Deregulation

The Art of Incremental Change

Imagining an effective strategy aimed at social transformation is an intrinsically complex matter, and no single method will succeed.

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brizzle born and bred/Flickr

My first job in the libertarian movement, beginning in 1979, was as research director for the long-gone Council for a Competitive Economy (CCE). It was an organization of business owners who opposed the sorts of government interventions that business owners typically favor: tariffs, import quotas, eminent domain on behalf of corporations (and anyone else, really), and bailouts. In other words, it was to be a principled—pure—pro-free-market presence in Washington, D.C, financed by business people. (In case you are wondering: yes, it was an early Koch-backed organization, and no, business people did not rush to join.)

One of CCE's first causes was opposition to the Chrysler bailout, $1.5 billion in government loan guarantees to keep the corporation from going out of business. Congress passed the bill, and President Jimmy Carter signed it in December 1979—in other words, we lost that one.

Later, CCE joined Ralph Nader in opposing Michigan's use of eminent domain to help GM build a Cadillac factory on what was then the old ethnic working-class Detroit neighborhood called Poletown. I fondly recall going to Detroit with CCE president Richard W. Wilcke to announce our opposition at a news conference; the defiant residents were so grateful. Unfortunately we lost that battle too. No one thought CCE's mission would be easy to accomplish.

One of the first projects I worked on personally was deregulation of the trucking industry. The period 1976-1980 was remarkable for deregulation. Remember Carter became president in 1977, and the powerful Sen. Edward M. Kennedy championed deregulation on grounds that it would be good for consumers. Ronald Reagan, who didn't take office until 1981, may have a reputation for having been a champion of the free market, but as Reagan economic adviser William Niskanen, later chairman of the Cato Institute, wrote, "Deregulation was clearly the lowest priority among the major elements of the Reagan economic program." (Niskanen acknowledged the areas in which Reagan championed deregulation.)

In 1978, however, thanks to the efforts of a diverse coalition spanning the political spectrum, the airline industry was significantly deregulated: routes, fares, and entry were no longer under government control. As a result, the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) was abolished. Abolished! Can you imagine it? 

Before deregulation, the government determined which airline could fly where and how much it could charge. If an airline wanted to fly a route already flown by other airlines, they could object before the CAB, arguing that no new carrier was needed. They usually prevailed. This squelching of competition obviously harmed consumers. Airline deregulation put an end to all that: airfares plummeted; budget airlines emerged; and flying suddenly was open to the rest of us. It is hard to overstate the change in lifestyles this ushered in for ordinary people.

The success in airline deregulation (and the earlier success at deregulating aspects of the railroads) boosted the cause of trucking deregulation. As with the airlines, a government bureau—the Interstate Commerce Commission—regulated entry, routes, and prices, with the predictable consequences: stifled competition, high rates, and inefficiency. Again, a diverse coalition assembled to lobby for deregulation. It included Naderites, shippers, Capitol Hill staffers (Kennedy again led the way in the Senate), and members of the broad pro-market community.

I attended many meetings in 1979-80, mostly to keep tabs on the coalition's progress and to give CCE a presence. (Otherwise my role was insignificant.) At these meetings Hill staffers updated us on what was going on in the congressional subcommittees and we suggested ways to make the emerging legislation better. What impressed me was how all those folks, despite their many differences, worked together. Most of the time I might have been the only libertarian there.

As a result of the coalition's work, Congress passed the Motor Carrier Act of 1980 and Carter signed it on July 1 of that year. The benefits of competition soon kicked in. By January 1996, the iconic ICC—America's oldest national regulatory agency (established in 1887)—was no more.

Were these perfectly libertarian reforms? Not by a long shot. The CAB is gone, but the government remains in control of airline safety through the Federation Aviation Administration, and governments at some level still operate airports. The ICC is gone, but many functions were transferred to the Surface Transportation Board within the Department of Transportation or the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Moreover, governments still operate roads and interstate highways. So these were hardly pure libertarian measures. By market anarchist standards they were even further from the mark.

But that doesn't mean they were worthless reforms, much less counterproductive. Loosening the government's grip on those industries—abolishing privileges for well-connected incumbent firms—made ordinary people's lives better. Further, they provided lessons that libertarians could use to push for competitive free markets in the future.

Did a libertarian group compromise its philosophy by supporting and even contributing to that partial deregulation? I cannot see how. Compromise would have consisted in passing up the chance to win radical deregulation in order to achieve partial deregulation. Or it would have meant being satisfied with partial deregulation and giving up the radical free-market cause. But no libertarian organization that I'm aware of did either of those things. CCE certainly did not. Rather, we took the advice of radical libertarian Murray Rothbard, not known as a compromiser, who used to say, "Take what you can get," then press for more.

In 1980 libertarians were in no position to abolish all trucking regulation, which would require divestiture of the interstate highways and other roads. That being the case, should libertarians have been silent about partial deregulation—or even opposed it—on the preposterous grounds that supporting it constituted an endorsement of the remaining regulation? Some might think so. But that "strategy" would not have been an act of uncompromising purity. It would not have been a blow for radical libertarianism. It would have been mere posturing and ideological self-gratification.

Imagining an effective strategy aimed at social transformation is an intrinsically complex matter, and no single method will succeed. A viable strategic mix must include, among other things, efforts to roll back the size and scope of the state incrementally. Government is unlikely to vanish all at once, so it is illegitimate to object that incremental changes can be reversed. (Of course they can—eternal vigilance, you know.)

This doesn't mean that everything billed as step in the right direction is actually such a step; that must be judged case by case. This is an art not a science. But it is not the case that because some proposals don't really serve the cause of freedom, no proposals can do so.

This piece originally appeared on Richman's "Free Association" blog. 

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  1. It would have been mere posturing and ideological self-gratification.

    Since posturing and ideological self-grafiication is the primary purpose of comments, you’ll find no sympathy from me here.

    No. Compromises. Ever.

    And, since comments are like voting (i.e., it really doesn’t matter), then I’m fine with that.

    DIE, STATIST SCUM!

    1. could we all file inside this thread in an orderly line and repeat what Brian said a few hundred times please? Every tenth comment should be from a neonazi, communist or ‘minuteman’ border policy lunatic. Thanx.

    2. Give me liberty or give me…Uber.

    3. “DIE, STATIST SCUM”

      Hey Brian,

      I’m seeing incredibly inspiring images of another planet that is 4 billion miles away from Earth on the screen of my new-and-improved ENIAC that is run on a platform inspired by a project from DARPA. I can’t get that excited though because to do some might violate Libertarian Absolutism– and she is a cold hard bitch as we all know.

      Eh, elon musk would have done better anyway. What the world really needed is another way to keep your money online anyway. There’s like 1,323,432 ways to do that now and from what I’ve heard about bernie sanders from reason.com it’s absolutely verboten to suggest that we don’t need a 1,323,433rd way.

      1. You really don’t know much about the history of the computer and the Internet, do you?

        When the Internet was finally opened to the great unwashed public in the early 1990s the IP (Internet Protocol) had less than 20% of the network market. There were several protocols in use at that time, with IPX having more than 80% of the market. IOW, DARPA has had a miniscule effect on the Internet. Most of the development was commercial. And more so with the PC.

        So stop claiming that we only have computers and the Internet because government. It makes you look stupid.

        1. Right. Because as we all know apple computer preceded the u.s. Army. I’m for a public sector and a private sector. You?

          1. I’m for private sector. Government should be about justice and defense, only. And ENIAC was not built BY the Army–it was built FOR the Army.

            Yes, the first computer was built for military purposes. But if the industry had remained military, then military purposes would be what your Apple would do today. Is IBM a military company? Was NCR. Digital? HP? There were lots of computers around doing civilian stuff before Steves Jobs and Wozniak got together.

            But I know this matters not to you because you worship government. You love NASA but do you know how many NASA manufacturers there are? None. Civilian companies build the components that go into NASA’s projects. NASA is a project manager when it comes to building stuff.

          2. I’m just glad that the MIC has some fans in the socialist camp.

          3. If we’re going to be retarded here, then I’ll claim that the Jacquard Loom clearly is the first programmable computer, and therefore all progress and innovation springs forth from french weavers.

  2. They may have deregulated the business end of trucking, but the FMCSA has basically hamstrung the operational side to the point that anyone who knows what they’re doing no longer wants to play the game.

    And when the fuck are they going to allow multi-combination set-ups on more interstates in more parts of the country? Having worked in Oz pulling 3 trailers at a time, and many years in Canada before that pulling b-trains, I’m left looking at the trucking business in America as horribly inefficient. You want more shit moved with less fuel and less emissions? Let’s knock it off with this pathetic 80,000 pound max single trailer standard. It’s pathetic.

    1. But Warren Buffet owns the railroads and that’s why we can’t have triple trailer trucks OR fucking oil pipelines, even though they are safer than oil trains.

      He supports Obama you know and Obama supporte him.

      I wonder why ?

      1. Leftwing fawning for Buffet makes me sick. He is the Croniest of Crapitalists.

        1. Excellent article re both the cronyism of Buffet and the transformation of banking into socialist enablement starting in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s

          http://www.realclearmarkets.co…..01739.html

      2. of course he is…not like the Republicans had control of things before Obama.

  3. Here is some “no longer” incremental change that is about to slap us all in the face.

    How are you gonna like someone living next door to you in similar housing that you paid market value for, paying less than half, or maybe next to nothing like section 8 ?

    Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing

    http://www.huduser.org/portal/affht_pt2.html

    Executive Summary here

    http://www.huduser.org/portal/…..ummary.pdf

    The country’s only hope to end this is to make some of the first “affirmativey furthered” housing transplants a white welfare queen with 10 snotty nosed kids with 4 different deadbeat fathers move next door to a college professor or nationally known journalist and have the government pay 90% of their housing costs. O maybe we could get lucky and have her move next door to a Hollywood liberal who loves him some Hugo Chavez and the no toilet paper Venezula society Chavez. created. Bernie is attacking our choices of deoderant but he is after our toilet paper whether he knows it or not, but I think he does. Venezula’s largest currency bill is now worth 16 American fucking cents and that is where we are headed with this type of government.

    Fleme on.

    1. Flame on.

      Totally correct on the change.

      But a total dumbfuck goober to equate it with Richman’s post

      Here is some “no longer” incremental change that is about to slap us all in the face.

      Have you got anything to expand and promote liberty? Or just anti-gummint screeching and ranting?
      Hint: Our founders had a lot mote than blinding rage and hissy fits. We know what they achieved; how about you?

      1. that is where we are headed

        That dire warning could have been written in 1770 or 1823 or 1885 or 1932 or 1968 or 2008…
        Funny how we never actually get there.

      2. Hiln you shold be careful.

        Hint: A toilet paper shortage would hit you more than most since you are so full of shit.

        You appear to have some butt hurt over my comment. Does this strike a nerve with you ? Do you teach at some community college or something similar ?

        You know Hiln I’m against illegal immigration. I’m for immigration because it’s the only way to keep Social Security solvent because the money has been spent on Gubmint programs to buy votes and the population had begun long term shrinkage due to some silly people thinking they were supposed to pay for their own children.

        But if if the country wanted to end it all we would have to do is begin to hire illegals to teach on college campi at lower wages with no tenure. Suddenly the professorial class would no longer espouse the benefits of unfettered imigraqtion.

        I’m going fishing.

        1. Yet more gooberism!

          A toilet paper shortage would hit you more than most since you are so full of shit

          They’re ALL immature cyber-bullies. He attacked Richman, right?

          You appear to have some butt hurt over my comment. Does this strike a nerve with you

          Can you also not read?

          Do you teach at some community college or something similar ?

          Actually, I’m a troll on George Soros’ payroll, part of the leftwing conspiracy led by our Kenyan President.

          None of your remaining babble responds to a word I said … or … (laughing) … a word YOU said.
          OF COURSE, you never defend your wacko conflation with Richman’s article. Or:
          “Have you got anything to expand and promote liberty? Or just anti-gummint screeching and ranting? ((Just more screeching))
          Hint: Our founders had a lot more than blinding rage and hissy fits. We know what they achieved; how about you? ((apparently nothing))

          hire illegals to teach on college campi at lower wages with no tenure. Suddenly the professorial class would no longer espouse the benefits of unfettered imigraqtion.

          Apparently, only anti-gummint screeching. Plus his own bizarre form of fascist slavery.

          Anyone else i believe it’s the “professorial class” who supports (or dominates) unfettered immigration????? It’s our ENTIRE Soros-financed conspiracy!

    2. “Fleme on”

      Seemed a bit of a French angle, but I’m with you….now I want crepes. I swear your endless food options on this planet is quite confounding.

      1. I know, right? Ever tried fried iguana?

        /Mexican Radio

        1. Meh, most reptiles just taste like chicken. I’ve had gator and lizard. I’ll stick with chicken, since it’s cheaper.

        2. barbequed iguana
          /wall of voodoo

          1. oops

  4. market anarchist standards

    Could somebody please define what “market anarchist standards” are? Thanks. Extra credit for explaining how there can be “standards” in a state of anarchy.

    1. I won’t attempt to define the term, but I will disagree that there cannot be standards within anarchy — anarchy being a political term meaning “state-less.” Let’s not give any more ammumition to Michael Kinsley (and countless, countless others) who conflate “society” with “government,” or “libertarianism” with “chaos.”

      1. I won’t attempt to define the term, but I will disagree that there cannot be standards within anarchy — anarchy being a political term meaning “state-less.”

        The term “standards” has become fairly synonymous with “government-sanctioned standards”. Privately agreed on “standards” are usually referred to as “de-facto standards” these days. I”m not saying it’s right, but that’s probably where the disagreement comes from.

        Personally, I think libertarian societies would have stricter de-facto standards than the current government standards we have. For example, vaccination rates would likely be higher, as would the level of education, product safety, environmental protection, job requirements, etc. That’s because government standards are constrained by the democratic process, which tends to weaken them even if they make sense. De-facto standards are simply adopted as they make sense to people, without being constrained by the veto of third parties who should have no say in private transactions between people.

      2. Educate yourselves on liberty.

        Free-market anarchism or market anarchism includes several branches of anarchism … Market anarchists seek to build a society that complies with the non-aggression principle, but hold diverse views on the desirability of capitalism and economic inequality.

        A branch of market anarchism is left-wing market anarchism such as mutualists …. Forms of geolibertarianism also fit into this group,

        On the other hand there exists anarcho-capitalism … There is a strong current within anarchism which does not consider that anarcho-capitalism can be considered a part of the anarchist movement …

        The term may be used to refer to diverse economic and political concepts such as those proposed by anarchist libertarian socialists like Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and Benjamin Tucker or alternatively anarcho-capitalists like Murray Rothbard…”

        Market Anarchism

        Umm, that’s how liberty works! Mindless conformity is the exact opposite.

        1. Umm, that’s how liberty works! Mindless conformity is the exact opposite.

          Most US keyboards have pretty much the same key layout. Most US cars have pretty much the same controls. Most shoes are pretty similar in form and function. Most pens are roughly the same size and work by one of a handful of different mechanisms. Why is that? Is there some draconian government standard or mandate? No. All of these are the result of self-organization in free markets, partly because of network effects, partly because of function. There is nothing “mindless” about that conformity.

          I think the reason why libertarianism is relatively unpopular because your generation of libertarian is big on political theory and understand next to nothing about economics. As a result, when you advocate for libertarianism, it comes across as something chaotic and libertine.

          1. I think the reason why libertarianism is relatively unpopular because your generation of libertarian is big on political theory and understand next to nothing about economics.

            You just whjned about a definition that I only posted, but you’ve always been a dumbass. Here’s the web archive of my published writing in economics … most of which may be way over your head. (laughing at the fool)

            Best of Liberty Issues (archive)

            Any questions, chump?

            1. Impressive! Your collection of self-published blog posts makes you almost as credible as an economist as Krugman!

              1. Goober Alert

                Impressive! Your collection of self-published blog posts makes you almost as credible as an economist as Krugman!

                As I predicted, most of them are over his head. Always-dumbass-Goober says Paul Krugman supports.
                1) Flat taxes
                2) Voters having direct control over which SINGLE level of government provides government programs … a long-standing libertarian proposal called “competing governments” (Force government levels to compete amongst themselves, like competitive bidding by voters)
                3) THE most comprehensive private healthcare reform on the planet (only one to address 75% of our healthcare costs

                Winbear is like the nuts who send wacko conspiracy emails — with phony links because goobers never check. In this case, I URGE anyone to click the index page (who doesn’t already know WinBear is a dumnbass goober — who can’t even tell the difference between blog posts and web pages of published articles.

                http://libertyissues.com/archive.htm

                Or perhaps WinBear is just a pathetic liar?

          2. Plus you’re pissed, because what my citation exposed your own long-winded own explanation as … long-winded.
            And totally irrelevant to the confused challenges..

            1. You weren’t responding to me, you were responding to “Libertarian”.

              1. Win Bear|7.14.15 @ 8:23AM|#
                You weren’t responding to me, you were responding to “Libertarian”.

                Liar
                https://reason.com/archives/201…..nt_5434715

    2. is english your second language? here is a protip: one word can mean more than one thing depending on its context. in this context, the author uses standards as in standards or behavior deemed ethical. This usage is obviously different from how you attempt to read it, as regulatory standards to determine what is legal. Anarchists have all sorts of standards which are as unique as each individual – standards of thought, dress and speech.

      1. the author uses standards as in standards or behavior deemed ethical

        “Ethical” according to whose standards? “Deemed ” by whom? You? If your neighbor disagrees, is he unethical? By what standard? An arbitrary one?

        Richman floats an abstraction without a definition, as if “market anarchist standards” is understood and accepted by all. Then you support his undefined assertion by writing, “Anarchists have all sorts of standards which are as unique as each individual.” In other words, the “standards” of anarchists are arbitrary and subjective.

        1. “By what standard? An arbitrary one?”

          YES YOU FUCKING NUMBSKULL People organize into things called societies. Those societies develop normative behavior called standards THIS HAPPENS WITHOUT GOVT INTERVENTION READ A DICTIONARY. Jesus Christ.

      2. in this context, the author uses standards as in standards or behavior deemed ethical

        That’s irrelevant in this context and fails to get at the point of the disagreement.

        Anarchists have all sorts of standards which are as unique as each individual – standards of thought, dress and speech.

        No, that’s quite wrong. Anarchist societies would probably have standards that are at least as strong and widespread as current government-imposed standards. That’s because in most areas, individuals and groups would choose to adopt those behaviors and standards that work best, and those tend to be the same for a lot of people.

        That is, people would adopt widespread de facto standards, rather than mandated standards.

        1. I have no idea why you are struggling to disagree with me as this: “That is, people would adopt widespread de facto standards, rather than mandated standards.” is almost exactly what I said, but I will concede. You win. Youre smarter than me. I crown you King of the Comments.

          1. is almost exactly what I said,

            Huh? This is what you wrote:

            Anarchists have all sorts of standards which are as unique as each individual – standards of thought, dress and speech.

            1. Huh? This is what you wrote:
              Anarchists have all sorts of standards which are as unique as each individual – standards of thought, dress and speech.

              True. You did not say the same as him.

              Yours was wacky as hell. Absent government coercion, people would evolved into standards that are voluntary but Groups would choose to adopt those behaviors and standards that work best, and those tend to be the same for a lot of people.”

              Everyone is not a mindless conformist like you. And your strange assertion had already been discredited here, which you also babbled about nonsensically

              https://reason.com/archives/201…..nt_5434377

              Sorry we aren’t more obedient to your will.

              The most likely anarchist society would be exactly the opposite of your claim. Your fallacy is looking at the society as one group, like a statist, instead of a wide variety of communities, each of which may or may no be unique.. Libertarians might for a community inside a current city. Libertarian communists as a sub or separate community. The possibilities are endless — but individuals are totally invisible in your scenario.

              Look around. We already see this in many “neighborhoods” to the extent it’s allowed in our current government structure. You’re what I call a “Plan B’ libertarian. No coercion, but massive social pressure to conform. Libertarian Progressives? PC Libertarians?

        2. No, that’s quite wrong. Anarchist societies would probably have standards that are at least as strong and widespread as current government-imposed standards

          There are MANY versions of anarchy, each with their own standards. Like libertarian communism. The libertarian conceit often winds up with a libertarian society for themselves, instead of a free society foe everyone, which I’ve described as:

          Galt’s Gulch is next to a Marxist commune ? lesbians up the street from a community of Christian Fundies ?. retired Catholic priests across the field from Wiccans. Each community voluntarily populated. A statue of Voltaire in the town square, “I may disagree with what you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it.”
          Copyright 2008-2015 by Michael J Hihn. All rights reserved and defended

          Compare that with Mary Ruwart’s 1000+ detailed rules of how a libertarian society would handle every conceivable situation.

          A free society would, of course, do whatever it’s people chose. Duh. But libertarians often get all hung up on theoretical details, have no clue what market economics includes, and are thus kinda useless in a political context … which they’re actually proud of!

          If you ask quickly, many libertarians will even fly into a rage at the suggestion of libertarian communism! No kidding.

          1. There are MANY versions of anarchy, each with their own standards.

            Anarchism is a form of political organization in which all transactions are voluntary and self-governing; how can there be “multiple forms” of that? People may choose to live in different ways within an anarchy, but as a form of political organization of a society, there is only one such form.

            many libertarians will even fly into a rage at the suggestion of libertarian communism

            No, we’ll just point out that that is wishful thinking by the left. An anarchist society would not end up communist or any of the other ways that many anarchist theorists have traditionally envisioned. Instead, it would end up self-organizing into a free market economy. We know that because the natural experiment has occurred many times over in human history.

            1. “There are MANY versions of anarchy, each with their own standards.”

              People may choose to live in different ways within an anarchy

              yeah, that’s what I said. There, and here.

              https://reason.com/archives/201…..nt_5434377

              Now you go flying off in the opposite direction!

              many libertarians will even fly into a rage at the suggestion of libertarian communism

              No, we’ll just point out that that is wishful thinking by the left.

              (lol) Make up your mind! You said “People may choose to live in different ways within an anarchy.” Now it’s wishful thinking!

              An anarchist society would not end up communist or any of the other ways that many anarchist theorists have traditionally envisioned.

              (sigh) I never said “society.” You collectivists see America as a single large society. Libertarians and individualists see a nearly infinite variety of communities and neighborhoods, which would become infinitely richer under minarchy/anarchy

              Instead, it would end up self-organizing into a free market economy. We know that because the natural experiment has occurred many times over in human history

              Your ignorance includes history.

    3. Seriously? Top men and pieces of paper are incapable of protecting liberty. By the standards of all this fighting for freedom, then this and other countries we’ve liberated should be the freest effing places. They are not, nor do those top men care to abide by the paper.

      Free individuals in a market free from force, theft and coercion would be considered market anarchist standards. You would protect your store or employ security services to provide protection. Someone coming to violate your liberty and property rights would face consequences of doing so. This could be security, or your sidearm, or the guard dog. They are heavily discouraged from robbing you, and it would be more advantageous to trade with you. Relying on “Top men” employing their own arm of the state creating mans law, and infringing upon the rights of the individual, to include restricting or banning their right to self defense won’t be more efficient.

      Dispute resolution would be through private arbiters. Examples of this include Amazon, EBay, and even companies themselves who don’t want an unsatisfied customer ruining their business because of a mistake.

      These are just some examples. And you shouldn’t go around thinking freedom and liberty (both can only be respected through anarchy) would result in chaos while ignoring the chaos that surrounds you.

      1. Freedom means choosing what you describe … or the exact opposite …or anything in between. Not your decision. Think outside the box.

  5. If the climate change idiots have their way there will be no trucking,or shiping,or air travel.That’s what ending the use of oil and gas will do. Also no air force and air force one.Al Gore can ride a horse to his meetings.And of course ,petro chemicals will be a thing of the past,along with man made fertilizer.Modern farming that feeds the world will gring to a halt All business will be local,if you can afford the pemits.Fruits and veggies will be on shelves only in certin times of the year in many places..This is the world of the progs. [I’m looking at you Tony and PB.]

    1. Al Gore will still fly a private jet. The elite Progs always make exceptions for themselves. It’s the new feudalism, and they see themselves as the new nobility. A giant step backwards for mankind.

    2. Your fever dreams are horrifying. I had a biology teacher in the ’70s who tried to scare us with a similar scenario. By 1984 (oooh!) the world would be out of oil, we’d be riding bicycles to work (if we even had a job), our diet would consist primarily of boiled millet and sunflower seeds, and the population, which had recently “exploded,” would soon be devouring itself. This was well before the ultimate comeback — “Cool story, bro!” — was in vogue.

      1. Do you still see that teacher?

        1. I’m not sure where he’s coming from.There’s plenty of oil and gas,and solar and wind can not replace them.In transportation ,chemicals and in farming.

        2. Do you still see that teacher?

          We ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.

    3. good work shoving the climate change denial square peg into the round hole that is a completely ubrelated thread. *checks box on form*. Now if we can just A. compare gay marriage to Hitler B. comapre muslims to hitler and C. compare all immigrants to Hitler we should be able to declare this thread a success and move on to the next thread. remember we have to get these messages out on *each and every thread* so step lively!

      1. You just want to ban wood chippers,I see right through you.I don’t care who marries who and think immigrants add value to this country no matter how they get here and am against the drug war and the war on ‘terror’..You sir are one of the idiots I talked about.Go to Salon and bitch.

        1. You can have my wood chipper when you pry it from my cold buckthorn stained fingers (or when the rental period is up)

        2. *checks final box on form* aaand weve got the “everyone who mocks me is a secret leftist”. great work everyone. this was extra credit. for future reference we accept any comment containing a neologism formed by the prefix prog- with a novel suffix.

          remember this is important work we are doing. if we were to just let one thread go by with an on-topic, sane & civil discussion the immigrant muslims who are superheating the earth would win and make everyone get an abortion

      2. ADHD is a terrible thing. Don’t mock its victims. This wall isn’t going to wail at itself.

      3. Climate Change ? You mean global warming ? Ha. Global warming is sooo 2015.

        2030 is when the next little ice age will be in full swing. All good citizens of the world need to ban together and expand their carbon footprint to save the world before it’s too late. Hell it may already be too late. Act now !

        http://goo.gl/aiTyp8

        1. yes .. take me literally humorless drone … MUHAHAHAHA

  6. Using the ratchet is how we got so much socialism. Using it in our favor, to reduce govt, is no more a compromise than is building a house one board at a time rather than trying to put all the pieces together at once.

  7. Progressives are much better at incremental change.

    1. We should learn from them.

  8. Fuck incremental change. Jefferson was right, although we are more likely to get the French Revoution than the American one.

    1. You mean like price controls and laws by the whim of the rulers?

      1. Exactly. So what do we have to lose?

    2. Jefferson wasn’t right because slaves.

  9. “I have no fear that the result of our experiment will be that men may be trusted to govern themselves without a master.”

    Thomas Jefferson

  10. Sometimes incremental change is good. Often, it gets you stuck in what in operations research is known as a “local minimum”, and in order to advance, you need to be willing to make things worse before they get better. Greedy optimization, that is, accepting whatever change that seems to improve things, usually doesn’t work.

    For example, giving Hillary Clinton and Dianne Feinstein gun permits decreases the number of people whose right to carry has been infringed upon by two, but it doesn’t advance the cause of Second Amendment rights. Exempting religious organizations from onerous restrictions on freedom of association may increase average freedom a little, but it is counterproductive if we care about freedom of association for everybody. Privatizing prisons reduces the size of government, but is actually an instance of crony capitalism, rent seeking, and corruption.

    I appreciate Sheldon Richman’s dedication to liberty, but he doesn’t seem like a good source of advice for political strategies or even political economics. Ultimately, he is a journalist and writer, reasoning about society and political change the way a medieval monk might reason about a nuclear reactor.

    1. Incrementalism has worked for socialism. There’s no reason it can’t work for liberty.

      1. Based on public choice theory, I think that the system has a bias in favor of incremental socialism, and against incremental liberty.

        I think that’s why most of the incremental liberty victories look like small roll-backs of select socialist victories.

        1. Perhaps. I’m not saying it would be easy.

        2. How far back do the socialist victories count? Because you can almost always cite that as your baseline.

          I can think of examples of total wins that proceeded by increments. One of them was decontrol of the number of broadcast stns. you can own in the USA. It was a #, then the # was increased, then it was increased again, & finally the lid was taken off. Alexander Shulgin chronicled the change in federal control status in steps of loperamide from CSA schedule 1 to OTC. Similarly, usury controls. CB, which would formerly have been outright forbidden, was 1st authorized via near-trivial licensing, then the license requirement was abolished.

    2. I think gay marriage is a good example of a local minimum. I was going to make a simulated annealing analogy last week, but never wrote it up.

      Reaching a local minimum can impede getting to the global minimum.

      1. I don’t think that gay marriage is a local minimum. It increases the infringements on people’s liberties overall.

        I think it is strategically a good thing because it may bring around social conservatives whose liberties are being infringed to libertarian viewpoints, as they may come to understand that if they don’t want their liberties being infringed, they need to stop infringing on other people’s liberties.

    3. The local min/max problem exists, but also operating in favor of further advances is the slippery slope & propaganda by deed. Once people see a demonstration of something good, they want more of it.

  11. “A viable strategic mix must include, among other things, efforts to roll back the size and scope of the state incrementally.”

    Sorry, because the “we won” crowd on either side feels they can ignore liberty and impose their own form of force, theft, coercion and violence against others.

    The incremental movement away from liberty has been far more rapid than things done to preserve it. You cannot expect the state who took 89 years to “end” slavery, and a combined 165 years to end the black codes and jim crow laws, to be efficient at respecting or restoring the right to freedom and liberty that belongs to the individual.

  12. ” A viable strategic mix must include, among other things, efforts to roll back the size and scope of the state incrementally.”

    Why do i have a vague memory of Sheldon previously denouncing Incrementalism as the tool of the Devil?

    1. not here

      “I see no reason for libertarians, in the name of purity, to withhold support for steps that make real progress toward liberty and pave the way for more.

      The libertarian movement needs individuals and organization that devote their efforts to sound incrementalism, just as it needs those who do nothing more than teach pure libertarian philosophy. These approaches need not be at odds. In fact, they are complementary. One without the other is unlikely to succeed because society is unlikely to turn libertarian or dismantle the state all at once. Incrementalism without a guiding philosophy probably won’t get us all the way to where we want to go, while merely issuing declarations about libertarianism is unlikely to bring about change.”

      Was it in that bit about Conservatarians?

  13. Mr Richman, “incremental change” for the better, where government is concerned, is pure fantasy on your part.

    Please come to your senses before it causes you major problems 🙂 .

    Question : How much larger is the government now than it was when these partial reforms you detail were enacted? Hmmm?

    I believe that for the individual interested in increasing their own personal freedom [as opposed to supposedly “freeing” everyone else], it is important to put aside/see through many dreams/fantasies.

    The “libertarian” [or “conservative”, or “liberal” for that matter] idea of positive incremental change where government is concerned, is one of many dangerous and time wasting fantasies for freedom seeking individuals to mistakenly hold on to.

    Dream On?

    It’s just another part of “the dream”,[ or “the matrix”, if you like], a dream that needs to be thoroughly seen through if more personal freedom is genuinely desired.

    Music: Dreams[ Anarchist Blues]: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w0o-C1_LZzk

    Regards, onebornfree.
    Personal Freedom Consultant: http://www.freedominunfreeworld.blogspot.com

    1. The “libertarian” [or “conservative”, or “liberal” for that matter] idea of positive incremental change where government is concerned, is one of many dangerous and time wasting fantasies for freedom seeking individuals to mistakenly hold on to.

      I agree. In fact, Richman is deluded in believing that using government to implement change is even the right approach. Any laws libertarians manage to pass, no matter how incremental, will just be subject to regulatory capture. The belief that incremental change through government action and lawmaking is the solution to society’s problems is the hallmark of progressivism.

      From a libertarian point of view, the best thing is if government and lawmaking simply grind to a halt. Most laws effectively disappear over time both because new technologies make them irrelevant and because judges and police stop enforcing them. Most budgets, expenses, benefits, and fines become irrelevant as they become inflated away. If laws are passed, the most useful ones to the libertarian cause are not the ones that implement a smidgen of libertarianism, but the ones that demonstrate the absurdity of current government regulation (SSM is an example).

      What libertarians should aim for is not compromise and incrementalism, but to have Democrats and Republicans hating each other to the point that they can’t get anything done. Without a constant update of repressive and anti-libertarian laws, society becomes more free all by itself.

      1. Any laws libertarians manage to pass, no matter how incremental, will just be subject to regulatory capture.

        How has abolishing the draft in the USA & other countries resulted in regulatory capture? How have shall-issue gun carry permit laws led to regulatory capture?

        From a libertarian point of view, the best thing is if government and lawmaking simply grind to a halt.

        So conservatism?losing as slowly as possible?is best for freedom? I see enormous staying power for most adverse enactments. A few are made irrelevant by technology. Some stop being enforced because of policy decisions to deprioritize their enforcement, not because things are kept the way they are. Most laws that stop being enforced do so because everybody complies & nobody thinks they can get away with violating them. But the vast majority just keep on being enforced for centuries if allowed to, long after the reasons for their enactment are forgotten. Example: marrying a sibling or parent.

        1. How has abolishing the draft in the USA & other countries resulted in regulatory capture? How have shall-issue gun carry permit laws led to regulatory capture?

          It hasn’t; being “subject to regulatory capture” doesn’t mean that regulatory capture happens with every single law. It means that every law you attempt to pass carries a high risk of being used for regulatory capture. It’s the same with nanny state legislation; it’s not that every single such law fails to do something useful, it’s just that most of them do more harm than good.

        2. So conservatism?losing as slowly as possible?is best for freedom?

          Conservatism in the real world doesn’t mean “conserving our old laws as they are”, it means “passing new laws to return society to a state that we imagine it used to be in”. In fact, one big problem with conservatism is that that state never actually existed; “social conservatives” really are no different from progressives in that they want society to actively change society so that it is different from any way it has ever been before.

          But the vast majority just keep on being enforced for centuries if allowed to, long after the reasons for their enactment are forgotten. Example: marrying a sibling or parent.

          Marrying a sibling or parent in a legal sense is only relevant if you care about the government handouts and privileges that go along with that. Since the handouts and privileges become less and less relevant over time, so does the legal marriage.

    2. Question : How much larger is the government now than it was when these partial reforms you detail were enacted? Hmmm?

      How much larger would it have been without them?

  14. Finally, a Sheldon Richman piece I agree with 100%. The Fabian Socialists did it, so we can, too.

    The statists are good at it, partly because they use sweeping generalizations (“helping the poor”) that sound better to many people than our generalizations (“liberty’). That can be overcome with specifics: does this program help the poor? How much does it cost? What are its side effects? Is there a better way? Can we test five other ways at the same time and see which one works best?

    Get into the specifics. Focus on specific problems. Highlight the amounts we already spend to try to solve the problems the left talks about. That undercuts if not destroys their arguments about spending more money on them. I once stumped a leftist friend about homelessness in San Francisco by pointing out that the city spent (IIRC) $200 million a year on the problem. She had to agree that lack of money spent was not the problem. If we can convince voters that the problem is not lack of money spent, there goes the appeal of pretty much every statist political proposal.

    1. Get into the specifics. Focus on specific problems. Highlight the amounts we already spend to try to solve the problems the left talks about. That undercuts if not destroys their arguments about spending more money on them.

      Believing that lawmaking is about rational arguments and objective benefits is just out of touch with reality. Lawmaking is primarily about power, influence, political careers, lobbyists, regulatory capture, rent seeking, and donations. The people who stand to win or lose billions are much better at convincing politicians and voters of their point of view than a principled libertarian with some long-range dreams.

      The only way to win at this game is not to play. Libertarians should say “no” just as much to deregulation as to regulation, to privatization as to socialization, to laws simplifying taxes as to laws making tax law more complicated. No matter its intention, any law that gets passed is likely to be primarily a vehicle for new rent seeking and new regulatory capture.

      We don’t need government reform; the power of government and intrusive laws evaporates gradually over time all by itself unless it’s constantly refreshed.

      1. You might as well say, “Why live? You’ll only wind up dying.”

        1. Not at all. It’s more like medicine: with many medical problems, you’re better off letting your body heal itself than relying on drugs and surgery.

          1. It’s more like medicine: with many medical problems, you’re better off letting your body heal itself than relying on drugs and surgery.”

            Except ALL government problems can be improved by surgery since all laws and regs are subject to repeal.

            1. “Repeal” of laws often ends up being a massive “replace … with …” exercise.

              Deletion of whole laws is somewhat less prone to abuse, but even there, given that our legal system is alternating layers upon layers of rent seeking and attempts to limit rent seeking, even deleting laws one by one may make things considerably worse.

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  16. The only way though to get incremental change/rollback at the federal level is to prepare the ground at the local level. I’m more convinced than ever that one reason for the transfer of stuff to government and from local to federal is division of labor. As stuff gets complicated, we just prefer to let someone else do it and reduce our own responsibility for self-governance to periodic voting/whining.

    Take schools for example. Before we began consolidating individual school boards into ‘school districts’ (mostly during the 1940’s and 1950’s), the US had over 120,000 school ‘governance’ entities (setting local mil rates, hire/fire teachers, curriculum, etc). That means nearly 1 million people had to be on a school board for their local elementary/etc school. It was a part-time duty and parents who had 2 kids in elementary school and/or people who were focused on local property values were the ones who did that stuff.

    Now we have 14,000 school districts – all run by full-time professionals more focused on centralizing curriculum, backslapping with unions, and finding ways to suck on bigger teats for funding.

    Can’t break up that centralizing of education without breaking up the consolidated ‘school districts’ which caused it. And that means – where are the 1 million Americans who will start to again help running individual schools again? Those folks who did it then are dead now – and Americans have kind of gotten used to not joining local groups now.

    1. The only way though to get incremental change/rollback at the federal level is to prepare the ground at the local level.

      No, that’s not the only way. In fact sometimes it’s vice versa. Take for instance Jim Crow in the USA.

      1. Well that is completely irrelevant re the only issue I raised – school governance. The FACT is that the Jim Crow South had already organized into centralized school districts in the late 1800’s (along with New England). The only way to ‘manage’ segregated schools is to have at least TWO of each of them to manage so that you have something to segregate. That means districts. And Vanderbilt School of Education (based on its experiences managing segregated school districts in the Jim Crow South) was actually a major impetus for centralizing school control into districts in the 40’s/50’s (in North and West).

        Further, now that Jim Crow is broken and the 14th amendment finally applies to all individual Americans (which it didn’t until the 1950’s or so), I fully expect and support the feds doing what they’re obligated to do – ensure that that crap doesn’t get re-implemented. That is a far cry from the feds running things directly.

        One thing I can guarantee though. There is not going to be anything even partially and workably ‘libertarian’ implemented from the top down from DC. Not a snowball’s chance in hell of that. The only things Richman is talking about are purely interstate commerce things – not the slew of non-constitutional stuff the feds do. The anarcho doofuses will never deliver a damn thing. So either local skills/willingness to self-govern forces decentralization – or NOTHING WILL HAPPEN.

        1. You said schools were an example.

          1. Well the spectre of Jim Crow is now a strawman. Reality is that Reconstruction ended on the South’s terms – and the 14th Amendment was NEVER applied to anyone in the South after Reconstruction ended. That was the context in which Jim Crow developed. And that context ended once the 14th Amendment WAS finally applied 70 or so years later. Don’t confuse me with some fucking neoconfederate dinosaur who doesn’t believe there is such a thing as an AMERICAN citizen.

            Decentralization works in Canada. It works in Switzerland. It works (somewhat) in Germany. It is NECESSARY for any Hayekian or Smithian free market. It has created virtually every post-WW2 governance ‘success’ – from the breakup of colonial empires to the ‘success’ of China to the still-hesitant stuff going on in ‘artificial’ countries.

            What is stunning to me now is that the country which originated this idea – which provided the core of the ideas to everyone else in the world – is now allergic to it, petrified of it, and is now advocating centralization of virtually everything.

            1. the 14th Amendment was NEVER applied to anyone in the South after Reconstruction ended

              That repeals it??????

              Decentralization works in Canada.

              Not even close to what you imply.

              This sounds like the fascist asshole, Ron Paul, who says states have powers which have never been delegated, and citizens have NOBODY to defend their unalienable rights from oppressive government.

              In 1937, Orval Faubus mobilized his state militia to block the registration of nine black kids in Little Rock’s Central High School. Eisenhower dispatched federal troops ordered to use force, if needed, to , defend the rights of nine school kids.

              (Arkansas had “separate but equal” schools districts you may have misrepresented)

              Faubus backed down, later pissing and moaning about an oppressive federal government — same as the Klan had originally done — same as Ron and Rand Paul do today. A disgrace to individual liberty.

              I protested for equal rights in the late 1950s … and will fight the same oppression today and until my last breath.

  17. The period 1976-1980 was remarkable for deregulation.

    I didn’t realize until years later that that was largely due to…Richard Nixon! I which economist, might’ve been Manne, who was instrumental in getting the draft abolished, who wrote about this in a book that might’ve been from CATO, maybe CCE, maybe CEI. The Nixon administration established several commissions on deregul’n. Most of them didn’t deliver their reports until Nixon was out of office, & in some cases Ford too. Their reports were influential on Congress during the Carter admin.

    There was, however, one big report from a commission of that time that failed to get its recommend’n adopted, and that was decontrol of marijuana. The Schafer Commission delivered its report possibly too early, while Nixon was still in office. The Carter admin. looked like it might yet deliver, but changed course. What they did get was licensure of Marinol, which a less sympathetic admin. might’ve made more difficult.

    1. I believe it was Friedman who was instrumental in getting the draft abolished.

    2. I didn’t realize until years later that that was largely due to…Richard Nixon!

      Here’s Cato on Nixon’s Wage and Price Controls:

      http://www.cato.org/publicatio…..e-controls

      It was mostly Ted Kennedy, so the tribal right lies a lot.
      And began under another Democrat, Senator Hart. At the time, the populist left was way ahead of the right in seeing regulation as crony capitalism for featured players. For example, Hart began it as chair of the Senate Antitrust Committee, believing more open competition would help prevent monopolies.

  18. …particularly when libertarians are a minority within a minority and haven’t yet come to terms with that fact.

    1. What minority are [radical] libertarians a minority within? Aren’t we a minority in many minorities, as well as in many majorities?

    2. Cato survey found 59% of Americans self-define as libertarian.
      Cato also found the libertarian LABEL is rejected by 91% of libertarians … which is why you can’t see us (unless you’re a savvy pollster)

  19. One crank. One brick. Several windows.

  20. The problem with incremental change is it’s not a strategy for getting people to appreciate the free market in the first place. It’s a strategy for progs because it’s how they gradually change the culture to make their policies seem like common sense. But Libertarians need to change minds first to get people to realize they don’t need government to solve all of their problems. A great start would be getting rid of publicly subsidized education.

    1. The closer to a free market you operate, the more people appreciate how it operates.

      1. Uber is very popular with lefty millenials. That is how libertarian ideas can succeed – with popular and successful examples.

  21. Whenever this topic comes up, I can’t help but notice that it’s aimed at the supposed opponents of incremental reform, without ever naming a particular reform.

    And when we look at proposed reforms, 99% of the time the issue is that people disagree on whether it’s a step forward or backward, not disagreement with the idea of incremental reform.

    So this article is kind of useless.

    1. Well, it gave the comentariat something to do in Sunday, so it had some use.

  22. “Government is unlikely to vanish all at once” is of course true, and that is not a libertarian goal anyway. Making government “vanish” is either a Marxist goal (arrival of the communist man) or an anarchist one.

    In a world full of bad and potentially bad actors, collective defense is needed, and therefore nation status is needed. Maintenance of a nation requires some level of government.

    The other uncomfortable truth is that some level of revenue is also required for that government. All the posturing about tariffs is just noise as well. My preferred approach is a tax free internal market with national government funding via flat import/export tariffs. Flat, as in the same rate on everything that comes in and goes out.

    In any case, these statements that imply we believe that government will one day go away harm our credibility with the rest of the public. They KNOW that is BS, and it makes them believe we are crackpots. We really need to stop this.

    1. and it makes them believe we are crackpots. We really need to stop this.

      Even Ayn Rand roughly said the same thing. I suspect even a large majority of her admirers would describe her as extreme. So the ant-gummint purists are even more extreme than Ayn Rand!

      Rand was an incrementalist. Voluntary taxation, the label of her time, would be the last step, not the first step, toward a free society. The last reform, not the first, to propose.

      This assumes a functioning government all the way. Our goobers think that belligerent bellowing alone came create a free society. The wackier ones even say that only a “control freak” would even seek to govern! (seen here on Reason yesterday). Passing laws is “fascist,” you see.

      First we must change the culture. Screeching at them from an ivory tower has failed for about 40 years. An 18-year-old sales trainee would not be so stupid!

      Meanwhile, Cato found the libertarian label rejected by 91% of libertarians.

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