Economics

Freebasing Free Markets

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The Project on Law & Mind Sciences at the Harvard Law School is having a conference on "The Free Market Mindset" next weekend to discuss the "historical origins, psychological antecedents, and policy consequences of the free market ideology that has dominated legal discourse and lawmaking the last few decades." Here's a little sampler from the schedule to whet your appetite:

Recovering free marketeers who plan to attend are encouraged to bring their sponsors, lest they relapse and take another hit of those sweet, sweet incentives.

NEXT: The Black List, Volume 2 (Not the Commie Kind!)

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  1. Lawyers don’t want free markets any more? OK. They all now must charge no more than $30.00/hr.

    I feel better already.

    Oh, and “mind sciences?” WTF?!

  2. Sigh. Guess we’re going to have to suffer through socialism before we can go back to a free market economy, huh?

  3. “Colossal Failure: The Output Bias of Market Economies: “The market delivers excessive [sic] levels of consumption.”

    I bet double to nothing that the intellectual dullards at Harvard do not notice the obvious question-begging in the last sentence.

  4. That’s the spirit Harvard Law School! Pathologize the opinions of people you disagree with instead of coming up with rational, counter-arguments.

  5. Sounds like they need to be beat upside the head with a copy of “The Road to Serfdom”

  6. Forgetting for a moment the fact that this confirms the worst stereotypes of liberal bias on university campuses (campi?), it proves my personal thesis, that simply because you go to an ivy league school, does not imply you are getting a good education. Even if you aren’t a died in the wool libertarian, this curriculum displays an almost vicious ignorance of even the most nominal benefits of a free market, and the most irritating canard of all … “It was these damn Friedmanites that got us into the mess we’re in now!”

    It’s at times like this that I look at Nixon’s hatred of the Eastern Ivy Establishment, and thence to Watergate, and it brings to mind a routine Chris Rock was famous for. In recalling the racial issues swirling about OJ Simpson, Nicole, and Ron Goldman, etc., he mused, “I’m not saying he should have MURDERED her … but I understand.”

  7. the free market ideology that has dominated legal discourse and lawmaking the last few decades

    I must be Rip van Winkle or something, because I swear I missed out on the last few decades of free market ideology dominating the legal landscape.

  8. Calling Dr. Szasz!

  9. one might almost say schizophrenic

    …if one almost doesn’t know what the word means.

    “The market delivers excessive levels of consumption.”

    Remember when this was called “overproduction?” Good times.

    I bet double to nothing that the intellectual dullards at Harvard do not notice the obvious question-begging in the last sentence.

    What if they do? Because they do.

    No one believes, for example, that “free market ideology […] has dominated […] lawmaking the last few decades.” No one. Yet it gets said.

    And the people who say it are the ones whose ideology dominates lawmaking. And they know that it does. This is fucking Harvard Law School.

    Yet it gets said. Yet.

  10. *slaps self in head*

    Oh! Now I get it. If you don’t conform to what the “elites” consider proper, you are deranged. Wow! Quite an argument. What’s next? Cranium sizes to determine propensity to commit crime?

  11. “I must be Rip van Winkle or something, because I swear I missed out on the last few decades of free market ideology dominating the legal landscape.”

    To these guys, any situation other than one where the nation has been transformed into a virtual copy of the old Soviet Union replete with goose-stepping troops marching down Pennslylvania Ave on May Day constitutes a “free market”

    LOL

  12. Just as people can become addicted to heroin, they can become addicted to incentives

    This is by far the funniest.

    Let’s repeal the law of natural selection shall we? All those stupid animals are addicted to self-interest.

  13. Yeah, we’ve been suffering from a “free-market” just like a kidnapped woman tied to a bed and being gang raped suffers from “consensual sex”.

  14. How Thinking Like an Economist Undermines Community:

    I fail to see why would thinking like an economist undermine a community, if it entails making rational decisions about scarce resources.

    “Economics is a two-faced, one might almost say schizophrenic, discipline.”

    Unlike Law, I fancy.

  15. “Unlike Law, I fancy.”

    Law isn’t a discipline – it’s a racket.

  16. Shouldn’t that be “Addicted to Profits”?

    Or, “Addicted to Evil Greedhead Oppression of the Working Man”?

    I mean, come on; don’t be mealymouthed.

  17. You have to read the summary of each topic, by going to the link. They’re even funnier than the one-liners above.

  18. “How Thinking Like an Economist Undermines Community:”

    Let me fix this:

    How Thinking Like an Attorney Undermines Community:

  19. What’s next? Cranium sizes to determine propensity to commit crime?

    You would say that. You have the brainpan of a stagecoach tilter!

  20. And people think its hyperbole to note that Marxism still lives in pockets of academia. Ha!

  21. Don’t forget to stop by the 4pm stoning of Greg Mankiw!

  22. I made the mistake of actually reading the abstracts for all the papers yesterday when I saw them linked from Cato. I pride myself for cynicism but there were some jaw-dropping moments reading that…especially about how economics undervalue community.

  23. “Economics is a two-faced, one might almost say schizophrenic, discipline. It claims to be a science, describing the world, telling it like it is without preconception or value judgment. (Never mind that the hey-day of positivism that enshrines the separation between fact and value is long past; economists have always lived in a time warp.) The reality is that descriptive economics has been shaped by a framework of assumptions, a metaphysics more geared to its normative message than to its descriptive pretensions.”

    Harold Bloom said essentially the same thing about ALL OF THE SOCIAL SCIENCES twenty tears ago.

    Full disclosure, my job requires a bit of interaction with Harvard (the Kennedy School of Government and the business school) and from what I’ve experienced, they’re mostly mutually inflated morons.

    Oh, and Bloom’s solution to the folly of social sciences? Study the humanities — if you can still find them.

  24. Do you still puff puff pass to the left with free markets or is there another protocol? I’d hate to commit an addiction related faux pas.

  25. http://www.thecrimson.com/printerfriendly.aspx?ref=127841

    haha, marglin is stuck in the 60s. the dude has been waiting for 40 years for this moment. what a sad man.

    PS- people need to stop calling them marxists. they don’t call their bullshit marxism/socialism/communism anymore and the raging populist masses are too stupid to see the ideas behind the words.

  26. Every time I mention the word “society” or “community” everyone here scratches their heads as if I just spoke Klingon. The first abstract makes a good point.

  27. What do these people have against capital letters? Please tell me they’re not trying to create a “classless” typography.

  28. I would say that thinking that the market is something distinguishable from (or even opposed to) “society” undermines our ability to make rational choices about what is good for society.

    Economics is just the study of how societies behave in mathematical terms, using money as the means of quantitatively measuring activity.

  29. “If you want someone to do something, you have to make it worth their while.” … Uncontroversial. Self-evident. And false.

    *shakes head*

    this is cute. seriously. this is like a 5 year old taking a swing at one of those mixed martial arts guys – cute bc of its ridiculousness

  30. Economics is just the study of how societies behave in mathematical terms, using money as the means of quantitatively measuring activity.

    Fine, but I don’t see how that’s a sufficient measure of human activity. The interconnectedness of human beings is something denied by libertarians all the time.

  31. Every time I mention the word “society” or “community” everyone here scratches their heads as if I just spoke Klingon. The first abstract makes a good point.

    right on! these libertarians, they don’t live in neighborhoods or cities or populated areas. they seclude themselves in the woods with guns and ky jelly. i mean you NEVER see them on the internet interacting with people in an online community or working a job and thereby taking part in society.

    jesus christ troll. that was the most trolly comment i’ve ever seen.

  32. Don’t forget to stop by the 4pm stoning of Greg Mankiw!

    Should that be 20 minutes past 4?

  33. “Economics is just the study of how societies behave in mathematical terms, using money as the means of quantitatively measuring activity.”

    hazel, thought-provoking way of putting that, thanks

    ap

    Sadly I’ve been privy to some very long and heated comments section on which the topic of whether “society” or “community” exists is the topic of the day, so Tony’s not trolling there…

  34. The interconnectedness of human beings is something denied by libertarians all the time.

    Oh shit. Um, how so? But denying to a centralized authority the power to dictate how that “interconnectedness” should transpire?

    Humans are very social creatures, for the most part. If you want to call that “interconnectedness,” by all means. Libertarian principles defend the individual’s right to “interconnect” with his or her fellow individuals in his or her own manner. Don’t see for a nanosecond how that denies “interconnectedness”! But perhaps you can inform me…? (Note to self: be careful what you ask for!)

  35. Tony,

    The first abstract makes a good point.

    The first abstract is nothing more than an extended ad hominem attack. How is that “a good point”?

    If I made a lengthy presentation about how Ivy League schools produce morally inferior or ethically damaged graduates, would you agree that I had made a good point?

    I don’t see how that’s a sufficient measure of human activity.

    Where did you see someone suggesting that economics was a sufficient measure of human activity? Did the economics department at your local college invade the anthropology, sociology, and theology departments?

    The interconnectedness of human beings is something denied by libertarians all the time.

    Sorry, but those words don’t taste familiar no matter how hard you try to shove them in our mouths. Libertarians take humanity’s interconnectedness far more seriously than those who wish to erase our community obligations by coding them into law.

  36. The Project on Law & Mind Sciences at the Harvard Law School

    I wonder how many Harvard “benefactors” are aware that this (and similar airy-fairy claptrap) is where their money goes.

  37. How Thinking Like Being an Attorney Undermines Community:

    fifw

  38. The US has never had a free market.

    The next person to use the words ‘free market’ in a pejorative sense in front of me stands a good chance of having their teeth knocked down their throat.

  39. Dudes, you obviously missed several threads where folks like Torres above argued with Tony, me and Neu Mejican at length about how there is no such thing as society or community, just the individuals in it.

  40. “Every time I mention the word “society” or “community” everyone here scratches their heads as if I just spoke Klingon.”

    It’s probably because they have gotten used to the fact that as soon as you mention something like that they are going to have to listen to more of your fucked up perspectives on what they mean.

  41. Tony,
    The interconnectedness of human beings is something denied by libertarians all the time.

    Please elaborate on this – how do Libertarians deny that which is evident in a voluntary transaction network, a.k.a. The Market?

    Fine, but I don’t see how that’s a sufficient measure of human activity.

    The definition given [“Economics is just the study of how societies behave in mathematical terms, using money as the means of quantitatively measuring activity.”] Is completely wrong. Economics is the science that studies HUMAN ACTION, or, how humans make purposeful decisions and actions when facing scarce resources. It says nothing about money or mathematics – that is instead the question-begging assumption of the expositor.

  42. Obviously you acknowledge human social life because it’s right in front of our faces. How then do you go on to argue in favor of laws and economic policy that don’t take human interconnectedness into account? Isn’t the chief difference between liberals and libertarians that the latter have this monad-like vision of the human being while the former recognizes that our individual lives affect all the lives of those around us, mostly unintentionally.

    But see I stopped referring to ‘society’ here because every time I mentioned it I was met with a most precious incredulity and told I was talking about something I couldn’t define.

    Where did you see someone suggesting that economics was a sufficient measure of human activity? Did the economics department at your local college invade the anthropology, sociology, and theology departments?

    I’m just saying perhaps the movement of money doesn’t tell anywhere near the whole story of being a human being, and shouldn’t necessarily serve as the major source of normative prescriptions in a discipline that informs policy that affects real people.

  43. MNG,
    Dudes, you obviously missed several threads where folks like Torres above argued with Tony, me and Neu Mejican at length about how there is no such thing as society or community, just the individuals in it.

    The argument was that “Community” and “Society” are meaningless terms if taken entirely separate from the individuals that conform these. You and Neu tried to define “Community” as an entity in its own right with superior rights than those of the individuals that conform it.

  44. Tony,
    Obviously you acknowledge human social life because it’s right in front of our faces. How then do you go on to argue in favor of laws and economic policy that don’t take human interconnectedness into account?

    You will have to be more specific. What economic policy does not take human interconnectedness into account?

    Isn’t the chief difference between liberals and libertarians that the latter have this [nomad]-like vision of the human being while the former recognizes that our individual lives affect all the lives of those around us, mostly unintentionally.[?]

    This is a red herring – libertarians do not hold a nomad-like vision of humanity, and we contend that choices DO affect others. What we contend also is that those choices are made by individuals all the time, whereas liberals (actually, fascists or Progressives) prefer a more command-and-control approach to human relations.

    But see I stopped referring to ‘society’ here because every time I mentioned it I was met with a most precious incredulity and told I was talking about something I couldn’t define.

    The reason is because you may be using the term “society” to mean something other than “the group of individual humans that live together”, in order to argue in favor of a command-and-control approach. If this is not the case, then you will have to clearly define what you mean by “society”, in order to allow your arguments to be clear.

  45. Tony,
    I’m just saying perhaps the movement of money doesn’t tell anywhere near the whole story of being a human being, and shouldn’t necessarily serve as the major source of normative prescriptions in a discipline that informs policy that affects real people.

    You’re confusing “Money” with “Economics”, basically the same mistake the Harvard expositor makes. The terms are not interchangeable, not is economics the science of money.

  46. Tony sez Isn’t the chief difference between liberals and libertarians that the latter have this monad-like vision of the human being while the former recognizes that our individual lives affect all the lives of those around us, mostly unintentionally.

    This is as close as your life is ever going to come to affecting mine. We should both be eternally thankful for that.

    I do enjoy the portrait of the troll as a young man schtick though.

  47. FT
    What is that supposed to mean? Regardless of whether a group can exist without it’s individual constituents, there still exists these things called “groups”, “communities” and “society.”

  48. Hazel,
    Economics is just the study of how societies behave in mathematical terms, using money as the means of quantitatively measuring activity.

    I am sorry to have to correct you, but this definition is entirely wrong. Economics is the science that studies human action, or the purposeful actions taken by people when facing scarce resources. Mathematics may be used as a tool, bu it is not the basis of economics, nor is money – you can have economic activity without money; just look at how kids exchange trading cards.

  49. Yep. It’s just as it was when homophiles labeled all dissenters “homophobes” for not agreeing with their faggot agenda and slavery advocates in academia referred to runaway slaves as “drapetomaniacs” for being anti-slavery.

    Since you don’t want to be a part of their socialistic “village” or “community” or whatever the hell Democrats are calling their Molech state these days, be prepared to hear from them that you’re one of those “sociophobic” haters of all personkind, you un-PC hate criminal, you!

    (Actually, they’ll probably just say you’re anti-social, since everybody already takes that to mean you’re something like Ted Bundy or Hannibal Lechter.)

  50. To the extent that the existence and well being of groups that individuals that form it are members of maximizes the welfare of those individuals then groups’ existence and well being can trump any single individual “rights”(or even minority of individuals).

    I’m also not sure how individuals, at least self-aware persons, could exist without the groups that they are members of. Not only is all human existence dependent on others, but our entire concept of self comes from social interaction throughout our lives. In that sense there can be no “individuals” without “groups.”

  51. I went to HLS a few years ago. Most people there – including most of the lefties – are much more reasonable than the folks presenting at this conference.

    This is just some crazy group set up by Jon Hanson, a wacky anti-capitalist prof who actually teaches Corporations. Or rather, teaches a class entitled “Corporations” that is about how they’re evil.

    I’ve seen him give one of these presentations live and he’s hilarious in a completely clueless kind of way. And he’s extremely flattering to libertarians and free-market types. It’s hilarious how influential he thinks we are.

  52. Archibald
    Your views interest me and I’d like to subscribe to your newsletter!

  53. MNG,
    What is that supposed to mean? Regardless of whether a group can exist without it’s[sic] individual constituents, there still exist these things called “groups”, “communities” and “society.”

    What *exist* are the individuals. The TERMS are used as linguistic simplifications, as concepts that aide in communication and thought, but are not THINGS themselves. There is a difference between “a group of lions” and specific lions, in that “group” is used as a generic term so as not to point out to each individual lion in the savanna.

    The problem is that “group” is used by collectivists to mean something of higher value than the individuals that conform it, in order to justify impositions in the name of that group, notwithstanding the wishes of each individual in the group.

  54. I’m just saying perhaps the movement of money doesn’t tell anywhere near the whole story of being a human being, and shouldn’t necessarily serve as the major source of normative prescriptions in a discipline that informs policy that affects real people.

    Tony,

    Libertarianism is first and foremost about liberty. Um, that’s why they call it that! Aka, freedom. It’s about liberty or freedom based on a very classic Western concept of individual rights. To the degree that this political philosophy even has anything to say about how to tell “the whole story of being a human being”, it’s that humans desire the freedom to exercise these “rights” and that we owe it to each other to allow that. See? Nothing about the movement of money! You can live on a commune and insulate yourself from currency if you so choose, and there’s nothing in libertarianism that would deny you that right! (Well, the commune might have to buy its land, but hey, if it can procure it some other way, fine!)

    As for economics, I personally see that chiefly as the study of choices. In a modern society, we make a lot of our choices using currency, so that’s the most convenient means of measuring our choices. That’s all! If a poet wants to write about the measure of a human being in more abstract terms, fine, he’s free to do it! But poetry and economics are very different disciplines, they both have their place, but they’re different places.

    Um, am I helping you to see where you’ve gotten things entirely wrong?

  55. MNG sez In that sense there can be no “individuals” without “groups.”

    Resistance is futile!

  56. there can be no “individuals” without “groups.”

    And there can be no “groups” without “individuals”, either.

    So what?

  57. if it can procure it some other way, fine

    Addendum: if it can procure it some other noncoercive way, fine!

    The only “freedom” libertarianism does not recognize as allowable is the “freedom” to violate someone else’s rights.

    Which is our view of the essential elements of how we can all get along. See! SOCIETY!!!!

  58. FT sez The problem is that “group” is used by collectivists to mean something of higher value than the individuals that conform it, in order to justify impositions in the name of that group, notwithstanding the wishes of each individual in the group.

    And the “impositions” are all about maintaining power within the group. Usually while lying about how their exercise of power is so beneficial to the group. Individuals who refuse to accept this of course need to be re-educated.

  59. The terms certainly refer to an empirical reality.

    Hey, you see that group of lions (number of individual lions acting in common or with a common or coordinated purpose) over there? Hey, made you look. What were you looking at? A linguistic simplification?

  60. Francisco Torres-6:59-

    I like it! Even if, as MNG suspects, you are the alter-ego of TAO.

  61. “The problem is that “group” is used by collectivists to mean something of higher value than the individuals that conform it, in order to justify impositions in the name of that group, notwithstanding the wishes of each individual in the group.”

    See 7:16, first paragraph.

    But hey, I agree that anyone who has some idea of group rights or needs that would trump the maximization of the welfare of the individuals who compose that group is talking crazy talk.

  62. “Even if, as MNG suspects, you are the alter-ego of TAO.”

    Franciso Torres is the Latin American persona of TAO, an office worker by day and crusading Austrian economist by night who is also the Pacific Salsa Dancing Champion from 2001-3.

  63. MNG,
    To the extent that the existence and well being of groups that individuals that form it are members of maximizes the welfare of those individuals then groups’ existence and well being can trump any single individual “rights”(or even minority of individuals).

    How would you measure a community’s “well being”, so as to justify trampling on some individual’s rights?

    I’m also not sure how individuals, at least self-aware persons, could exist without the groups that they are members of.

    They would not, but you are obfuscating the fact that the groups are composed of other individuals. What you are saying is that an individual is dependent for his survival on other individuals.

    Not only is all human existence dependent on others, but our entire concept of self comes from social interaction throughout our lives. In that sense there can be no “individuals” without “groups.”

    No, there can be no individuals without other individuals, but “groups” is just a term to easily handle the concept of a bunch of individuals.

  64. The study of choices would look at how people actually make them and not start with assumptions about how people “really” do make choices and then engage in ad hoc defenses of that assumption. In other words it would be more psychology and less “economics.” Thank goodness there are whole fields of economics that reject Austrian nonsense and do exactly that (i.e. behavioral economics, institutional economics, etc).

  65. MNG,
    Franciso Torres is the Latin American persona of TAO, an office worker by day and crusading Austrian economist by night who is also the Pacific Salsa Dancing Champion from 2001-3.

    And spotter of dimwitted cranks, by night.

  66. Easy. Any groups well being can be measured as either the collection of well being of the individual members (which as I said is probably fostered by the existence of the group) or by looking at what a group (of individuals, yes) needs in order to thrive and exist. To threaten the former or the latter is to threaten the well being of the individual members as a whole and can then justify lesser deprivations of the well being of a lesser number of individual members.

    Also easy: The individual is not just dependent on other individuals, he is dependent on the groups that these individuals form themselves into.

    “Other individuals” (the other and the s implying plural) IS a group. So you lose that one.

  67. Hey, you see that group of lions (number of individual lions acting in common or with a common or coordinated purpose) over there? Hey, made you look. What were you looking at? A linguistic simplification?

    I looked at lions. You, on the other hand, USED a linguistic simplification to point my attention to specific lions, without resorting to the time-consuming task of specifying the lions, like in: Hey, take a look at nine lionesses and two cubs and a male lion that are gathered over there!”.

  68. In order for individuals to come together and form a group there are certian things that must be present, things which when they are present are conducive to the thriving and continued existence of the group. This is not only the fields of sociology, political science and anthropology, but of institutional economics as well.

    To the extent that the continued thriving and existence of the group maximizes the welfare of the individual member’s of the group then those things that undergird that can indeed trump the needs and welfare of at least some of the individual’s that compose that group.

  69. But you didn’t look at one individual lion, and another one, and another one. You looked at the collection of many individual lions which were grouped together spatially and in purpose. You were looking at a group of lions. A pride I guess (no ethnologists, me).

    If you had looked and you saw the same number of individual lions spaced out from each other and not sharing any common space or purpose you would have said “I don’t see any group of lions.”

  70. MNG,
    Any groups well being can be measured as either the collection of well being of the individual members (which as I said is probably fostered by the existence of the group) or by looking at what a group (of individuals, yes)[1] needs in order to thrive and exist.

    You’re thinking in circles and begging the question. If in order to measure the well being of the group, you resort to adding the well being of each individual, then you’re not measuring the well being of The Group, but the well being of each individual. Your argument rests on the premise[1] that, given an assumed well being level for a group, that equates to the well being of the individuals that conform it. This is called a FALLACY OF COMPOSITION. Your argument is fallacious, i.e. wrong.

  71. “The individual is not just dependent on other individuals, he is dependent on the groups that these individuals form themselves into.”

    He does not rely on a random assortment of non-connected individuals to rear him, interact with him, form the backdrop of his self-awareness and such, he relies on a GROUP of individuals sharing common language, ideas, purposes, etc.

    Nobody is dependent on a random assortment of non-connected invididuals…

  72. Not at all. The well being of the individuals in the group, in the first instance, can be aggregated (grouped) and some lesser number of individual members’s well being would fall before it.

    But, if the formation of these individuals into a group fosters the aggregate well being of the individuals, and if there are certain things important to the thriving and continued existence of this formation, then we can talk of the “needs” of this formation and even have them trump individual member’s of the groups, ESPECIALLY if we take seriously that the only thing that ultimately matters is the aggregate well being of all the individuals!

  73. MNG,
    But you didn’t look at one individual lion, and another one, and another one.

    You cannot know what I am seeing.

    You looked at the collection of many individual lions which were grouped together spatially and in purpose.[sic]

    Again, you cannot know what I am seeing. I am seeing lions – whether they are in a group, or separated, or dead, it is irrelevant.

    If you had looked and you saw the same number of individual lions spaced out from each other and not sharing any common space or purpose you would have said “I don’t see any group of lions.”

    You would be putting words in my mouth, because you could not know what I am seeing, without being ME. If you SAY that YOU saw a group of lions, I would have to say that is what YOU saw. What I would see is what my brain conceptualizes, and that you cannot know.

  74. The existence of a group of ten people, that is their working together in this coordinated fashion, promotes the well being of eight of their members, let us say increasing their welfare (if such a thing could be measured in such a way) by 10% each. Sadly, the requirements of having this group exist and thrive require certain activities by the individual members which restrict actions by the other two individual members and decrease their welfare by, let us say 5% each. Now, the group can simply give up the enforcement of these things that lowers the aggregate welfare of the group by 10%, but it threatens the groups existence which would lower the aggregate welfare by 80%, so in this instance the right thing to do would be to simply force the restrictions on the other two (for a net gain in welfare [of individuals mind you!] of 70%.

    See what I got there? Using only individuals’ well being as the measure of worth I got a group right or need that would trump some individuals’ rights or needs.

    Scary, huh?

  75. Fine, but I don’t see how that’s a sufficient measure of human activity. The interconnectedness of human beings is something denied by libertarians all the time.

    What else would you propose? The fact is that money is the one quantitative measure that we have that many other forms of information can be translated into. And you need a quantitative measure to do mathematics. And if you can’t do any math then all you’ve got is philosophical speculation.

    Moreover, I’d argue that there’s nothing particularly *wrong* with using money as a measure. It’s our retarded Christian value-judgments popping up that keep telling us that money is bad, BAD! There’s no real reason why the measure of a voluntary trade between two free individuals should have a pejorative connotation. That’s all money is – a way of assigning numbers to interactions.

    Also, I don’t see libertarians denying that there’s “interconnectedness”. However, the way liberals throw around the word, “interconnectedness” is a vague catch-all that is broadly used to imply all sorts of moral obligations without making a serious moral argument.

    In other words, I routinely see liberals short-circuit serious discussion of the value of various government activities by resorting to “Well we’re all interconnected, so it’s okay.” It’s just a blanket excuse for whatever they want to do anyway for reasons that are (really) just as “greedy” and “self-interested” as anything a libertarian would argue for.

    IMO, the difference between libertarians and liberals is our willingness to acknowledge human selfinshness and not assign a negative judgement to it. By contrast, the liberals tend to rationalize their self-interest as a public good. That’s what “interconnectedness” is for. Blanket rationalization for why the shit you personally would like should be paid for by someone else. An easy short-cut to avoid having to acknowledge that it is self-interested to want free health care provided at others expense.

  76. See FT, this is how I know you are losing, with the “but you would not know what I am seeing..” thing. It smacks of desperation.

    You said yourself you beleive there are things called groups.

    You then said that these are just linguistic simplifications.

    So, when you look at what YOU think is a group of lions, what are you looking at, a linguistic simplification?

    I bet you are looking at an actually empirically verifiable reality. A bunch of individual lions which happen to, empirically, be found in a certian geographical and purposeful area. If you had saw lions randomly assigned over those areas you would have turned and said “what group?” But in the former you would not have said that at all…

  77. MNG,
    Not at all. The well being of the individuals in the group, in the first instance, can be aggregated (grouped) and some lesser number of individual members well being would fall before it.

    If you are aggregating the well being of the individuals in order to KNOW the well being of the group, and some individual’s well being actually lowered, then the aggregate result would be a LOWERING of the group’s well being, under this definition, would it not? So, how can lowering the well being of SOME individuals equate to the well being of the group in the aggregate? That does not make sense.

    But, if the formation of these individuals into a group fosters the aggregate well being of the individuals, and if there are certain things important to the thriving and continued existence of this formation, then we can talk of the “needs” of this formation and even have them trump individual member’s of the groups, ESPECIALLY if we take seriously that the only thing that ultimately matters is the aggregate well being of all the individuals!

    You cannot have your cake and eat it, too. If you assume a priori what entails the well being of a group, in order to foster the individuals well being within the group, then you cannot talk about trumping some of that individuals’ rights to achieve that, because that would ipso facto mean a lowering of those individuals’ well being. If you measure the well being of the group by aggregating the well being of the individuals’ well being, then the LOWERING of some of the individuals’ well being MUST equate to a lowering of the well being of the whole group overall, would it not? So how can you argue that being in a group can actually foster the individuals well being when in fact it can make them worse off?

    The answer to that is that you are assuming that the well being of individuals in a group is ipso facto fostered by the simple expediency of being in a group. This is a fallacy. So is a fallacy thinking that what makes the group thrive will make the individuals thrive – this is a fallacy of composition.

    What makes the individuals in a group thrive is the decisions of each individual to exchange services and goods with others within the group. It is division of labor which makes it possible for a group of people to thrive, which is the reason why the bigger the group, the more likely the improvement, since specialization and labor division makes it possible to lower the efforts and costs of production.

    The study of choices would look at how people actually make them and not start with assumptions about how people “really” do make choices and then engage in ad hoc defenses of that assumption. In other words it would be more psychology and less “economics.”

    To me, MNG, this tells me that you have such a very superficial understanding of Economics and Psychology to make anybody fell pity for you.

  78. MNG,
    See FT, this is how I know you are losing, with the “but you would not know what I am seeing..” thing. It smacks of desperation.

    Actually it is a statement of fact, but believe what you want.

    You said yourself you believe there are things called groups.

    I have not said such thing. I actually said that the concept of “group” is not a thing in itself.

    You then said that these are just linguistic simplifications.

    No, I did not say it “then”. I said it all along.

    So, when you look at what YOU think is a group of lions, what are you looking at, a linguistic simplification?

    I am looking at lions. Your question was answered.

    I bet you are looking at an actually empirically verifiable reality. A bunch of individual lions which happen to, empirically, be found in a certain geographical and purposeful [sic]area. If you had saw lions randomly assigned over those areas you would have turned and said “what group?” But in the former you would not have said that at all…

    MNG, you are now being irrational. What I look at is lions. HOW they are arranged makes no difference – if you called them a group of lions, what difference does it make if they are bunched together or separated by some spaces? YOU conceptualized the lions in a group, and you are perfectly allowed to do that because calling it a “group” simplifies your communication. But asking me to accept that lions bunched together MUST be called a group, and then TO SAY that I *must* see lions NOT bunched together in order NOT to call them a group IS irrational.

  79. “how can lowering the well being of SOME individuals equate to the well being of the group in the aggregate?”

    Because it raises, by a greater amount, the overall welfare of the individuals who make up the group.

    ” because that would ipso facto mean a lowering of those individuals’ well being. If you measure the well being of the group by aggregating the well being of the individuals’ well being, then the LOWERING of some of the individuals’ well being MUST equate to a lowering of the well being of the whole group overall, would it not”

    Of course not! As long as those lowerings are offset by more raisings then the overall welfare of the individuals in the group would be increased! Simple once you stop begging the question…

    “this tells me that you have such a very superficial understanding of Economics and Psychology to make anybody fell pity for you.”

    Funny that I was thinking the same thing about you TAO!

  80. FT
    If you look at randomly assorted lions, and then look at lions in a certain geographical proximity with shared purpose, are you looking at the same thing?

  81. Hazel Meade-

    That very same principle apllies to the military. Some people don’t want to go there. They think, oblivious to their blinded, self-interest, military defense is somehow an exception.

  82. I think you are looking at two different things. A number of individual lions in the former and a group of lions in the second. You recognize the existence of a “group” in the latter situation, there are actual empirical differences between the two scenarios.

    If the lions in scenario two wondered off to unrelated distances you would fail to see a group of lions anymore. Would what you are failing to see be a linguistic simplification?

  83. MNG and Francisco Torres-

    I have already looked. It was called Wild Kingdom. Excuse me, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.

    Do you think that Jim saw the lions the same way as ole Marlin Perkins?

  84. I should note that this conversation started when Tony above said something about libertarians not recognizing society. Many folks expressed their incredulity about this and I pointed out Torres for example has done this.

    Now here we are and if I say I see a group (society) of lions, with shared purpose, coordination and spatial proximity, Torres insists that he sees only individual lions.

    What more do you want?

  85. I loved Perkins! May he RIP…

    Gotta go guys, fun as always…

  86. Now here we are and if I say I see a group (society) of lions, with shared purpose, coordination and spatial proximity, Torres insists that he sees only individual lions.

    What more do you want?

    Francisco Torres != libertarians in general.

  87. “Guess we’re going to have to suffer through socialism before we can go back to a free market economy, huh?”

    I intend to join the glorious socialist revolution. Comrades, unite!

  88. I’m going to have to find a copy of the “Internationale”.

  89. I believe a group of lions is called a pride.

  90. Sounds like they need to be beat upside the head with a copy of “The Road to Serfdom”

    Beat upside the head with TWO copies of the “Road to Serfdom”, due to our pathological overconsumption, no?

  91. Blah, blah, blah.

    The socialists who constantly prattle about “society” and the “common good” are merely attempting to justify imposing their own personal preferences on everybody else.

    None of you are capable of determining anyone else’s “well being” and therefore any groups’ “well being” to begin with.

    You haven’t been endowed with any special insight into weighing the values of the multitude of the factors of existence to determine what mix of them happens to be optimal.

  92. Let’s see…Ebay…Communist Manifesto…Ooh, a good deal on that one.

  93. Sorry, meant Amazon.

  94. not is economics the science of money.

    As Thomas Sowell repeatedly put it, “Economics is the study of the allocation of scarce resources with alternative uses.”

    It doesn’t have to be about money. It can be about who gets pussy, for example. It can be about anything that is not in infinite supply, which is pretty much everything.

  95. I’ll agree with all your alternative definitions of economics. What I’ve been attempting to get at is that economic interactions are not somehow distinct from all other social interactions. Economics is about society as a whole. It just *happens* to use money as a measure, because it is something numerical for which data can readily be obtained.

    As I’ve stated elsewhere … I think it is inherently problematic to view the market and society as distinct entities. All economic interactions are social interactions in some way and vice versa. Hence trying to control economic “forces” results in constraints on all sorts of human behavior.

  96. MNG sez In other words it would be more psychology and less “economics.”

    [shudder] Considering how little knowledge of economics you’ve displayed, I refuse to even imagine what you know of psuchology.

  97. Fernando Torres:
    I understand what you are trying to accomplish, but I think there are better ways of arguing the case of the supremacy of indivudals than attempting to deny your opponent the linguistic concepts that are intrinsic to their argument. I find it too wierdly Orwellian a tactic for a libertarian to be engaging in.

    Instead, I would argue that the terminology leads to fuzzy thinking. When someone says that society has rights or that something is beneficial to “society as a whole”, they are really just using a shorthand to say that people have moral obligations to eachother or that more people will benefit something than are harmed.

    The problem is that the mental shorthand of saying “it’s good for society” tends to lead to all sorts of poorly thought out policy that tramples on individuals. Plus… net benefits are often never actually calculated. (Are people *really* better off because of agricultural subsidies, say.)

    But aside from that, I woudl argue that groups are not conscious entities and hence cannot have rights conferred upon them that are not direct extensions of the rights of the individuals within them, by mutual consent.

    It would be as if we were to argue, that “the market” had “the right” to be left alone. As if the market was actually a conscious entity. The other side would jump on that immediately, but are perfectly content to speak of the rights of “the community” as if it were less absurd than assigning rights to “the market”.

    The only difference between the two is that one has warm fuzzy emotives around it, and the other doesn’t.

  98. Ugh just wasted forever going through this inanity.

    Anyway, I don’t seem to be getting a consensus here. Wow. And here I thought libertarians were the masters of irony by being lockstep about everything. Turns out none of you have any idea what you’re talking about!

    Spare me Ayn Rand for God’s sake. Most people with brains got over her in 8th grade.

  99. Anyway, I don’t seem to be getting a consensus here.

    Well Tony, you might feel better in an echo chamber over at DU or KoS.

  100. E pluribus unum, my friends. Sine qua non.

    Hamilton

  101. And here I thought libertarians were the masters of irony by being lockstep about everything.

    Dude, why do you think we’ve never acheived any actual political power? It’s like herding cats.

    Ron Paul wouldn’t even endorse Bob Barr. Not his sect of libertarianism, apparantly.

  102. P Brooks | February 26, 2009, 6:13pm | #
    The Project on Law & Mind Sciences at the Harvard Law School

    I wonder how many Harvard “benefactors” are aware that this (and similar airy-fairy claptrap) is where their money goes.

    Getting Harvard to back your crazy ass schemes be it through salary or financing your symposiums or staff assistance positions must be like winning the fucking lottery. Obviously, in whatever you have managed to tie together, ‘”The market delivers excessive levels of consumption.”‘ + Colossal Failure: The Output Bias of Market Economies: ” or “How Thinking Like an Economist Undermines Community” + “Economics is a two-faced, one might almost say schizophrenic, discipline.”, you have put in no more thought than your typical John Q Trailer Park when he scratches off a winning combination of lotto numbers, but damn either way, a pat on the back is well in order.

  103. Not only is all human existence dependent on others, but our entire concept of self comes from social interaction throughout our lives. In that sense there can be no “individuals” without “groups.”

    No one can seriously deny that humans are social animals and I don’t know of anyone that does so.

    The question is about the nature of the relationships that individuals participate in.

    Is each of us slave to everyone else?

    Or do social relationships have value to individuals such that their participation does not require coercion?

  104. No one can seriously deny that humans are social animals and I don’t know of anyone that does so.

    The question is about the nature of the relationships that individuals participate in.

    Is each of us slave to everyone else?

    Or do social relationships have value to individuals such that their participation does not require coercion?

    Sam,

    Without one iota of glibness, sarcasm, or irony, I say this with all sincerity, that was fucking beautiful. I feel only sadness that so many cannot see what should be obvious to them by their senses and experiences. It is to the greater tragedy of human history that this is not so retained in our DNA as to be never contradicted.

  105. MNG,

    I don’t know about other libertarians, but the appropriate mode of analysis for Hayekians is the individual. That doesn’t deny the existence of groups, it simply means that the starting point is the individual. Many socialists start with the aggregate and they stay there. Depending on one’s POV as a free market type the latter position can be viewed as immoral or as simply impractical.

    Anyway, it is a bit difficult to analogize an entire nation to a pride of lions; the analogy works better when you are talking about a small firm or a human family. Indeed, I think that is one of the problems that a lot of people have with free markets, because it doesn’t resemble the relationships that we are born into. However, human family relations just aren’t scalable, no matter how much we try to enforce them through legislation.

    Tony,

    Libertarians do not deny the interconnectedness of human beings; libertarians simply suggest that the best way to order that interconnectedness is not via some centralized system government mandates, or even a more dispersed system of such, but through choice as exercised in a very lightly regulated marketplace. That marketplace exists throughout the spectrum of human relations; be it in religion, speech or the exchange of goods.

    It is kind of interesting that a few hundred years ago it was considered a call for moral chaos to advocate a free market in religion. Yet that is what we have in the U.S. today and its work rather remarkably here.

  106. Pathologize the opinions of people you disagree with instead of coming up with rational, counter-arguments.

    May I suggest that many millions of people of all political opinions use that method as a primary way of debating?

  107. “What I’ve been attempting to get at is that economic interactions are not somehow distinct from all other social interactions. Economics is about society as a whole. It just *happens* to use money as a measure, because it is something numerical for which data can readily be obtained.”

    Well put Hazel.

    Seward
    I don’t disagree with much of what you said, well put.

    While I think groups exist and that group needs may at times trump needs or rights of individual member’s of that group, I think 1. the only sensible measure of “group welfare” is some aggregation of the well being of the INDIVIDUALS in that group (individuals will always be the ultimate measure) and 2. that this (instances where group needs outweigh the rights of individuals) is a rare event because as a general rule respecting the rights of the individual members of the group and giving them the most individual freedom possible is conducive to the overall welfare of the most individual members of said group (this is basically what J.S. Mill argues in On Liberty).

  108. MNG,

    Your 7:59 post is wrong. It exemplifies all that is wrong with utilitarianism. The group has NO, ZERO, NONE right to force the 5% harm for the benefit of the rest.

  109. BTW, My biggest problem with definitions of society or community is that it tries to place me into societies or communities of which I am not a member.

    An example: I am much more a member of a community with the other posters of H&R than I am with the people who happen to share my street with me. I am, somewhat, in a community with them, but not to the same level.

  110. Francisco Torres | February 26, 2009, 7:38pm | #
    MNG,
    Franciso Torres is the Latin American persona of TAO, an office worker by day and crusading Austrian economist by night who is also the Pacific Salsa Dancing Champion from 2001-3.

    And spotter of dimwitted cranks, by night.

    So it is official then? Francisco Torres is TAO?

    I am disappointed.
    And disappointed for the community of posters.

  111. No one can seriously deny that humans are social animals and I don’t know of anyone that does so.

    The question is about the nature of the relationships that individuals participate in.

    Is each of us slave to everyone else?

    Or do social relationships have value to individuals such that their participation does not require coercion?

    Sam

  112. MNG,

    Well, we may not disagree that much when it comes down to how our POVs translate into the “real world.”

    I will say though that some people (not you) tend to identify libertarians as misanthropes; whereas I think of most libertarians being rather significantly interested in the welfare of others.

  113. Is each of us slave to everyone else?

    Or do social relationships have value to individuals such that their participation does not require coercion?

    I would argue that we are “enslaved” to others in ways that have nothing to do with willful coercion. We can’t choose our parents, yet who our parents are has a lot to do with where we end up in life. We must share the same physical community with other human beings, most of whom are strangers. Each of our individual liberties potentially infringes upon the liberties of others. That’s what law and order are all about. We all must sacrifice some trivial liberties for the good of the whole, and most of us do so without a second thought.

    Liberals, I think, just argue that this principle can and should extend to economic interactions within a community. Every human institution from baseball to a dinner party has rules that restrict freedoms for some greater collective benefit that, in turn, increases the non-trivial liberties of individuals in that community.

  114. Actually, Tony, a lot of libertarians are particularly focused on the ways in which social relationships enslave us, and strive to remove those constraints, rather than use them as the justification for further constraints.

    Just for example, libertarians tend to take issue not just with speech codes, but with “politically correct” cultures that don’t tolerate dissenting speech. I.e. a libertarian dinner party would have a lot fewer rules about what can be said than a liberal one. (this is true by personal experience as well….)

    As for a baseball game, everyone assents to the rules when they agree to participate. If you don’t like the rules of baseball, you are free to invent a new version and invite others to join you.

    Aside from that though, for some reason, liberals seem to think that economic interactions are somehow more deserving of special restrictions than every other kind of social interaction. You can have as much sex and drugs as you want, but try to exchange a coke for a dollar, all of a sudden that’s “greed” and “profit making” and must be controlled.

  115. We all must sacrifice some trivial liberties for the good of the whole, and most of us do so without a second thought.

    But there again, people do so because they learn the benefits of sufficient self restraint that they do not alienate those that they depend upon in so many ways.

    Where does this justify having arbitrary authority decide where to restrain itself?

    Then there is the problem that “liberals” seem to have few qualms about which is that the concentration of political power offers a great temptation for abuse, in effect, those that wield such power find that they are not as restrained in their treatment of their fellow humans as are ordinary people.

    In the creation of an agency to regulate people, there is a release from the social bonds and constraints that most people observe in their social relations.

    Imagine if your friends or co-workers were to attempt to draft you into fighting other people. You would find it absurd and you would no longer think they were such great friends.

    Apparently you think it acceptable to grant such authority to the political class.

    Just look at them and consider the power they have that you would never grant to people you know and trust.

    Liberals, I think, just argue that this principle can and should extend to economic interactions within a community.

    “Liberals” don’t know when enough is enough when it comes to extending that principle.

    Nor do they exhibit sufficient comprehension of economics that they should be trusted with such power.

  116. Not suggesting that most GOPers exhibit such comprehension either

  117. I would argue that we are “enslaved” to others in ways that have nothing to do with willful coercion.

    Then you are throwing out the meaning of “slave”.
    Dependency due to nature is in no way akin to being made a prisoner by others for their purposes.

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