Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 22, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

PRINCIPLES....Matt Yglesias responds to a piece by David Boaz in which Boaz remarks that one of the nice things about having principles is that you don't have to examine every single new situation de novo:

This, to me, is more or less why it's not a very good idea to try and debate policy specifics with libertarians. That it's an ideology that precludes trying to decide issues through some dull "look at all the data and decide what we think about every issue" doesn't, of course, demonstrate that it's incorrect, but it hardly lays the groundwork for a productive exchange of ideas.

Normally, I'd say this is an unfair criticism. After all, we all have principles we believe in, and we all use those principles to guide us on topics that we don't have encyclopedic knowledge of. It's not just libertarians.

But of course I know exactly what Matt is talking about, and I find it puzzling in a way. My personal experience is that while everyone has principles, libertarians are far more likely than most people to go over the cliff with their principles, examining issues on a bright-line, unidimensional philosophical basis without taking into account real-world outcomes or real-world issues of human nature that might soften their views. I suppose a big part of the reason is that while most people become vaguely liberal or conservative just because those are the usual choices, libertarians choose libertarianism much more deliberately. And they choose it because the philosophy appeals to them.

Still, it seems at least slightly odd that libertarianism seems to produce such a large percentage of true believers. And it's true: arguing with true believers just isn't very useful or illuminating. cf. George Bernard Shaw and wrestling with pigs.

POSTSCRIPT: On a slight tangent, have you noticed that although "ideology" and "principles" have nearly identical meanings in common usage, we usually use ideology when speaking about people we don't like and principles when talking about ourselves? For example, this entire post could have been made even more hostile to libertarians simply by using the word ideology throughout, rather than principles. This is apropos of nothing. Just rambling.

Kevin Drum 12:48 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (136)

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Comments

Fitzmas!!

Posted by: This Machine Kills Fascists on March 22, 2007 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

This strict adherence to "principles (or ideology) is what makes libertarians the Marxists of the 90's.

Posted by: Dan F on March 22, 2007 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think libertarianism produces true believers. From my experience, it seems that libertarianism appeals to people who take an absolutist view about everything.

Libertarianism isn't the cause, it's the outcome.

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on March 22, 2007 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, Kevin. Some words have a negative connotation, and some a positive. And these connotations change over time. Sometimes, that change is engineered (ie. how "Liberal" became a dirty-word).

Someday, when you grow up, and become a real, professional, writer, you'll understand this fascinating thing called "The English Language".

Posted by: Extradite Rumsfeld on March 22, 2007 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

I've worked with many computer programmers, and find that this group contains a particularly large proportion of libertarians.

I've come to believe that this is so because in engineering you are continually confronted with things that either work or don't, and come to be judgmental about systems in general, particularly about when things are worth fixing, and when they should be begun anew. Thus programmers seem inclined to believe that government is unfixable, let's start over with something simple and fair.

Posted by: Sam Spade on March 22, 2007 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

I strongly second the comment about Marxists. Until recently they were the best example of people who were willing to place their principles above any mundance pragmatic or humanitarian considerations.

Posted by: Ethan on March 22, 2007 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

So is a libertarian a "principled idealogue," then?

Posted by: Matt on March 22, 2007 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

I thought I was a libertarian when I first went to college. Eventually I noticed a similar pattern to Yglesias. Almost every person who considered themselves a libertarian turned out to be a person who had never been marginalized in their lives.

So, not seeing consequences and not having empathy for people who do suffer consequences of their desired policies, seemed to be about believing that they were not their brother's keeper because they themselves had never needed help or been discriminated against.

Posted by: Quatrain Gleam on March 22, 2007 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

You're obviously right that libertarian organizations tend to have their greatest appeal to people who have not just an attraction to certain ideas, but a fanatical loyalty to rigid doctrines. After all, the most recent Libertarian nominee for President is a man who, true to his belief that the government has no right to license drivers, has several times been jailed for unlicensed driving.

Posted by: Alex F on March 22, 2007 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

Libertarians are indeed too extreme.

Right AH. Some so-called libertarians like Bob Barr have spoken against the War on Terrorism because they say it restricts our freedoms too much. But having freedom doesn't help much if you're dead. Real conservatives understand freedom is about ceding to lawful authority the discretion to do what is right. And that is why real conservatives support giving discretion to George W Bush to do the right thing in defending America from the terrorists.

Posted by: Al on March 22, 2007 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

Extradite: Really? I never knew that before. Thanks!

And now, if you promise not to be a total dick in the future, you may resume commenting.

Posted by: Kevin Drum on March 22, 2007 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

I think you fail to consider that most Libertarians are simply social misfits with huge egos.

Posted by: New Talking Wall on March 22, 2007 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

I'll agree with your take on Libertarians, and more generally on ideologues, whose inflexibility I'm inclined to ascribe to a lack of confidence in their own ability to think through, and cope with, even slightly messy situations that don't admit of quick, neat, formulational solutions.

But I'll disagree on the part about "principles," because having and using principles is both logical and practical. It avoids having to re-think every decision de novo (the assumption that this is possible is a standard Libertarian fallacy, by the way), and it distills and encodes experience and thereby provides both perspective and a "sanity check."

In other words, insofar as "principles" resemble Standard Operating Procedures, they're efficient, and insofar as they comprise wisdom, they're ... well ... wise.

It's when principles deteriorate into reflexive, inflexible dogma -- aka ideology -- that they become impractical and unwise.

So I don't think they're synonymous. One is an extreme example of the other.

Posted by: bleh on March 22, 2007 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

I thought I was a libertarian when I first went to college.

Lots of us do. Then we quit smoking dope.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on March 22, 2007 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

"...libertarians are far more likely than most people to go over the cliff with their principles, examining issues on a bright-line, unidimensional philosophical basis without taking into account real-world outcomes or real-world issues of human nature that might soften their views..."

Interesting that just 25 years ago people used to debate Communism's practicality and the same arguments about lack of insight into "human nature" were used then. The common use of the term "ideology" became negative with respect to Communism primarily as well. "Principles" implies a guide to personal *behavior*. I don't think stating something like: "That is a principled person" would ever garner a negative connotation.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on March 22, 2007 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

A Classic:

Libertarianism Makes You Stupid

Posted by: alex on March 22, 2007 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

And now, if you promise not to be a total dick in the future, you may resume commenting.
Posted by: Kevin Drum on March 22, 2007 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry. That did come off as a bit harsh. Too much caffeine, and not enough hard-core fitzmas posts have made me a bit grumpy this morning.

I can't promise not to BE a total dick. But I can promise I'll try. Depends on how much bitch-slapping AH needs today.

... If making it a dirty word was engineered, it was engineered by liberals themselves.
Posted by: American Hawk on March 22, 2007 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

Rush Limbaugh is a Liberal?

Posted by: Extradite Rumsfeld on March 22, 2007 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

Arguing with a libertarian is useless because all they can talk about is how the world SHOULD be, not the way it really is.

Posted by: Debra on March 22, 2007 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

I believe most of Kevin's post is correct, but it seems to me that libertarians* are happy for OTHERS to go off the cliff. I have a LOT of personal experience with so-called libertarians, and almost without exception their ideology is pure self-indulgence.

Libertarians almost never are tolerant or supportive of the ACLU or other civil liberties watchdogs. The vast majority of "libertarian" blogs supported the invasion of Iraq and extremely hawkish positions otherwise. The Objectivist Society and other Rand-devotees are so militaristic it's breathtaking.

The reason is, they are "libertarians" because they want to have an ideology that says society foolishly requires too much of them.
____________________________________________
*libertarians: it is entirely unreasonable and philosophically invalid for market fundamentalists to characterize themselves as "libertarians." Outside of the USA, where they are a sacred cow, they are known more accurately as "anarcho-capitalists"--provided, of course, they're consistant enough to accept limitations on non-economic roles for governments--not at all common.

Posted by: James R MacLean on March 22, 2007 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

The above comes from the following list:

Critiques Of Libertarianism

Posted by: alex on March 22, 2007 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK


KEVIN DRUM: And now, if you promise not to be a total dick in the future, you may resume commenting.

Why do Al and Americon Hawk get to be a total dicks?


Posted by: jayarbee on March 22, 2007 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

I think the other thing at play is that if a minority becomes "disaffected" or believes that they are not given a big voice in public policy decisions, they will get more ideological and less concrete or pragmatic.

Examples:
- Libertarians
- Communists (they still exist!)
- Hard-core liberals (like kucinich)
- Hard-core conservatives (like the Texas platform)


etc.


Basically, if you are not really a part of the daily debate about this or that minor pragmatic issue, you have the "freedom" to dream big things. Since people do not debate your big things because they are not in the mainstream, you become embittered and imagine the "big things" are really awesome and everyone just doesn't understand.

Posted by: mk on March 22, 2007 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

I know many self-proclaimed "libertarians," and their core principles seem to come down to two or three items:

1. All taxation is theft

2. There can be no restrictions whatever on gun ownership

3. Pot should be legal (this is optional)

In reality, their vision of utopia is a world where everyone else works, supports the infrastructure of civilization, and obeys the (unwritten) rules while "libertarians" soak up the benefits and contribute nothing.

Posted by: Derelict on March 22, 2007 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

"I've come to believe that this is so because in engineering you are continually confronted with things that either work or don't, and come to be judgmental about systems in general, particularly about when things are worth fixing, and when they should be begun anew."

I think you would find that the more experienced a programmer is the less likely they are to advocate starting over (where "experienced" means "had to live with the consequences"). for example jamie zawinski quit the netscape project when the powers that be decided that it should be rewritten from scratch. maybe experience is why libertarianism becomes less attractive with the passage of time.

Posted by: supersaurus on March 22, 2007 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

Libertarian analysis is a useful tool. In dealing with a problem, it's a good thing to ask "Is there a solution that involves minimum government intervention? Can we minimize regulation, taxation, legislation?"
The point is that often the answer is no, even if it's illuminating to go through the analysis and the debate.
If the libertarian argument is insufficiently well represented in a discussion, I'll often make it.
But to be someone who automatically assumes that the libertarian positiom is always right is not thinking.
Yglesias had it right, and I'll add to it: Principles are good to have, but they must be constantly re-examined.

Posted by: pbg on March 22, 2007 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin Writes:

". . . libertarians are far more likely than most people to go over the cliff with their principles, examining issues solely on a bright-line philosophical basis without taking into acount real-world outcomes or real-world issues of human nature that might soften their views."

In my experience with Libertarians, this is true only to the extent that they don't actually have to _do_ anything that costs them financially or otherwise.

For example, I remember having long discussions with Libertarians about the good or bad of government subsidized university education. They were all against it, right up until I pointed out that we were all going to a state university and that if the government wasn't funding the university, we would each have to pay several extra thousand dollars per term. I suggested that if they were really philosophically opposed to government subsidies, then they should pay the university the out-of-state tuition (minus a percentage of what their family's paid in taxes every year - since taxes cover other things they are using besides university funding), as that would reflect the actual cost without state subsidies.

Of course, they didn't like this idea. They immediately changed their position to saying, "I'm not going to pay extra when everyone else isn't".

So, principled up until it really would cost them something to follow their principles - I've seen it from Libertarians on all kinds of different issues, from street repair to education to medical research, etc.

Make of that what you will.

Posted by: Anominar on March 22, 2007 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

When ideology or principle is applied it has to be tempered with pragmatism and reality, otherwise it becomes a belief system that forces all experience and behavior to be rationalized to the overall guiding ideas.

Hannah Arndt used the Soviet ideology to demonstrate this concept. The Soviets said they had no unemployment, as unemployment was caused by capitalist societies. The Soviets had no welfare system to provide minimum support for all of those people without jobs and denied they even existed.

In the US we see some of this. Charter schools and voucher systems are offered as ways to bring 'competition' to the educational system. It is believed competition always creates better performance, but the facts are charter schools usually perform worse than public ones. This reality is denied by free market ideologues, who want to destroy the public school systems.

Posted by: Brojo on March 22, 2007 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

But having freedom doesn't help much if you're dead. . . .
Posted by: Al on March 22, 2007 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

Coward.

I don't know about you Al, but I'd rather die on my feet than live on my knees.

"The fetters imposed on liberty at home have ever been forged out of the weapons provided for defence against real, pretended, or imaginary dangers from abroad." -- James Madison, 4th US president (1751-1836)


"Many think it not only inevitable but entirely proper that liberty give way to security in times of national crisis-—that, at the extremes of military exigency, inter arma silent leges. Whatever the general merits of the view that war silences law or modulates its voice, that view has no place in the interpretation and application of a Constitution designed precisely to confront war and, in a manner that accords with democratic principles, to accommodate it." - Antonin Scalia, eviscerating the Bush administration's detention of terror suspects without charges or trials.

Posted by: Extradite Rumsfeld on March 22, 2007 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

Boaz's statement is a crock. There's not a single libertarian principle that they actually adhere to. Libertarianism is inconsistent with capitalism, which requires extensive government apparatus to enforce property rights.

A truly libertarian society would have no real property, no patent law, no copyright. There's a huge stinking contradiction in their very basic principle of substituting tort for regulation, because compensation has to be adjudicated. The trusted third party who is adjudicating has to have some kind of enforcement mechanism. That enforcement mechanism ultimately takes property away from one party or the other by force.

The closest thing to a description of an operational libertarian society is Heinlein's Moon is a Harsh Mistress. You'll note that he recognized the judicial problem. The trusted third party in his society is selected by mutual agreement. And the enforcement mechanism is social ostracism and, ultimately, murder.

Posted by: jayackroyd on March 22, 2007 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

Libertarians are selfish pricks.

Now that we have that out of the way, a couple of comments and a question.

I spent my whole career in DP, and met exactly one avowed Libertarian. It's true that programmers work in a highly structred environment, but paradoxically, most consider themselves and their craft to be more art than science.

The numbers of Libertarians that self-identify and vote along party lines are infintesimal. We should just ignore them.

The whole Libertarian idea is premised on personal and economic freedom. Why is it that when faced with the option of actually voting for one or the other, Libertarians invariably vote with their wallet? I guess that's where the selfish prick part comes into play.

Posted by: SteveK on March 22, 2007 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

The way Yglesias quotes Boaz's statement, it sounds like an excuse to ignore the arguments in favor of school vouchers. Both Yglesias and Boas seem to be saying that because libertarians ignore real world consequences, they should not even be a part of the debate.

Posted by: ex-liberal on March 22, 2007 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

I find many libertarians like to refer to themselves as "independent thinkers" -- not beholden to any one ideology (as if our only lot in life is to subscribe to a single ideology).

Libertarianism among these people frequently masks a strong conservative outlook. Perhaps Libertarians adopt this label to avoid being ostracized by their more moderate (read: Democratic) friends. Perhaps they like always being the foil in political and economic discussions ("Let me play the Libertarian devil's advocate for a minute . . .")

I find Libertarians to be either nuts or too coy by half.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on March 22, 2007 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

Libertarians are self-indulgent, spoiled little brats who think they alone exist and all things belong to them.

Toddler's Property Rules:

1. If I like it, it's mine.

2. If it's in my hand, Its mine.

3. If I can take it from you, it's mine.

4. If I had it a little while ago, It's mine.

5. If it's mine, it must never appear to be yours in any way.

6. If I am doing or building something,all the pieces are mine.

7. If it looks like mine, it is mine.

8. If I saw it first, it's mine.

9. If you are playing with something and you put it down, it automatically becomes mine.

10. If it's broken, it's yours.

~~ Author Unknown ~~

This goes for Republicans too.

Posted by: NeoLotus on March 22, 2007 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

I'd rather die on my feet than live on my knees.

You and me both.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on March 22, 2007 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

ideology = dogma
Principles = moral compass

Posted by: NeoLotus on March 22, 2007 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

My experience with libertarians is a bit more concrete. I remember interviewing a roomful of 'em during a Presidential year once, and after listening to discussions about the folly of government ownership of roads and the power of entrepreneurial capitalism, I finally asked: that reminds me -- what do you guys each do for a living?

They all worked for very large corporations, like the phone company. Not one of 'em was an ACTUAl entrepreneur, like a sole proprietor of any sort. They all worked as mid-level managers, albeit sometimes independently, in very large and highly regulated (and thus, risk-averse) industries.

More recently, I've had endless public debates with the folks at CATO, which is sorta kinda libertarian. In every case, they promote subsidies for favored industries behind astonishing layers of bullshit. And they are very shy and ever surprised to be called on it: hothouse flowers.

I particularly recall a meeting at George Mason University a few years back. I had been invited by the National Academy of Science to talk about the H-1B visa program. They asked me who would give the best counterargument, and I said Steve Moore -- then of CATO, now full time with the Club for Growth. So they invited Steve, at my suggestion. (I do not think Steve would ever have suggested a similar group invite me.)

I spoke first, before Steve showed up, and I told the panelt they would hear from him a pro-immigration argument for a non-immigrant visa, that the distinction between the H-1B and "immigration" is entirely the regulations that make it, as no less than Milton Friedman observed, a subsidy.

Steve showed up -- and that's exactly the argument he made. It was so clear that the first question from the panel was: "So, there is NO argument for a temporary visa?"

He literally stammered.

After he was done, I spoke up to suggest that his next gig be: "Libertarian Economists for Excessive Government Regulation."

Between those two experiences, pretty much sums up "libertarianism" in America.

Posted by: theAmericanist on March 22, 2007 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

Not just libertarians. Conservatives are like this as well. Priciples or ideology trump results. While liberals can be like that, we have a tendency to look at the data and go with what works.

Posted by: gex on March 22, 2007 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

Interesting that just 25 years ago people used to debate Communism's practicality and the same arguments about lack of insight into "human nature" were used then.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on March 22, 2007 at 1:30 PM

It shouldn't be surprising. They are virtual mirror images. Communism and libertarianism are both utopian social philosophies. They are both based on an abstract notion that there can be a "true" and eternal "best state of man." At their heart both are based on 19th century Social Darwinism. Neither has the capacity to acknowledge the chaotic foibles and inconsistencies of daily life.

Posted by: Ron Byers on March 22, 2007 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

The only thing more bizarre than people professing to be libertarian is the sight of otherwise rational people discussing libertarians. Libertarians are republicans who are ashamed to admit their political allegiances publically. They place no particular value on any personal freedom. Their sole political goal is to shift responsibility for payment for the common obligations of society (e.g. public works, defense) to other citizens. They are utterly insignificant in U.S. politics.

Ironically, if it weren't for the internet we would never have to be exposed to them.

Posted by: rk on March 22, 2007 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

Children always think their bedtimes "should" be later, Grover Norquist always thinks taxes "should" be lower, and libertarians always think there "should" be more "freedom," as defined, of course, by them. The arguments in defense of these cases differ, but the "principle" behind them -- which might better be called a emotional presdisposition -- is much the same.

Posted by: penalcolony on March 22, 2007 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

When I watched Deadwood I thought - "this is what America would be like under a Libertarian rule."

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on March 22, 2007 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

Libertarians deny that public costs exist. A true libertarian ideologue would insist all polluters pay 100% for their polluting, but they do not. They deny the existence of the commons and appropriate it for themselves as private property. Many ranchers use public lands at below cost prices to overgraze their cattle. They deny they receive welfare and that they are destroying publicly owned ecosystems.

Posted by: Brojo on March 22, 2007 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

"I've worked with many computer programmers, and find that this group contains a particularly large proportion of libertarians.

I've come to believe that this is so because in engineering you are continually confronted with things that either work or don't, and come to be judgmental about systems in general..."

I think that the libertarian chunk of computer programmers has a lot more to due with the fact that many of them recently did very very well in the dot com bubble, and continue to do well in the tech economy. They made a bunch of money quick and think it's because they are so fantastically great and fantasize about how much more they would have racked up if they had not had to pay taxes and about how pathetic everyone else is not to have gotten rich in the late nineties. It seems to me that both older and younger programmers have far fewer libertarians.

In reality the vast majority of them just happened to be born in the right few years to have thier particular interests and state subsidized educations rewarded ridiculously well as decades of government research took off.

Posted by: jefff on March 22, 2007 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

"They all worked for very large corporations..."

Heh, the most libertarian computer programmer I have known recently went to work for Boeing.

Posted by: jefff on March 22, 2007 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

"Don't confuse me with facts. I've made up my mind." -- Rep Earl Landgrebe, R-Indiana, 1974.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on March 22, 2007 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

Once upon a time, when I was in college, I was a Libertarian.

I've found talking to Libertarians highly unproductive for basically the same reason I ultimately rejected it as an overarching political philosophy: it fails obvious common sense objections.

What turns it into an "ideology" rather than a "set of principles"? The insistence of every Libertarian I have ever known on "saving the theory" in the face of those obvious objections.

The initial deal breaker for me was that Libertarianism and Libertarians essentially have no way to cope with the concept of a monopoly, especially with the idea that a monopoly might be a relatively common occurrence, and not some freakish phenomenon.

Now, apriori, it would seem on rational grounds quite plausible that the forces that enable a monopoly might come about with some real frequency. It's really an empirical matter whether such things happen or not, and how often they might happen. But Libertarians believe, on purely ideological grounds, that such things really can't happen (or at most very very rarely, and in very limited and temporary situations). They believe that in essentially every and any circumstance, entirely unfettered capitalism will enable effective competition, and that such competition will always create a better solution for all parties in the economy. The notion that, for example, a large business in a capital intensive market might be able to cripple new entrants by "dumping" products far below cost for a period of time, then raising prices when the new entrants go out of business, is inconceivable to them. The idea that a company like Microsoft might be able to leverage its ownership of the standard OS on which virtually all other applications must run into control over the desktop market is likewise inconceivable. Such things can't happen, their ideology tells them so, and they will come up with a million reasons, however implausible, to refute the possibility of such things going on. It is, again, lost on them entirely that one can't really know whether such things might happen unless one looks at the real world empirically, instead of dictating the result by means of a theory.

But the monopoly issue is really just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the irrationality involved. You name the thing we might point out would be damaged in a Libertarian economy, and they will find a way, however desperate, to dismiss the concern.

Suppose you point out that good schools will not be available to poor children. No problem for the Libertarians -- by some miracle charity will cover their tuition handsomely. If you point out that this is an empirical claim for which they have no direct evidence, and they will launch the "moral" argument that the government has no "right" to take money away from people to finance the education of others. You point out the cruelty of that policy, and they simply refuse to budge from their "moral" principles. In the end, they always save the theory, facts and morality as others understand it be damned.

Suppose you point out that there would be no public roads or rights-of-way in a Libertarian world. You get the same kinds of stupid, convoluted justifications.

You come away from such discussions thinking that they are either monsters or idiots. Likely, they are both.

In general, there's no way of reducing these people to absurdity when they so happily wallow in it.

And that is one way to think of what it is that makes them ideologues instead of thinkers.

Posted by: frankly0 on March 22, 2007 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK
My personal experience is that while everyone has principles, libertarians are far more likely than most people to go over the cliff with their principles, examining issues on a bright-line, unidimensional philosophical basis without taking into account real-world outcomes or real-world issues of human nature that might soften their views.

I think you are confusing "libertarians" with "Libertarians". Libertarians are, IME, very frequently over-the-cliff, tilting-at-windmills types unconcerned with or utterly disconnected from pragmatic reality. But those adhering to a libertarian principles but not necessarily adhering to the policy prescriptions of the libertarian party are not.

But parties tend to be concentrating pools for the worst things associated with "ideology"—fanatical, quasi-religious devotion to policy prescriptions rather than the underlying principles—and I don't exclude my own party from that. Parties are a pragmatic tool, but they the exigencies of policy alliances make it hard to keep them devoted to principle while adapting to new understanding of the pragmatics of accomplishing those needs. All too often, the means become cast in stone, the ends they are supposed to serve forgotten, or simply recited by rote without consideration of whether the evidence is still there to support them.


Posted by: cmdicely on March 22, 2007 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

Give me one simple idea that I can wish I lived by, and then all those bothersome facts fall into place as examples of the category: "things that are wrong with the world because it does not conform to my beautiful simple idea."

Capitalism. Communism. God.

Posted by: William Slattery on March 22, 2007 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

Ok, folks, this is about as sporting as skewering the KKK at an NAACP convention. Let's bash liberals instead.

Posted by: alex on March 22, 2007 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

What's weird about libertarians is that they essentially have a two-pronged rational for every laissez-faire policy they promote:

1. Deontological - e.g., it's wrong to dictate to property owners what they do with their property.

2. Consequentialist: e.g., restrictions on property will make us all poorer and unhappier.


Now, there's nothing inherently wrong with this; having multiple reasons for your view is a good thing. But what's curious is that these two rationale MIRACULOUSLY apply to EVERY SINGLE issue!

This is literally incredible: what are the chances that for every issue of government, the consequentialist answer and the deontological answer would line up exactly? Surely sometimes it happens that one is present but not the other. Can it really be the case that every single state action that violates rights as libertarians see them also fails to be conducive to the general good?

Posted by: JG on March 22, 2007 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

Deontology deals with duty. i believe you are looking for Utilitarian.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on March 22, 2007 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

No, that's what I'm talking about. They think the government has a duty not to violate the property rights of individuals. Disobeying this duty is wrong no matter what; you can't say, yeah but look at all the nice consequences that followed.

They ALSO think that libertarianism is justified on conseq./utilitarian grounds: we will all be much happier and better off if the government doesn't violate individual property rights.

Posted by: JG on March 22, 2007 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

Okay. I just always associate deontology as a duty on the part of the individual. Rather in the Kantian sense.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on March 22, 2007 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

JG,

I think that you're right that Libertarians generally DO believe that on both moral and practical grounds they are right.

But what I've noticed is that they tend to argue first on practical grounds for as long as that seems to work, and when it goes into serious failure, they resort to "moral" grounds. For example, they argue that even if some people wouldn't do well under a Libertarian economy, it's because they don't "deserve" to do so, because they are not as productive as others, or that they can't be allowed to do better when doing so involves "stealing" other people's property.

Posted by: frankly0 on March 22, 2007 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

As a former libertarian, of many years, I can tell you it's pointless to debate them at all. They (the rank-and-file, anyway) add little to any issue, and they treat everything with religious fervor making them impermeable to reason. Don't waste time.

Posted by: Mike B. on March 22, 2007 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

One of the most striking blog comments I ever saw was from a libertarian commenting on a universal health care thread. This fellow recounted that his beloved uncle had just passed away from a cancer which would have been preventable if detected early. The uncle did not see a doctor upon the first appearance of symptoms because he had no insurance and felt he couldn't afford it.

The poster thought this was right and proper, and a consequence that we all should accept for the benefits of having a free-market health care system.

This isn't ideology - it's brain disease.

Posted by: Virginia Dutch on March 22, 2007 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK
Now, there's nothing inherently wrong with this; having multiple reasons for your view is a good thing. But what's curious is that these two rationale MIRACULOUSLY apply to EVERY SINGLE issue!

Not really; I'd say it would be odder to have a belief system in which the correct action would not also be believed to lead to the best results.

My problem with Libertarians is more that I find their stated deontological arguments to be overly simplistic (that is, they tend to articulate good general principles on an outline level, but take those simplistic articulations as absolute maxims), and their consequentialist arguments to be unconvincing in light of the evidence, on just about every policy position.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 22, 2007 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK
I just always associate deontology as a duty on the part of the individual.

I think that's true of Libertarians as well, generally. While they talk about government, many of them are very clear that the duty of restraint they would apply to it is because "the government" acting to regulate is just other people coercing you, and those people have an obligation of restraint.

(Zoomed out to the maximum extent, I agree with them on that; its when it comes to specific applications that I have problems with them.)

Posted by: cmdicely on March 22, 2007 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

A libertarian is just a Republican who doesn't have the testicular fortitude* to come out and admit he's* a total, greedy, ignorant asshole.

(*I was going to include "ovarian" fortitude and "she," but I've never, ever met a female Libertarian ... which may explain why Instacracker is such an uptight fuqtard.)

Posted by: Mark D (aka "Unholy Moses") on March 22, 2007 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

I know a couple of female Libertarians, including one who ran strictly-to-get-the-word-out campaigns against Jesse Jackson Jr., Rod Blagojevich and some others. She was in her 20s, in good shape and fairly pretty at the time, and used to distribute campaign photos of herself in way sexy poses with guns cocked. Got a lot more press pickup than she might've otherwise.

Posted by: shortstop on March 22, 2007 at 4:44 PM | PERMALINK

It's true that there are very few female libertarians. It's pretty much only guys who are subject to the delusion that, in a modern society, they can go it alone just fine.

Posted by: Virginia Dutch on March 22, 2007 at 4:55 PM | PERMALINK

shortstop--
I figured there were a few out there (double meaning intended). I've just never met one, and I drive by the local Libertarian HQ on a pretty regular basis -- their office in on a corner, all glass, and is also part of a radio station.

All I ever see are overweight dudes who look like their idea of a good time is mixin' up some virgin Daiquiris on a Friday night and playing a D&D until dawn.

Posted by: Mark D (aka "Unholy Moses") on March 22, 2007 at 4:55 PM | PERMALINK

OT (but still about principles, or ideology if you will):

"It is not reasonable for the government to expect all parents to shoulder the burden to cut off every possible source of adult content for their children, rather than the government's addressing the problem at its source," a government attorney, Peter D. Keisler, argued in a post-trial brief.

What a hoot.

The GOP argues stridently to the point of ranting about government not being mommy and daddy to every American citizen, telling them what they can and cannot do, and about government not a suitable replacement for the judgment of parents, then argues the exact opposite when faced with a law designed to restrict pornography.

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!

What utter hypocrites.

Then again, the GOP believes in government telling people what they can and cannot do with respect to virtually every aspect of sex.

Why are conservatives so obsessed with regulating sex.

And gambling.

And drugs.

But not . . .

pollution . . .

health care . . .

smoking . . .

business fraud . . .

price gouging . . .

and so on and so on.

Posted by: Google_This on March 22, 2007 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

I thought I was a libertarian when I first went to college.

Likewise. Then I got an education.

Posted by: Bob M on March 22, 2007 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

"(*I was going to include "ovarian" fortitude and "she," but I've never, ever met a female Libertarian "

Try googling "Marty Zupan". She used to work for the IHS. There are some female libertarians, but damned few.
Of course, I've actually heard male libertarians claim it's because women are weaker than men, and NEED socialism. No lie.

Posted by: Mike B. on March 22, 2007 at 5:28 PM | PERMALINK

Gosh, the level of preening, smug, self-satisfaction by many here in this thread exceeds the norm in this forum, and that is saying something; Oh, goodness, those stupid, ideological, etc., etc., (place invective here), libertarians!

First, as was noted above, there is quite a difference between Libertarian and libertarian, and even within those two variants there are widespread differences on a whole range of issues. What does tend unite them all is a deep suspicion of the wisdom of relationships and interactions which are compelled by state power, and recognition that property rights are as critical as other rights to the maintainence of liberty. Are there Libertarians and libertarians I consider extremely impractical and ignorant of reality? Sure. However, to have a bunch of people, many of whom that are possessed of a deep abiding Faith in the efficacy and morality of central planning by a coercive state, despite a century's worth of evidence of the inevitable trade-offs and negative unintended consequences of central planning by the state, broadly denounce libertarians for being divorced from reality, is more than a little ironic. To have statists broadly denounce libertarian thought as being insufficiently mindful of the welfare of individual citizens would be hilarious, if not for the tragic record of innocent citizens' treatment by majorities with their hands on the levers of state power.

A substantial percentage of people who strongly align with the Republican or Democratic Party are little more than majoritarian thugs who just know that if they can just capture a wee bit more of the electorate, they can proceed to impose their will on those that oppose them, and they find the prospect absolutely enthralling.

Gosh, how does that feel?

Posted by: Will Allen on March 22, 2007 at 5:31 PM | PERMALINK

Libertarians have political autism. They are useless except as an almost inchoate but powerful collective voice for individual freedom. Funny, isn't it?
The idea of freedom, expressed in exactly the same terms by so many fruitcakes, really IS an important part of our political dialogue. I personally will never discuss politics with a Libertarian though.

Posted by: marky on March 22, 2007 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

Took you long enough to get here, Will, but we know you'll be good for the night, repeating the same five or six sentences until 2 a.m. or so and then starting right up again tomorrow morning.

Posted by: shortstop on March 22, 2007 at 5:41 PM | PERMALINK

I have greatly annoyed many Libertarians by calling them conservatives with intellectual pretensions. By the way, Jawk, a woman's right to choose for her own body is libertarian position.
They act that they have no connection to the real world because they are superior beings, only they're not. Conservatives also begin with an Procrustean ideology and adjust what facts they can to fit, ignore what facts they can't. Extreme leftists are the other side of the same coin. Most center-left people are pragmatists while center right seem to be corporatists. Racists gravitate to the right these days.


Posted by: Mike on March 22, 2007 at 5:44 PM | PERMALINK

Keep on telling yourself how wonderful you are, and how evil and stupid all that differ with you are, shortstop. That's what usually passes for critical thinking with a lot of people in this forum.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 22, 2007 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

Knee jerking by the incurious exists across the political spectrum.

Posted by: Chris Brown on March 22, 2007 at 5:55 PM | PERMALINK

Libertarian is french for dumbass.

Posted by: The Tim on March 22, 2007 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

I was in Atlanta in the Spring of 1980 and dropped by the Libertarian Party HQ and met two beautiful young women. Foolishly I donated $10.

Posted by: Brojo on March 22, 2007 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

Will Allen on March 22, 2007 at 5:54 PM:

Keep on telling yourself how wonderful you are, and how evil and stupid all that differ with you are..

Proceeded by:

Will Allen on March 22, 2007 at 5:31 PM:

Gosh, the level of preening, smug, self-satisfaction by many here in this thread exceeds the norm in this forum..

Gosh, Will, keep telling yourself how wonderful you are, and how evil and stupid those who differ from are, in the most preening, smug, self-satisfied manner possible, you hypocrite...

Posted by: grape_crush on March 22, 2007 at 6:26 PM | PERMALINK

I'm principled, you're an ideologue, she's a wingnut. Degrees of separation make all the difference. My first rule of life is "When it's your own, it's different." Which is why people with horribly spoiled, selfish, badly-behaved children sit around and talk about how horribly spoiled, selfish and badly behaved OTHER people's children are.

Posted by: bluewave on March 22, 2007 at 6:28 PM | PERMALINK

Will Allen: there is quite a difference between Libertarian and libertarian, and even within those two variants there are widespread differences on a whole range of issues.

Right out of the textbook. From Libertarianism Makes You Stupid:

criticism: There are all kinds of Libertarians.

rebuttal: I call this criticism "X means nothing, except for the good parts". Rare is the person (especially the Libertarian), who will attempt to invalidate a criticism of Communist ideology along the lines of "There are all kinds of Communists - Maoists, Stalinists, Trotskyites, etc.". Yes, Libertarians have factions such as Objectivists and debates on "minarchism vs anarchism" and so on. But such obscure doctrinal divisions over theological points don't make broad descriptions any less valid for an overview. Even a harshly critical overview.

Posted by: alex on March 22, 2007 at 6:28 PM | PERMALINK

I am for mostly unrestricted personal liberty. The drug laws and other laws restricting individuals' behavior were enacted to enforce a public morality to either conform to religious or business needs. Prohibition satisfied both the moralists and the corporatists, who thought preventing people from drinking alcohol with state police powers was a good thing. Two other factions were also enthusiastic about prohibition: organized crime and law enforcement. Both of these institutions saw an opportunity to become rich and increase their institutional prerogative, much to the detriment to the rest of society.

Just because I think alcoholic beverages should be available for conusmption, I still agree with prohibitons against selling it to children and driving while intoxicated. Although I might disagree with Draconian punishments for DUI, I still recognize that communities need to regulate that behavior for the safety of the community. That need to regulate behavior for the safety of the community can be a perfect balance, ignored or abused. Usually those ignoring or abusing the safety of the community are adherents to an ideology.

Posted by: Brojo on March 22, 2007 at 6:41 PM | PERMALINK
Gosh, the level of preening, smug, self-satisfaction by many here in this thread exceeds the norm in this forum,

Well, its certainly gone up since you showed up.

First, as was noted above, there is quite a difference between Libertarian and libertarian, and even within those two variants there are widespread differences on a whole range of issues. What does tend unite them all is a deep suspicion of the wisdom of relationships and interactions which are compelled by state power, and recognition that property rights are as critical as other rights to the maintainence of liberty.

Which, actually, is exactly unites pretty much almost everone in the broad modern western consensus descended from classical liberalism. While there may be some analytical utility to a "libertarian" vs. "authoritarian" distinction, you'll note that very few people self-described with terms referring to strong government, and any term with that connotation has a widely seen pejorative connotation. Ditto with opposition to private property, though of course there is disagreement on its precise boundaries and application.

So, while that's where libertarian rhetoric is centered, its not a particularly good way of distinguishing libertarians from anyone else, or defining what unites them as distinct from any other political movement.

What's unique and uniting about people who primarily, above all else describe themselvse as libertarian (with either a big-L or a small-l) is that they view their (broadly accepted) view of the need for government restraint as paramount and of greater priority than almost any vision of proper goals of the government.

(One thing that makes libertarians seem over-the-top is that they fundamentally have a set of uniting principles that, when it comes to government policy, addresses means almost exclusively, rather than ends. While there is a popular warning about being to ready to accept arguments about ends justifying means, the absence of a corresponding warning about the reverse is not an indication that that form of reasoning is seen as more acceptable, rather, that it is so foreign and unattractive to most people that there is no need to warn against it.)

However, to have a bunch of people, many of whom that are possessed of a deep abiding Faith in the efficacy and morality of central planning by a coercive state,...

One thing that distinguishes "libertarian" internet trolls, though perhaps less so libertarians more generally, is their deep and abiding faith that everyone who disagrees with their prescriptions on how to run government does so out of "a deep abiding Faith in the efficacy and morality of central planning by a coercive state".

...despite a century's worth of evidence of the inevitable trade-offs and negative unintended consequences of central planning by the state...

We've got more than a centuries worth of evidence of the dangers of ineffective, weak states, too. There is a reason that the greatest successes ,in terms of economic growth, popular satisfaction, lifespan, etc., has been in moderately regulated states with strong social welfare systems.

There is a happy medium between minarchism and (pardon the possible neologism) maxarchism, and the libertarian extreme of the former ain't it, from any practical evidence.

...broadly denounce libertarians for being divorced from reality, is more than a little ironic.

Not so much as having someone try to assert that history's demonstration of the failures of the most authoritarian systems somehow demonstrates the superiority of libertarianism, despite the fact that the victors were the moderately regulated welfare states that libertarians rail against, and then go on to assert that everyone disagreeing with that does so out of blind faith.

To have statists broadly denounce libertarian thought as being insufficiently mindful of the welfare of individual citizens would be hilarious, if not for the tragic record of innocent citizens' treatment by majorities with their hands on the levers of state power.

Which might be relevant, if the "statists" involved were advocating unlimited majoritarian government with no constraints. But, you know, it would be more credible for you to argue against the position that you were detached from reality if you could even show any contact with the reality of the forum, rather than just simply posting what seems to be entirely canned rants based on your inability to distinguish among different viewpoints that don't perfectly agree with yours, instead lumping them all together as identical.

A substantial percentage of people who strongly align with the Republican or Democratic Party are little more than majoritarian thugs who just know that if they can just capture a wee bit more of the electorate, they can proceed to impose their will on those that oppose them, and they find the prospect absolutely enthralling.

Well, for a somewhat broad view of "substantial", and focussed only on the elites of the parties, that's probably true.

Just as true of Libertarians, too; a weaker government is less able to prevent the powerful from coercing the weak, as has been amply demonstrated in weak states throughout history.


Gosh, how does that feel?

About typical for the canned rants you are wont to post here. That line suggest you might think of this as a parody of something you perceive going on here by others, but if that was your intent, it fails because it is indistinguishable from much of what you post regularly. If it is intended as a parody, it works only as a self-parody.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 22, 2007 at 6:50 PM | PERMALINK
Keep on telling yourself how wonderful you are, and how evil and stupid all that differ with you are...

Er, this from the guy who wrote rants about how everyone who disagrees with him is a power hungry statist looking for the power to coerce everyone else. Forget pots and kettles, its more like the night calling the day "dark".

Posted by: cmdicely on March 22, 2007 at 6:52 PM | PERMALINK

Grape crush, you apparently are unable to grasp the meaning of a modifier, as opposed to a categorical attribution of a negative quality. I suspect the same is true of Mr. Cheney. English is hard.

Alex, your attribution would have some usefulness, if it had any relationship to reality. Given that many critiques of libertarianism include the false notions that libertarians are universally of one mind regarding things like public education, a social welfare net, national defense, abortion, public transportation etc., etc., many critiques of libertarianism are decidedly divorced from reality.

Now, if a critique of communism states that collective ownership of the means of production nearly alwyas leads to extremely retarded wealth generation, then, yes pointing out the different types communism would be pointless. However, if a critique of communism states that communism always results in mass murder in the tens of millions, then one would rightly point out that this is not the case.

Posted by: Will Alen on March 22, 2007 at 6:52 PM | PERMALINK
Now, if a critique of communism states that collective ownership of the means of production nearly alwyas leads to extremely retarded wealth generation, then, yes pointing out the different types communism would be pointless.

But pointing out that this critique is factually incorrect would not be pointless. For one thing, "collective ownership" is not "state ownership", consider Mondragon-style cooperatives, which have been quite successful in promoting economic development in some areas. Whether this is important in regards to a critique directed at "Communism" depends on whether or you consider as "Communist" modern devotees of Marx who find both Marx's critique of capitalism and some broad elements of prescription to be compelling, but reject Leninism and its descendents as "state capitalism", and favor the government role in acheiving ownership of the means of production by the workers to be instead in favoring through government policy, or even mandating (either directly or as a right that workers may invoke akin to the right to unionization, either with compensation or without depending on the particular advocate) the transfer of ownership of firms to worker collectives.


Posted by: cmdicely on March 22, 2007 at 7:03 PM | PERMALINK

I used to think I was a Libertarian until I realized that all of the card-carrying one I ran into were truly dogmabots - admittedly it's a small sample, but I was taught to be skeptical of nearly everything and was congenitally anti-authoritarian. The problem with the dogmatic Libertarians is that they are slaves to their "ideal world" models of human behavior and the consequences of that behavior. The models work great on paper because it's a closed system. Once you get into the real-world, they don't have a prayer of working because there are too many variables unaccounted for in their models.

I still consider myself "libertarianish," but I also find it odd that a philosophy that is supposedly based on enlightened self-interest can be so utterly inflexible, unenlightened and often willfully ignorant of basic facts.

Shouldn't Libertarians, of all people, strive to be skeptical and empirical when testing their own theories? Penn & Teller's "Bullshit" is one of my favorite shows, but they certainly don't challenge their own assumptions very often.

Still, there are more and more people who feel that Big Business/Big Government aren't really the answer to our problems. Who wouldn't be distrustful of centralized control structures? I think what we'll see is the "libertarianization" of both parties over the next few years among the younger set.

Posted by: Dope on the Slope on March 22, 2007 at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK

Apparently, cmdicely, you are also largely unfamiliar with the use of modifiers, and how they change the meaning of a sentence. This surprises me.

If you wish to think that any entity in American or world history has even remotely approached the capability of the modern state, in terms of the application of coercive powers on the unwilling, thus making those with libertarian leanings as thuggishly covetous of such power as the elites of the Republican or Democratic Party, well, I'm against the War on Drugs, so don't worry, I won't tell the authorities.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 22, 2007 at 7:12 PM | PERMALINK

Give me librium or give me meth.

Posted by: Tom Paintbreath on March 22, 2007 at 7:14 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, cmdicely, and in some regards, General Electric is collectively owned. Thank you.


Posted by: Will Alen on March 22, 2007 at 7:18 PM | PERMALINK

Dope on the Slope: I used to think I was a Libertarian until I realized that all of the card-carrying one I ran into were truly dogmabots

Dogmabots, I love it! Is that Brooklyn slang? It oughta be.

The problem with the dogmatic Libertarians is that they are slaves to their "ideal world" models of human behavior and the consequences of that behavior.

A great irony - slavishly devoted to anti-authoritarianism.

Still, there are more and more people who feel that Big Business/Big Government aren't really the answer to our problems.

Of course they're not the answer to all problems. But all too many people who claim to believe in minimal gov't really mean that the part of gov't they don't like should be minimized. The part that lines their pockets is just fine.

Who wouldn't be distrustful of centralized control structures?

People with a reflexive authoritarian bent, or those ignorant of history.

I think what we'll see is the "libertarianization" of both parties over the next few years among the younger set.

Oh ye of much faith.

Posted by: alex on March 22, 2007 at 7:19 PM | PERMALINK

any entity in American...history has even remotely approached the capability of the modern state, in terms of the application of coercive powers...

Triangle Shirt Factory. Pullman Palace Car Company. Ford Motor Company. United Fruit. Anaconda Copper Mining Company. I do not know the name of any coal companies from a hundred years ago, but add them to the list of private coercive powers that destroyed tens of thousands of lives while promoting a capitalist ideology.

Posted by: Brojo on March 22, 2007 at 7:26 PM | PERMALINK

Will Allen, blathering on still:

..you apparently are unable to grasp the meaning...

No, I understand. You really are a hypocrite.

English is hard.

Must be, because you don't seem to get that your use of English has revealed you as a hypocrite.

Alex, your attribution would have some usefulness, if it had any relationship to reality.

Gosh, the level of preening, smug, self-satisfaction by Will Allen here in this thread exceeds the norm in this forum...if only he 'had any relationship to reality', he'd realized what a pompous, hypocritical ass he sounds like.

..many critiques of libertarianism are decidedly divorced from reality.

While many aren't, Will Allen. To dismiss a critique because it doesn't encompass each individual's interpretation of what libertarianism is, well, is kinda dumb.

Posted by: grape_crush on March 22, 2007 at 7:35 PM | PERMALINK
Apparently, cmdicely, you are also largely unfamiliar with the use of modifiers, and how they change the meaning of a sentence. This surprises me.

"Apparently" based on, what, exactly?

If you wish to think that any entity in American or world history has even remotely approached the capability of the modern state, in terms of the application of coercive powers on the unwilling, thus making those with libertarian leanings as thuggishly covetous of such power as the elites of the Republican or Democratic Party, well, I'm against the War on Drugs, so don't worry, I won't tell the authorities.

You'd have to be on rather strong drugs yourself, to honestly think it is necessary to believe a single entity was as powerful as a modern nation-state to believe that the degree of coercion and thuggishness many individual Libertarians could hope to acheive as a result of Libertarian policy was comparable to that many opportunists of other parties might hope to acheive through their party's policies.

But inventing ridiculous arguments that are neither in nor implied by your opponents positions and thus misattributing them to your opponents and using them to justify personal insults about how stupid and ill-motivated your opponents are seems to be your principal debating tactic here. Ironic, given your attack on others for supposed smug attribution of evil or idiocy to their opponents, but I guess its hard to take the beam out of your own eye.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 22, 2007 at 7:37 PM | PERMALINK

Brojo, show me a private coercive power in U.S. history which locked up 100,000 people in camps for several years, and allowed the prisoners' belongings to be sold off at a profit. Show me the private coercive power which forcibly sterlized people (gotta' love those "progessives"!) who were deemed insufficiently intelligent. Show me the private coercive power which has erected a gulag system, populated it with millions of people, many of whom who have done others no harm, and allowed, and in some instances even encouraged, that the weak within the gulags be mercilessly tortured. Show me a private coercive power which can send massive military forces to all corners of the globe to wage war. Show me the private coercive power in this country which has a nearly limitless supply of capital to engage in these acts, due to it's ability to imprison any who don't comply with the edicts to supply such capital.

Nope, you need a state for those things to happen, and to fend of the preditable strawman, that isn't an argument for anarchism. What it is an argument for is to frankly recognize that there is no entity which remotely approaches the power of the modern state, and that using such an awesomely powerful tool is best done with a great deal of circumspection.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 22, 2007 at 7:54 PM | PERMALINK

Will Allen: What it is an argument for is to frankly recognize that there is no entity which remotely approaches the power of the modern state, and that using such an awesomely powerful tool is best done with a great deal of circumspection.

Golly, gee, Will, that sounds like a darn good argument for a system of government with checks and balances on its power, accountability ensured by periodic elections, and a list of rights and restrictions on government power.

Wow, I guess only a Libertarian (or is it a libertarian?) could come up with a great idea like that. Maybe you could put the whole proposal on a piece of paper of something, and we'll have a big party (oops, call it a convention - sounds better), and ask for ratification. Hey, how's Philadelphia work for you?

Sucks, if I'd known that only L/libertarians are opposed to governments murdering millions of their citizens, I woulda become one years ago!

Posted by: alex on March 22, 2007 at 8:07 PM | PERMALINK
Brojo, show me a private coercive power in U.S. history which locked up 100,000 people in camps for several years, and allowed the prisoners' belongings to be sold off at a profit.

Well, lots of private coercive powers in US history did that (and more) combined, though no one did it individually. I refer, of course, to the slaveholding private individuals, whose only reliance on the state was for the purpose libertarians point to as the principal, central, and sometimes sole role of government, the protection of those slave holders property rights.

Since individual entities aren't important, what is important is people, either as the perpetrators or victims of coercion, I don't really think it matters whether mass oppression is accomplished through a single artificial juridical entity or handled retail, what matters is the coercion effected and the unjust harms produced thereby.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 22, 2007 at 8:11 PM | PERMALINK

Do tell, grape crush, where, in this thread, I've categorically assigned an extremely negative quality to those who don't share a sympathy for libertarian beliefs, in the manner that extremely negative qualities have been categorically assigned to any who do have that sympathy. A thread well populated with comments categorically describing those with such sympathies as, to give just few examples, "assholes", being a "dumbass", "self-indulgent..brats", "impermeable to reason", "selfish pricks", among other insults. In what regard is it inaccurate to call such commentary preening and smugly self satisfied? Can you grasp the meaning of words?

Posted by: Will Allen on March 22, 2007 at 8:26 PM | PERMALINK

I take it then, Alex, that you would join me in actually embracing that document drafted in Philly, along with it's ratified Amendments? Including the 1st, 4th, 5th, 9th and 10th Amendments, and without the perversion of language which allows nearly all human activity to be descibed as having been encompassed by the term "interstate commerce"? Yes, having checks on the power of the state is a most excellent idea. We should try it again.

cmdicely, when you attribute to me the belief that I think "all" who disagree with me are of a single motivation, it can only be concluded that you fail to grasp the meaning of modifiers. Or perhaps you are just making stuff up.

Of course, given that any libertarian, of any subset, would disagree with the idea that a human being could legitimately be categorized as private property, your remarks regarding slavery and private entities is largely pointless, especially since slavery could not have survived without state intervention.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 22, 2007 at 9:04 PM | PERMALINK

Will Allen on March 22, 2007 at 7:54 PM:

Nope, you need a state for those things to happen..

No, Will. You don't.

Will Allen on March 22, 2007 at 8:26 PM:

A thread well populated with comments categorically describing those with such sympathies as, to give just few examples, "assholes", being a "dumbass", "self-indulgent..brats", "impermeable to reason", "selfish pricks", among other insults.

Will, are you too tone deaf to realize that the hypocrisy, smugness, lack of a valid argument, and self-satisfaction you choose to display here turns those insults into accurate descriptors? You are what those people are describing with those pejorative terms.

frankly0 on March 22, 2007 at 2:34 PM:

You come away from such discussions thinking that they are either monsters or idiots. Likely, they are both. In general, there's no way of reducing these people to absurdity when they so happily wallow in it. And that is one way to think of what it is that makes them ideologues instead of thinkers.

...Exactly...

Posted by: grape_crush on March 22, 2007 at 9:04 PM | PERMALINK

grape crush, please explain how the conditons in Saipan, as deplorable as they are, the equivalent of a being locked up and tortured in Pelican Bay, or an internment camp. Did the American government land Marines in China and capture these people? The condition are horrible, but it is not equivalent, and you are lying if you say it is.

I'll also note that you are also too dishonest to answer whether my description of the comments I quoted were inaccurate in any way. Why does an accurate description of a series of remarks bother you so?

Posted by: Will Allen on March 22, 2007 at 9:16 PM | PERMALINK

Again, grape crush, please quote me hurling categorical invective against those I differ with, in the maner that categorical invective has been deployed against those who have libertarian sympathies.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 22, 2007 at 9:21 PM | PERMALINK
Do tell, grape crush, where, in this thread, I've categorically ...

Blah blah blah. You don't categorically do much of anything, preferring to post vague characterizations of persons and groups without specificity as to who the personal characterizations refer to, or which comments your vague characterizations of arguments apply to. Which is generally a good idea, given that those vague generalities don't seem to have any specific referents in reality, they seem to represent your own fantasies.

cmdicely, when you attribute to me the belief that I think "all" who disagree with me are of a single motivation, it can only be concluded that you fail to grasp the meaning of modifiers.

It could be concluded that when I attribute to you a belief like that, I am doing so as an inference from your posts, not stating that that is the literal, denotative meaning of the words you post.

Which someone who is fond of making claims about peoples beliefs that not only aren't the literal meaning of what they say but have no rational relationship to any thing they've said ought not to complain about. But, then, again, self-awareness isn't a trait you frequently exhibit in your postings.

Of course, given that any libertarian, of any subset, would disagree with the idea that a human being could legitimately be categorized as private property, your remarks regarding slavery and private entities is largely pointless, especially since slavery could not have survived without state intervention.

So long as it was not hereditary and was voluntarily entered into, I've heard self-described libertarians who were otherwise within the libertarian mainstream defend slavery for a time certain or even lifetime indentures. So, no, I'd reject your "no true Scotsman" argument, and, further, the challenge was about private coercion, not about "coercion by private action that libertarians would support", so even if I accepted your "no true Scotsman" argument, it would be irrelevant as to the relevance of my response to your claim, and finally, the claim "slavery could not have survived without state intervention" is entirely irrelevant itself to the claim you made or the response, and arguably false, since even in the absence of chattel slavery, virtually equivalent oppression has existed under systems where there is no distinct "state", per se, only personal, notionally free contract and strong property rights (e.g., in feudalism, in which bonds of obligation are by personal oath, and the other source of authority is either allodial or subordinate title to land, and absolute authority on that land consistent with absolute property rights.)


Posted by: cmdicely on March 22, 2007 at 9:49 PM | PERMALINK
grape crush, please explain how the conditons in Saipan, as deplorable as they are, the equivalent of a being locked up and tortured in Pelican Bay, or an internment camp.

Forced labor, including sex slavery, for the profit of another is as bad as being "locked up and tortured" (in fact, often it is literally being locked up and tortured).

Did the American government land Marines in China and capture these people?

No, see, if they had, then you could blame this on government intervention. In fact, the problem is the absence of government intervention, despite your apparent theological aversion to admitting that that can be a problem.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 22, 2007 at 9:55 PM | PERMALINK

shortstop on March 22, 2007 at 5:41 PM:

Took you long enough to get here, Will, but we know you'll be good for the night, repeating the same five or six sentences until 2 a.m. or so and then starting right up again tomorrow morning.

Exactly. See below:

Will Allen on March 22, 2007 at 9:16 PM:

...please explain...

No, Will. You probably won't get it, and even if you did, you'd pretzel yourself trying to describe how it doesn't apply.

..as deplorable as they are, the equivalent of a being locked up and tortured..

See what I mean?

I'll also note that you are also too dishonest..

That's a joke coming from you, Will.

...to answer whether my description of the comments I quoted were inaccurate in any way.

No, I think that "asshole", being a "dumbass", "self-indulgent..brat", "impermeable to reason", and "selfish prick" describe you very accurately, Will, although

Why does an accurate description of a series of remarks bother you so?

I'm not the one who's taken issue with it, Will.

Face it; you have nothing to say that can't be repudiated, and every time you post, the more you prove the accuracy of those derogatory comments, Will.

I'm through with you.

Posted by: grape_crush on March 22, 2007 at 10:01 PM | PERMALINK

Will Allen: I take it then, Alex, that you would join me in actually embracing that document drafted in Philly, along with it's ratified Amendments?

Gee, that's a pretty radical position, but what the heck, I'll do it. Am I a L/libertarian now? It sounds like their main claim to fame is their radical policy of endorsing that document.

Including the 1st, 4th, 5th, 9th and 10th Amendments

Well 4 and 5 have taken a real beating lately (not that L/libertarians have been in the forefront of criticism about that - probably too busy complaining about taxes), and 1 was always my favorite, so I'm definitely go on those. I don't want to take out 9 or 10 either, but please promise me (cross your heart and hope to die) that you know the One True and Correct Interpretation of those amendments, and why the 1st Congress dropped the word "explicitly" from 10 (not to mention why Messrs. Jefferson and Madison toned down their rhetoric on it after the Louisiana Purchase).

and without the perversion of language which allows nearly all human activity to be descibed as having been encompassed by the term "interstate commerce"?

Well, yeah. Since the activist judges refuse to recognize the original intent and meaning of 14, an additional amendment would have been better than stretching the Interstate Commerce Clause for parts of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Oh, that's not what you meant? You're more upset about the federal minimum wage? Yeah, much more important than worrying about the rights of Negroes.

BTW, why in your list of key points in the Constitution did you emphasize the ICC and ignore 13, 14, 15 and 19?

Yes, having checks on the power of the state is a most excellent idea. We should try it again.

Again? Oh, you mean like before 13, 14, 15 and 19? Or perhaps you were referring to before activist judges overturned Lochner v. New York, and allowed the States to tyrannically interfere with the all-time most hallowed Right to Contract.

Oh, that's right. Our civil rights may be greater and more strongly enforced than they were in the early 20th century or before, but our tax rates are higher. Clearly we have a more tyrannical government. Oh, sweet 1860 - you could own another human being but there was no federal income tax. Yay, liberty!

Posted by: alex on March 22, 2007 at 10:09 PM | PERMALINK

On Computer Geeks being disproportionately Libertarians (and without reading most of this thread):

This was so before the dot-com bubble, so it isn't necessarily tied to making lotsa money, though that helps.

Computer Geeks deal 24/7 exclusively with *deterministic* systems with easily-defined solution sets. They analogize this to the rest of the world, and Libertarianism gives them the tools with which to interpret the world in this way.

There is a reason why artists are NOT Libertarian.

Posted by: Disputo on March 22, 2007 at 10:14 PM | PERMALINK

Disputo: Computer Geeks deal 24/7 exclusively with *deterministic* systems

If you think that computers are strictly deterministic, then I'm afraid you're also guilty of too much theory and not enough practice.

They analogize this to the rest of the world, and Libertarianism gives them the tools with which to interpret the world in this way.

The usual caveats about generalizations aside, I'd say that programmers, engineers (like me) and many technical people, are fond of things that are systematic, more than deterministic. I hate it when there are needless exceptions and caveats, created by people who don't appreciate the systematic (2+2=4, except on Tuesdays).

Furthermore, an attraction of programming and engineering is that they're fields where it's you against a technical problem, with (compared to other fields) less of a dependence on people skills or random events. If you can't solve the problem, it's your fault, no excuses (well, usually not).

Clearly that doesn't extend well to public policy, politics or social matters. But it's the allure of that possibility that draws some of my brethren to the simplistic side.

Posted by: alex on March 22, 2007 at 10:31 PM | PERMALINK

Will Allen: ...show me a private coercive power in U.S. history which locked up 100,000 people in camps for several years, and allowed the prisoners' belongings to be sold off at a profit. Show me the private coercive power which forcibly sterlized people (gotta' love those "progessives"!) who were deemed insufficiently intelligent. Show me the private coercive power which has erected a gulag system, populated it with millions of people, many of whom who have done others no harm, and allowed, and in some instances even encouraged, that the weak within the gulags be mercilessly tortured. Show me a private coercive power which can send massive military forces to all corners of the globe to wage war.

From The Guardian, Sept. 25, 2004 (with emphasis added):

George Bush's grandfather, the late US senator Prescott Bush, was a director and shareholder of companies that profited from their involvement with the financial backers of Nazi Germany....
...His business dealings, which continued until his company's assets were seized in 1942 under the Trading with the Enemy Act, has led more than 60 years later to a civil action for damages being brought in Germany against the Bush family by two former slave labourers at Auschwitz...
The evidence has also prompted one former US Nazi war crimes prosecutor to argue that the late senator's action should have been grounds for prosecution for giving aid and comfort to the enemy.
...new documents, many of which were only declassified last year, show that even after America had entered the war and when there was already significant information about the Nazis' plans and policies, [Prescott Bush] worked for and profited from companies closely involved with the very German businesses that financed Hitler's rise to power. It has also been suggested that the money he made from these dealings helped to establish the Bush family fortune and set up its political dynasty.
Remarkably, little of Bush's dealings with Germany has received public scrutiny, partly because of the secret status of the documentation involving him. But now the multibillion dollar legal action for damages by two Holocaust survivors against the Bush family, and the imminent publication of three books on the subject are threatening to make Prescott Bush's business history an uncomfortable issue for his grandson, George W, as he seeks re-election.
While there is no suggestion that Prescott Bush was sympathetic to the Nazi cause, the documents reveal that the firm he worked for, Brown Brothers Harriman (BBH), acted as a US base for the German industrialist, Fritz Thyssen, who helped finance Hitler in the 1930s before falling out with him at the end of the decade. The Guardian has seen evidence that shows Bush was the director of the New York-based Union Banking Corporation (UBC) that represented Thyssen's US interests and he continued to work for the bank after America entered the war.
...Bush was also on the board of at least one of the companies that formed part of a multinational network of front companies to allow Thyssen to move assets around the world.
Thyssen owned the largest steel and coal company in Germany and grew rich from Hitler's efforts to re-arm between the two world wars. One of the pillars in Thyssen's international corporate web, UBC, worked exclusively for, and was owned by, a Thyssen-controlled bank in the Netherlands. More tantalising are Bush's links to the Consolidated Silesian Steel Company (CSSC), based in mineral rich Silesia on the German-Polish border. During the war, the company made use of Nazi slave labour from the concentration camps, including Auschwitz. The ownership of CSSC changed hands several times in the 1930s, but documents from the US National Archive declassified last year link Bush to CSSC, although it is not clear if he and UBC were still involved in the company when Thyssen's American assets were seized in 1942.
Three sets of archives spell out Prescott Bush's involvement. All three are readily available, thanks to the efficient US archive system and a helpful and dedicated staff at both the Library of Congress in Washington and the National Archives at the University of Maryland.
The first set of files, the Harriman papers in the Library of Congress, show that Prescott Bush was a director and shareholder of a number of companies involved with Thyssen.
The second set of papers, which are in the National Archives, are contained in vesting order number 248 which records the seizure of the company assets. What these files show is that on October 20 1942 the alien property custodian seized the assets of the UBC, of which Prescott Bush was a director. Having gone through the books of the bank, further seizures were made against two affiliates, the Holland-American Trading Corporation and the Seamless Steel Equipment Corporation. By November, the Silesian-American Company, another of Prescott Bush's ventures, had also been seized....
...In 1924, his father-in-law, a well-known St Louis investment banker, helped set him up in business in New York with Averill Harriman, the wealthy son of railroad magnate E H Harriman in New York, who had gone into banking.
One of the first jobs Walker gave Bush was to manage UBC. Bush was a founding member of the bank and the incorporation documents, which list him as one of seven directors, show he owned one share in UBC worth $125.
The bank was set up by Harriman and Bush's father-in-law to provide a US bank for the Thyssens, Germany's most powerful industrial family....
...By the late 1930s, Brown Brothers Harriman, which claimed to be the world's largest private investment bank, and UBC had bought and shipped millions of dollars of gold, fuel, steel, coal and US treasury bonds to Germany, both feeding and financing Hitler's build-up to war....
... Even then it could be argued that BBH was within its rights continuing business relations with the Thyssens until the end of 1941 as the US was still technically neutral until the attack on Pearl Harbor. The trouble started on July 30 1942 when the New York Herald-Tribune ran an article entitled "Hitler's Angel Has $3m in US Bank". UBC's huge gold purchases had raised suspicions that the bank was in fact a "secret nest egg" hidden in New York for Thyssen and other Nazi bigwigs. The Alien Property Commission (APC) launched an investigation....
...Jones recommended that the assets be liquidated for the benefit of the government, but instead UBC was maintained intact and eventually returned to the American shareholders after the war. Some claim that Bush sold his share in UBC after the war for $1.5m - a huge amount of money at the time - but there is no documentary evidence to support this claim. No further action was ever taken nor was the investigation continued, despite the fact UBC was caught red-handed operating a American shell company for the Thyssen family eight months after America had entered the war and that this was the bank that had partly financed Hitler's rise to power.
The most tantalising part of the story remains shrouded in mystery: the connection, if any, between Prescott Bush, Thyssen, Consolidated Silesian Steel Company (CSSC) and Auschwitz.
Thyssen's partner in United Steel Works, which had coal mines and steel plants across the region, was Friedrich Flick, another steel magnate who also owned part of IG Farben, the powerful German chemical company.
Flick's plants in Poland made heavy use of slave labour from the concentration camps in Poland. According to a New York Times article published in March 18 1934 Flick owned two-thirds of CSSC while "American interests" held the rest.
The US National Archive documents show that BBH's involvement with CSSC was more than simply holding the shares in the mid-1930s. Bush's friend and fellow "bonesman" Knight Woolley, another partner at BBH, wrote to Averill Harriman in January 1933 warning of problems with CSSC after the Poles started their drive to nationalise the plant. "The Consolidated Silesian Steel Company situation has become increasingly complicated, and I have accordingly brought in Sullivan and Cromwell, in order to be sure that our interests are protected," wrote Knight. "After studying the situation Foster Dulles is insisting that their man in Berlin get into the picture and obtain the information which the directors here should have. You will recall that Foster is a director and he is particularly anxious to be certain that there is no liability attaching to the American directors."
But the ownership of the CSSC between 1939 when the Germans invaded Poland and 1942 when the US government vested UBC and SAC is not clear.
"SAC held coal mines and definitely owned CSSC between 1934 and 1935, but when SAC was vested there was no trace of CSSC. All concrete evidence of its ownership disappears after 1935 and there are only a few traces in 1938 and 1939," says Eva Schweitzer, the journalist and author whose book, America and the Holocaust, is published next month.
Silesia was quickly made part of the German Reich after the invasion, but while Polish factories were seized by the Nazis, those belonging to the still neutral Americans (and some other nationals) were treated more carefully as Hitler was still hoping to persuade the US to at least sit out the war as a neutral country. Schweitzer says American interests were dealt with on a case-by-case basis. The Nazis bought some out, but not others.
The two Holocaust survivors suing the US government and the Bush family for a total of $40bn in compensation claim both materially benefited from Auschwitz slave labour during the second world war....
...In addition to Eva Schweitzer's book, two other books are about to be published that raise the subject of Prescott Bush's business history. The author of the second book, to be published next year, John Loftus, is a former US attorney who prosecuted Nazi war criminals in the 70s. Now living in St Petersburg, Florida and earning his living as a security commentator for Fox News and ABC radio, Loftus is working on a novel which uses some of the material he has uncovered on Bush. Loftus stressed that what Prescott Bush was involved in was just what many other American and British businessmen were doing at the time....
..."This was the mechanism by which Hitler was funded to come to power, this was the mechanism by which the Third Reich's defence industry was re-armed, this was the mechanism by which Nazi profits were repatriated back to the American owners, this was the mechanism by which investigations into the financial laundering of the Third Reich were blunted," said Loftus, who is vice-chairman of the Holocaust Museum in St Petersburg.
"The Union Banking Corporation was a holding company for the Nazis, for Fritz Thyssen," said Loftus. "At various times, the Bush family has tried to spin it, saying they were owned by a Dutch bank and it wasn't until the Nazis took over Holland that they realised that now the Nazis controlled the apparent company and that is why the Bush supporters claim when the war was over they got their money back. Both the American treasury investigations and the intelligence investigations in Europe completely bely that, it's absolute horseshit. They always knew who the ultimate beneficiaries were."
"There is no one left alive who could be prosecuted but they did get away with it," said Loftus. "As a former federal prosecutor, I would make a case for Prescott Bush, his father-in-law (George Walker) and Averill Harriman [to be prosecuted] for giving aid and comfort to the enemy. They remained on the boards of these companies knowing that they were of financial benefit to the nation of Germany."
Loftus said Prescott Bush must have been aware of what was happening in Germany at the time. "My take on him was that he was a not terribly successful in-law who did what Herbert Walker told him to. Walker and Harriman were the two evil geniuses, they didn't care about the Nazis any more than they cared about their investments with the Bolsheviks."
This excerpt is already long...more at the link.

Posted by: Apollo 13 on March 22, 2007 at 10:46 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely, for a person who finds it notable when I allegedly assign nonexistent beliefs to people, it is quite odd that you choose to remark on what you pretend I wrote, instead of what I actually did. Well, maybe not so odd, if one infers that you are simply dishonest, which does now appear to be perfectly reasonable. Why do you prefer dishonesty?

Well, you seem now to be saying that a person who voluntarily enters into a contract to provide his labor is a slave, so let us drop that likely pointless avenue of inquiry regarding whether widespread slavery is now possible without state participation, and forget for now that I've never called for a stateless society.

Instead, go ahead an explain how libertarians with a thuggish desire to enter into massively coercive schemes, along the lines of the elites of the two major parties, are going to accomplish that task with anything approaching the efficiency with which a modern state can, especially given that libertarian belief does not necessarily rule out anti-trust regulation.

Or, instead, just make up some more stuff. Whatever.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 22, 2007 at 10:46 PM | PERMALINK

If you think that computers are strictly deterministic, then I'm afraid you're also guilty of too much theory and not enough practice.

LMAO. I also forgot to add that computer geeks are prone to altering the meaning of what you say by interjecting adjectives in order to argue against it.

Posted by: Disputo on March 22, 2007 at 10:50 PM | PERMALINK

Just sticking my head in on my way to bed--how's it going, fellas? Will, I see you're going strong, holding onto the empty repetitions for dear life. Need any coffee? Smokes? Can I call anyone for you?

Posted by: shortstop on March 22, 2007 at 11:04 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, Apollo, thank you for establishing that the Nazi state utilized slavery.

alex, if you don't think that libertarians have been at the forefront of those complainining about the abuse that the 4th and 5th Amendments have endured, it can only be due to the fact that you don't pay much attention to libertarians. If you think the dishonest abuse of the commerce clause has most prominently resulted in minimum wage legislation being allowed, you are ignorant. Thousands of people are rotting in jail cells, despite never having harmed anyone, because of the dishonest employment of the commerce clause. If you are saying that libertarian beliefs are somehow consistent with the conditions that existed in the south in 1860, you are dishonest.

In some way out liberties are superior today, and in some ways they are worse. I never said otherwise.

Nice to hear you say that the 9th Amendment isn't a mere ink blot, however.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 22, 2007 at 11:06 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure what the boundary between "principles" and "ideology" is, but it seems to me that in deciding whether a particular policy is good, there are three different decision points, each of which can be influenced by your point of view:

1. Is the policy morally/ethically acceptable, regardless of considerations of what it might accomplish?

2. Is the intended consequences of the policy desirable, moral, ethical, etc.?

3. Is the policy likely to accomplish what it's intended to accomplish?

Decision points 1 and 2 are about values and morals, while decision point 3 is about understanding cause-and-effect. If two people disagree about the first two points, then they call each other "evil", while if they disagree about the last point, they call each other "stupid".

To me, it seems that when someone is taking a stand on principle, they are usually talking about values or moral considerations: decision points 1 and 2. On the other hand, an "ideology" can influence both your values and your beliefs about cause-and-effect. For example, conservatives believe that it is morally wrong for the government to interfere in the economy, and they also believe that such interference will have bad consequences.

Anyway, the beauty of being a libertarian is that you don't have to worry about the hard questions of what kind of world is desirable and what kind of policies will get us there. You only have to worry about point number 1: figuring out what's a morally/ethically permissible policy? That's the easiest part: you can figure it out from first principles sitting your chair without ever having to observe the real world or talk to another human being.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough on March 22, 2007 at 11:10 PM | PERMALINK

Self-proclaimed Libertarians have never explained to me why I shouldn't put forth present-day Iraq as an perfect example of a Libertarian society:

1. Weak government, if any at that.
2. No gun control (weapons control.)
3. No taxes.

The fact that whenever in history we have had the above three conditions they have always been connected to an Iraqian state of affairs rather than the utopian idealistic state as envisioned by the Libertarians makes me think the latter ain't gonna happen.

Posted by: grumpy realist on March 22, 2007 at 11:13 PM | PERMALINK

Darryl, a long time ago, I asked you what were the moral limits of majoritarian power, and what the basis of those limits were. If I remember correctly, you said you weren't going to answer the question. Maybe such questions aren't so easy.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 22, 2007 at 11:17 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, Apollo, thank you for establishing that the Nazi state utilized slavery.

Yes, Will, but let's not dismiss the "private coercive power" that financed the Nazi state, profited from its wars, and utilized its slave labor and seized assets.

The term, banana republic, came to be because of the "private coercive power" of companies such as United Fruit.

Another U.S. history example of "a private coercive power" that dealt in slaves from USAToday:

FleetBoston Financial Group traces its beginnings to Providence Bank, chartered by a group led by Rhode Island merchant John Brown in 1791. Brown's bank is described as Fleet's "earliest predecessor" in a Fleet timeline.
Brown was a slave trader. A partial census of slave ships in the book The Notorious Triangle: Rhode Island and the African Slave Trade lists him as owner of several vessels that sailed to Africa and returned with human cargo. A typical entry names him as part owner of the Hope, a 208-ton ship that brought 229 slaves from Africa to Cuba in 1796. Another for the same year names him as part owner of the schooner Delight, which delivered 81 slaves to Savannah, Ga.
Of course, organized crime also is a "private coercive force" that deals in slave trade and it is often times at odds with the state when it is not bribing the state to ignore its crimes.

I am not arguing that these are examples of libertarian ideals...not at all. But I am arguing that unfettered commerce isn't necessarily good. Neither is unfettered government. Both are run by people and people can be corrupted by power and greed.

Posted by: Apollo 13 on March 22, 2007 at 11:35 PM | PERMALINK

Will Allen: if you don't think that libertarians have been at the forefront of those complainining about the abuse that the 4th and 5th Amendments have endured, it can only be due to the fact that you don't pay much attention to libertarians

No, I think the problem is that the message gets lost beneath all the talk about contracts, taxes and "men with guns".

Moreover, complaining about the abuses of 4 and 5 is about as unique as endorsing the Philadelphia document. Every non-authoritarian has something to say about it. While it's certainly laudable, it's hardly unique to L/libertarians.

If you think the dishonest abuse of the commerce clause has most prominently resulted in minimum wage legislation being allowed, you are ignorant. Thousands of people are rotting in jail cells, despite never having harmed anyone, because of the dishonest employment of the commerce clause.

If you're talking about the War on Drugs, then I have to remind you that there are plenty of draconian state laws on the matter. There are a lot more people needlessly rotting in prisons thanks to those state laws than the federal ones. Not overusing the ICC isn't much of a defense against such stupidity. The problem is policy, not Constitutional interpretation.

If you are saying that libertarian beliefs are somehow consistent with the conditions that existed in the south in 1860, you are dishonest.

I never said that L/libertarians endorsed slavery. I'm even sure that most would consider it downright undesirable, but judging by their emphasis on property "rights" and the evils of taxes collected by "men with guns", I'd say that many were more outraged by the federal income tax than by slavery.

Once again we find that being opposed to slavery is hardly unique to L/libertarians though.

In some way out liberties are superior today, and in some ways they are worse. I never said otherwise.

No, and Bush never said that Iraq was involved in 9/11 either. Both of you have a habit of strongly implying things though.

Posted by: alex on March 22, 2007 at 11:39 PM | PERMALINK

Will,

I don't remember that exchange. I certainly don't remember defending absolute majoritarianism. I don't think that there is anything particularly special about majorities. A majority oppressing a minority is no better, in principle, than the other way around. My opinion is with the founding fathers, that we should try to arrange society so that each person has the opportunity to pursue happiness. That's why I favor a constitution that works to guarantee rights of individuals regardless of whether they are in the majority or not.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough on March 22, 2007 at 11:49 PM | PERMALINK

Alex, without the Federal War on Drugs, huge chunks of the edifice would come tumbling down, and thousands and thousands of people who are locked up, or were locked up, would not have suffered that fate. For a guy who claims to appreciate checks and balances it is odd that you do not grasp that keeping stupid policies from being enacted, or less widely enacted, is one of the major benefits of checks and balances. The War on Drugs would not be nearly as wide-reaching, with such horrible effects, absent a dishonest interpretation of the Commerce Clause. The proplem is constitutional interpretation, or at least it is for someone who truly appreciates the value of checks and balances. Do you?

Also, your intepretation of what constitutes an "authoritarian" is likely rather more narrow than mine, given that wide elements of both major parties have little issue with petending that the 4th and 5th Amendments don't mean what they say. I'll ignore for now the fact that Congress now passes laws which state that certain assemblies of people cannot say certain things about political candidates and certain times prior to an election.

No, I never implied that liberties were were uniformly restricted today than in years past. I said we would do well have have more robust checks and balances than is now the case. The statements aren't synonymous, even on an implied basis.

Apollo, I never states that unfettered commerce was good. I stated that the modern state is the most dangerously coercive entity in our society, by a wide margin.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 23, 2007 at 12:03 AM | PERMALINK

I only had three philosophy courses in college, but I found that bringing up Immanuel Kant to a pretty smart self-described libertarian got her all upset. I found a good wiki link on Kant's notions of ethics (thanks BGRS with mention of deontology that started an investigation on my part) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Categorical_imperative

Anyhow, when I mentioned "The Critique of Pure Reason", she really went supernova. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critique_of_Pure_Reason

What's with all the vitriol with Kant and libertarians?

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on March 23, 2007 at 1:08 AM | PERMALINK

Well, Daryl, I could be remembering wrong, but that is the difficult thing, isn't it; what need be done to extend the opportunity to pursue happiness to each individual, without it resulting in the undue infringement of opportunity to pursue happiness by others?

This is a difficult question, and anybody who says differently, be they libertarian, liberal, conservative, Democrat or Republican has either not thought about it very deeply, or is trying to get over on somebody.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 23, 2007 at 1:20 AM | PERMALINK

What's with all the vitriol with Kant and libertarians?

I think it has something to do with his absolute inviolability of certain rules - that some things may not be done, no matter what, i.e. the Categorical Imperative.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka Global Citizen) on March 23, 2007 at 1:23 AM | PERMALINK

Will Allen writes: This is a difficult question, and anybody who says differently, be they libertarian, liberal, conservative, Democrat or Republican has either not thought about it very deeply, or is trying to get over on somebody.

I agree. But it seems to me that libertarians are claiming to have it all already figured out, once and for all.

Posted by: Daryl McCullough on March 23, 2007 at 7:37 AM | PERMALINK

1:20 a.m. I was pretty close.

Posted by: shortstop on March 23, 2007 at 7:58 AM | PERMALINK

...while everyone has principles, libertarians are far more likely than most people to go over the cliff with their principles...

yer looking backwards at it, Kev; being a Libertarian means you've already gone over the cliff...

Posted by: Doozer on March 23, 2007 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

Goodness, shortstop, I've never been stalked before! Why is my entirely civil conversation with the likes of Daryl, Alex, or Apollo of such concern to you that you are compelled to note what time it ocurred? You are behaving somewhat strangely.

Daryl, I'd review the tone and content of this thread before making generalizations about libertarians being more possessed of certitude than the norm.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 23, 2007 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK
Clearly that doesn't extend well to public policy, politics or social matters.

Well, I think that the preference for systematism with simplicity as a touchstone and only necessary, clearly justified exceptions to clean rules can extend well to public policy, but the desire to not to have systems rely on "people skills" certainly has some problems there.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 23, 2007 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK
cmdicely, for a person who finds it notable when I allegedly assign nonexistent beliefs to people, it is quite odd that you choose to remark on what you pretend I wrote, instead of what I actually did.

Yet another of your vague, handwaving generalized personal attacks linked to nothing.

Well, you seem now to be saying that a person who voluntarily enters into a contract to provide his labor is a slave

No, I'm saying someone who is enters an unfree state through contract, as, say, an indentured servant, is a kind of slave, particularly (in reference to feudalism) when that contract is, de facto, coerced by the fact that control of all of the resources essential to survival, indeed the very entirety of the land itself, is held as private property of the individual with whom the person becoming unfree is contracting, or someone on whose behalf they act.

While that is certainly a subset of people who contract to provide labor, it is not a claim which generalizes to "a person who voluntarily enters into a contract to provide labor". OTOH, your failure to distinguish between unfree conditions entered into through an initial contractual relationship and contractual labor relationships between parties that remain free and equal is interesting, and perhaps illuminating on the ridiculous and harmful effects of a simplistic libertarian approach to property and contract.

Instead, go ahead an explain how libertarians with a thuggish desire to enter into massively coercive schemes, along the lines of the elites of the two major parties, are going to accomplish that task with anything approaching the efficiency with which a modern state can

Why? I haven't claimed that. I've claimed that "libertarian" coercion tends, at least modernly, to be distribute and oligarchical, not centralized and unitary; it therefore is not prone to single "massive schemes" in the way the most oppressive modern states are (but then, neither are the policies of any but the most corrupt schemers in the most authoritarian factions in the two major parties), but the misery and oppression they open the door to is no less, merely less unitary.

especially given that libertarian belief does not necessarily rule out anti-trust regulation.

Certainly many libertarians, and especially many Libertarians, do not believe in anti-trust regulation; that some do is quite beside the point.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 23, 2007 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

Brojo, show me a private coercive power in U.S. history which locked up 100,000 people in camps

I already mentioned United Fruit, but failed to mention the textile mills that used child labor for decades.

Kant is vilified by libertarians because Ayn Rand did not like him, not because they have read him and disagree with him for actual reasons.

Posted by: Brojo on March 23, 2007 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely, if you are going to lie, at least lie in an entertaining manner, will you? When you write....

"It could be concluded that when I attribute to you a belief like that, I am doing so as an inference from your posts, not stating that that is the literal, denotative meaning of the words you post."

...you are clearly stating that you prefer to avoid the actual meaning of the words I wrote, and instead prefer to address what you have imagined I wrote, and dishonestly call your fantasies inferences.

I'll also note that you are lying when you state that I ever denied absence of government intervention can be a problem (do you really need me to post a quote from you in this space, given it is just a little ways above?), given that I have stated on numerous occasions in this thread that state intervention is desirable in some forms. Why on earth do you lie about something that is so easily refuted?

Now, regarding more of your statements, although this may not be so much of a lie as it is my use of "efficiency" instead of "degree", you did state that....

"You'd have to be on rather strong drugs yourself, to honestly think it is necessary to believe a single entity was as powerful as a modern nation-state to believe that the degree of coercion and thuggishness many individual Libertarians could hope to acheive as a result of Libertarian policy was comparable to that many opportunists of other parties might hope to acheive through their party's policies."

...thus saying that people of libertarian belief can achieve the same degree of coercion as opportunists who choose to use the apparatus of the state. This simply is not possible absent a stateless existence, and libertarians do not advocate a stateless existence. As long as the state is the final arbiter of the use of violence, those who seek to control a more powerful state will have greater potential to achieve a higher degree of coercion of the population than those who seek to control a weaker state.

Now, if you can get through one post without it making it necessary to go through a process in which the meanings of words have to be stipulated to, we can continue. Otherwise, it probably is not useful.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 23, 2007 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

Brojo, as much as I support child labor laws, at least on the state level (given the right amendment, I'd support it on the national level as well), given that children cannot give informed consent to a contract, it simply is not true that paying a child to work under horrible conditions in a factory or field is the same as sending armed forces to take people into custody, and thus incarcerate them in concentration camps.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 23, 2007 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

Also, Brojo, let me know when a private coercive entity builds hundreds of prisons, and incarcerates millions, many of whom who have harmed no other citizen, while subjecting the weak in those prisons to regular torture.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 23, 2007 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

United Fruit Company in Guatemala, with support from my government, has done such things as Will Allen describes. Mining companies in the Southwest have, too. Perhaps you have not heard of what Phelps Dodge and the US government did to the Wobblies.

Posted by: Brojo on March 23, 2007 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, Brojo, if the U.S. Government has used it's power to take people into custody, and incarcerate them in camps, to the benefit of Phelps Dodge, that's an excellent reason to strip the U.S. Government of such power. Thanks for agreeing with me.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 23, 2007 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK
cmdicely, if you are going to lie, at least lie in an entertaining manner, will you?

When I decide to lie, I'll keep that it mind. In the meantime, I'll note yet another instance of your hypocrisy, as your lies are far from entertaining.

When you write....

"It could be concluded that when I attribute to you a belief like that, I am doing so as an inference from your posts, not stating that that is the literal, denotative meaning of the words you post."

...you are clearly stating that you prefer to avoid the actual meaning of the words I wrote, and instead prefer to address what you have imagined I wrote, and dishonestly call your fantasies inferences.

Um, no, I am quite clearly not stating anything of those things. Those are, in fact, very different than things I'm stating, are in fact inconsistent with them (which is why you have to claim that the very phrase you claim is "stating" these things is "dishonest".) Your accusation both ignores what I write and contradicts itself, which is odd in that your entire dishonest attack on me with it is that I prefer to ignore your words.

Further, you'll note, I don't ignore the words you write, I respond to them directly, explicitly, quite frequently. I sometimes additionally make broader inferences from what you've written at many times in many different places, which are not direct response to particular statements. Leaving aside your dishonest claims of what I'm stating about the latter, that I do both is not a sign that I prefer one to the other.

I'll also note that you are lying when you state that I ever denied absence of government intervention can be a problem

And I'll note that you are lying here in claiming that I have stated that you "denied absence of government intervention can be a problem". And lying doubly, therefore, when you accuse of my lying when I made that claim.

I did state that you have an apparent theological aversion to acknowledging problems stemming from absence of government. I did not state that you had categorically denied that absence of government could be a problem. The point of the former was that you frequently dodge, weave, bob, and invent bizarre and self-contradictory rationalization to avoid acknowledging that particular problems raised in discussion stem from inadequacy of government rather than surplus of government (your favorite one the excuse that a condition "could not exist without government", even if it is direct result of private action enabled by government inaction or government enforcement only of property rights, but we'll get back to this in a moment.)

Now, regarding more of your statements, although this may not be so much of a lie as it is my use of "efficiency" instead of "degree", you did state that....

"You'd have to be on rather strong drugs yourself, to honestly think it is necessary to believe a single entity was as powerful as a modern nation-state to believe that the degree of coercion and thuggishness many individual Libertarians could hope to acheive as a result of Libertarian policy was comparable to that many opportunists of other parties might hope to acheive through their party's policies."

...thus saying that people of libertarian belief can achieve the same degree of coercion as opportunists who choose to use the apparatus of the state.

Yes, that is what it says. This is neither a lie, nor anything of the kind.

This simply is not possible absent a stateless existence, and libertarians do not advocate a stateless existence.

The first part is an assertion supported neither by evidence or reason. The second part is interesting, since it is inconsistent with your frequent tactic of refusing to acknowledge that problems may stem from libertarian attitudes and policies because the problems, you claim, require the existence of a state.

But now you deny that problems that require statelessness to manifest also cannot be attributed to libertarian attitudes and policies, because libertarians do not advocate a stateless existence.

You have neatly laid out a framework in which no possible problem can be attributed to libertarian attitudes: if the problem occurs in the presence of a state, you use your common denial of libertarian responsibility (as, above, with slavery) that the problem cannot exist without the state.

If a problem occurs in a condition of statelessness, well, it can't be attribute to libertarianism because libertarians don't advocate a stateless existence.

Of course, there is no logical consistency or rationality here, but its a slick rhetorical trick to catch people who aren't paying close attention.

As long as the state is the final arbiter of the use of violence, those who seek to control a more powerful state will have greater potential to achieve a higher degree of coercion of the population than those who seek to control a weaker state.

The wekaer the state is, the less a state is, in practice, the final arbiter of the use of violence (which, I might add, nice as the idea sounds in introductory political theory classes, no state, in practice, is even approximately the "final arbiter of the user of force".)

The only truth underlying your statement, which confuses continuous quantities with binary attributes, is this: the greater the power of the state, the more true it is that coercion is most efficiently acheived through the state. But the converse is also true: the less powerful the state is, the more true it is that coercion is more efficiently acheived outside of the state.

As a consequence, the more broadly control of the instruments of the state is distributed, the less powerful those who wish to concentrate power narrowly and use it coercively will want the state to be. And the more powerful the state is, the more important those same people will see capturing power over the state to be.

Thus, those who seek to coerce have two options in a modern, strong, democratic state: they can seek to subvert practical democratic control of the state, or they can seek to greatly curtail the power of the state.

Now, if you can get through one post without it making it necessary to go through a process in which the meanings of words have to be stipulated to, we can continue. Otherwise, it probably is not useful.

I have no idea what you might think you are referring to by the first sentence; in regard to the second, well, the only utility I've seen in the exchange thus far is how well it illuminates the emptiness of your positions.


Posted by: cmdicely on March 23, 2007 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

Phelps Dodge used it's power to take people into custody and incarcerate them in camps, to benefit a few US government politicians. That's an excellent reason to strip corporations of such power.

Posted by: Brojo on March 23, 2007 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

Brojo, let me know when you can come up with and example that fits one of my highly-qualified statements, including each modifier that I have chosen to include in said statement.

If you come up with an example that any sane person would understand as a proper enough example but does not fulfill my high number of pedantic requirements known only to me, you must admit the superiority of my views and of the Libertarian ideology I espouse. Barring that, I will attribute arguments to you that you have not made, personally attack you for not admitting my ideological superiority, and re-modify my arguments to, in effect, move this debate's goalposts to another zip code.

If you do not respond in exactly the way I dictate, then you are dishonest, and I will seek out another unsuspecting commentor to wheedle attention from under the guise of participating in a debate.

Posted by: Will Allen's Deformed Ego on March 23, 2007 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

No cmdicely, you have explicitly stated that it can be concluded that you attribute to me beliefs not based on the actual meaning of the words I write, but rather based on your own internal thought processes. Ignoring the actual meaning of words people use is never a good idea, but when combined with a dishonest thought process, it really is counterproductive.

In any case, since you won't even stipulate that the meaning of words is the proper method by which ideas are communicated, I won't bother to respond to the rest of your post. What's the point, if the meaning of the words used is of secondary importance, assuming that they have any importance at all? With you, of course, there seems to be no reason to have any such assumption.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 23, 2007 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, brojo, kidnapping should be criminally prosecuted. Thanks for your contribution.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 23, 2007 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK
No cmdicely, you have explicitly stated that it can be concluded that you attribute to me beliefs not based on the actual meaning of the words I write, but rather based on your own internal thought processes.

No, wrong. Something that is "inferred" from something else is "based on" it. What I infer from your writing is based on its content. It is not a recapitulation, as I stated, but an inference.

I also respond directly to the words you write, in addition to the inferences I make from the words you write, which are two separate things.

Ignoring the actual meaning of words people use is never a good idea,

I don't ignore the literal meaning of your words. And, when I respond directly to them, that's what I respond to. Having thoughts that go beyond that literal meaning is not ignoring the literal meaning.

but when combined with a dishonest thought process, it really is counterproductive.

What dishonest thought process?


In any case, since you won't even stipulate that the meaning of words is the proper method by which ideas are communicated

Well, true, I won't stipulate that it is the proper method (it is, quite simply, not; it is a proper method.) But I'm not sure what your basis was for saying that, since you never asked that I stipulate that, and indeed previously seem to demand quite the opposite, that you would not continue if such a stipulation regarding the meaning of words was required.

I won't bother to respond to the rest of your post.

Considering that you haven't bothered to respond with anything sensible or relevant to any of my previous posts, I really don't mind.

What's the point, if the meaning of the words used is of secondary importance, assuming that they have any importance at all?

You should ask yourself, you who have declared that libertarians cannot be held responsible for any condition that occurs while a government exists, or for any condition that occurs in the absence of government; the first because libertarians advocate against state power, the second because they don't advocate for the complete absence of state power. Clearly, to you, the meaning of words is a matter of momentary convenience that shifts to obscure ideas rather to communicate them clearly.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 23, 2007 at 6:03 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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