Shoo Libertarian Knights

Dear libertarian knight seeking to win honor via comment battles with heathen blogger dragons:

I range pretty widely in topics here at Overcoming Bias, and sometimes I consider government policies.  Sometimes I even consider policies that, gasp, violate your favorite libertarian moral axiom, something like no one must ever affect anyone without a notarized consent form.  At which point many of you feel an apparently overwhelming urge to comment on this crucial fact (often smugly).  As if this were some sort of news.

Its not, so please don’t.  I know about your favorite axiom, and I usually notice when something violates it.  I get that you are really really convinced by it, more so than of anything ever.  But listen: I’ve heard that argument and I’m not moved.   Your position is so predictable that I can easily anticipate your response.  I have usually anticipated it, and rejected it.  Liberty is a fine heuristic, but efficiency is more what I want, so I’m willing to consider sometimes violating your liberty axiom.  Like you I am wary of big government, but because of bad consequences that often follow, not a liberty axiom violation.

We get it that you disagree, but when you just declare that fact again (and again and again), intelligent readers, well aware of the existence of libertarian axiomatists, learn only of your continued willingness to impose costs on unwilling others, to signal your continued devotion to your cause (which supposedly relates to preventing imposing costs on unwilling others).

So please, save your breath.  If there must be one post here at OB where you repeat your concerns yet again, thinking we just haven’t heard them enough, about my considering violations of your liberty axiom, please, just make it this one post, and leave the rest be.

Now back to our regularly scheduled wild speculations. …

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  • http://fasri.net Robert Bloomfield

    I don’t know about the other readers, and maybe its because I am decidedly not a libertarian, but here is how this post came across to me:

    Dear Overcoming Bias Reader,

    When I propose wild ideas (e.g., being able to sue people for your share of ‘benefits’ for information you freely provide, as in my last post), don’t be smug when you tell me why my contrarianism is flawed. Whatever you are thinking of, I have already thought of. I am the smug contrarian in the room, and there isn’t room for you.

    Love,

    Robin

  • chuck

    Robert, I enjoyed your comment, but I’d paraphrase this way….

    ‘Libertarians, your point of view is well known. I get it. Lets move the conversation forward.’

    • Robert Bloomfield

      My comment was more smug snark than substance, but I suppose the timing of the post got to me. As a commenter notes below, I and others criticized Robin’s last post pretty harshly,but not as libertarians. Thus, it was hard not to read this post as applying to a broader population of people who think some of Robin’s ideas are flawed. I would be interested in hearing what prompted Robin to write this post.

      As another point, ‘I anticipated your argument and rejected it’ is a dangerous position to take unless the position is obviously meritless. (Choosing a consequentialist rationale for policy over a deontological one is hardly without controversy). Careful writers address obvious criticisms in their original posts, and most writers also avoid insulting their audience. Perhaps Robin thinks bloggers need not be nice, either.

  • John

    Dr. Hanson,
    I wonder if you could expound a little more on your belief that the efficiency criterion is the “be all/end all” in light of Becker’s Impossibility Theorem. That is the only efficient form of government is dictatorship. It would seem that in this case that efficiency may not be a better standard than liberty.

    Thanks
    John

    • http://www.rationalmechanisms.com richard silliker

      Should that be “benevolent” dictatorship?

    • http://permut.wordpress.com/ Michael Bishop

      It sounds like you’re referring to Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem, but that isn’t really relevant to whether we should treat liberty or efficiency as a terminal value.

    • UserGoogol

      If you mean Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem, Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem doesn’t imply the non-existence of a social welfare function, but of a social welfare function based on ordinal preferences alone. Utilitarianism (or in the world of voting, its cousin Range Voting) is a non-dictatorial social welfare function that is Pareto efficient and satisfies independence of irrelevant alternatives, and it doesn’t contradict Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem because it’s based on scalar preferences. Making interpersonal comparisons of utility runs into conceptual difficulties, but it’s not something that’s been mathematically proven to be hopeless.

      • http://scorevoting.net/ Clay Shentrup

        Well said. Arrow’s Theorem has done huge damage to voting reform in that it’s been so widely misunderstood and overappreciated. Here’s a great link on the subject.

        http://scorevoting.net/ArrowThm.html

      • ryan yin

        Oh, so it only depends on adding utility functions (which happen to be unique only up to an affine transformation)? Well, if that’s all …

        Isn’t one problem here that settling on which utility function for each person, and which weighting, and how to aggregate them, are all issues that you need to settle on in some non-arbitrary, rational, non-dictatorial way? (I mean, why not just say you solve Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem by doing “the best thing”?)

      • http://scorevoting.net/UtilFoundns.html Clay Shentrup

        Ryan Yin,

        Warren Smith (the Princeon math Ph.D. who did these simulations) used a variety of utility distribution functions. For instance, you can use n-dimensional “issue space” and base utility on L1 or L2 “distance”. Picture a Nolan chart where your preference for a candidate is based on your proximity to him. That’s 2-dimensional issues space. You can create arbitrarily many dimensions, but it turns out that the more you add, the more the utilities look like they were randomly assigned. Speaking of which, another distribution function was random assignment on a Gaussian.

        It turns out that Score Voting (aka Range Voting) was superior to the other common methods (e.g. Instant Runoff, Condorcet, Borda, plurality) regardless of which function was used. That’s also true regarding other tunable parameters, like the ratio of strategic-to-honest voters. Tuning those parameters caused the other methods to switch placing, but Score Voting stayed in first place in all 720 “knob settings” (720 different combinations of settings for the 5 parameters).

        You can read more at http://scorevoting.net/BayRegDum.html

        Smith (and I) believe that the social utility function must be additive — that it is just the sum of the individual utilities. There are some solid mathematical justifications for this, if you treat utility axiomatically (i.e. non-additive models lead to self-contradictions). Here’s some discussion of that.

        http://scorevoting.net/UtilFoundns.html

        I understand that this stuff can be a little controversial. All I can say is that I began as a vehement opponent of Score Voting, and gradually came to feel that all my arguments against it were (upon extensive deliberation) found to be either self-contradictory, or just weak when compared against its benefits (e.g. being able to always support your favorite candidate without fear, since SV passes the Favorite Betrayal Criterion).

        There is a Range Voting discussion group on Yahoo Groups, and the Election Science Foundation discussion group on Google Groups if you’re interested in chatting more about it, whether to debate or inquire.

  • http://silasx.blogspot.com Silas Barta

    What does the link to Eliezer Yudkowksy’s post have to do with your point? That doesn’t look like an example of someone criticizing an idea of yours merely because it disagrees with a tenet of libertarianism, which I take your point to be directed at.

    Also,

    something like no one must ever effect anyone without a notarized consent form

    I think you mean affect. Effecting someone means having a baby.

    • Mike Howard
      • http://silasx.blogspot.com Silas Barta

        Hey, I only pointed it out because it gives a humorous — and interestingly appropriate — unintended meaning. When you think about it, it would probably be a good thing for people to get signed, notarized contracts whenever they’re going to “effect someone” (have a baby) so as to clearly delineate childcare responsibilities.

        Or, you know, do something that *might* effect a baby, such as having sex.

    • http://lesswrong.com/ Eliezer Yudkowsky

      Silas, as I read it, it’s remarking on the understandable way that “smugness” is linked to contrarianness, which you may think is more appearance or more reality, more excusable or less excusable, but at any rate is an undeniable linkage.

  • http://hanson.gmu.edu Robin Hanson

    Robert, if I just repeated the same contrarian claims without adding new insight, I will have failed.

    Silas, the link is at “smug”, not “example”; I’ve corrected the spello.

    • http://silasx.blogspot.com Silas Barta

      ??? So you were linking Eliezer_Yudkowksy’s post as an example of smugness? Why? Did you think we needed an example of what smugness means? Was the linked article exceptionally smug or otherwise a more topical example of smugness?

      I just assumed you were linking him as an illustration of libertarians making an obtuse point, because it doesn’t make much sense to provide a link as a demonstration of what smugness means.

      • http://www.hopeanon.typepad.com Hopefully Anonymous

        “Silas, the link is at “smug”, not “example”; I’ve corrected the spello.”

        You shouldn’t of bothered. You’ve been doing a good job as an unchallengeably smart/competent writer helping set the intellectual blogosphere norm that quickly relayed ideas matter more than grammar, punctuation, style.

        Comments like Silas on your spello are better left ignored, IMO.

  • Constant

    Robin Hanson’s provided link to Eliezer’s Contrarian Status Catch-22 is odd, since that entry makes for a devastating comment on this very entry, since it suggests that Robin is trying to disassociate himself from libertarians not for rational reasons but for political reasons (i.e., because he is worried about his own status, his ability to influence academics and people in government). I assume Robin really means to refer to his own comment (found in the comments to Eliezer’s entry).

  • Surprised

    I read this post before I read the Cheater Finder Fee post. That gave me the expectation there would be rather a lot of libertarian gallantry involved in the comments. It turned out the comment thread wasn’t (excessively) littered with libertarian crap and the significant objections were of a more practical nature.

    I can only assume that this was an excuse to signal Robin’s ability to be smug about how smug he is able to get away with being (that is, demonstrate pride in his confidence).

  • retired phlebotomist

    just the right amount of sexual innuendo.
    would read future blog posts from this professor.

  • Jerry Mitchell

    There may be some of you out there that still believe 1+1=2… we understand your view, we anticipate it – and we disagree with it. We see how smug you all are in saying these things. Can we please move beyond it now (and just assume 1+1 != 2) for the sake of discussion?

    Obviously the important thing here is to make the trains run on time and if thats best done by greasing the rails with the blood of those that disagree with us, so be it.

    • Asher

      You’re confused. We don’t want to grease the rails with the blood of those who merely disagree with us, as, for all we know, they might be efficient. Now the blood of the inefficient is another matter …

      No, this comment is *not* sarcasm. I’m deadly serious.

    • Eric Johnson

      Analogy is often a poor way to argue, as noted by Razib Khan inter alia. Math is all but explicitly an axiomatic system, or at least one that quite often admits of so being. OBias is less axiomatic in nature. So the analogy fails, to my mind.

      As for niceness, people here arent always nice to Robin, including me, but maybe “nice enough”. Consider Montaigne’s ideal of intellectual discussion, where brisk or even somewhat abrasive “attacks” in the course of frankness are compatible with fellowship, or even an actual requirement for a real meeting of the minds.

    • loqi

      Your analogy is flawed, but not too far off the mark. Imagine instead that Hanson is a logician, carrying out proofs in classical logic on his blog. Every time he posts a proof making use of the law of excluded middle, several commenters point out that P ∨ ¬P is not a valid assumption in intuitionist logic: It allows for non-constructive proofs! And we all know how useless non-constructive proofs are.

  • http://www.rationalmechanisms.com richard silliker

    Did someone sink your battleship?

    Perhaps the net you cast could be of a different mesh size to achieve the efficiency you would like.

  • loqi

    My “counter-counter-efficiency rant”:

    I find it difficult to understand objections to Hanson’s efficiency criterion. Any system of preferences that completely ignores efficiency concerns is in effect saying “doing right by people has nothing to do with the outcomes they prefer”. It’s reasonable to believe that we lack effective introspective gear when it comes to reflections on morality. If you don’t understand what your moral framework trades off against the preferences of strangers, to what degree can you claim to understand the difference between right and wrong?

    Efficiency is an informative baseline for any normative system that incorporates the preferences of other people. To criticize it for suggesting “wrong” policies by itself is to miss the point entirely.

    • Constant

      Any system of preferences that completely ignores efficiency concerns is in effect saying “doing right by people has nothing to do with the outcomes they prefer”.

      That assumes that the only way to take preferences into account is through efficiency. I suggest an alternative: game theory equilibria. A nash equilibrium takes preferences into account, but is quite different from Kaldor-Hicks efficiency (which I provisionally assume is what Robin means).

      I think that actual human morality is better understood as the product of a kind of nash equilibrium – specifically, an ESS – than as economically efficient. The concept of an ESS might have to be further refined (just as ESS is a refinement of a Nash equilibrium), but I think it’s a much better fit for the reality of human morality than Kaldor-Hicks.

      On the other hand, Kaldor-Hicks may in many cases be a reasonable approximation to ESS.

      • Patri Friedman

        If you’re interested in the connection between game theory and morality, see the book “Game Theory And The Social Contract” by Ken Binmore.

  • Jimmy

    Robin,

    I’m completely on board with the whole efficiency > liberty thing, but if you wanted to be really convincing you should spend more time explaining why the liberty heuristic fails in this case, rather than saying “trust me, I’ve already updated on that”.

    Everyone that proposes horribly inefficient policies also knows about the liberty heuristic, so saying that only helps if the reader already trusts the author much more than the average person in evaluating the usefulness of the liberty heuristic. Some of your readers will trust you there, some won’t.

    If you’re convinced that liberty doesn’t work as well as the alternative, you should be able to explain exactly why instead of brushing it off in a sentance, and if you aren’t convinced but find it plausible, then you should make it more clear where exactly you stand (I wasn’t sure exactly what your position and confidence were).

    • Constant

      If you care about efficiency, liberty is the way to bet. History is littered with thinkers who wrongly thought that they could improve on liberty, but when the rubber hit the pavement, when their ideas were implemented, they were refuted by events. We already know about the bright young communists who thought they were going to bury the West. So we know wholesale enslavement does not work. But we also have learned that even minuscule, hardly-noticeable infringements of liberty also make things worse. Here is Coase summing up his findings with respect to regulators who thought that by infringing liberty here or there they could enhance efficiency:

      Reason: What’s an example of bad regulation?

      Coase: I can’t remember one that’s good. Regulation of transport, regulation of agriculture– agriculture is a, zoning is z. You know, you go from a to z, they are all bad. There were so many studies, and the result was quite universal: The effects were bad.

      Alternatively, pick up anything by Milton Friedman. He’s pretty good at debunking proposal after proposal after proposal which supposedly will make people better off by violating their liberty in one way or another.

      • Robert Bloomfield

        OK, this comment makes me change my mind. I don’t think many readers of this blog will benefit by reading comments stating little more than “famous libertarians have said that absolutely every regulation ever devised is bad.”

      • Peter Twieg

        Isn’t this something of a strawman, though? Do you actually think that all proposed interventions are made with the same naivety as that possessed by Marxist idealists? If not, why not just concede where there’s a margin where the tradeoff can be made, and then argue on specific points whether the proposed policy falls within that margin? I think we all acknowledge that there have been disastrously misguided policies in the past.

      • Constant

        @Robert, as far as I know Coase isn’t a famous libertarian. In fact a lot of libertarians have big problems with him, most of all precisely the deontological libertarians that Robin Hanson was attacking in this blog entry. Finally, Coase was citing empirical studies. His status is relevant only insofar as it means he can be trusted not to be lying, and to have seriously studied the question. If you read his comments, not only was he surprised by the conclusion, he suggested that, at a lower level of regulation, it might still work (though he presented no evidence to support this speculation).

        @Peter, you seem to have skipped the main part of my comment in which I quoted Coase talking about regulation , which is a far cry from the total socialization that you seem to be referring to in claiming that I have presented a “strawman”. You don’t seriously mean to suggest that regulators are all Marxist idealists…? In fact Coase himself argues that there must be a margin where the tradeoff can be made, but he didn’t present any evidence of the existence of that margin.

      • Peter Twieg

        Constant –

        I’m not sure that I’d take Coase’s failure to think of a good regulation off the top of his head as meaning that he had surveyed all regulations and rejected them as inefficient. I’m always in favor about realism about what kinds of rules you can actually have implemented after political sausage-grinding, but a critique of the sausage-grinding process isn’t a critique of the actual proposal being made. I mean, if you want to concede (like Coase) that there are a lot of liberty-reducing proposals that could hypothetically improve efficiency, but the political process would just screw them up, then we’d probably be in agreement.

        My concern with some of these arguments, however, is that they rely on bundling political issues together in order to guarantee the desired result – it’s very hard for the libertarian to argue that, say, pharmaceutical patents decrease efficiency, so instead they’ll insist that the relevant level of policy is to consider all of intellectual property law, which on net might be efficiency-reducing. And if it isn’t, then you can just move back and consider the entire scope of regulation, which is probably efficiency-reducing relative to what a minarchist system would look like. I’m not really sure how to deal with this problem of choosing the right level of generality on which to evaluate arguments of political failure, but I think it’s easy to justify one’s arguments in either direction by trying to bundle a certain set of regulations together and then evaluating them.

  • Anon

    Arguing, particularly on an instance where being “right” is a completely subjective matter, is a true instance of inefficiency. i understand the frustration on both sides, but i would posit that its far better to simply disagree than make an issue of it. I send this suggestion to everyone here =).

  • Jay

    “Efficiency” is not an end in itself; it’s a measure of how effectively you achieve your ends given limited resources.

    to Constant: There are actually government regulations that greatly increase efficiency. Many regulations, for example, keep traffic moving smoothly at a fairly negligible cost in liberty. Few of us greatly value the right to drive on the left side of the road (right if you’re English), and by giving that right up we save time and increase safety.

  • Constant

    @Jay, as far as I know libertarians don’t consider the rules of the road to be violations of liberty. The question at hand is, do violations of liberty (as understood by libertarians) increase efficiency. My position is that they rarely do.

    @Peter, how can we ever hope to empirically test regulations if we presume (without evidence) that the sausage grinder of politics will inevitably disfigure them? Such an objection to an empirical test seems to me to render regulation empirically unfalsfiable. As for the other thing (patents versus IP), while it may be that some will opportunistically pick the level of abstraction that gives them the best chance of success, not every general argument is an example of such opportunism.

  • mjgeddes

    Good common sense shown by Robin, yes regarding Libertarian ideologues.

    Now what other dogmas might have insinuated themselves into the blog? Perhaps the obsession with Bayes and the idea that ‘Bayes is the secret to the universe’ (or ‘Bayes is the foundation of rationality’). What about the MWI of quantum mechanics? Should Libertarianism, Bayes and MWI all be lumped in the same boat? Is there some underlying cognitive bias which makes certain people more likely to elevate all three to grand theories of everything?

    Good recent post by economist Gene Callahan criticizing Bayes (based on comments by David Chalmers). Notice I’ve added a comment on that blog urging all readers to question this Bayesian dogma and again pointing out what I am sure is the real foundation of rationality:
    Categorization (analogical inference).

    The Limits of Bayesian Reasoning

    http://thinkmarkets.wordpress.com/2009/12/01/the-limits-of-bayesian-reasoning/

    • Peter Twieg

      I’ve never understood why Many Worlds isn’t a completely orthogonal issue to the others (arguably Bayes and libertarianism are orthogonal as well, but I can see the links here more plausibly.) The vast majority of libertarians have no stance on this issue, and as far as I can tell this all stems from the fact that a few core individuals in LW/OB crowd happen to strongly advocate for both Many Worlds and Bayesianism and (generally) libertarian politics. Is there really anything more substantial going on here?

      • mjgeddes

        Well, Libertarianism and Bayes seem to me to strongly appeal to folks with a rationalistic/system-oriented style of thought (Hanon’s near mode?), tending to view the world in functional terms (measurable external results) rather than in teleological terms (agent feelings and motivations).

        It’s very clear that Libertarian political views are mostly wrong (even in mild form), they are refuted by masses of empirical data – as just one ironic example, read how the editor of ‘Reason’ magazine (a Libertarian magazine!) who has lived in both France and the United States admits that the French socialist health-care system is far better than the US one. So given this empirical data, why is Libertarianism so strongly favored by the LW/OB crowd?

        French Health Care Wins

        Regarding Bayes I’m less sure, but I have good reason to believe (based on a very strong ‘big picture’ pattern that has proved itself to me via correctly anticipating known results before I learned of them) that Bayes is incomplete and Categorization is the real basis of rationality. Again, folks favoring a near-mode style of thought seem unable to grasp the big picture or practical complexities, and more likely to push sterile reductionistic Bayesian models (which need infinite computing power, that is to say, they are useless).

        I’m least sure of QM – MWI has a good chance of being right, it seems a good theory to me, but again, grand simplistic claims made by near-mode thinking folks should cause doubts. Near-mode thinking folks favor modular, reductionistic styles of thought, and MWI fits into a reductionistic world-view.

      • Jayson Virissimo

        Yikes, mjgeddes uses the US health care system as an example of “libertarianism” in practice. I really hope he doesn’t believe that the health care industry in the US comes even close to approximating a free market.

  • Thomas M. Hermann

    This is a very disappointing post. I’ve been trying hard to follow this blog and ‘get’ the “original and important” thinking that it was advertised by others to offer. I was intrigued by the Bio and the quest to ‘overcome bias’. Overcoming bias requires self reflection and most importantly, seriously considering what even our most biased critics have to say, uncomfortable as that may be.

    • Peter Twieg

      But do you think that, at the margin, anything useful is said by pointing out that a prescription violates liberty when this happens to be the case? I interpret Robin’s argument narrowly, that he’s mostly addressing the occasional posters who just reject a proposal on the grounds that it violates liberty, QED. Is it really that close-minded to regard these posts as basically being pollution?

      • Constant

        I interpret Robin’s argument narrowly, that he’s mostly addressing the occasional posters who just reject a proposal on the grounds that it violates liberty, QED.

        Examples are strangely absent. If I were to go down the list of comments and mark useless comments in red, a lot of them would be marked, and none of them fitting Robin’s narrow description. For example, your comment just repeats Robin’s entry, which Thomas had already read.

      • Thomas M. Hermann

        I interpreted this post more generally. In considering it’s meaning, I also considered Robin’s responses to specific comments in previous posts. Robin is signaling that disagreement is a distraction from the important points that he is trying to make. He also has, in general, already thought of whatever disagreement you may have.

        Let’s use a herd analogy. Of those in the herd that disagree, the libertarians are at the edge of the pack. Consequently, Robin attacked them to send a message to the rest of the herd.

        This post is not well conceived and definitely not an efficient meta-response to the libertarians. It will be buried and forgotten by other posts within 2 weeks, tops. At that point, new libertarian members will have joined the herd unaware of this post. They will make the same arguments that this post is supposed to dissuade. I suppose they can be pointed to this post, but that would be a larger distraction than simply ignoring them. Simply ignoring them in the first place would have been the most efficient response. If Robin is that concerned with the signal-to-noise ratio, he could assert his editorial right to delete useless comments.

        One final thing, look at the URL for the page, it is more telling than the page title.

      • http://rudd-o.com/ Rudd-O

        “anything useful is said by pointing out that a prescription violates liberty when this happens to be the case?”

        Of course. Truth is always served when it is pointed out.

  • Robin

    If you think efficiency is more important than liberty, then you’d have to explain what you want to be more efficient.

    My own answer would be the process of liberation.

  • TranshumanReflector

    Hanson, I’ve read some of your blogs, and enjoyed watching some of your contributions to Transhuman conferences.

    This is beneath you, man. So what, if there are people out there who react to circumstances with mottos? Not all libertarian-leaning people are ‘big L’ libertarians.

    The content of your articles demonstrates that you have more to offer than ‘libertarians are lunkheads’. There is no reason to make your point about ‘them’, when you have better things to say about the issues themselves.

    Speaking of which, I found a website which deals with debate in a more civil manner. It’s pretty cool, it allows both collaboration and unrestricted individual input:

    http://debategraph.org/

    Check it out, it’s got great potential.

  • Violet

    The most vocal criticism seems to come in posts that touch marriage or sexuality and typically are the criticism is not related to libertarism.

    • Constant

      The link to Eliezer’s very Hansonian entry explains much. Libertarians are low-prestige and therefore it improves the prestige of the blog in academic and government circles (which Hanson’s career fully depends on) to attack them. It makes sense to scapegoat them. To repurpose Eliezer’s entry for the current topic:

      If you’re a regular reader of Robin Hanson, you might essay a Hansonian explanation as follows:

      I don’t want to affiliate with other people who say the actual state of evidence favors liberty. They act all brash, arrogant, and offensive, and tend to believe and advocate other odd ideas. If I believed in libertarianism, that would make me part of this low-prestige group.

  • http://blog.jim.com James A. Donald

    Lately I have neglected to mow my front lawn, been busy, and only the part that is irrigated has grass growing.

    Now since that area is shared, my incentive to mow that area is inefficiently low. Obviously a wise bureaucrat god could improve matters by requiring me to mow my lawn. Thus, the superiority of efficiency over liberty is proven.

    Now the only thing remaining is to check the observed performance of wise bureaucrat gods. Since there are many, many, many situations where wise regulation will improve on liberty, let us look for some of the doubtless numerous situations where wise bureaucrats sincerely pursuing the greater good of all have succeeded in improving the good of all.

  • Robert Koslover

    I suggest that the Borg society of Star Trek are a fine example of a superbly-efficient society exhibiting no liberty. Yes, its fiction. But it does make me question if efficiency alone might not necessarily be the best parameter to use in optimizing a society. The Borg beehive analogy is worth considering too, for the hive is elegantly efficient. But for humans to live and work like bees would most surely be tragic.

  • Robert Koslover

    Liberty is a fine heuristic, but efficiency is more what I want

    Why?

  • http://graehl.posterous.com Jonathan Graehl

    Robin’s right – the comments contained many obnoxious and tiresome objections that he’d already granted. It’s natural that he’d be disappointed in the quality of the conversation.

    That said, I understand that people who objected on some other ground might feel their comfort+status fall under a penumbra.

    For me, the big doubt was in consequences not mentioned by Robin (questions of consent aside): do I want to be the subject of marginal freelance investigators? I mean marginal as in of questionable quality/ethics (hacking my email etc.), although the economic “marginal” would also fit.

  • washbash

    What good is liberty if it puts you in danger?

    Most humans are willing to forsake liberty for the sake of efficiency if the task at hand warrants it.

    • http://williambswift.blogspot.com/ billswift

      So? Does that give them the right to take away MY liberty? I happen to think liberty, the extensive “spreading” of life styles, is the best hope we have for the human race to survive potentially existential threats.

    • http://rudd-o.com/ Rudd-O

      So? Sacrifice YOUR liberty then. But don’t impose that on others.

      Saying “I am willing to sacrifice my liberty” is categorically NOT the same thing as saying “I am willing to sacrifice YOUR liberty, and impose this on you, and if you don’t like it there’s a cage waiting”. We fully support you doing the first thing, but will consider you a personal enemy and invader if you attempt the second.

      So don’t go confusing the “a little less liberty is often a good thing” with the “I am going to IMPOSE this little less liberty on everybody else, whether they like it or not”. Because they are not the same thing.

  • http://rudd-o.com/ Rudd-O

    To be honest, Robin, to a libertarian, your posts on policies sound like “how often should we beat up slaves?” questions, where a certain type of evil (that you fail to see as evil) has already been assumed to be okay.

    I myself understand where you are coming from, and this is why I don’t even bother commenting on posts of yours that couldn’t possibly be good because it started with fundamental assumptions that are bad. I just ignore them and enjoy whatever other posts that are good.

    Anyway: don’t be miffed when some people who find your assumptions deeply offensive / immoral go out of their way to remind you of that. To use a dramatic example: rape may be an efficient way to spread your seed, but at least expect some disgruntle and contrarianism when you nonchalantly advocate for certain forms of rape because you find them efficient and you have a hard-on for efficiency.

  • http://rudd-o.com/ Rudd-O

    (in other words, libertarians don’t criticize you because they want their “LIBERTAY” — they criticize you because they find your proposals immoral and wrong, even if they sometimes can’t articulate why thus staying stuck at the “liberty” thing)

  • Alphonse

    The libertarian axiom is well enough known for breach of it to be taken as self-conscious. Complaining about self-conscious breach is, as Robin points out, superfluous.

    It’s tiring to engage unsuperfluously with axiom violations. Irksome as well. You have to mire yourself in the stuff of statism (considerations of efficiency, utility, optimisation and order) in order to refute the statism – when all the time there is a perfectly good axiom that settles the issue without any need to tax the grey matter.

    No wonder so many comments here are so peevish.

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  • R.J. Moore II

    “Liberty” and “efficiency” are both nonsense. You basically have to arbitrarily decide what you want society to look like in outline, figure out of its possible, and figure out how to get there. The ultimate point of anything is power.

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