Public Choice

What the Left Should Like about Public Choice

People are people whether they are acting in the marketplace or in the political arena.

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Although the public choice school of political economy has been demonized in a new work of putatively progressive fiction masquerading as intellectual history, good-faith leftists (if they don't already regard themselves as libertarians) may be surprised by how their cause could benefit from the insights of James Buchanan et al. (For reviews of the book I'm referring to, see among others this, this, and this. To keep up with the daily sightings of misquotations, fabrications, and smears, read Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek.)

Full disclosure: despite its many valuable insights, I find less to like in public choice theory, at least its most common variant, than many (nonlibertarian) leftists would. For one thing, I (like Murray Rothbard) don't share the view that the state is just another way (along with the market) in which we assert our personal preferences and obtain goods and services. (Public choice versus private choice.) The state is a predator and an exploiter, not a cooperative venture for the production of "public goods." I don't see how a hypothetical social contract or constitutional convention changes that. And I'm underwhelmed by the constitutional contractarian argument that, while the state indeed coerces, we in effect have consented to be subject to the state's threats of violence.

On the other hand, I like the methodological and moral egalitarian individualism at the base of public choice—and so should all leftists of good faith. Everyone has the right to be free of aggression; no one is naturally endowed with authority over others. But I am uneasy about the fact that that the consequent unanimity principle in practice becomes something far less than literal unanimity.

For me it's not enough that the decrees of legislatures are passed under constitutional rules everyone perhaps would agree to were they gathered at a convention. As Rothbard pointed out, such hypothetical unanimity can easily become a device to legitimize almost anything the government does. I realize that concern about the production of important "public goods," such as security and dispute resolution, underlies much of this, but perhaps this concern betrays an underappreciation for the power of entrepreneurship, technology, and cooperation through nonstate channels.

For a long time some heavy thinkers thought lighthouses couldn't be produced on the market. As for the market production of security, a voluminous interdisciplinary literature has become available to show how feasible that would be. (Start here. By the way, it's wrong to think that a stateless society would lack a constitution.)

Elements on the left should also be delighted by public choice scholars' development of the theory of privilege-seeking (or "rent-seeking"). It's an old observation, really: when the state's personnel have favors to dispense, people in the private sector will invest resources to obtain them. Such favors are by nature impositions on third parties. They may take the form of cash subsidies, taxes and regulations that hamper or quash competition and raise incomes in a nonmarket manner, and other devices. But the principle is the same: private- and government-sector individuals collude to use the state's coercive power to obtain what they could not obtain through voluntary exchange for mutual benefit. It's a theory of exploitation the good-faith left should embrace.

By the same token, the state's personnel, seeing opportunities to sell favors, are just as likely to initiate the privilege-seeking process. In this sense, public choice scholars are right when they see the political arena as a series of exchanges. The big difference with the marketplace, however, is that in the political arena the largest group of people is forced to participate.

The bottom line on privilege-seeking, which should interest the left, is this: the people with the greatest access to power will not be those the left cares most about, but those who run Boeing and ExxonMobil and GE and Lockheed Martin. Wealth transfers will tend overwhelmingly to be upward.

This raises a point that is most closely identified with Public Choice, namely, that people are people whether they are acting in the marketplace or in the political arena: the behavior of government personnel and voters must be analyzed according to the logic of human action, accounting for the different institutional incentives in the two contexts. In other words, if it is safe to assume that people are in some sense self-regarding (not necessarily "selfish") in the marketplace, then we have no reason to assume they are otherwise when they take government jobs or step into the voting booth.

If you think that people in the private sector are kept from doing the right thing by personal considerations, then you have no grounds for thinking political actors and voters will be different. (As an Aristotelian, I don't think that—outside the political arena—doing the right thing and pursuing one's own interests differ in principle.)

Stepping beyond the public choice premise, however: I embrace Robert Higgs's (and F. A. Hayek's) important point that while people are certainly people no matter where they are, different sorts of people are attracted to power over others. "Decent people, virtually by definition," Higgs says, "do not seek to exercise political power over their fellows." He continues:

Honorable people, taking a wrong turn and blundering into positions of political leadership, would last no longer than a nun in a brothel. If ruthless rivals did not displace them at the earliest opportunity, the scrupulous people would soon remove themselves in disgust. People who lack pugnacity do not succeed as prize fighters; people who lack a talent for lying, stealing and, if need be, abetting homicide do not succeed in modern politics.

Lord Acton said, "Power tends to corrupt," but it also tends to attract the already corrupt. The left stands to gain by taking this insight seriously.

Good-faith leftists, those who really care about people handicapped by corporatism, should find many public choice insights amenable to their cause. If they care about the economically disfranchised, they should be suspicious of welfare programs and health care plans concocted and run by the very perpetrators of that disfranchisement. And they should take to heart the analyses of leftists such as Francis Fox Piven and Richard Cloward, who have shown that the U.S government's apparent beneficence (like Bismarck's pioneering German welfare state) works by design to tamp down thoughts about radical change.

Progress is the child of liberation from, not subordination to, the state.

This piece was originally published by The Libertarian Institute.

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208 responses to “What the Left Should Like about Public Choice

  1. Commenter shitstorm in 3, 2…

    1. There is no such thing as a good faith leftist. They are all motivated by hatred of freedom and love for Musselmen and sodomites and Mexicans.

      How’s that?

      1. Apple sauce?

        1. Mott’s is better.

      2. Bill was pretty good.

      3. There is no such thing as a good faith leftist.

        You must distinguish between the Progressive Leftist, and Leftists in general. The problem with Progressivism is that it’s progressivist, not that it’s leftist.

        Progressivism: “Society can and must be engineered by intelligent and correct thinking rulers”. It’s a philosophy predicated on the existence of a strong and intrusive state.

        Leftism: “The classic liberal ideas of individualism are good, but we mistrust the concentration of economic power.” It’s a philosopy that can accept a non-propertarian libertarianism and anarchism. Such people can even be persuaded that danger of concentrated wealth comes from the state, that it’s okay not to tax away every spare dime someone earns.

        1. Or we’re just people who look to other states for examples, figure out where people are doing the best, and seek to implement some of those tested policies where we live. That the best places to live happen to be relatively highly taxed is just a fact to deal with, not a reason to reject all standards of objectivity and reason.

          Build the well-being equivalent of Denmark except with low taxes and then we’ll have lots to discuss.

          1. Except Denmark and scandanavia have had to go the other way because that stuff ran out of momentum and other peoples money like the rest of them.

            You have to stop being a broken record with the Denmark example when it has long since been debunked as a half-truth

            THERE ARE NO STATES WHERE SOCAILISM MIXED WITH TRACES OF CAPITLISM WORK!! YOU GODDAM MORON!!!!
            there is free market capitalism and then there is everything else. Everything else eventually deteriorates and fails unless they relax the socialism and regulations and let for-profit business make progress again.

          2. Denmark == rampant unemployment. But I guess to some people that’s not a problem but the goal. No one needs to work if someone else can manage to pay for it.

            1. RE: Denmark == rampant unemployment

              According to Google, Denmark’s unemployment rate is 5.7%. Why shouldn’t I take that at face-value?

        2. RE: progressivism

          Not saying your definition is necessarily wrong, but it does seem a bit…tailored…towards something that libertarians just so happen to love to hate. When I think of progressivism, I think of it as the other side of the spectrum from conservatism. It’s the idea that society can and should always be improving, along with having no particular attachment to traditions.

          1. Well, I’m old enough to remember when “liberal” used to mean something other than SJWism and progressive hand wringing. The differences are in the underlying philosophies. I think MOST leftist ideologies are dangerously naive at best, but then again, most right wing ideologies are as well. But merely being on the Left does not mean one is a pro-state socialist. One must take a tiny bit of care when using language.

      4. I love Mexicans. And hate sodomites. What do you label me MAN.

      5. I like Mussels!!

    2. I thought this was one of the better SR columns. I’ve never met a good faith leftist, but whatever.

      1. Never? How would you know?

        Most politicians are full of shit, but I think that most regular people with leftist politics honestly hold the views that they profess.

        1. Never? How would you know?

          Objectivism.

        2. How would you know?

          Questions, just like you are doing. Since I can’t read minds, I have to take them at their word. Within my admittedly constrained social circles, the leftists I question do not base their beliefs upon good faith reasons or assumptions. They all, to a one, assume malignity in their political and philosophical opponents. If I disagree with [insert idea] I’m evil. That is what they tell me.

    3. The “left” I have observed are altruistically motivated and truly believe they want what is best for everyone. Given that degree of moral superiority there is just no way that power concentrated in their hands could ever be bad. The poor would be brought up, the wealthy brought down, and everyone lives happily ever after.

      I’m pretty sure Pol Pot would agree.

  2. “All governments suffer a recurring problem: Power attracts pathological personalities. It is not that power corrupts but that it is magnetic to the corruptable. Such people have a tendency to become drunk on violence, a condition to which they are quickly addicted.”

    Frank Herbert, Chapterhouse Dune, Missionaria Protectiva

    1. Actual research has shown that the corporate world attracts a disproportionate number of psychopaths. Since the premise is that this is a bad thing, oughtn’t we do away with that too?

      1. I’ve yet to see many corporations claim a monopoly on the initiation of violence, but if one does, then sure.

        Given the extent that Big Business is entirely dependent on Big Government for a lot of its most heinous shit, it looks to me like a two-birds-one-stone situation.

        1. I struggle to see how we eliminate the phenomenon of certain personality types asserting power over others when the people on this board can’t even figure out how they’d get along with leftists.

          1. I can’t speak for other people on Hit’n’Run, but it seems blindingly obvious that the only way you’re ever going to keep power out of the hands of pathological people is by getting rid of the power itself.

            1. So if someone wants to assert power over you, say by shooting you, how do you get rid of the “power itself”? Take away their gun? Lobotomize them so that they no longer want to assert power over you? Power is something people do, it’s not magic lighting in a jar.

              1. Power is shooting you and facing no consequences.

                Little things like demanding that those who enforce the law must actually follow it as well.

                Things like checks and balances, as opposed to deference.

              2. ‘So if someone wants to assert power over you, say by shooting you, how do you get rid of the “power itself”?’

                The right of individual self defense is the check on that power.

                Power will always exist, but the goal is to keep as many checks on the concentration of that power through individual empowerment.

                1. That was a mere example. The claim was that malicious power exists somehow apart from the people who practice it, in the institution of government itself. The claim is that if only we got rid of the institution that people use to impose power, we wouldn’t have that problem.

                  So my question is what’s to stop them from building the institution (or some means of imposing force on others) anyway? Some external force must exist to prevent the accumulation and exercise of too much power, and I just don’t think passing out copies of Atlas Shrugged to all the children will do the trick.

                  1. Some external force must exist to prevent the accumulation and exercise of too much power

                    Actually, no. That’s the conundrum. There is no external force. That’s the point of documents like the Constitution or Magna Carta. That those those who swear an oath to follow those words will actually follow the words. Outside that, no. There is no way to prevent it. Other than violently rising up to expel the current dictatorship and install the new one.

                  2. I like your typical corporate greed-power rant above. I don’t know of any corporations that extort tax money from their customers at the point of a gun.
                    I don’t know of any corporations that don’t run a cost-benefit analysis when they are about to spend billions of dollars.
                    I don’t know of any corporations that take money from their customers and give that money to other customers.
                    I don’t know of any corporations that spend massive amounts of money of projects that have absolutely no return on investment with money that they got from somewhere else.

                    I know your are an ignorant Marxists but were you to learn anything ever, you would understand that a for-profit motive, which can only be achieved by smart capitalists, provides far more benefits and opportunity for advancement than anything a dipshit bureaucrat could ever dream up.
                    I realize that is is pointless to have a conversation with the brainwashed but could anyone ever get through to this guy to at least admit that a centuries worth of attempted Marxism has failed every single time: N Korea, USSR, CUba, Venezuela, Vietnam, Cambodia, El Salvador, Chile, Iron Curtain countries, African socialists, South Africa,

                    YOU SUCK!!!

                  3. Some external force must exist to prevent the accumulation and exercise of too much power, and I just don’t think passing out copies of Atlas Shrugged to all the children will do the trick.

                    Who said it would?

                    So my question is what’s to stop them from building the institution (or some means of imposing force on others) anyway?

                    I’m not sure if this is an answerable question. That’s the very nature of government.

          2. >>>I struggle to

            I’d advise to not start a sentence like that @hnr…

      2. It’s not necessarily and argument for no government. It’s a warning for people not to put much trust in the sort of people who seek government positions.

        As for the psychopaths in business, I’d much rather have them there than in government where they don’t actually have to produce anything that people want.

        1. Except unlike people in business, they’re accountable to every citizen in their jurisdiction at regular intervals called elections. Not producing things people want tends to be bad reelection strategy.

          1. Except unlike people in business, they’re accountable to every citizen in their jurisdiction at regular intervals called elections.

            How’s that working out for this country? You’ve got no complaints, right?

            1. Poorly because the very libertarians who fund this magazine think they know better than everyone else and so have bought off democracy one district at a time.

              1. “We libertarians are too principled and live-and-let-live to run for office at high rates, and that’s why we have so little power. ”

                So, you make one post admitting libertarians have no power, then you claim they own democracy.

                Which boogeyman is it, guy?

                1. It’s the same one. Those two libertarians actually took the initiative to do what I claimed you guys want to do–destroy democracy so you can impose your own system on everyone, because you just know better.

                  1. so you can impose your own system on everyone

                    What libertarians want is a lack of imposition. How is that an imposition, except upon those who impose?

                    Hello?

                    1. HOW DARE YOU IMPOSE FREEDOM ON ME!!!

                  2. Assuming you are talking about the Kochs, didn’t they give up on the strategy that you are deliberately mischaracterizing years ago when they realized that backing mainstream Republicans was not really an effective way to advance the libertarian cause?

                    1. No, the Koch’s (and others’) willingness to fund Republican primary challengers is a main cause of the Republican party’s inability to compromise or accomplish anything. They’re not accountable to constituents, but to wealthy ideologues. Which is a pretty efficient way of achieving what you’ll never get via democracy. Better hope they (we call them oligarchs in other contexts) remain on your ideological side, though.

                    2. Now that’s cute. Elections are won by money alone, except when your team spends more money and loses. Then it’s always something else. The other side cheated. Always. Because you’re destined to win. Or something.

                  3. If it’s the same one, why are you simultaneously arguing they own everything but have no power.

                    What about you CLEARLY contradicting yourself do you not understand.

                    1. Here’s what you’re not seeing. Libertarianism, or at least a corrupted, real-world version of it, has lots of power in the form of the Republican party. It has gone full-on radical pro-capitalist anti-safety net. It’s only gotten “better” with time as the impure are purged. And they control both elected branches of the federal government and many state governments. You would be thrilled with this if not for the little problem that Republicans are doing exactly what I said: trying to impose their radical ideology on people who are resisting via what democratic means remain.

                    2. “Here’s what you’re not seeing. Libertarianism, or at least a corrupted, real-world version of it, has lots of power in the form of the Republican party”

                      Here’s what you’re not seeing.

                      Libertarians are not Republicans.

                    3. Here’s what you’re not seeing.

                      Libertarians are not Republicans.

                      All of Tony’s arguments devolve into attacks on men of straw.

                    4. The fact that libertarians align with Dems on say, pot legalization, doesn’t make them Dems to Tony, but one grain ruins the loaf when it’s Republicans they align with.

                    5. So find us some libertarian billionaires who prioritize weed legalization over tax cuts for billionaires.

                    6. So, find me somewhere in your stupid ass reply anything that has anything to do with what I posted, retard.

                    7. Libertarians don’t “align with Dems on say, pot legalization’.

                      Libertarians don’t align with Dems on anything.

                      While the end ‘pot legalization’ uses the same words, the version Dems want and the version libertarians want are wholly different.

                      Dems want a tightly controlled system that tracks all users, growers, and sellers, taxing and regulating at each level. The power of the state expands.

                      Libertarians want someone to de-schedule pot and get the hell out of the way. The power of the state ebbs.

                      See the difference?

                    8. All of Tony’s arguments devolve into attacks on men of straw.

                      This is completely untrue. Some of them start out as superficial tautologies.

                    9. Nail meet hammer

                      Thanks.

                    10. It has gone full-on radical pro-capitalist anti-safety net.

                      Oh yeah. That’s why they just completely repealed Obamacare and are about to do away with food stamps and medicare. There’s hardly any government left at this point.

                    11. Nobody’s arguing that they’re competent.

                    12. Tony enjoys the freedom that progressivism gives him, to smugly mock you for your lack of political influence, while blaming you for his own lack of influence.

                      It seems like a coping mechanism to me, but you’ll have to ask a therapist, and I am not.

              2. Seems there’s someone always throwing sand in the gears. I don’t have to do business with Wal-Mart but I have to do business with Donald Trump.

                1. If Wal-Mart were free to become a monopoly in your town, you would be more or less forced to do business with it.

                  1. What kind of gun does the Wal- Mart patrol pack?

                    1. If Wal-Mart were free to become a monopoly in your town, you would be more or less forced to do business with it.

                      Another classic Tony WTF. Can anyone help me parse this? Is the good Comrade saying that only benevolent government stands between us and Wal-Martageddon? That without our betters in public service Wal-Mart would crush all competitors forever?

                      There’s so much straw in this Tony thread I’m getting hayfever.

                      Oh, by the way Tony: CITE PLEASE.

                  2. If you had a brain you might make an intelligent argument. Now of the two speculative statements, which is the more likely?

                  3. This is why we need government, people: slavery and wal mart.

                    And amazon.

          2. “Except unlike people in business, they’re accountable to every citizen in their jurisdiction at regular intervals called elections. ”

            Businesspeople have nothing like this.

          3. That has to be one of the dumbest things you have ever written. Elections don’t hold the cops accountable. They don’t hold the bureaucrats accountable. And it’s not like the people who seek elected office are the cream of the crop. That’s the whole point. Those who seek elected office should not be trusted simply because they seek elected office.

            Whereas people in business are accountable every moment of every day. Don’t buy their stuff and they are no longer in business. Sell a product that no one wants and you go out of business. Treat your customers like shit and you go out of business. Every moment of every day, not on a single day of the year.

            1. Or they run their business and the global economy into the ground and then get billions of dollars to retire. But whatever, sure, they’re really accountable.

              1. Or they run their business and the global economy into the ground and then get billions of dollars to retire.

                Exactly how many stupid pills did you eat this morning? Just curious.

                1. Seems like he downed the whole bottle. He’s in rare form today.

              2. WHO

                GAVE

                THEM

                THAT

                MONEY?

                I’ll wager everything I own that you won’t admit it was the government you worship.

          4. There are a lot of people in government who are not elected and who hold real power. Despite political swings back and forth, pretty much 99% of government keeps doing exactly the same shit no matter which party or group of politicians is nominally in charge.

          5. No they’re not. That statement is patently false.

          6. See, politicians are accountable because elections, and there’s never an externality to be had.

            Unlike this “market place” mumble gumbo, where there are no incentives for good behavior.

      3. No, as usual you missed the point entirely. Psychopaths with the power to do violence are a bad thing. Psychopaths with the power to create goods and services, employ people, and create wealth for shareholders, may not be such a bad thing. It might even be a way to channel their pathology in a positive manner.

        What is the worst thing a corporation can do to you? Offer stuff that you may choose to buy or not to buy? Offer a job that you may choose or not choose to take? They can’t force you.

        Whereas government is force. It does not give you a choice. Do what the psychopaths want, or they’ll call fellow psychopaths with badges who may kill you and your dog for the hell of it. And nothing else happens.

        1. A corporation can pollute my water supply, mistreat its employees, sell defective products or otherwise defraud customers, and a thousand other bad things that only a government can mitigate.

          1. Why do I need the government to prevent a company from mistreating their employees?

            They’re not slaves.

            1. What’s to prevent them from being made slaves?

              1. What’s to prevent them from being made slaves?

                Slavery is enforced, not prevented, by the government. Same with Jim Crow. Those things require force, as in government, to exist.

              2. What’s to prevent them from being made slaves?

                Slavery is enforced, not prevented, by the government. Same with Jim Crow. Those things require force, as in government, to exist.

                1. Eh slavery was pretty well enforced by the masters too.

                  1. Only because it was legally protected by your government.

                    1. Such a copout. It was legally protected until it wasn’t, then what happened?

                    2. Why is it a copout that your government protected slavery, and that is why it existed.

                    3. “then what happened?”

                      Jim Crow.

                    4. Even you don’t believe this crap and we both know it. “How do I make government the villain in everything, no matter how much you have to carve out of reality?” And I’m accused of dissembling.

                    5. “Even you don’t believe this crap”

                      Don’t tell me what I think, thanks, you’re an imbecile and couldn’t possibly understand me.

                      It’s cheap, and stupid, and you do it when you know you’re making a fool of yourself.

                    6. What’s cheap and stupid is the horseshit line that an evil alien force known as government imposed apartheid on the US South against the will of the kindly nonracist white people living there.

                      Let’s just totally ignore the fact that they were willing to die by the hundreds of thousands to defend the institution against the US government.

                    7. “What’s cheap and stupid is the horseshit line that an evil alien force known as government imposed apartheid on the US South against the will of the kindly nonracist white people living there.”

                      Then you think actual history is cheap and stupid.

                      Which explains a lot about you.

                    8. What’s cheap and stupid is the horseshit line that an evil alien force known as government imposed apartheid on the US South against the will of the kindly nonracist white people living there.

                      Ahem underground railroad ahem…

                    9. an evil alien force known as government imposed apartheid on the US South against the will of the kindly nonracist white people living there.

                      No one believes that crap because no one is making that argument. Of course the slave owners were to blame for being willing to keep slaves.

                      The point that you are missing is that slavery could not have been maintained as it was without government enforcement. Why do you think that the southern states fought so hard to count slaves as population for representation, and ended up with the 3/5 compromise? They needed the federal government to condone and help enforce slavery.

                    10. Yes, and then they went against the will of the federal government. They took their own libertarian course, you might say, in order to defend to the death an institution so abhorrent that even the evil alien government sided against it.

                    11. “even the evil alien government sided against it”

                      Lincoln was willing to allow slavery if the South didn’t secede.

                      History making you look stupid again.

                    12. Don’t you mean continue imposing it on the poor, nonracist white Southerners who just wanted to be rid of slavery already and never wanted it in the first place, and in fact were agitating day and night to treat blacks equally?

                    13. I like how you ignore that what wrote refuted you and makes you look ignorant

                    14. Lincoln was willing to allow slavery if the South didn’t secede.

                      History making you look stupid again.

                      Yep. The war was the federal government asserting its domination over the states. It was to preserve the union, not to end slavery. Before the war the United States of America was plural. After the war it was singular. It no longer meant a union of states. It means a federal government.

                    15. they went against the will of the federal government

                      Yes, the state governments who were intent on preserving slavery did do that.

                    16. Even you don’t believe this crap and we both know it. “How do I make government the villain in everything, no matter how much you have to carve out of reality?” And I’m accused of dissembling.

                      Government is force. Liberty is cooperation.

                      As a general rule, people don’t cooperate towards goals that hurt them. They back out at some point. So when things turn to shit, it is likely that force (government) was involved.

                  2. Tony, Tony, Tony. You are pretty consistent in declaring property to be a creation of government, and that libertarians are totalitarians because we want government to enforce property rights.

                    Slaves are property.

                    Slavery is enforced by the government, just like any other property.

                    McFly? Hello?

                  3. Slave owners and states that depended on slavery lobbied hard for laws requiring runaway slaves to be returned to their masters. Slavery would have been hard to maintain without those laws. No one is saying that the slave owners don’t bear the blame for what they did. But without government enabling them, it would have been impossible to maintain profitably.

                    1. This is just useless circle talking. You could say the same about any enterprise, including a good, innocent property rights regime (that doesn’t include human beings). It was in fact the legitimate national government that was required to end the institution, was it not?

                    2. “. It was in fact the legitimate national government that was required to end the institution, was it not?”

                      Actually, it wasn’t. Slavery was dying already.

                    3. It was in fact the legitimate national government that was required to end the institution, was it not?

                      Yes. It ended it by no longer enforcing it. Had it never enforced it then it would have never flourished. Jesus you’re dumb.

                    4. And I get such shit when I suggest that libertarianism is an outgrowth of neoconfederate horseshit.

                    5. Reagan, broken legs, crutches, etc.

                2. You’ll notice how he didn’t answer my question.

              3. Their willingness to resist it.

          2. Then go find someone who is actually making an argument for pure anarchy to make that point to. Most libertarians are on board with government intervening when a business harms or defrauds people.

            1. Hey, now. Even ancaps want an institution that intervenes when a business harms or defrauds people. They just want that institution to be private, and association with it voluntary.

      4. >>> the corporate world attracts a disproportionate number of psychopaths

        could be there’s just a shitload of psychopaths on this planet, and several are employed.

      5. “oughtn’t we do away with that too?”

        Sure, except you can’t get rid of the firm without the use of a corruptible state. In fact, the corruptible nature of corporations directly derives from the state. it’s not a Catch-22, it just means all corruption stems from the concentration of not wealth, but power. (Ths is not to say anarchism is the solution, but points towards a limited and restrained state that has no excess power to sell).

        1. It would seem that the closer you get to a stateless society, the more wealth and power become equivalent.

          1. Because buying something is just the same as taking it at gunpoint, right?

          2. As opposed to today, where in a state, wealth and power are totes separate.

          3. Um no. Power is the ability to force someone to act against their will. Wealth cannot do that. You can use pay someone to act, but by accepting your payment they have consented and are no longer acting against their will. They remain perfectly free to refuse.

            For example, if I am a state that wants to go to war against “terrorism”, I could forcibly draft some soldiers. Or forcibly levy taxes to pay for soldiers. But a private business cannot draft soldiers. It could hire some mercenaries, but that money comes out of their own pockets, I cannot tax anyone to gain those funds. Moreover, my customers would take a dim view of me going to war and stop buying my products. If I were a corporation that wanted to go to war, I would have to convince a STATE to give me extra privileges to enable me to do so.

            Now of course, a business could spend/invest its wealth in ways that the Leftist might not want. Maybe they want Bill Gates to spend his money on war rather than helping the starving poor in Africa. But that’s not power, that’s demanding that the STATE exercise power over the rich.

            1. You are seriously arguing that a person or entity with vastly more wealth than another has no coercive power over it?

              1. What coercive power does Bill Gates have over me?

                1. Ever had to use Windows?

                  1. Yeah, like this one time, I had to install Windows to load music onto a Zune I got.

                    You know who’s fault that is?

                    BILL GATES!

                    TYRANNY!

                  2. I’ve used Windows plenty of times, but I was never forced to. Not once.

                  3. Nobody is forced to use Windows. Maybe you’re unaware, but there are alternatives.

  3. “Everyone has the right to be free of aggression; no one is naturally endowed with authority over others.”

    Says who? How many more premises do we have to adopt and unanimously agree on–and never violate–before a stateless society becomes doable?

    1. “Don’t hurt people and don’t take their stuff” is far too complicated a rule system for Tony to understand. Sad!

      1. It’s so simple it must be true!

        Now about getting everyone to agree and never violate it…

        1. “It’s so simple it must be true!”

          It’s not true?

          1. It’s not true that everyone who’s not employed by government always refrains from hurting people or taking their stuff.

            1. That’s not what I asked you.

              Why is it so hard for you to answer without dissembling.

              1. Is it true that everyone has a right to be free from aggression?

                The answer is that it’s true in some places and times and not true in others.

                1. You still didn’t answer my question.

                  Why is it so hard for you to answer without dissembling.

                  1. What was the question?

                    1. You can’t read?

                    2. I answered what I thought was the question, then you refused to repeat the question just to be a dick.

                    3. The question is right there, and you could READ IT, if you weren’t an imbecile.

          2. It’s not true to Tony because it is easily understood. The only things he believes are true are things that are beyond his comprehension, but put forth by “experts” who share his political views. Things like Anthropocentric Global Warming. You know, where the temperature of the planet must be caused by CO2, because it’s so simple it must be true!

    2. I vote for “just tax the rich and we can do anything.”

  4. >>>The left stands to gain

    why do I want to help the left?

  5. RE: What the Left Should Like about Public Choice

    The left never likes choice for the unwashed masses.
    The left wants well indoctrinated elites to rule over the lowly plebian class.
    This way the left can incorporate more power and control over all us little people, “for our own good,” of course.

  6. The State as a “predator?” Authority is “bad?”

    That’s never gonna fly. You have to prey on people and hold power over them “for their own good” you know.

  7. “We libertarians are too principled and live-and-let-live to run for office at high rates, and that’s why we have so little power. How about you give us all the power, and we promise to make the best society for you–at the low cost of 12 monthly payments of $59.99.”

    1. It’s funny that you’re so scared of the choices that your make, that when faced with that as a possibility you pretend it’s the end of the world.

      1. You guys so consistently frame this in such bullshit feel-good ways I’m beginning to think you actually believe your own bullshit.

        It’s not about libertarians declaring that they want to impose a radically new form of society on people who mostly don’t want it.

        It’s about blah blah blah personal empowerment! What’s not to like?!

        1. It’s not about libertarians declaring that they want to impose a radically new form of society on people who mostly don’t want it.

          What libertarians want is a lack of imposition. How is that an imposition, except upon those who impose?

          1. What I want is ice cream and unicorns in every pot. What’s not to like? Forget about the details of how to accomplish that, it sounds really nice!

            1. Did the goalposts just go whoosh?

            2. This is why you lose elections.

        2. Show us on the doll where your libertarian uncle touched you

        3. However, 51% of the population shoving its will down the throats of the other 49%? That’s pure awesome right there!

          1. You say that as if there is some alternative that is not, one way or another, the smaller number winning out over the bigger number. We saw what that got us in our current president.

            1. Hey there, mister: that’s the government of the USA you’re talking about, there.

              Don’t worry: Trumps accountable because we have an election coming up in 2020.

            2. Hey there, mister: that’s the government of the USA you’re talking about, there.

              Don’t worry: Trumps accountable because we have an election coming up in 2020.

  8. And there is Richman judging the Left by its rhetoric about itself and not what ir does.

    What “good faith” Leftists there are have no power. The rest do not believe in choice for the common man, for they see the common man as hopelessly ignorant and not trustworthy enough to be trusted to make the correct choices..

  9. …good-faith leftists…

    Are there any?

    1. Yes and no. I think most people are good. To paraphrase Will Smith (a paragon of wisdom – getting jiggy with it!) even Hitler didn’t wake up every morning and think “What is the most evil thing I can do today..” No, he thought he was doing good.

      However the leftist ideology is based on emotion, not reason. There is no logic to it. It feels true so it is true. That means that when pressed, they tend to react rather than respond because their emotions are being challenged. As opposed to reacting because their thoughts and reason was challenged.

      At that point it turns into a shit show.

      1. As opposed to reacting responding

        oops

      2. All we mostly want to do is enact policies that are tested and that demonstrate a tendency to add to human well-being. Occasionally maybe experiment with new ones to that end.

        The fact that you think logic alone can lead to the best possible system even though it’s never been tested anywhere says you don’t know much about logic or humans or society.

        1. It has been tested and thrived where it occurred. How about the Hebrews under the judges before kings, colonial Pennsylvania, or the so-called Wild West that really wasn’t.

          1. Well without revolution we have to do the incremental approach, and so far Kansas isn’t doing great.

        2. Thing is, Tony, every time your command-and-control government has existed and flourished, the result has been death on a massive scale.

          I’d rather test liberty than control. At least with liberty I don’t have to risk being shot for refusing orders or failing to ask permission.

          1. Perhaps you’re missing the point that you can’t test a libertarian society because it is a completely illogical proposition in the first place.

            “Just have less government!” doesn’t actually mean anything. You’re being taken on an ideological ride so that billionaires can pay fewer taxes and chemical companies don’t have to pay so much not to poison people.

        3. All we mostly want to do is enact policies that are tested and that demonstrate a tendency to add to human well-being. Occasionally maybe experiment with new ones to that end.

          Venezuela Tony.

          1. Canada, juris.

  10. Positive references to Rothbard at Reason? Forget Trump, this is the real sign of the end times

  11. Ain’t this cute. Now Tony is challenging libertarians to show how slavery was an institution enforced by government.

    Jesus. Anything that may require force to protect, like property (including slaves), personal safety, liberty in general, eventually requires government violence. So it is with slavery.

    Yet Tony insists that liberty is slavery. That without government saying “No, no, no, you can’t own your fellow human beings” that there would be no slavery. And that libertarians who champion the idea of self-ownership would be down with that.

    What a fucking tool.

    I am ashamed for engaging with him today.

    Please tar and feather me.

    1. there would be no slavery

      I need a fucking proofreader. My kingdom for an edit button!

      1. adds enigmatic to sarcasmic

        1. I need a drink. I should never have quit the sauce.

          1. posting while sober is never recommended.

    2. Eh, don’t be ashamed, it’s harmless entertainment kicking him around.

    3. There’s no point engaging. I get tempted to sometimes and only then do I feel like I’m actually wasting valuable work hours here on Reason

      Just troll him. He’s learned nothing from serious responses so just have fun. Occasionally he’ll get some PTSD flashback about the rednecks or frat boys who used to give him wedgies and you’ll get a real unhinged response

      1. Honestly, it’s pretty clear he had an unsuccessful relationship with a libertarian and was spurned, launching him into a lid long hatred of freedom and self sufficiency.

        1. Life long

        2. A female libertarian?!?!?!?!?!?!

          1. Two be fair, there are female libertarians. Three of them in fact.

          2. try redheads…already somewhat askew

      2. “There’s no point engaging”

        Especially since it is Hugh Akston socking

    4. Don’t worry about it.
      We all make mistakes, just like Trump’s and Hitlary’s father made one.

    5. What you should be ashamed of is making no goddamn sense.

      1. Is that a beam in your eye Tony?

    6. So what prevents people from enslaving each other in the absence of a strong government? Again, it seems to come down to the ridiculous presumption that everyone would simply be nice to each other.

      In other words your head is so far up the ass of this OCD ideological anti-government concept that you actually cannot see anything bad in the world that isn’t caused by government. It’s pathological.

      1. Think of government as a referee in sports. He makes sure the rules are followed. Who wins or loses is not his concern.

      2. What prevents people from doing all kinds of shitty things they could get by with? Morals, reputation, whatever. There is no aspect of slavery in making people work for four months to pay you off, in making a doctor treat you, grabbing your balls when you get on an airplane, sending you off to Asia against your will to help a politicians re-election prospects, etc.

      3. There are no roads in Libertopia. They’d never be able to transport any of the slaves

        1. LMAO! Thread winner!

      4. So what prevents people from enslaving each other in the absence of a strong government?

        By definition government has the last word in violence. So I guess it depends on what you mean by “strong.”

        Do you mean strong enough to enforce property rights, including self-ownership? I’m down with that.

        Do you mean strong enough to tell people how much water their toilet may use when they take a shit? Not so much.

        1. Water is a limited resource. Why do you think you should be able to use as much as you please? Did you make the water? Did you even build the pipe that brings it to you?

          Fucking mooching slaver.

          1. Another hole in your argument: we can’t hold slaves because we will all die of dehydration within a few days anyway

            Checkmate

          2. Water is a limited resource. Why do you think you should be able to use as much as you please? Did you make the water? Did you even build the pipe that brings it to you?

            Price is what limits water use. Only markets set prices. Why do governments artificially set prices too low, allowing people to use more water?

            1. Because it’s an absolute necessity for human life?

              1. Of course it is. And when the government sets the price too low, that means less for people to drink because more goes to other uses, that wouldn’t if the price was higher.

                And regarding this…

                “Water is a limited resource.”

                Everything is limited. The question you’re not addressing is- how limited? In this case, so limited that people give it away at no cost? That doesn’t even make sense. Who gives away a scarce resource? Nobody. Conclusion- water is not as limited as you are imagining it to be.

      5. “So what prevents people from enslaving each other in the absence of a strong government?”

        What’s to stop a strong government from enslaving people?

        1. A stronger government forcing it to stop, if we go by this country’s example.

          1. This is bizarre reasoning. An even stronger government can force it to start again.

            It’s almost as if you believe that the stronger the government, the more benevolent it is. And from what I can tell, it’s a belief you’re going to take to your grave.

            1. That’s of course not so. “Stronger” needs to mean something anyway. In my example, it was raw physical power. If the Confederacy had the “stronger” government, then a slave regime would have won, and that obviously wouldn’t have been ideal. Hopefully none of us is entertaining the idea that a complex and just human society is an easy thing to maintain.

              1. Government is the awesome mechanism by which we stand up for little people!

                Why, just a century ago, we got around to outlawing slavery!

                It was quite a debate. I mean, who should get to what rights, who should own who: these are complicated questions! We dot want to pop-off with some silly, simplistic notion of “wrong”.

                I, for one, look forward to more progress!

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  13. I was going to come here and agree that there are good faith leftists, then Tony stated commenting.

  14. “‘The left stands to gain by taking this insight seriously””

    ….

    ….

    so we should dress it up like a clown?

  15. Public choice theory does apply… to Republicans!

  16. Sorry, by “public choice” the leftists mean that when they outnumber you, they make the rules. When you outnumber them, you live by the rules they made when they outnumbered you (i.e., settled law).

  17. I am not “in theory” opposed to privatized education (I do think what will happen is that they less-interested parents will see Johnny going to bad schools). The problem I have is the same one I have with other privatized services – that to eke out a profit, the product will be cheapened. In my old town, there was mosquito control done by the local government (i.e., a truck driving around spraying pesticide) that became privatized. But folks started to notice that there were more mosquitoes around. It turned out that the private contractor had simply diluted the pesticide!

    1. See? Even swamp guy gets it. This is why private products get worse and worse, while government services get better and better. See: mosiquito control public-private partnership.

    2. “It turned out that the private contractor had simply diluted the pesticide!”

      Pikers. If the government wanted to save money on the service, they’d have just stopped spraying. They’d keep collecting the taxes for it, of course.

  18. The left embraces public choice theory. You can’t listen to their arguments about the Trump administration or the Republican-controlled congress without hearing it constantly: rich, powerful special interests subverting the government for their own selfish purposes.

    Then, when you try to formalize that in theory, and apply it, they suddenly get their panties in a bunch at the basic concept. Suddenly, government is, and can only be, the things we choose to do together.

    And that says all you need to know about their seriousness and intellectual honesty: they don’t have any.

  19. Public choice may be a very good thing, if people were given equal access and all schools are equally accountable for their product. The rich have always had public choice; they could send their children out of state, o9r out of their own neighborhoods with little problem. Don’t like your neighborhood school, shop around until you find the right private school for them. Under the current proposal from the Education Secretary, there will be no basis to make that choice. She is against requiring any evaluatiion of for profit schools; so the consumer doesn’t know what she is getting for her child, no transparency about test scores or curriculum. No private school parent would accept that bargain. In addition. if the public schools are defunded, what choice does the poorer parent have? It isn’t as if the for profit schools will run buses to pick up children from a wide area. Choice if great when it is equal but when it is rigged to favor for profit schools, depending on edcatuional vouchers, like the many for profit schools run by the Secretary’s family one must ask Que Bono?

    1. You could have saved yourself a bit of typing if you had instead (as applied to the current topic) written “I don’t know what public choice means”.

      You’re welcome.

  20. Nice piece of satire. Public choice theory explains how public policy is dominated by interest groups who invest the most to get the policy they want, at the detriment of other people. It explains how large and corrupt governments emerge. Any democratic system, based on voting, is susceptible to it. The only alternative anyone has found involves an element of sortition, or random selection. That when combined with merit screening, is fetura, or breeding. It was practiced by the Republic of Venice from 1268 through 1797.

  21. Pretty much every critique of capitalism, as well as all these nonsense concepts like “crony capitalism” and “corporatism (modern political version)”, are based on a bad-faith assumption of capitalism existing without competition. Fix it by allowing competition.

  22. The problem that we face is that some time ago, the political class completely abandoned the electorate for special interests. Our free markets are largely controlled by those special interests. Yes, we can vote with our dollars, but so many times our choices are limited by the incestuous relationship between government and big business. The current healthcare debate is a good example. Neither party is proposing anything that will upset their relationships with the moneyed interests of the healthcare industry. Regarding competition, when hospital groups have tried to establish health insurance plans to compete with the insurance industry, the insurance companies have threatened to remove them from their networks. For the most part, those threats have kept said competition at bay. The very few discussions about removing the laws that prohibit overseas drug purchases, have gone nowhere. Relying on the free market these days often just involves picking your poison.

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