was good to women.

    Early Anglo Saxon England was similar, and I would think that the ancient British society that produced Queen Boudecia may have been as well.

    Also, Charlemagne freed the strip of Land from Northern Holland to Denmark, called Friesland, which had a similar societal makeup.

    All of these societies had kings and queens, but they were not centralized powers such as we see with the Norman Conquest. If you can move from clan to clan, and if you can move up in the world via private property (ie you are a freeman) that medieval society was anarchist. But, in Ireland’s case, there was a well established private justice system that was apart from the chiefs and high king, that ruled in everything except eccliastical law but was not appointed or elected, but rather trained as a matter of preserving the culture’s justice. Even the high king could be sued, so there was no sovereign immunity. The justice system was based on “surety”, a form of personalized insurance. If you got in trouble, and the judges ruled against you, you had to compensate the victim, or have your surety do so.

    So, Ireland was a Kritarchy, or rule by judges.

  173. As for the Greens, they are fairly diverse. I debate a green regularly on another list. He works for the city where I live. He absolutely hates the rich, hates business, thinks in Marxist terms that profits are exploitative, thinks that without government no one will build houses with rooftops, believes in the Iron Law of Wages, etc.

    Certainly believes in single payer health care. He has no concept of market processes.

    As for socialism and authoritarianism, look up the actual workings of the Spanish left anarchists (syndicalists) during the Spanish Civil War period. When they controlled an area, they controlled it. People could be killed for violations of supposedly anarchist “rules” that controlled money and movement.

  174. huh?

    Libertarians want to live in the past?

    Thats a new one on me.

  175. Stevo Darkly,

    Suffice it to say that no every scholar agrees with the particular analysis that David Friedman has made of Iceland. Then again, you are probably more familiar with that literature than I am.

    libertreee,

    It is fair to say that our knowledge of early Anglo-Saxon England, etc. is pretty limited at best. Anyway, centralization in England did not come with the Normans – efforts to centralize were underway hundreds of years before that via the various efforts of Wessex, Mercian, etc. kings.

  176. Fair enough, SOS!

    I think I read somewhere that Alfred the Great took steps to begin centralizing power in England and strengthening the powers and privileges of the monarchy before the time of the Norman conquest. I think libertree’s main points still stand, though.

    impeckish:
    In addition to the Viking society mentioned earlier (and wasn’t it possible to vote the chiefs out?)

    With regard to Iceland, not as far as I know. Maybe somewhere else? In Iceland, if you weren’t happy with your “chieftain” you just withdrew your association with him, and found another. There wasn’t any need to “vote” him ought. Just as today, if you’re unhappy with someone who sells stuff to you, you don’t need to vote him out of his job and put someone else in his place — you just withdraw from the relationship by ceasing to be a customer.

    I should also note that I’m using “Viking” loosely here, in the sense of “Norsemen” or “Scandinavians” — not Vikings in the sense of vikingr sea-raiders. For all I know, maybe sea captains could be voted out by their crew (I think later in history this was true of some pirates), and maybe that’s what you’re thinking of; but I really don’t know.

  177. In that last paragraph, I meant to mention that most Icelanders were farmers, I think.

  178. Stevo Darkly,

    Well, figuring out exactly what happened in England from 399 to 500 is a challenge. It is safe to say however that by sometime in the 6th century distinct kingdoms had emerged and that even at this early date they were jockeying for power so as to create a more centralized state. As with any civilization where we have limited (and, to be frank, in many instances poor) documentary resources there is a lot of guesswork involved in figuring out the political situation in post-Roman England.

  179. “I meant to mention that most Icelanders were farmers”

    Was that before the “Global Cooling”? In the days when Greenland was green?

  180. Paul,

    Re: Greens, I am comfortable to go with “overgeneralization” on the socialist question…but I’ll stick with mischaracterization on the authoritarian accusation.

    Fluffy,

    Fritjof Capra is anti-technology? Have you actually read his work on the environment and society? He says the solutions to environmental problems are not just about improved technology, but I have never read a word that could be construed as “anti-technology.”

    I must admit not having read Earth in the Balance (why would I?), but here is a quick look at Al Gore that comes to very different conclusions than you regarding Gore’s view on technology…

    http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/14.05/gore.html

    “Along the way, Gore has become a neo-green entrepreneur, taking his messianic faith in the power of technology to stop global warming and applying it to an ecofriendly investment firm.”

    Whitley Strieber wants to use UFO technology to solve global warming…and you want to claim him as BOTH anti-technology and mainstream…really?

    And Ursula LeGuin…hmmm… never associated here with the environmental movement at all. She does have some writing on technology, but I have never gotten the impression she was anti-technology.

  181. Paul,

    BTW, I was not talking about the European Green Parties…

    I was talking about the one here in the US.

    Here is their take on the economy…

    6. COMMUNITY-BASED ECONOMICS AND ECONOMIC JUSTICE
    We recognize it is essential to create a vibrant and sustainable economic system, one that can create jobs and provide a decent standard of living for all people while maintaining a healthy ecological balance. A successful economic system will offer meaningful work with dignity, while paying a “living wage” which reflects the real value of a person’s work.

    Local communities must look to economic development that assures protection of the environment and workers’ rights; broad citizen participation in planning; and enhancement of our “quality of life.” We support independently owned and operated companies which are socially responsible, as well as co-operatives and public enterprises that distribute resources and control to more people through democratic participation.

  182. . . . which reflects the real value of a person’s work

    Isn’t that the purpose of the free market?

  183. joe lite,

    I wouldn’t say that was the purpose of the free market, no. It may be one of the results.

    Like I said above, however, the Green Party advocates a mixed economy, not a free market.

  184. To expand on the discussion of the Green Party and economy…

    The Green party is more “ends” focused than “means” focused. If a capitalist solution to a particular problem produces the desired outcome, then it will be supported. If a capitalist endeavor creates an environmental problem, then it will be opposed.

    There is, however, a commitment to one “means” and that is a commitment to decentralization…to wit:
    “we support a restructuring of social, political and economic institutions away from a system which is controlled by and mostly benefits the powerful few, to a democratic, less bureaucratic system. Decision-making should, as much as possible, remain at the individual and local level, while assuring that civil rights are protected for all citizens.”

  185. Libertree,

    As for socialism and authoritarianism, look up the actual workings of the Spanish left anarchists (syndicalists) during the Spanish Civil War period. When they controlled an area, they controlled it. People could be killed for violations of supposedly anarchist “rules” that controlled money and movement.

    Yep, authoritarian thugs clothe themselves in many guises. I am willing to bet that some would use a Libertarian platform as a cover for authoritarian actions. I seem to remember a prominent libertarian advocating restrictions on a woman’s right to control her own body as he runs for the White House, and isn’t Giuliani trying to claim libertarian credentials and getting endorsements from several libertarians organizations (including CATO)?

  186. we support a restructuring of social, political and economic institutions away from a system which is controlled by and mostly benefits the powerful few

    If you haven’t figured out by now that that means “we support socialism”, you never will. [And it doesn’t matter if “the majority” of Greens aren’t socialist – it is the activist core which will set the agenda.

  187. Aresen,

    If you haven’t figured out the difference between support for a mixed economy and a socialist one, you never will…

    /;^)

  188. ?there can be no doubt that some minimum of food, shelter, and clothing, sufficient to preserve health and the capacity to work, can be assured to everybody?

    Damned those authoritarian socialist activists…

  189. I am willing to bet that some would use a Libertarian platform as a cover for authoritarian actions.

    You make an interesting point here (not that anyone’s reading anymore…). Often times, a libertarian cover is given to a politician who has authoritarian tendencies. Case in point: George W. Bush. I feel like I’m going to bust a vein everytime a liberal accuses George W. Bush as trying to shrink the government whith his– I hesitate to even say it– “right-wing” anti-government agenda. If there ever was an oxymoron.

  190. If they were supporting a “Mixed economy”, the wording would have been something like “we look for initiatives in both the public and private sector…”

    “controlled by and mostly benefits the powerful few” means “evil capitalists”, with the word “evil” being considered redundant.

  191. Aresen,

    “If they were supporting a “Mixed economy”, the wording would have been something like “we look for initiatives in both the public and private sector…”

    See “6” above…

    We support independently owned and operated companies

    Followed by

    as well as co-operatives and public enterprises that distribute resources and control to more people through democratic participation.

  192. Aresen,

    “controlled by and mostly benefits the powerful few”

    Means the coalition between corporations and government much maligned by libertarians.

  193. The Green party principle of decentralization aligns very closely to the principle of individual liberty espoused by libertarians.

    They are not the same principle, surely, but they are harmonious.

  194. The Ben-Ami article starts off in a disengenuous way. Contemporary enviros want a healthy environment, they don’t want misery. They are not anti-technologist, but think we need to make saner choices about technology WRT our enviornment.

    Before ya’ll start jumping on me, IMO, technology, freedom, and Capitalism are fully compaitble with a healthy planetary environment.

    FWIW, authoritarianism won’t make for a misery free healthy environment. Because such an *ism is too fickle; just look at G.W. Bush’s authoritarianism which has opposed saner environemental positions while reducing our freedoms.

    Our current Mercantilism of subsidized industries seems to only have hurt freedom and a healthy planet.

  195. “Anti-technology” is much too broad a term to have a useful discussion around. Obviously, environmentalists are anti-some technologies, and pro-other technologies. The level of technological sophistication isn’t the determining factor, but its side effects.

    That you can think up examples of specific technologies that environmentalists denounce doesn’t prove anything. I listed several up above that they do approve of.

  196. A not insignificant section of Earth in the Balance deals with Mr. Gore’s belief that the scientific revolution created a dysfunctional civilization that must be fundamentally changed.

    Yes, and among the fundamental changes he proposes are such high-tech solutions as alternnative energy sources, advanced electric cars, and more efficient transportation technologies.

    Gore makes it quite clear that he believes the Industrial Revolution produced many good things, and that the solution to the problems that came along with those benefits is not to abandon industrialism.

  197. Shorter Community-Based Economics and Economic Justice.

    All economic decision making will be politicized.

  198. achoo,

    Very cryptic.

    Aren’t all decisions economic?
    Aren’t all decisions political?

  199. 6. The often internally conflicting interrelationships among people in a society.

    Politics (n). The often internally conflicting interrelationships among people in a society.

  200. “See the forest in the trees”

    Neu Mejican: Yeah, but don’t all forests have trees in them?

  201. Achoo, grasshopper,

    the wind brings rain, yet drys the air.

  202. re: Dubai and taxes…

    http://www.wisegeek.com/is-dubai-really-tax-free.htm

    Dubai itself is not tax free, although this generalization is often made. Rather, Dubai contains a number of economic free zones which have various economic incentives to encourage investment and commercial development. These zones include the Internet and Media Cities, the International Financial Centre, Maritime City, the Airport Free Zone, and the Jebel Ali Free Zone.

  203. “Yeah, but don’t all forests have trees in them?”

    Forests have much more than just trees

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