January 15, 2007

Grabbing A Tgirsch By The Tale

Tgirsch of Lean Left was kind enough to leave a partial rebuttal to my fisking of his post about libertarians. Here's the post of mine which links to the post of his (scroll down for the comments). Now, let us fisk yet again; this time his comments to the above linked post. This will be a longish one (13 pages or so) & will concentrate mainly on health care & to a lesser extent education as examples. There are some interesting links about health care economics (among other things) so open the extended entry for those, but stay for the bad puns & ampersands :D To avoid confusion I'll put the quotes of mine he uses in brackets & italicized whereas his will just get the usual quotation mark & italic treatment:

"Frankly, upon reading this whole thing, it sounds an awful lot more like wishful thinking than a 'fisking'."

I do not think that word means what you think it means.

As Wikipedia puts it: "The term Fisking, or to Fisk, is blogosphere slang describing detailed point-by-point criticism that highlights errors, disputes the analysis of presented facts, or highlights other problems in a statement, article, or essay."

Obviously Tgirsch disagrees with my points, but I did do a line by line critique of his post. Of course if we go by his earlier definition of whining ( "...As an old boss of mine used to say, if you’re complaining about one idea without offering a better one, you’re just whining.") I must point out that several solutions were offered throughout the post. A good chunk of that solution can be summed up by this one sentence I used in the earlier post: "... if you really want to do something to help me out let's start with minding your own damned business." Believe me - that'd solve so many problems it'd appear miraculous.

"Libertarian economic policies would almost certainly lead to oligarchic plutocracy (worse even than what we have today), if not outright fuedalism."

My. Such big words. They sound important too. Must have cost a shiny new nickel a piece. :)

Lemme see:

Oligarchic: : of, relating to, or based on an oligarchy

Oligarchy: 1 : government by the few
2 : a government in which a small group exercises control especially for corrupt and selfish purposes; also : a group exercising such control
3 : an organization under oligarchic control

Plutocracy: 1 : government by the wealthy
2 : a controlling class of the wealthy

From Wikipedia we find the following (links originally in the quoted passage will be omitted here. Click the link to find out what you're missing) Feudalism:

"Feudalism refers to a general set of reciprocal legal and military obligations among the warrior nobility of Europe during the Middle Ages, revolving around the three key concepts of lords, vassals, and fiefs.

Defining feudalism requires many qualifiers because there is no broadly accepted agreement of what it means. For one to begin to understand feudalism, a working definition is desirable. The definition described in this article is the most senior and classic definition and is still subscribed to by many historians.

However, other definitions of feudalism exist. Since at least the 1960s, many medieval historians have included a broader social aspect, adding the peasantry bonds of Manorialism, referred to as a "feudal society". Still others, since the 1970s, have re-examined the evidence and concluded that feudalism is an unworkable term and should be removed entirely from scholarly and educational discussion (see Revolt against the term feudalism), or at least only used with severe qualification and warning."

So you’re asserting that the end result of libertarianism would be a small group of wealthy folks controlling society. Would these folks be called The Illuminati by any chance? Or must we not speak the name lest we give them more power? :)

Honestly I do not know what a libertarian society would be like. I speculate based upon my understanding of human nature, societal structures, economics & a few other factors. & I readily admit it would not be perfect or fair. But in my view it would be better for me personally & for the society I live in as a whole. It certainly would be no worse than many or the alternatives or even the current situation we have.

Being dominated by a small group of wealthy people? Or possibly devolving into a medieval socio-martial-economic system which is not clearly or universally defined as to structure? Honestly I'm all a-flitter - when does the novella come out? :)

People with money control certain things in most societies. people with lots of money control a lot of things in most societies. The only way around that is to eliminate money. & while a noble, well intentioned idea it may be it commits the same mistake Marxians do & the one you seem to improperly throw at the feet of libertarians - it discounts human nature. We need some form of currency with which to barter goods & services & money is it. Much handier than boulders & less messy than over ripened fish. But human nature does dictate that folks with lots of the green will have lots of say. This is because they can pay folks to carry out their desires. With a concerted effort these desires can be channeled into one direction & cause things to happen on a great-than-household level. That's just the way it is.

But with a minimalistic government the influence of the wealth in matters of concern to society would be greatly diminished. View money as a surfboard & government as the wave. With a big wave that board can go a long way. But if you reduce the size of the wave the board can only go so far.

As far as having an effect outside government - yes; the wealthy can, do & will have a disproportionate effect on society as long as society plays along. It's rather simple - if you don't wish Wealthy Person A: dictating how to run your affairs then don't patronize Wealthy Person A's businesses. enough people do that & Wealthy Person A will soon be just Person A. Course the problem is getting enough folks to boycott Wealthy Person A's businesses but that's not a bug - it's a feature.

"Hillary Care' was supposed to result in skyrocketing health care costs and lack of choice. Gee, I sure am glad that didn't get through, so that I may pick among the wide variety of low-cost health-care choices that exist today."

So what you’re saying is that because we didn't go with Hillary Care that health care costs have skyrocketed? Ever think it could be the effect of regulations that distort the market? Or maybe, just maybe a natural by-product of inflation? Or of supply & demand? I admit only having delved into the issue of health care at the edges but I have not seen anything credible to suggest as you seem to be doing that a lack of Hillary Care caused an increase in medical expenditures.

Have you considered that Hillary Care might have increased the costs even more than they have? Or worse yet - lowered the standards of care? C'mon now; we're talking about the same folks who put together the DMV here. You really think service with a smile will be maintained if they get billions to play with while deciding who gets to be hospitalized this week?

["Let the market decide" is a valid libertarian position.]

"So long as libertarians don't mind unsafe work environments, toxic dumping, child labor, and Enron-style accounting, I guess you could argue that. The market loves all those things. :) " (bold text added to simulate original author's emphasis)

As opposed to all those heavily regulated economies where such occurrences are unheard of?

& what's wrong with child labor? I had my first job (outside of working for the family - & no; not that family) when I was 13. The job sucked (it was a pizzeria) but it taught me some very valuable lessons (like not to work in pizzerias). At the time I hadn't developed too keen a grasp of politics or more than the basic concepts of what I'd later realize to be Lockean based Natural Law & Property Rights theory - I hadn't even read Atlas Shrugged yet - but I recall being pretty ticked off that I had to get a work permit from my city to work there.

But you speak of harmful child labor right? As determined by you as opposed to the child's parents? Why that's mighty God-like of you. :)

In actuality a free market based libertarian society would have no more occurrences of those problems than we have right now & I'd wager a bit less due to the nature of the market & government involvement in creating or worsening those respective problems.

[In fact libertarians do have solutions to a lot of the problems Lean Left complains of. the problem is Lean Left does not like those solutions]

"The problem is these 'solutions' don't have a snowball's chance in hell of actually working. Actually, I'm wrong, which is why there are libertarian paradises all over the world where libertarian policies have been implemented and created just, polite societies which thrive, and in which all citizens get a pony."

You simply must make up your mind. First you complained that we lacked solutions. Then when I pointed out we have solutions you say that you meant solutions that you think might work.

But ah yes; I knew it would come. The old "since it hasn't happened in 2,000 years it must be an impractical notion" ploy. To which I must parry with "I wonder if anyone ever said that to Madison & Hamilton?"

Most libertarian ideas are rooted in currently existing practices. Let's take helping the poor with healthcare as an example. Let's say being the good liberal you are you have some money left over at the end of the year & want to give some of it to help out children with cancer. Would you write the check out to the National Cancer Institute or to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital? or if you have a desire to eradicate breast cancer would you write the check out to the National Cancer Institute or to The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation?

Which reminds me - look on my sidebar to see how I answer those questions.

But the point is in most things (not all but most) a non-government solution produces better results. This has been proven in many areas. What's different about the libertarian approach is that it'd be a widespread implementation of many of these accomplished ideas (with some theoretical ones thrown in for the helluvit :D ). We can say that Marxian economic theory has failed because it's been tried (& is still being tried with less than stellar results) in many areas of the world. But the market persists despite the hindrances thrown upon it. Really I don't view libertarianism as a bran spankin’ new roll of the dice. It's more like combining many things that either work or seem to have a more than reasonable chance of working. Course it'd take a very in depth discussion to hash all the details out so don't ask cause I'm verbose enough to do it (ampersands be damned). :)

But all citizens getting a pony? Sounds like one of dem dare wealth distro-bution nonsenses rather than a libertarian-fangled idea (& yes the "dem" pun was intentional). Surely you meant "all citizens have an opportunity to get a pony - if the market decides" right? :)

[Actually most libertarians would suggest a visit from the "Don't Have Kids Until You're In A Position To Care For Them Fairy"]

"See, that's a fine attitude to take toward the parents, but what about the kids? I know libertarians like to mock the 'what about the children' thing, but somehow they always stop short of the logical conclusion of their rhetoric: if you're born to irresponsible parents, tough shit. It's not my problem that your mom couldn't keep her legs closed... That's precisely where libertarianism leads, and yet few libertarians have the courage to state it quite that bluntly.

And that's ultimately why we'll never agree. If humans were solitary creatures, I might be able to get behind a philosophy where one's sole responsibility is to look out for #1, and where there's no shared responsibility for common problems. But humans are social creatures, and we didn't advance this far by saying 'screw everybody else, I'm looking out for me.'

Libertarianism tries to dress itself up in fancy philosophical discussions about 'freedom' and 'liberty,' but what it's really about is freedom from responsibility, beyond just the very basic level of 'don't kill anyone (who didn't deserve it) and don't do great harm to anyone." (bold text added to simulate the emphasis in original)

Everyone (except those who use it) mock the "for the children" tagline because it's been over-used. You cry "wolf" too many times & eventually the other kids will start calling you White Fang. That pesky human nature again.

But what about the children? No one is saying the kids should not be looked after or that people (even parents) down on their luck shouldn't be helped out. I'm saying it's not the state's place to take my money to give it to people whom I may not want to have it. The general idea is that the private sector will take up as much if not more slack than the state is doing now. So let's say my sister gets pregnant unexpectedly (very unexpectedly). Your idea is to have the state coerce more funds from you to provide (among other things) basic care for her & her child. My idea is that since she's my damn sister me & the family (or what's left of us) will do whatever we can to help the kid & her. if it's beyond our means then the local church or some other private organization would be able to offer assistance. & yes in an ideal libertarian world there'd be laws against me killing the father for being a dead beat dad. I'd chime in for a reduced sentence for a mere ass whooping but I doubt that'd fly either. However in theory the tort system (see? Some government would be around) may help alleviate some of the problem.

Again just because it's non-government does not mean it's not a solution or a viable solution. But in the libertarian system we'd be free to choose who we give help to or if we give help at all. In yours I'm forced to pay no matter what objections I might have to someone receiving aid. You've eliminated my choice for the sake of your idea of societal benevolence.

Funny you should mention responsibility though - what the hell do you think freedom is? Every action has a consequence good bad or neutral (sometimes all three or a combination thereof). A true state of individual freedom places the most responsibility on the individual possible since it is entirely that person's action that cause consequences (as opposed to the dictates of the state). In other words you would not have artificial constraints (such as duty-to-retreat laws on your own property) limiting your actions but neither would you have anyone to throw blame on for your actions (i.e. it was 911's fault because they didn't get there in time).

[A big reason that health care costs are so high isn't that the 'evil medical corporation machine' is looking to stick it to us; it's that government subsidization has created a distortion in the market that has artificially inflated pricing.]

"Neat claim. But I wonder if you've ever heard of this thing called 'evidence."

I would have provided some but I was unaware until now that you had that particular word in your lexicon. :)

Might I recommend Economics For Real People: An Introduction to the Austrian School by Gene Callahan?

But since you probably don’t have time to order a book by one of those free markety types how about National Health Care by Kerby Anderson? It takes a look at the then current discussion of health care in 1994. & it reminded me that the "50 million without health care" (care - spelled i-n-s-u-r-a-n-c-e)" figure may be a wee bit off.

The Aggregate Effects of Health Insurance: Evidence from the Introduction of Medicare (.pdf) by Amy Finkelstein is an interesting read that examines the impact of distortion in the market (my words, not hers) of Medicare. It wasn't written in an effort to support the claim you requested evidence for (rather just a general look at an idea for a better model for gauging health care costs) but I think it shows the basic idea that government interference in a market tends to distort said market.

& that article leads beautifully to this one: Why is Medical Care so Expensive? By Hans F. Sennholz

There's this: How Medical Boards Nationalized Health Care By Henry Jones

& this: Socialized Medicine in America by Timothy D. Terrell

& so you can't say I'm not offering a solution I refer you to From Welfare To Health Care. Commentary On Von Studnitz (.pdf) by Hans-Hermann Hoppe

I realize most of the links are mere essays making similar claims to what I have but I think there are enough things amongst them that you could check numbers here & there to refute or validate the claims being made. If you wish for more concrete evidence I'll be happy to do what I can, but admittedly economics isn't my field so it'll take a while to compile the sources necessary.

[That's Darwinism on a societal level, not a failing of the market or libertarian ideas.]

"I have to admit, it's refreshing to hear a libertarian so freely admit that libertarianism is essentially social Darwinism. That type of candor is rare."

Ya know this reminds me of all those times I had to point out that the militia clause wasn't the only one in a certain amendment. :) Re-read the entire paragraph please. Or at least the preceding sentence. Here is a better portrayal of the point I was trying to make:

[If society collapses because folks do not learn to take accountability for their own lives & futures & the circumstances they find themselves in then so be it. That's Darwinism on a societal level, not a failing of the market or libertarian ideas.]

Not that libertarianism or the market is social Darwinism, but that if a society failed it would be due to social Darwinism rather than an invalidity to libertarian ideas. I'll grant that social Darwinism would not be hindered much by libertarianism or a free market based society, but to paraphrase some dead white guy from the 18th century any free people can remain so only as long as they are up to the task. If society fails because of moral ineptitude or ethical negligence (i.e. social Darwinism) then maybe that society shouldn't have been propped up at all.

[What a libertarian world would do is provide more equality in opportunity which is all we should ever hope for.]

"OK, now it's my turn to call bullshit. In a libertarian world, wealth would inevitably concentrate in relatively few hands. This would result not in equal opportunity, and in fact it would result in quite the opposite. The inequality would start from the very beginning. There'd be no public schools at all, so poor parents wouldn't be able to afford to educate their children, and middle-class parents wouldn't be able to afford nearly what the wealthy could. So the children of the wealthy would have an even greater advantage than they do today."

I call your call of bullshit & raise you an "uuuuh-huh".

There would be schools open to the public; they'd just receive private funding. In fact private schools exist today & some if not most offer student aid through private contributors. Hillsdale College comes to mind. They refuse federal student assistance of any kind yet offer financial aid to their students. But before I fall into a trap of my own collaboration I must point out that "schooling" does not always equal education. It takes a desire to learn coupled with an application of a hungry mind to achieve any sort of education. & I would submit that you'll find examples of that & of the opposite in any class you look at. So it's not necessarily true that the wealthy kids will receive more education. It might be easier for them to have access to it in some cases but if a kid & his/her parents prioritize an education there's nothing that would stop them.

& wealth would not flock like a magnet to the hands of a few. That only happens in completely state controlled economies. :) See wealth is not a finite resource nor is it something that can be hoarded. You don't really think that because Bill Gates has a few billion in the bank that there are X number of poor folks do you? & that if we could wrest the cash from greedy Bill's vaults we could boost X number of lower class families to lower middle class? Last I heard rich folks spent money. & lots of it. & on things as varied as houses (which requires labor to build & pays some folks bills via a paycheck) to philanthropic endeavors (like, oh, I dunno, giving money to health clinics or setting up scholarships). :)

"See, that points up another problem with libertarianism: it's predicated on the myth that all it takes to go from rags to riches is hard work. Well, that just ain't so. You need a lot of luck (including being lucky enough to be born to the right parents) and a lot of help. Libertarianism would eliminate what few social equalizers currently exist (public education, estate taxes, etc.)."

The estate tax as a public equalizer? Oh that's rich (bad puns are, as always, intentional). & public education is another "equalizer"? Look I went through the public school system; despite that I can type a complete sentence on occasion. :)

The estate tax is merely a bunch of medium-to-do folks rallying cry to get the less-to-do folks on their side so they can use the state's most destructive power to seek revenge. It's acting on pure jealousy. They have X & you don't so Big Daddy Government (tm) will step in & make them share. Last I heard it cost more to administer the estate tax than they were collecting through it. Those rich bastards just weren't dying fast enough I reckon.

Circumstance has something to do with how you get through life. But circumstances can be overcome. Not easily in some cases but a reasonably intelligent human can do anything (within reason) he/she sets his/her mind to if they have a clear goal & are sufficiently determined. Life is tough. I know damn well it is, but it's not always impossible to better ones' self if one puts forth effort.

"Most poor people aren't poor because they're lazy (a fact which, if you are as poor as you say, you ought to recognize first-hand). They're poor because of externalities, many of them outside their control. Now if you're okay with that, that's fine, but don't bullshit me and pretend that this reality amounts to 'equal opportunity' in any sense."

Actually I'm poor because of very conscious &deliberate decisions I made & will continue to make. But for me money isn't & has never been a priority. Hell, I was a guitar player! :)

Yes; some folks are poor because they fell upon or were born into circumstances beyond their control. But being poor isn't a bad thing. It's not a great honor but it's not something to be ashamed of. & it can be overcome if it's important to not be poor. I wasn't saying that everyone can go to Yale & earn what Bill Gates does every year. I was saying that in a libertarian or free market based society there'd be more of an equality of opportunity than in any other system. Not everyone would get to be what they wanted or achieve their goals how they wanted to achieve them, but they could be just as capable of bettering their lot in life as someone two socio-economic classes up could be at hitting the next tier.

[They’re just not usually government sponsored solutions so Lean Left can't comprehend that they'd actually work.]

"Make it easier for me. Show me examples of where they ever have worked. And spare me the 'they took down traffic signs in europe' bit."

Ah hah - you're looking to the private sector for a solution to your problem ("make it easier for me" was directed at a non government actor). Won't that cause you to lose your lefty street cred? :)

St. Jude is a good example. They went from a 4% survival rate for acute lymphoblastic leukemia to a 94% survival rate in a little over 40 years. Can you name any government programs dealing with a type of childhood cancer that achieved those results?

In general look at the numbers of folks who use firearms in lawful self defense every year. They seem to be using a private sector solution (themselves) even though there's a competing state solution (i.e. the cops). Granted I wouldn't opt to replace the cops but it does show that government is not all powerful & the private sector does have advantages.

But take e-mail. The internet is more regulated than I'd like but more or less I believe e-mail (a private sector service) outdoes the U.S.P.S. (a quasi-government service - or are they finally fully privatized now?) in communications.

There are the "traffic sign" examples over here. After a hurricane in the Carolinas we all usually pitched in & policed our neighborhoods for a few days until the constabulary could get organized again. In natural disasters there are countless tales of the private sector (i.e. non-government employed folks) pitching in & doing what you'd probably consider government specific jobs (directing traffic, basic police/security work, distribution of food & medical supplies to the needy, rescue, etc...) In fact if I recall didn't a bunch of Korean shop owners use arms to protect their shops from looters during the riots in Cali a while back? Didn't the cops refuse to go into the area at the time?

& as I pointed out above there are private schools such as Hillsdale coupled with a lot of home schoolers in the various states. Quality various with each school &/or family but I'd say overall they're probably producing at least as quality an education if not more so than the public schools are.

I should go ahead & mention the way schools & health care ran pre-government involvement but I’ll save that for some other time.

[What it seems Lean left's big contention with libertarians amounts to is that we value individuals over the collective]

"Not at all, although I'd give you bonus points for the liberals-as-Borg jab."

Bonus points are what I'm all about. Actually though it goes back to a non Q caused source. I've mentioned it here & there but I think it's best shown in a post of mine called Mars The Bringer Of War. I submit that most of the debates, arguments & actual conflicts that a society engages in within itself are the offshoots of a more basic struggle - that of having a society dominated by the individual or by the collective.

"As I've been trying to point out here, my primary contention with libertarians is that their philosophy can only work if everyone truly does start out on equal footing, and with equal opportunity. But that world simply doesn't exist. In libertarian-world, the single-biggest thing you can do to succeed and get ahead is pick the right parents."

Ah nope. You're talking of utopia creation. A libertarian world would not be perfect. Many of the problems we have would still be around. I just think they'd be extent to a lesser degree as government seems to exacerbate most problems it tries to solve. It wouldn't be the civilization ruled by rich men you fear it will - as long as the people chose to not let that happen.

"And I think you, like Kevin Baker, are too quick to lump me into your preconceived notions of 'liberal socialist.' I happen to be a big fan of individual liberty. I just don't happen to think that expecting everyone to share some of the common costs of society is an undue infringement on such liberty. And I certainly don't think trying to regulate against corporate exploitation is, either."

K, how about well armed Marxian-lite then? :)

Individual liberty cannot be fostered in an environment where basic property rights are subject to the will of the collective. Taxing me to pay for social programs you think are a common benefit is not a way I'm familiar with of respecting basic property rights. & by regulating against corporate exploitation you're feeding the beast as it were. The more the government is involved with corporate law the more potential there is for corruption (i.e. bribery, legislation in exchange for campaign contributions, etc...). But I think what you aim to do is protect people form making bad decisions for themselves. That's a noble goal if you're a parent & the person involved is your child, but as adults we need to be able to make our own choices even if they're bad for us & even if they're bad for society as a whole. Otherwise we will not learn individually or as a group.

"As I told Kevin Baker, I don't want some kind of socialist Utopia. I think pure socialism has about as much a chance of working as pure capitalism. What I want, instead, is a system where capitalism and socialism are in tension. Where neither one gains too much of an advantage over the other. I think the worst thing we could do is throw out either one of those concepts in favor of the other. Where the market does a good job of providing, by all means, leave it to the market. Where it doesn't, that's where it's time to step in and tweak."

Um, pure capitalism works. Has for millennia. Course our definition of "works" is probably different.

But you can't distort the market & expect good results. Health care again for example. We do not have a free market health care system anymore. We used to but that's been disrupted badly enough by the government subsidies that the distortion keeps it from working as it should. That's why a doctor's visit costs so damned much. That "tension" between the two systems does not produce good results & it obfuscates the path to a real solution. There really can't be a compromise. You either have to trust in the market or find something to replace it as any distortion will keep it from producing its optimum results.

"Finally, WRT global warming, denying it doesn't make it fiction. Pretty much every climatologist not named Richard Lindzen agrees that it's a very real problem. Even prominent libertarian scientist and Scientific American columnist Michael Shermer has come around. But set aside, for the moment, your objections to global warming science, and assume, for the sake of argument, that it's real, that the predictions are correct, and that the only way to fight it is to drastically reduce fossil fuel emission. What's the libertarian solution to this? Seriously, how do you solve that without governments stepping in and regulating? If you can come up with that solution, you might just win a Nobel prize."

Nor does believing it make it fact. :)

Sorry - too much for me to overlook. The most prominent thing that comes to mind is that greenhouse gas emission from fossil fuels is dwarfed by greenhouse gas emission from bovines. I used to play Diablo II: LoD & I've been to the Cow Level a time or two. I say give me my Rune Worded Battle Hammer (scroll down) & a bunch of health potions & I'll solve the problem by my next level up. :)

But assuming you're correct about car emissions being correct it might require a government solution. Not in the form of regulation though - in education. Making the public aware of the problem & trying to stop all its fossil fuel emissions would be the first & possibly only step I'd suggest. Everything else would be up to the people wouldn't it? & yes; if a few folks saw how the majority of folks were causing harm to everyone they should raise hell about it. But if the majority of folks choose not to listen then that's that social Darwinism at work again isn't it?

I know you've heard this before but use of government is use of force. There are very limited circumstances in which use of force is justifiable. The libertarian idea is to use that force as sparingly as possible. I'd thrown in some quote by Acton about the tendency towards corruption via power but you've probably heard it before.

Again though I'm not convinced that global warming is a problem even if it exists as you seem to believe it does. & I'm not convinced a goverment solution involving more government action would be desirable even if you managed to get me on the global warming band wagon.

From the Libertarian FAQ at faqs.org:

"18. In a libertarian society, wouldn't polluters get away with destroying
the environment?

'Today, the biggest polluter of all -- the U.S. military -- gets away
with murder -- literally. When courts found the military liable for
illness and death after careless nuclear testing in Utah, the
government claimed sovereign immunity and refused to pay damages. In a
libertarian society, no one would be immune from the consequences of
their actions -- especially not a government charged with protecting us.'

'Libertarians believe that people and governments should right their
wrongs by restoring, as much as possible, what they've damaged. Today,
instead of making polluters pay, our government makes the taxpayers
shoulder the burden. Sometimes it requires whoever buys a polluted
property to bear the cost of the clean-up. If polluters don't pay for
the damage they do, why should they stop polluting?'

'Since government is the biggest polluter of all, putting government in
charge of stopping pollution is like putting the fox in charge of the
hen house.' [5] -- Mary Ruwart"

& just so you don't think I haven't left you with anything else to look at here's a little suggested reading:

Who makes life better for you? by Harry Browne

Persuasion Versus Force by Mark Skousen

The Invisible Hand Is a Gentle Hand By Sharon Harris

The Alliance for the Separation of School & State

Some Responses to Mike Huben's A Non-Libertarian FAQ by David Friedman

Not that I think it'll sway you but it'd just be nice to have a debate about the ideas involved with libertarianism without having to sort through numerous misconceptions.

& don't worry - when I have some time I'll get to work on a post discussing your briefly stated views on firearms law (though I do wish you'd flesh things out a bit more.) Like it or not, you're my lefty pal for the week & I'm gonna fulfill all those ampersand cravings you've had over the years (in one post probably) :)

Posted by Publicola at January 15, 2007 08:57 AM | TrackBack

Excellent post; I don't agree 100%, but few people agree entirely with one another. I've always considered myself as somewhat libertarian, and a tend to agree with most of the major points you have made. I will probably have to spend some time reading the references and links you have provided to see where you have gotten the basis for some of the conclusions/statements.

Posted by: BobG at January 16, 2007 10:52 AM

I like your prose. But I think you glossed over the Feudal argument a bit. You don't have to look too far back in the history of this country to see a parallel. The robber-barons of the early 20th century basically resulted from a quasi libertarian environment.

It took Theodore Roosevelt to to break them up with anti trust laws to level the playing field a bit. In a truly libertarian environment might (through force, money, or influence) makes right. While that is largely true now it is true in spite of laws against it.

In a libertarian society there could be no such laws prohibiting pollution, enforcing contracts, stopping crushing monopolies. Because no one would have the power to enforce such laws.

A Bill Gates strength business person could be ruthless refusing to pay employees for overtime, making them buy at company stores, hire a private army to enforce his will and intimidate his potential competition. All this the robber barons did in this country at one time. It was only by virtue of a government that could bring MORE force to bear that such practices were controled.

In the end a libertarian society would function well if the most powerful in the society have good motives (Plato's philosopher king). If they don't them there is no higher power to which the weak could appeal.

Posted by: 1894C at January 17, 2007 10:24 AM

13 pages & you wanted it to be longer? lol

Without getting too deep into it I would point out that a few decades before the 20th century rolled around we had something much worse - slavery. A government backed institution. It was a legal & government backed institution & therefore much harder to shake off than any controls a robber-baron type might exert.

Given an either/or I'd much rather deal with the robber barons than a government bent in such a way.

But it does come back to the same thing - most systems rely on people with decent intent, whether it be Plato's philosopher-king or a multitude of benevolent wpould-be dictators (i.e. voters). No system is perfect nor would any system totally escape that. But I think in a loibertarian society there'd be a better mechanism to deal with things when they go bad.

Again would you rather take on a robber-baron or a government who enforced slavery?

Posted by: Publicola at January 17, 2007 03:50 PM