Libertarian History/Philosophy

Michael Lind, Nearly a Decade After Declaring Libertarianism Dead, Still Scared of It; Can Lind Make a Pencil?


As I wrote back in 2006, sort-of thinker Michael Lind had already back then declared " the utter and final defeat of…the libertarian counter-revolution."

But it's still scaring him witless, this libertarian zombie. Now Lind at Salon notices something I blogged about in September 2012—that George Mason University economist and sometime Reason contributor Bryan Caplan thinks that it's a good thing for policy that government seems, by some measures, to follow the opinions (not the interests, which Caplan points out can be a different thing) of wealthier Americans. Why? Because following those opinions, Caplan believes, redounds better to the liberty and wealth of most people.

While flailing about at libertarianism in general as the piece goes on, Lind doesn't stress Caplan's more significant contributions—to pro-natalism, open borders, or pacifism, since those won't scare his audience at Salon as much. (Never forget the point of these articles is not intellectual engagement or illumination, but continuing to gin up a two-minute hate into a two-lifetime hate.)

Lind does manage to redig hoary old out-of-context arguments about Austrian economist and libertarian influence Ludwig Von Mises being pro-fascism in 1927 (see Donald Boudreaux taking on that aspect) while never engaging the possibility—which anyone who ever believed in a human right should take that point seriously—that indeed, almost everyone believes there are times when it might be better for civilization to avoid completely unfettered majority rule over all.

But the part I want to take most exception to is his sideways insult to Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) founder Leonard Read as "appallingly dumb." 

As I wrote in my 2007 book Radicals for Capitalism which tells the story of Read's amazing accomplishments in founding and shepherding the first modern libertarian educational institution, FEE, even many of Read's friends and allies would stress that his deep knowledge of technical economics was lacking; but he was a grand synthesizer and popularizer of a deep political and ethical liberalism, one of the more successful ones of the 20th century

Read managed, in his stunning essay "I, Pencil" to deliver an amazing metaphor to sum up and make vividly and unforgettably clear a very difficult to grasp aspect of economics. The essay has been blowing minds and educating and enlightening people for generations, and was even leaned on by a Nobel Prize-winning economist, Milton Friedman, in helping explain the unseen wonders of spontaneous order.

"I, Pencil" is, no doubt, one of those most brilliant pieces of popular social science writing ever. (Not to ruin it for you, it explains, in the voice of a pencil itself, that nobody can make a pencil. It's a killer.)

Lind might not know this; he might not care; he might actually be "appallingly dumb" enough to believe that someone can make a pencil, or that that insight is somehow banal. It is not. One would gain more important understanding of the way the world works from that one essay of Read's than one would get by studying the corpus of Michael Lind, monklike, for a lifetime.

More on Lind misunderstanding libertarianism, Ayn Rand division.

NEXT: Ukraine: Separatists Declare Victory in Rigged Vote

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Per my earlier comment: behold the most rabid of the timorous macaques, with the smelliest poo.

  2. If I had a dollar for every person who criticized libertarianism without understanding it, I could buy an island and declare myself a sovereign nation.

    1. Does anyone want to buy the artisanal pencil that I made in my garage?

      1. But did you mine the graphite, synthesize the eraser, smelt the metal, AND fell and trim the tree?

        1. of course – each pencil costs $2000

          1. You got a license to do those things?

            1. It’s a black market artisanal pencil.

              1. Oh bravo, sir!

                My kids and I made pencils from scratch as an experiment. Charcoal for the black of the leads. We made the erasers from latex from milkweed. It took months to make a dozen. They worked well though.

          2. I’m not paying that for a pencil!*

            *And somehow the conflict embodied in this conversation never bubbles over in so many peoples’ minds.

          3. Well, don’t buy one of these toasters.

      2. But I’ll bet you, or someone, had to drive on a ROAD to get the components for that pencil. And you can’t have America’s chronically underfunded, literally falling apart system of roads without government to fund and repair them!

      3. That pencil, you didn’t build it…

  3. Liberty is tyranny! Tony said so!

  4. Where is that fucking idiot Craig in Miss?!? That fucking moron should read this shit…

  5. while never engaging the possibility?which anyone who ever believed in a human right should do?that indeed, almost everyone believes there are times when it might be better for civilization to not have completely unfettered majority rule over all.

    Why do you hate democracy, Brian?

  6. But – less profanely- the I,pencil essay is phenomenal. I reread it all the time…Kevin Williamson at NRO had a great take on it as well. Lind’s condemnation of Read tells us a lot more about Lind than Read…
    typical fucking economically illiterate prog….

  7. Sixteen. That’s how many times Lind used the word “rich” in that piece in Salon.

  8. Yeah, but someone got rich making that pencil, so therefore injustice.

  9. I said something to this effect the other day, but pretty simply, one of the features of being a TEAM moron is having opponents to hate, and libertarianism is just obscure enough for these fucks to completely malign it in ways that have absolutely no bearing on what it’s actually about, and still get away with it. Plus libertarianism has the feature of being actually for what many of these partisan scumbags say they’re for, so of course they hate it.

    Basically, libertarians get to be TEAM BE RULED’s punching bag because they actually have principles and tend to stick to them for the most part, thereby making the hypocritical TEAM scum hate them and marginalizing themselves from power.

    1. They are attacking libertarianism more now because 1. the Tea Party, a major political movement, at the very least has adopted a great deal of libertarian rhetoric and 2. Rand Paul has a real chance. I think this really scares Democrats and liberals because their usual playbook, that their opponents are Bible thumping, homophobic haters of immigrants, will not play against most libertarians.

      1. I think this really scares Democrats and liberals because their usual playbook, that their opponents are Bible thumping, homophobic haters of immigrants, will not play against most libertarians.

        Anything not Democratic is racist.

        1. And sexist (WAR ON WOMEN) and homophobic.

    2. It is not even a team thing. It is all about ego and personal importance for people like Lind. Lind wants to change the world. Lind needs meaning in his like. A Libertarian telling him that he doesn’t and can’t have the knowledge necessary to reshape the world where he wants it is telling him his life can’t have any meaning.

      It takes a certain level of humility to be willing to say “I can’t fix the world or pretend to know what is better for other people”. People like Lind don’t have that and way to self centered to ever get it.

      It is another example of how these people only know projection. They always accuse Libertarians and classical liberals of being horrible selfish individualists when in fact there is no act more selfish than saying “I know better what is good for you than you do”.

      1. Agreed, John. I was, I suppose, trying to point out that libertarians seem (unfortunately for them) perfectly positioned for assholes like Lind to project on them. Take any completely misinformed anti-libertarian screed and take a look at the author, and you will find that they relentlessly engage in most if not all of the things they are hating on libertarians for.

        Projection comes from self-hatred. Deep down, in a very repressed part of their minds, these people know what they are, and they hate themselves for it, which is why they engage in epic campaigns of projection and compensation in order to try and fool themselves that they’re not what they really are. It’s quite repulsive. And the worst part is that these self-haters scrambling to distract themselves always, always, always drag everyone else into their bullshit.

        1. Libertarians are an easy target for two reasons. First, since they support limited government, they are easily painted in with ararchists. I would say at least 3/4ths of the arguments nitwits on both sides make against Libertarians amount to confusing advocacy for limited government with advocacy with no government and the proceeding from there.

          Second, since Libertarians view the individual and the individual’s rights to be higher than the collective good, Libertarians are ripe for the old fallacy that Basat pointed out that being against the government preventing something must mean you support and want more of that something.

          If you take away the old “without government we would have anarchy” and the “you just must think it is great to do drugs” bullshit, there really isn’t much left. Out of every 100 arguments against Libertarianism I read, maybe two or three do not fit into one or both of those category and are on a level even worth responding to. And I say that as someone who is more of a classical liberal and hardly a doctrinaire Libertarian.

          1. I have yet to see anyone denouncing libertarianism start with the principle of self-ownership and then argue it doesnt lead to libertarian positions.

            Even if their argument was flawed, and it would have to be, I would respect the attempt. Especially if done honestly.

          2. I find it difficult to explain principled limited government to people because they seem unable to see any principles beyond “I want.” So when I try to explain why government shouldn’t do something based upon principle, they hear me saying I don’t want government to do something because it’s not what I want. It’s not a matter of want or not. It’s a matter of liberty and justice. But it’s so damn difficult to explain.

            1. The people I know that are Republicans say ‘I am against government programs for this guy and that guy, but I want them for myself’ while the people I know that are Democrats say ‘Let everyone have a government program!’

              1. I try to explain that redistribution for redistribution’s sake violates the natural rights to property that government is supposed to protect, and thus results in government engaging in injustice when it is supposed to be an instrument of justice.

                All I get is blank stares.

                I guess Bastiat is just too deep for some people.

            2. My approach is always to have faith in the individual. I always argue that people will if given the chance figure things out and do what is best for themselves without yours or my help.

              That often doesn’t work. But it does do one thing; it forces them to come out and admit how stupid they think everyone else is. They don’t like to do that. Part of most Americans and especially American liberals’ personal ethos is egalitarianism. Liberals love to believe they are for freedom and for t he little guy triumphing over the big evil guys. Making them admit how much they hate the little guy and how badly they want to control him for his own good really hurts them. They just end up retreating into some “well we have to do something” platitude and changing the subject.

              1. Their entire personalities are constructs that are solely designed to deny the fact that they are everything that they purport to hate, and to pretend that they’re everything they say they want to be, all while covering up their deep and abiding self-hatred for not actually being what they think they want to be. And to think some people wonder why these fucks are so malignant.

              2. Progressives constantly conflate libertarianism with crony capitalism or the “pro-business” lobby.

                They think if you’re a libertarian you want big corporations to rape the planet and destroy mom & pop shops.
                They simply don’t understand how government encourages and supports the worst in corporate America.

              3. Whenever anyone asks me what, as a libertarian, I believe in, I tell them “I believe in you, and not the anonymous you, but you the person standing in front of me right now.”

            3. There are so many ways to state the same thing. Your phrase “principals before principles”, “the ends justify the means”, “moral relativism”, they’re all ways of describing a very simple concept… hypocrisy.

              When your entire life is based upon self-gratification, hedonism, and perpetual dick-measuring contests, you don’t let petty things like principles and morals get in your way. These folks lull themselves into thinking that everybody does exactly like them, looking into the mirror, wondering why they don’t measure up, why they’re so small. It’s very easy for a small person to fall into projection, hypocrisy, and envy.

              From there, it’s natural to blame others for their inadequacy. They’ve been told since day one that they’re special, so obviously somebody else is holding them down, keeping them small. It’s the corporations, the patriarchy, racists, sexists, bigots, homophobes. They hate themselves and others so much that it creates a feedback loop of victimization and projection. Then, all it takes is a force to step in and promise order for their chaos, to promise “hope and change”, “moving forward”, or one of a million inspirational lines from a tyrant. They replace that gaping, painful void in their life with a god, a god who has promised to punish those evil others who keep them down, a god who promises to make them grow, to become whole. They take government and shove it into that hole in their life, and it feels so good, like sloppy sex after a dry spell.

              1. I just don’t see conservatives to be very different. Where I live conservatives talk about opposing government, but when there was a fuss about whether we would get several hundred million federal dollars to dredge the harbor in Charleston most of those people pushed like heck for that, saying ‘oh, that spending is different, that’s for the good of the country!’

                1. To be fair, the constitution unambiguously permits federal spending on ports and waterways and has since the Founding.

                  So a constitutionalist who was otherwise very libertarian on fiscal issues might support port spending as permissible.

                  1. I do not get constitutionalist libertarianism. Would that mean you have to support the post office?

                    1. The constitution allows for a postal service. It does not dictate one.

            4. That’s why there have been very few liberal/libertarian populist movements in humanity’s history. Libertarianism values rationalism and the view that human beings are (or can at least be accurately modeled as) homo economicus and function best when permitted to keep (and, as importantly, trade) the fruits of their labor.

              Baked into that cake, though, is the recognition that homo economicus can be bought off for a politician’s promise that someone else will pay his bills, which is precisely why we have the special-interest state where every person is trying to get the biggest handout by maximizing the inputs of the other guy while paying the least taxes himself. I’m a voluntaryist by disposition, but I don’t see how you can eliminate the parasitic state so long as people bite on politicians’ bait, which they always have.

              As always, it all comes back to Bastiat.

              1. (not to bitch too much, as I’m pretty content with the fact that my real income is about 100x that of my grandfather and, for as much as an ass as he is, Obama isn’t enslaving teenagers and sending them off to Europe to be mowed down on some French beach–the remnants of the market have treated our generation very kindly, all things considered)

          3. Libertarians are ripe for the old fallacy that Basat pointed out that being against the government preventing something must mean you support and want more of that something.

            I just had that argument used against me this weekend, when I suggested in response to an NFL player failing a second drug test that perhaps marijuana shouldn’t be on the list of banned substances.

    3. Not to mention that libertarians tend to stay in the bullseye and don’t change positions on a daily basis.

      1. There is something to this. Look at how unpopular the ACLU is. One way they got that way was by saying ‘OK, we’ll defend any controversial speech, even Nazis’ and then living up to it. While a lot of people respect the ACLU, for every one person that does there are probably two that hate them for their positions and who they defend. If anything, libertarian communities tend to push more for consistency than the ACLU, therefore we get attacked a lot.

        1. Actually, I think most of the hate for the ACLU comes from their lack of defense, not for things like defending Nazis.

          For example, the fact that they wont universally* defend the 2nd amendment, despite it being a core civil liberty.

          *a few state ACLUs have, and pissed off the national ACLU at the same time.

          1. That’s a good point. If they had aggressively defended 2nd Amendment rights I wonder how much hate would be directed at them.

            1. More. Just from their left flank, not their right.

            2. They don’t even really need to actively defend the 2nd Amendment; the NRA, SAF, and several other organizations have that more or less covered. It would be nice if they stopped denying that it actually is an individual right, though.

          2. Subscribing to the ACLU Twitter feed will disabuse you of the notion that they are in any way libertarian.

          3. I was a member of the ACLU for a while, and they stage constant, continual assaults on freedom of association under the typically silly prog claim that freedom to coerce service from a vendor is somehow a civil right. The usual reversal and abuse of language.

            You can tell the ACLU was founded by commies. Principled commies who likely tried hard to do the right thing as they understand it, but commies nonetheless.

          4. Yes, I concur with this. The ACLU is better this decade than it was in the previous two decades, but it’s still very selective for who it will go to bat.

            And the ACLU backing many of the provisions of Obamacare, if not necessarily the whole thing, strikes me as a little incongruous with their fundamental mandate. Indeed, I suspect almost the entire national leadership of the ACLU does back Obamacare, but that they realize it would be an appalling breach of their previous precedents to back it publically.

            So instead they are nibbling around the edges:

            1) “the ACLU yesterday urged the Department of Health and Human Services to continue to stand by its decision that contraception is basic health care and must be available in health insurance plans. ”

            2) “Today marks the opening of the health insurance exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act. … In addition to expanding access to affordable healthcare, the opening of the health exchanges also has the opportunity to dramatically expand access to the ballot.”

    4. Plus libertarianism has the feature of being actually for what many of these partisan scumbags say they’re for, so of course they hate it.

      This is a really good point. Democrats can paint Republicans as racists, and let’s face it, Republicans don’t really do a great job of countering that claim. But libertarians can present a true alternative to state welfare in the form of removing barriers to entrepreneurship, ending the drug war, etc., that will disproportionately benefit minorities. If I’m a Democratic strategist, I’d be really worried if that message started to really catch on.

      Or on the Republican side, libertarians have plans that actually cut the budget and simplify the tax code that also cut in to the corporate welfare state and don’t favor entrenched interests.

      1. ending the drug war, etc., that will disproportionately benefit minorities.

        You’d be amazed at how well they can ignore that part of the platform. I could pardon a hundred thousand black men on my first day as president, and I’d still be painted as a racist.

      2. Democrats can paint Republicans as racists, and let’s face it, Republicans don’t really do a great job of countering that claim.

        Probably because it is objectively impossible to prove a negative.

        Also because being called something you aren’t, especially when it is the worst, most vile thing an American can be, is shocking. I remember well the first time I was called a racist. I was dumbfounded. It nearly silenced me.

        The obvious response to being called racist/sexist/whatever is to completely ignore it and carry on with your argument, but progtards cling to that little chestnut like it’s platinum. If you don’t immediately derail your entire course of discussion to “address the issue” (of you being a horrible racist) then they simply keep pressing, all the while totally ignoring everything else you have to say.

        It is the ultimate ad hom, and progs know it. I had a prog tell me in confidence (because she was convinced I was a fellow traveler) that I should respond to conservatives by just calling them racist or sexist because it easily ends any debate.

  10. Lind doesn’t stress Caplan’s more significant contributions?to pro-natalism, open borders, or pacifism, since those won’t scare his audience at Salon as much

    His pro-natalism argument scares the shit out of the Salon types.

  11. Bryan Caplan thinks that its a good thing for policy that government seems, by some measures, to follow the opinions (not the interests, which Caplan points out can be a different thing) of wealthier Americans

    Where exactly does Caplan think the opinions of wealthy Americans end and their interests begin? It seems to me that a lot of very wealthy and successful people have really idiotic opinions about public policy. The people who run google may be brilliant coders but they hold appallingly stupid views regarding energy and global warming. Outside of the small area where they succeeded, the opinions of wealthy Americans is no better informed than anyone else’ opinions. In fact they may be less informed. That doesn’t even count the idiot sons and daughters of the wealthy who are likely to be appallingly stupid and by virtue of their futures being secured by a trust fund have nothing invested in the system and also bring to the table all sorts of neurosis and guilt that seems to occur so often in the idiot children of the rich and successful.

    1. John, I think you misunderstand.

      Take the Koch brothers, for example.

      They are smart guys, with extensive political contacts, and vast financial resources at their disposal.

      Their interests probably tend towards fascism. Fascism may be in no one’s Randian enlightened self-interest, but there are lots of people whose unenlightened hookers-and-blow personal interest would be advanced by fascism, and the Koch brothers are probably among that set of guys.

      But their opinions are libertarian.

      So they spend a lot of time advancing their opinions, even when they could probably advance their (unenlightened) interests more by pursuing a different course.

      1. I think that depends. Some parts of libertarianism would benefit the Koch’s interests, some would not. People can push a general philosophy that does not favor them generally with the hope, and sometimes knowledge, that it will be partly realized in a way that benefits them (that fellow who ran Enron and championed ‘deregulation’ comes to mind).

        I can’t say whether that applies to the Koch’s. Lots of wealthy people give their money philanthropically in ways that do not benefit them.

        1. You’re not considering opportunity cost.

          If I have $100 million to spend on political activity and want it to generate a positive dollar return, and don’t scruple one way or the other how that return gets back to me, spending that $100 million on advancing libertarianism as a general philosophy while hoping that only parts of it will be realized is an incredibly moronic way to go about it and will almost certainly return less than my other available choices.

          Remember, I can’t control what parts of libertarianism will be realized by my spending. I can’t control the time table. To be in a position to benefit from selected parts of libertarianism, I have to put large amounts of my capital in an exposed position. Etc.

          There’s almost no scenario where I can’t do “better” by using my $100 million to bribe Chinese, Indian, African, and central Asian politicians.

          Unless these guys are just fucking idiots, Ockham’s Razor says they have to be sincere.

          1. “spending that $100 million on advancing libertarianism as a general philosophy while hoping that only parts of it will be realized is an incredibly moronic way to go about it and will almost certainly return less than my other available choices.”

            Perhaps not, since you have to factor in that only pushing the parts that would obviously favor them would tend to discredit their message quickly.

          2. If I have $100 million to spend on political activity and want it to generate a positive dollar return,

            the last thing I’ll do is spend it on libertarian education or candidates. Cronyism is the tried and true generator of positive dollar returns. And you can buy a shitload of cronyism for $100mm.

            1. Clicked too soon.

              And there’s no reason to limit my spending on Chinesse, Indian, etc. politicians. I’m betting you can get a better ROI on American politicians.

              1. I hear MS has done pretty well betting on that horse.

      2. If you like their opinions, great. Their interests really shouldn’t matter in making a judgement about their opinions. Suppose it were shown that they personally would be much better off if the government go smaller, would that make their opinions any more or less valid? I don’t think so and I think to say otherwise is to buy into an ad hominem.

        Moreover, the fact that the Kochs are wealthy says nothing about the value of their opinions good or bad. Wealthy people are just as likely to have stupid opinions as anyone else.

        I still don’t see what Caplan is saying here. How about we follow the best opinions and not worry about who is giving them?

        1. How about we follow the best opinions and not worry about who is giving them?

          Because principals trump principles!

        2. I think when people make arguments out of their self interest it at the very least signals to us to examine their claims and arguments a little more.

        3. You are misunderstanding Caplan. Read the link above. He is not making some statement that people government should follow the opinions of the wealthy FOR THAT REASON; but that the data shows the opinions of the wealthy tend to be a LITTLE bit more sensible in liberty and wealth terms than those of the non wealthy, so that to the extent that the “govt follows opinions of wealthy” is true, that that’s a good thing.

          1. Well, yeah. They want to keep their stuff.

            1. Caplan is also good on showing that actual data belies the idea that “people just vote their interests.”

              1. Common sense alone shows us that people absolutely do not vote their interests. Since the value of their vote is infinitesimally small with regards to advancing their interests, they use their vote for social signaling instead, where it has much more value. Thus we get TEAMs and partisanship and KULTUR WAR. Yay.

          2. but that the data shows the opinions of the wealthy tend to be a LITTLE bit more sensible in liberty and wealth terms than those of the non wealthy,

            I read the article and I think Caplan is blowing smoke out of his ass and reading way too much into that data. Moreover, even if it is true, the overall opinions of wealthy people is not the same as the opinions of wealthy people willing to express such and get into politics. The latter is much more liberal and much less informed and generally idiotic.

            George Soros and Elan Musk are wealthy people. Do you want to listen to them?

            1. John, you seem strangely determined to be mad at Caplan about this, but re-read what he actually said about Gilens’ data in the link below (from the post above) and relax. He’s not saying what you think he’s saying:

              1. He has to be saying that. Otherwise he is not saying anything. How do “democracies listen to the Libertarian rich” other than give the rich a bigger voice than everyone else in politics?

                All Caplan is saying is “the government should be more Libertarian”. Well that is nice. I agree with him. Why “well more rich people believe that” is relevant to the question “should government be more Libertarian” Caplan doesn’t say other than well I guess he likes rich people or he likes Libertarianism and will give more weight to any group that agrees with him.

                Caplan’s point is stupid and pointless. If Libertarianism is the right thing, it is the right thing. The fact that rich people agree or not has nothing to do with it. To say otherwise is to assume that rich people must just know better than everyone else. That both begs the question (since the only evidence he provides for it being true is that they tend to be more Libertarian) and implies that there is something special about being rich that makes one’s opinion more valuable.

                It is fucking nonsense Brian.

                1. He’s saying exactly what I quote him as saying re: Gilens data in that blog post from 2012. It’s not what you insist on saying he’s saying.

                  1. No Brian, I am saying his argument has to mean that or it means nothing. Who cares what rich people think if you don’t think it is more likely to be correct?

                    1. Jesus H Christ.

                      He’s an academic economist who asked the question: “‘Why aren’t democracies’ policies even worse?’ The median American is no Nazi, but he is a moderate national socialist – statist to the core on both economic and social policy. Given public opinion, the policies of First World democracies are surprisingly libertarian.”

                      The Gilens data gives a two part answer.

                      1) The wealthy have a lot of influence.
                      2) The wealthy are more libertarian.

                      That’s it. There’s no “argument” other than that data on 1 and 2 looks like an answer to the question.

                    2. Notice that if you changed “even worse” to “even better” the post could have been written by a Nazi explaining libertarian infiltration, and it wouldn’t lose any explanatory value.

                    3. And Sidd, that is complete ahistorical bullshit. None of the fascist movements were ever populist movements. It was always the academic and the intellectual elites who bought into fascism and communism.

                      Moreover, Caplan is assuming causality follows correlation. So what that rich as a group tend to be more libertarian? That doesn’t mean they are the reason governments have generally not fallen into deposition. Maybe the overall civic institutions of those societies that were generally created during the enlightenment and generally act as a check against government have something to do with that?

                      In the US at least, our constitution and civil institutions has a hell of a lot more to do with the lack of tyranny than some perceived preference of the rich.

                      Beyond that overall preference versus revealed preference, as in what you are actually willing to act or vote upon are two entirely different things. The polls Caplan gives mean nothing without also looking at how those preferences translate into actual votes, which is something that is really hard to do and Caplan doesn’t even try to do.

                      Again, Caplan is making a stupid and pointless argument.

                    4. It was always the academic and the intellectual elites who bought into fascism and communism.

                      Not sure what this has to do with anything.

                      Moreover, Caplan is assuming causality follows correlation.

                      It’s just a blog post about a book he read(and you didn’t). I tend to hate economists, but they usually understand freshman concepts like correlation and causation.

                      which is something that is really hard to do and Caplan doesn’t even try to do.

                      Well, aside from the book he wrote.

        4. Wealthy people are just as likely to have stupid opinions as anyone else.

          How do you know?

    2. Lind’s point is that Caplan a wealth apologist.

  12. In response to Caplan, I would suggest that government stop worrying about interests and opinions of various people by getting out of the manipulating the economy for desired results altogether. How about we worry about two things 1) does the federal government even have the Constitutional power to do something; and 2) does doing that something violate people’s rights in some way. I think weeding out everything the federal government does that violates one of those two things is pretty big and worthy project and something that will occupy us for a long time. How about we do that instead of worrying about what various Top Men like Caplan and idiot sons and daughters of the wealthy think the economy ought to look like.

    1. Why would we limit ourselves to what the federal government does? I’d say half the ‘nutpunches’ on Reason involve state and local officials.

      1. Because that is the debate at hand and the one thing that affects everyone. If you want to worry about what your state does, have at it. I will do the same. But since we live in different states my efforts and your efforts are not necessarily going to be in concert.

        1. When I pay my NRA dues I do not expect them to only fight laws at the federal level, I hope they will file suit in federal courts to take on policies in Illinois or California or New Jersey even though I do not live there. By your logic the NRA should only fight proposed federal legislation and leave state and local restrictions to local chapters.

          1. Sure they do. That is just not what we are talking about on this thread.

            1. You proposed people unite to fight federal abuses and ignore the rest, or do it in local and state groups. So I offered the NRA example as one that I think runs counter to that.

      2. In the past, I have used the “I can shoot my mayor” argument. But, I dont know where the mayor of BG lives…yet.

        The point still stands, petty tyrants are easier to handle. Even if its just moving across a county line or something.

        Its harder to move to a new state, and especially harder to move to a new country, so those are bigger priorities.

        But, otherwise, you are correct. It isnt about limiting ourselves, however, just prioritizing.

        Also, also, the constitution primarily limits the federal government, at least prior to the 14th amendment. States have their own constitutions, so things will vary.

        1. I like how you put it, not about limiting, but rather prioritizing. But there is this:I live in my state. What my state does affects me more than what the federal government does in many, if not most areas. I have literally never been hassled by an FBI or ATF agent, but have seen plenty of jerk local and state cops in my life, to give one example.

        2. You can’t really shoot your mayor.

          That to me is the real weak point theoretically of federalism and subsidiarity.

          My mayor is backed up by the state police and national guard, and they are backed up by the US armed forces, all the way up to the strategic forces if necessary.

          Petty tyranny by my mayor IS tyranny by the federal government, because ultimately they’re the ones backing him up.

          1. Petty tyranny is a huge problem. The state locals are more likely to affect my life than the feds.

            That said, it is a lot easier to vote with your feet and just leave the state and local tyranny than it is the federal tyranny. For that reason, I think state and local tyranny is more likely to work itself out than federal tyranny. Places like California and New York and Illinois are very tyrannical and are losing population because of it. Eventually, the loss of population will force them to change.

            Not that that doesn’t mean the courts shouldn’t intervene to protect people’s rights against state and local tyrants. They should. It just means the federal tyranny is more dangerous in the long run.

            1. It just means the federal tyranny is more dangerous in the long run.

              Exactly. My city cant fund the NSA. And if they did, I would move. But Im not leaving the USA…yet.

            2. “That said, it is a lot easier to vote with your feet and just leave the state and local tyranny”

              Didn’t you say that you live in….Maryland? Respectfully, if you have not left Maryland then foot voting is not as viable as you say.

              1. If the tyranny were that bad I would leave. Since moving to another state doesn’t involve getting a VISA or renouncing my citizenship, I can do that.

                You have entirely missed the point.

                1. I think you missed mine.

                  You are a really conservative guy. And Maryland is a really liberal state.

                  If Maryland has not violated your beliefs and interests to the point that you have foot voted then obviously foot voting is not going to be an option turned to by many people at all.

          2. You can’t really shoot your mayor.

            Not legally. But in theory, I could have done it.

            But its an exaggeration of the point, that in my old city, I could walk two blocks and bitch directly at him. Which I did once.

            And it got shit done.

            He also never did anything bad enough to rise to the level of needing to assassinate him.

          3. You can’t really shoot your mayor.

            Sure you can. You just can’t get away with it.

  13. You can almost predict beforehand what references to libertarian thinkers these progressive authoritarian Salon-folk will make. Hayek embraced dictatorship in Chile, Mises loved fascism (or some other out-of-context statement), Ayn Rand took Social Security checks, Nozick repudiated his life’s beliefs, etc. Rinse, repeat, ho-hum, nothing to see here.

    1. Don’t forget Freidman and Pinochet.

      1. Alan Greenspan…worst traitor of all. He actually wrote some really good stuff on monetary policy then proceeded to ignore it.

    2. The amazing thing about the Mises slander (and it happens all the time, seemingly once a month) is what Boudreaux points out–Mises wrote that in a book titled Liberalism (as in classical) where he rips fascism to shreds for several pages. It’s all right there, and anyone who cares enough to look into it for 30 seconds understands this and understands that anyone who would write this drivel is a worthless researcher or a dishonest human being.

      Stuff like this is why politics is irreversibly, wholeheartedly dumb. Few authors, editors, or readers care about the legitimacy or honesty of the arguments offered–they just want their egos stroked and to be reminded that they are going to political heaven while the other team is idiotic, evil, and doomed. It’s a lot like spending the evening at a Red Sox/Yankee game, only with taxes and a lower level of discourse.

  14. That pencil you’re holding? YOU DIDN’T MAKE THAT!
    The essay points out what Obama already informed us!


  15. You might be tempted to dismiss Bryan Caplan as just another Koch-funded libertarian hack

    There it is.

  16. Caplanism also frees libertarian scholars like Caplan himself from being embarrassed about the fact that almost all of them are paid, directly or indirectly, by a handful of angry, arrogant rich guys who fund anti-government propaganda because they think they are overtaxed.

    Those silly rich guys, they even fund silly organizations like the New America Foundation.

    1. Those angry white guys funding Lind are different.

      People like Lind are everything they claim their enemies to be.

      1. That is because it is all projection. I thought we settled this…THE SCIENCE IS SETTLED! THE LEFT IS PROJECTION!

  17. that nobody can make a pencil.

    I sharpened a stick, blackened the end of it with a match… *boom* Pencil.

    Take that, Glibertarians!

    1. Tell us how you made the match.

      And the knife you used to sharpen the stick.

      1. I sharpened it on a rock, and I lit the stick on fire which resulted from a lightning strike. It’s Quest for Fire at my house, baby.

        1. I’m all about telekinesis and pyrokinesis myself.


  18. One wonders how much of Read he has actually read. I guess Read comes across as “dumb” to Lind because he wrote in a simple, straightforward style. And Read obviously wasn’t “smart” enough to accept his serfdom.

  19. Instead, they admit that libertarianism is incompatible with democracy ? and propose to jettison democracy for alternatives.

    Even if that were true of all libertarians (and it isn’t), the modern examples he cites are all of people *peacefully* trying to carve out a place in the world for themselves and those who think like them. And this is somehow worthy of derision? I wonder if he feels similarly about the many different groups of religious and political refugees, or just plain old adventurous types, that kickstarted colonization of the Americas…

    1. I wonder if he feels similarly about the many different groups of religious and political refugees, or just plain old adventurous types, that kickstarted colonization of the Americas…

      I remember back in the days before Microsoft really had a lobbying presence in DC. New York Times reporters and writers actually mused about the arrogance of such a thing. That a company would do business and not engage with the Washington political machine.

      Peacefully carving out an existence– without any input from the community government? I think not.

      1. I remember that too, and how gleeful they were when the feds decided that MS wasn’t kissing their ass enough and went anti-trust on them. Disgusting.

        1. MS had a smaller share of the OS market than government did in primary/secondary education.

          Why do monopolies suddenly, magically become virtuous when they’re government sector monopolies?

          1. Because the government has monopolized taking care of you. What could be more noble?

  20. being embarrassed about the fact that almost all of them are paid, directly or indirectly, by a handful of angry, arrogant rich guys who fund anti-government propaganda because they think they are overtaxed

    Do you feel no shame commentariat of H&R?

    1. Indeed, what could be more bothersome morally than those that argue that any reluctance or resentment in someone when their money is forcibly taken from them to aid another is this huge moral failing, but the forcible taking itself is just the ‘price we pay for civilization.’

      1. It’s “greedy” to want to keep the money you’ve worked for; it’s not greedy at all to want to take somebody else’s money and give it to the state.

        No, I don’t get it either.

    2. I’m more ashamed that all this Koch money can’t fund a snazzier website and comment system with more bells and whistles.

      1. While I slave away uncompensated sans edit button, Gillespie probably has an office closet full of expensive leather jackets. Where’s the economic justice in that?

        1. I comment on some sports blogs at SBNation. Coming to Reason from that is what I must imagine it must be like for someone returning to a third world country after studying abroad.

  21. Tolerable democracies, in which public policy responds to the preferences of the rich, rather than the majority

    Actually, I think what makes American democracy tolerable in Caplan’s eyes is that it is more libertarian than the majority of voters would prefer it to be. The rich only matter in this regard in that they tend to be more libertarian (or so the argument goes).

    1. That’s the exact idea. Caplan’s work has a lot to do with these questions of how
      interests/opinions/policies actually interact with one another.

  22. the utter and final defeat of…the libertarian counter-revolution

    I’m looking around, and not seeing any reason to believe that the “libertarian counter-revolution” is victorious, or even relevant. So its hard to say he was wrong, isn’t it?

  23. BTW, always remember that anyone who believes that Man should be free is “arrogant”, according to Lind.

    So today the Ayn Rand caricature being acted out in real life is James Taggart. “You’re going to learn a lesson ? all of you! – all of you spoiled, self-indulgent, undisciplined little two-bit clerks, who strut around as if that crap about your rights was serious!”

    1. Like I said above, I can’t think of any more arrogant way to be than to think you know what is better for other people and for society at large. Yet, people like Lind who think that in spades call everyone who doesn’t “arrogant”.

      Basically, anyone who doesn’t want to let Lind run their lives is just being “arrogant” and doesn’t understand how much better he knows what is best for them.

      1. It’s a weird amalgam of projection and egomania.

  24. Lots of Salon lately. Are they the Reason-equivalent in the statist authoritarian camp? That’s depressing.

  25. And could someone tell me why should one think that this lind guy is something more than an intellectually-dishonest, power-worshiping hack?

    Is there something substantial with which one might be able to engage from his chattering?

  26. OT:…..king-hawk/

    Glenn Greenwald destroys Hillary and utterly smashes the concept of “symbolic” campaigns.

    Honestly, I have never seen a statement that so concisely deals with the concept of the American Monarchy.

    1. He went on Matt Lauer’s show? It’s obvious the unpaid interns who wrote Matt’s questions for Glenn were in over their heads. At that rate may as well have Costas interview Greenwald.

    2. I think we will end the big stories in about three months or so [June or July 2014]. I like to think of it as a fireworks show: You want to save your best for last. There’s a story that from the beginning I thought would be our biggest, and I’m saving that. The last one is the one where the sky is all covered in spectacular multicolored hues. This will be the finale, a big missing piece. Snowden knows about it and is excited about it.

      The scoop: Janet Reno is Chelsea Clinton’s father – I knew it!

      1. Ew

  27. And the comments.

    bpuharic 2 hours ago
    @Soupburger The real problem with libertarianism it it leads to oligarchy, as it has in the US (cf. Gilens’ recent paper). The US probably has the most libertarian economics in the western world and our social policy shows it.

    When the rich fail, as they did in 2007, the middle class has to bail them out or watch the economy collapse, with us paying the bill. The rich are a luxury we’re finding out we can’t afford.

    Libertarianism is a fairy tale believed by people with an authoritarian nature who created a fiction the rich are morally and genetically superior to the rest of us (e.g. Greg Mankiw)

    I prefer freedom, thank you.

    I don’t even know where to start.

    1. And:

      wphurley 18 hours ago
      Caplan’s an instrument, nothing more or less.

      The use of this instrument by variously wealthy, racist, paranoid, misogynist, narcissistic right-wing plutocrats dove-tails with the critique of meritocracy articulated by Chris Hayes in his book “Twilight of the Elites”.


      False conciousness argument followed by long ad hominem followed by appeal to authority. It’s a fallacy sandwich.

      1. I’ve never really understood why the source of economist’s funding should automatically invalidate their research?

        It sounds like an ad hominem.

        Consider this. Caplan may be receiving funding from the Koch Brothers because they share mutually beneficial interests.

        But if Caplan’s research shifted to a left-wing approach, Caplan can always go out and get funding from other donors if the Koch Brothers abandoned him.

        Of course, if Caplan started receiving large research grants from the federal government, I doubt many of the left would cast a suspicious eye on his funding then, even though the government is just as likely to have ulterior motives as the Koch Brothers.

        1. Either way, a researcher’s work should be criticized on the basis of their argument and nothing else. If Caplan has published research and data with good faith arguments, it is anti-intellectual to attack him personally.

        2. Look at all the state funding going to climate research that shows that THERE’S A DISASTER COMING THAT ONLY MORE GOVERNMENT CAN STOP!!!111!!!

          And yet government studies claiming we need more government are never, ever biased.

      2. But he sounded so intelligent while doing it!

        I love that he referred to a book by Chris Hayes–as vapid a personality as you might imagine–as though he just threw a philosophical haymaker.

      3. I dunno, does Chris Hayes count as an authority?

    2. So, libertarianism is bad because it leads to government bailouts…which are totally necessary because otherwise the economy would collapse.

  28. Pencils don’t grow on trees.

  29. (Not to ruin it for you, it explains, in the voice of a pencil itself, that nobody can make a pencil. It’s a killer.)

    Apparently, no one person can make alt-text, either.

  30. If they’re on Salon’s staff, they’re prolly unintentional self-parody.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.