Why I Lean Libertarian

Imagine that one person, or a small group, wants to do something, like watch pornography, do uncertified medical procedures, have gay sex, worship Satan, shoot guns, drink raw milk, etc. Imagine further that many other people outside that small group don’t want them to do this. They instead want the government to make a law prohibiting similar groups from doing similar things.

In this prototypical situation, libertarians tend to say “let them do it” while others say “have the government make them stop.” If we take a cost-benefit perspective here, then the key question here is whether this small group gains more from their activity (or an added increment of it) than others lose (including losing via their “altruistic” concern for the small group). Since this small group would choose to do it if allowed, we can presume they expect to gain something. And if others complain and try to make them stop (or cut back), we can presume they expect to lose. So we are trying to estimate the relative magnitude of these two effects.

I see three considerations that, all else equal, lean this choice in the libertarian direction.

  •  Law & Government Are Costly – It will take real resources to create and enforce a law to ban this activity. We’ll have to negotiate the wording of this law, and then tell people about it. People will complain about violations, and then we’ll have to adjudicate those complaints, and punish violators. We’ll make mistakes in which laws to create, who to punish, and how to manage the whole process. More rules will discourage innovation, and invite more lobbying. All of which is costly.
  • Local Coordination Might Work – If people do something that hurts those around them more, often those nearby others can coordinate to discourage them via contract and freedom of association. If playing your music loud bothers folks in the apartment next door, your common landlord can set rules to limit your music volume. And kick you out if you don’t follow his rules. The more ways that smaller organizations could plausibly solve a problem, the less likely we need central government to get involved.
  • Lawsuits Might Work – Legal systems have well-established processes whereby some people can sue others, claiming that the actions of those others have hurt them. Suit losers must pay, discouraging the activity. Yes, people harmed can need to coordinate to sue together, and yes legal systems tend to demand relatively concrete evidence of real harm, and that the accused caused that harm. It might be hard to figure out who to accuse, the accused might not have enough money to pay, and the legal process might be too expensive to make it worth bothering. But again, the more situations where the law could plausibly solve the problem, the less likely that we need extra government involvement.

Again, each of these considerations leans the conclusion in a libertarian direction, all else equal. Yes, they can collectively be overcome by strong enough other considerations that lean the other way. For example, I’ll grant that for the case of air pollution, we plausibly have strong enough evidence of large harms on outsiders, harms insufficiently discouraged by local coordination and lawsuits. So yes in this case central government might be an attractive solution, if it can act cheaply and efficiently enough.

But the main point here is that the three considerations above justify a libertarian default that must be overcome by specific arguments to the contrary. If outsiders complain about an activity, but aren’t willing to buy less of it via contract, or to sue for less of it in court, maybe they aren’t really being hurt that much. There is an asymmetry here: if we don’t ban an activity and might get too much, contract & law could reduce it a lot, but if we ban an activity and might get too little, contract & law can’t increase it much.

Yes, other persuasive contrary considerations might be found, including considerations not based on the net harm of the disputed actions. But the less you think you know about these other considerations, the more your choice will be influenced by these three basic considerations, all of which seem to me pretty solid.

While I have said before that I am not a libertarian according to common strict definitions, I still usually tend to lean libertarian, because in fact arguments based on further considerations often seem to me pretty weak. While one can often make clever arguments, it is often hard to have much confidence in them; the world seems just too complex. And so I often have to fall back on simple defaults. Which, as I’ve argued above, are libertarian.

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  • Lord

    There is an even simpler case for not being, tradition. There exists longstanding convention in social behavior and much of this is already codified in law and takes no thinking at all. One can offer all the rationalizations in the world but while you frame this as making a law, usually there already are laws, so you also need a case why a law should be unmade. And while all these are true, it is not that they have suddenly become true but we are addressing shortfalls in them and in laws as they exist, and trying to make sense of those that do. Law is indeed costly which is why it is so rarely used, but we must recognize there is need for it.

    • Tige Gibson

      Lack of law is more costly than law, but it shifts the burden of the cost to those least able to afford it. Getting rid of law is actually fairly easy as long as you have the money to fight it in court. Just imagine the first libertarian constitutional challenge against the crime of murder in defense against coercion which is the only True Crime.

  • Robert Koslover

    Thank you, Robin.

  • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

    This is a component of libertarianism: antipaternalism. But it’s hardly the whole of it. For instance, even I, a rather extreme collectivist, am opposed to restraining people without their consent when the restraint is applied for their supposed benefit. All your examples, in fact, fit this mold (as far as can be told).

    • http://overcomingbias.com RobinHanson

      Many say that the harm of guns is to the other people who might be shot with them, and the harm of pornography is to people like those filmed who become objectified and so treated differently later.

      • Tige Gibson

        The sort of people who might say the harm of porn is objectification should also stand against objectification thus eliminating the harm in it, but the reality is that the majority of opponents to porn are the abusers of it who have contorted religious ideas of purity and a need to demonstrate zeal on pseudo-moral grounds to prove their own purity in spite of their abuses.

      • sleepmon

        You’re out of your league buddy.

  • http://praxtime.com/ Nathan Taylor (praxtime)

    Doesn’t this cost-benefit analysis assume a kind of vote per individual style framework, which is a type of libertarian ethos as a prior? A cultural conservative would say that cultural decay is a kind of “air pollution”, which poisons the culture itself. Hence group norms and morals are central to any calculation. And even an atheist who believes humans are highly social with tendencies for conformity might argue that group norms outweigh any individualistic calculation. Not saying I disagree, but it seems to be borderline circular reasoning. First start with an individualistic cost-benefit moral calculation in which large group effects don’t matter (no moral air pollution), then from this conclude liberalism is the right solution. Though maybe I’m missing something in your logic.

    • http://overcomingbias.com RobinHanson

      The harm of cultural decay can be cashed out in terms of harm to the individuals influenced by the culture.

  • jasonmurphy

    I think your points are sound. So far as they go. But surely more than three pertinent points can be found to inform an issue as complex as this. Here’s just one thought that illustrates ways in which your argument could be made deeper:

    Local coordination can also be costly. You could see law-making as outsourcing of commonly-encountered local coordination problems to an entity with a giant comparative advantage in coordination and enforcement.

    > If playing your music loud bothers folks in the apartment next door, your common landlord can set rules to limit your music volume. And kick you out if you don’t follow his rules.

    Or, your common landlord could set rules to limit your complaining. And kick you out if you don’t follow his rules!

    The great thing about law is the way it creates certainty about your rights. The costs of uncertainty are one reason why we set up societies the way we do.

    • https://www.facebook.com/app_scoped_user_id/1026609730/ Jim Balter

      And the great thing about law in democratic, representative systems is that it aligns rights with societal preferences. Note: The U.S. is not such a society, as recent studies show that there is no correlation between societal preferences and U.S. Congressional votes (this is, however, such a correlation with the preferences of the wealthy).

      • Cowboydroid

        And the great thing about law in democratic, representative systems is that it aligns rights with societal preferences.

        You really believe that to be the case? Or is it more the case that law in such a system aligns right with what special interest groups and lobbyists desire?

        The thing about law in a democratic system is that the politicians are not motivated to restrain the growth of government power or spending. Quite the opposite. They are motivated to spend as much public money as possible satisfying their voting constituents so they may enjoy greater job security and they are motivated to remove their restraints on political authority so they may enjoy less accountability.

      • https://www.facebook.com/app_scoped_user_id/1026609730/ Jim Balter

        “You really believe that to be the case?”

        Funny how you ignored what I wrote next.

        ” Or is it more the case that law in such a system aligns right with what special interest groups and lobbyists desire?”

        That’s not a representative system … duh.

        The rest of your comment: classic libertarian dimwit ideological talking points.

      • Cowboydroid

        I didn’t ignore what you wrote next. I challenged your claim about law in democratic, representative system. Where is your evidence that “it aligns rights with societal preferences?” Your concession that this does not happen in the US is not evidence.

        I also challenge your claim that the US is not a democratic, representative system. That’s exactly what we have. Representatives are democratically elected in the US. They are not appointed.

        The dynamic of special interest groups and lobbyists is unique to democratic, representative systems. I’d say the fact that law in a democratic, representative system aligns right with what special interest groups and lobbyists desire to be one of the significant features of such a system.

        Your last comment is just an intellectually bankrupt personal attack. It doesn’t seem you’re interested in a serious discussion, or that you have any interest in truth or intellectual discussions whatsoever.

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        The U.S. system isn’t highly representative or highly democratic. It fails to incorporate advances in electoral technology such as proportional representation, and it is subject to gerrymandering. One of its three major branches is appointed for life. It has a bicameral legislature, the Senate highly unrepresentative. The first-to-the-post rule typically employed defies majority rule.

      • Cowboydroid

        The argument wasn’t over degree, but kind. The US may not “highly” representative, but it is representative. And it may not be “highly” democratic, but it is democratic.

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        The argument wasn’t over degree, but kind.

        In retrospect, it doesn’t seem anyone is clear on what the argument was over. I suppose I’m making a different argument.

        The political backwardness of America, the weakness of its social democracy – or in different terms, its high degree of libertarianism – is a consequence of its relative lack of democracy. Western Europe is more democratic than America. For better or worse, the development of social democracy in America has been impeded by a rigid two-party system, which has prevented the development of a labor, socialist, or workers party, as present in every European country. These have typically spearheaded social democracy.

        The culprit is first-to-the-post elections: plurality versus majority rule. This is highly discouraging to new parties.

        America (and even Europe) are far from the democratic ideal – from a purely structural perspective. (Whether they be called “democratic” is a matter of context.) By extrapolation, a truly majoritarian polity would be socialist.

      • Cowboydroid

        Listening to one side, the US has a “high degree” of libertarianism, and listening to another side, the US has a “severe lack” of libertarianism.

        I suppose there can be found an objective measure, but I’m not sure anyone would agree on that measure.

        America’s libertarianism is a direct descendent of the classical liberal movement in Europe. Are you suggesting the classical liberal movement was “politically backward?” And by extension, are you suggesting the Marxist labor movements following it were “politically progressive?”

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        Doesn’t everyone agree that Europe is less libertarian than America?

        You’re focusing on a tangent: I don’t expect you to agree on what’s backward. My point is that America’s lack of democracy promotes more capitalistic (as opposed to social-democratic and even socialist) institutions.

      • Cowboydroid

        Yes, I think most people do agree on that point, although I’m not sure how it’s relevant to the discussion.

        I’m focusing on the argument you’re making, which I suppose is only tangentially related to the original discussion, so I suppose you’re correct in that I’m focusing on your tangent.

        Your claim “that America’s lack of democracy promotes more capitalistic institutions” doesn’t really make sense to me, but I suppose that’s because I have a different perspective on those concepts. I prefer to think that America’s relatively limited government and robust protections for property rights and civil rights are what promote more “capitalistic” institutions – or free market economic relationships, as I would prefer to characterize them. And conversely, I think that Europe’s relative lack of protection for property rights and powerful, intrusive governments promote socialism, or involuntary economic relationships, as I would prefer to characterize them.

      • https://www.facebook.com/app_scoped_user_id/1026609730/ Jim Balter

        “I also challenge your claim that the US is not a democratic,
        representative system. That’s exactly what we have. Representatives are
        democratically elected in the US. They are not appointed.”

        Are you just stupid? That clearly isn’t what I meant by “representative”.

      • Cowboydroid

        What you meant was not so clear, obviously. Perhaps you have your own definition of “representative” that differs from the accepted definition. That’s ok, but don’t expect others to divine it immediately. If you’d like to elaborate, go ahead.

      • https://www.facebook.com/app_scoped_user_id/1026609730/ Jim Balter

        Obviously it was. No, it’s not my own, it’s in the dictionary: “typical of a class, group, or body of opinion.”

      • Peter David Jones

        The typical voter is also a taxpayer, so there is downward pressure on spending as well.

      • Cowboydroid

        Really?

  • UserGoogol

    This seems to flagrantly ignore the option of plain old (modern) liberalism. Liberalism as a catch-all for left of center politics includes wildly different levels of paternalism and interventionism, but speaking in philosophical terms, liberalism really isn’t about preventing people from doing bad things, but taking a more substantive view of what freedom entails than how libertarians do. A key example being that liberals support a welfare state because they believe that that positively enhances people’s freedom. A welfare state has nothing at all to do with “stopping people from doing things.” (Of course, being taxed does have the effect of discouraging people from doing what they might want to do with that money, but that’s not the same as directly stopping people from doing particular sorts of activities, and even so, it’s a status quo bias to focus your attention on that side of the equation. Some people have less money, other people have more money.)

    That being said, your argument of generally distrusting government intervention and generally favoring non-government policies instead applies not just to “letting people do what they want” but all sorts of other government policies, even if they don’t restrict “make people stop what they’re doing.” So I mean yeah, I get why you’d be inclined against liberalism even if your argument glosses over its existence. (Although being particularly cautious of the government in particular still seems like a bias to me. You’re taking a very narrow idea of how “law & government” works, and a rather generous idea of what non-governmental solutions entail. Both have to deal with unintended consequences.)

    • http://overcomingbias.com RobinHanson

      I agree that simple redistribution isn’t about stopping people from doing things, and my argument isn’t well targeted re that. And in fact redistribution doesn’t bother me as much. But once you go beyond redistributing cash to redistribute in other ways, you are in essence stopping people from doing things.

      • http://www.kauffj.com kauffj

        I agree cash redistribution strictly dominates benefits, but doesn’t any redistribution also stop people from doing things? There is always something doable with $X that is not doable with $X * a, 0 < a < 1.

      • Tige Gibson

        It’s unfathomly ridiculous to talk about this way when there are people with absurd amounts of money for want of any grand thing to do with it.

      • pgbh

        I don’t know why people always assume that if the government doesn’t take rich peoples’ money, it will simply be spent on something frivolous.

        Sure, rich people do engage in a lot of frivolous spending. On the other hand, Bill Gates has spent $28 billion on promoting development in the third world. That seems like a better use of $28 billion than anything the US government has come up with.

        It’s not clear to me that, in terms of net utility, government spending is better than private spending at all.

      • https://www.facebook.com/app_scoped_user_id/1026609730/ Jim Balter

        Mostly bad things.

      • pgbh

        I don’t think you should concede this point so easily. Anyone can share money with strangers if they want to, but most people don’t want to. The point of forced redistribution is to stop people from acting on this impulse.

        And I’d say your three considerations do apply. For instance, most people aren’t interested in voluntary contracts like “I’ll share more if you do as well.” They just want to force everyone to share.

        Sounds to me like calls for forced sharing are overblown.

  • http://blog.monstuff.com Julien Couvreur

    Government is not only costly in the ways you listed, it offsets many of these costs to others (creating its own externalities), invites rent-seekers and power-hungry participants (creates rather than resolve conflicts) and often provides bad policy (such as an industrialist policy that shields polluters from lawsuits, or shields itself from liability). That is to be expected from a coercive monopoly on ultimate decision-making.

    If problems that require coordination at scales can’t be solved without government, then how would any government exist with the so-called “consent of the governed”? Either (1) collective action of such scale is indeed possible (governments are un-necessary), or (2) governments are illegitimate.

    • http://overcomingbias.com RobinHanson

      Yes, so I’ve added above the phrase “and invite more lobbying”

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  • brendan_r

    Mostly agree but I’m reminded of something George Kennan said – or what George Will said about what Kennan said, which I’ll paraphrase:

    “Kennan is confused, incoherent, contradictory because he’s really suspicious of centralized power – a fan of markets and all that – and yet he’s also a terrible elitist who thinks that the 99% are really stupid and mean and need paternalistic propaganda.”

    But I agree with Kennan. Conventional wisdom is that people nowadays are more ethical than they used to be because of changed opinions on minorities, women, gays, etc.

    Yet what’s the source of most of the avoidable suffering in a relatively peaceful society? It’s people failing to be good mothers, fathers, kids, inlaws, etc. Divorce, alcoholism, gambling, etc. Failures of discipline and the other traditional virtues.

    Historically the most institutionally libertarian societies were at a time and place where citizens were, far as I can tell, not very tolerant by modern standards, but more virtuous in the traditional sense. And reading the elites of those eras, they certainly believed non-stop virtue propaganda, law, etc. was vital to things working well.

    So I dunno. I suppose the retort would be that, sure, smart paternalism, bans, restrictions on trade, etc. can in principle beat pure libertarianism, and of course the interventionists have gotten some things right and some eras have gotten lots of things right, but on average that’s not the way to bet.

    • Dave Lindbergh

      Agree. Culture matters hugely. And we don’t pay nearly enough attention to that.

      I’m not quite as pessimistic. I think only 80% are stupid or mean. But rules and red tape and a permission culture tie down the 20% who do all the creating, inventing, and drive long-term progress.

      Hold them back and you hold back the whole society, which in the end harms the 80% as well.

  • Tige Gibson

    Libertarianism is an extreme ideology. What you’re saying is really just liberalism, but at least in the U.S. the word liberalism has been turned into a pejorative to the point that people like you don’t want to be associated with it. Libertarianism represents classical liberalism taken to its extreme in opposition to social liberalism, so unless you are biased against all the evidence in favor of social liberalism, you shouldn’t be calling yourself a libertarian at all, otherwise you shouldn’t be claiming to be trying to overcome bias.

    Advocating for the freedom to do harm to yourself blindly opens bystanders to liability. You believe that the law will just magically sort it out, but in reality lawsuits are too expensive for most ordinary people, in fact almost everything would become too expensive for ordinary people under libertarianism. Libertarianism just takes litigiousness beyond the nightmare it already is, but it’s a dream come true for vindictive, well-off people who can afford to abuse it. Any services you might hope to hire would have a high legal premium so that service providers feel protected from you enough to interact with you. Every employee would make lower wages so the employer can rationalize having a fund to fight you or pay you off if you sue.

    The regulatory legal structure provides something important to society which you are blind to until it’s gone.

    • http://overcomingbias.com RobinHanson

      Sounds like you are saying you agree with the position I take but you don’t like the name I gave to it. Since I don’t care much about the name, that’s a win to me.

      • Tige Gibson

        Pretty much, I find most people who identify as libertarians just want to get out of paying taxes but are oblivious to the fact that they take advantage of services paid for by taxes and would be shocked when those services disappear. The rest are Christians who don’t actually believe in libertarianism at all, they just recognize that when government stops taxing and providing service, the churches can move in to pick up the slack.

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        Pretty much

        Sounds to me that you reject his main postulate that law and government are costly:

        “Lack of law is more costly than law.”

      • Tige Gibson

        I didn’t say that they’re not costly at all, the real issue is that lack of law shifts the burden of the cost of justice to the people least able to afford it. So you would naturally see a reduction in the expenditure as poor people are not able to afford to sustain litigation. Just because there is less litigation does not mean in any way that there is more justice, but rather less. So the goal of reducing the cost of law is really a covert way to reduce justice.

      • Dave Lindbergh

        Robin didn’t say one word about either taxes or Christianity in this post.

        At least some people who identify as libertarian don’t “want to get out of paying taxes”.

        For many years I identified that way. Now I call myself a classical liberal, but only because too many people react the way you do to the term “libertarian”.

        Every political viewpoint is shared by a certain proportion of crazies.

        One shouldn’t judge by the crazies.

      • Tige Gibson

        >the word liberalism has been turned into a pejorative to the point that people like you don’t want to be associated with it.

        As I said, both you and robin only identify as libertarian, you aren’t actually libertarian.

      • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

        Robin doesn’t “identify as libertarian”, he links above to a post titled “Why I am not a libertarian“. I think he identifies as an efficient economist.

      • https://www.facebook.com/app_scoped_user_id/1026609730/ Jim Balter

        So write an article titled “Why I lean RobinHansonian” … it would be somewhat less disingenuous.

    • Mark Bahner

      “Libertarianism is an extreme ideology.”

      Yeah, extremely awesome.

      Look at Freedom House’s political and civil liberties freedom rankings. Then look at Heritage Foundation’s economic freedom rankings. The countries that score at the top of both rankings are the most libertarian. The countries that score at the bottom of both rankings are the least libertarian.

      How good a place a country is to live correlates very closely to how libertarian it is. That is, the countries that are at the top of both rankings are the most libertarian, and also are the best places to live. The countries that are at the bottom of both lists are the least libertarian, and are the worst places to live. The countries that are in the middle are in the middle in terms of libertarianism, and in the middle in terms of being good places to live.

      • Peter David Jones

        Somalia tops both lists? Well, no, it’s more of a case that the lists support something like classical liberalism.

      • Mark Bahner

        “Somalia tops both lists?”

        No, it doesn’t even come close to “topping both lists.”

        Somalia is tied for dead last in Freedom House rankings for civil liberties and political freedom:

        https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2015/somalia

        It’s not ranked in Freedom House rankings…just like Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and others.

        But you’re right that being at the top of both lists support classical liberalism. Because classical liberalism, like libertarianism, is an extremely good ideology. Do you really think there’s a tremendous difference between the two?

      • Peter David Jones

        Good ideologies? Good for whom? Answer that question, and you’ll see the difference.

        I’m well aware that Somalia is not at the top of the lists. The point is that the lists are not demonstrating the benefits of extreme dismantle-the-state libertarianism.

        The people who don’t benefit from libertarianism, even the milder forms, are the most vulnerable. That’s a point that has been put several times in this discussion, without getting a reply ..apart from the “who cares” implicit in the absence of a reply. But if you are relying on rent controls, state welfare and so on, then you care…you don’t want to see them abolished..they are not a small irrelevant detail to you.

        Looking at things at the aggregate level, as your lists do, and as economists are trained to, is not ethically or politically neutral. A center or left wing person would want to minimise harm as well. It’s understandable that economists focus on aggregates, that’s their job, but it’s not a superior insight into reality.

      • Cowboydroid

        There people who benefit the most from libertarianism are the most vulnerable. They need liberty and rights more than anyone else.

      • Peter David Jones

        Compared to liberalism, which is the context of the discussion, libertarianism removes rights: it explicitly opposes positive rights, backed by welfare, such as the rights to education, housing, etc.

        Libertarianism asserts that everyone has the same set of rights in principle. Liberalism points out that if you have no money, you are not free to do anything in *practice*.

      • Cowboydroid

        Nope. Libertarianism does not recognize any distinction between so-called “positive rights” or “negative rights.” There are only rights. And in the libertarian philosophy, there is no conflict in rights – one person’s rights are harmonious with the next person’s, and everyone equally enjoys the same, equal rights. That’s why there can be no “right” to education, or housing, or medical care. Such a “right” necessarily infringes the liberty of others, turning them into vassals who are commanded by the state to provide these things even potentially against their will. Libertarianism asserts that everyone has the right to freely produce and consume these things according to mutually agreeable terms of exchange, but no one has the “right” to someone else’s labor or the product of their labor.

      • Peter David Jones

        “Nope. Libertarianism does not recognize any distinction between so-called “positive rights” or “negative rights.”

        8,610 google hits disagree with you.

        “And in the libertarian philosophy, there is no conflict in rights -”

        How is that achieved..by narrowing down the range of acceptable rights….?

        “That’s why there can be no “right” to education, or housing, or medical care.,”

        …looks like it.

        Those are classic examples of positive rights. You see, the problem here is that you agree with the substance of what I am saying, but you haven’t heard the term “positive right” applied to the kind of right libertarians don’t believe in..

      • Cowboydroid

        Google hits are not really a relevant metric of truth. There are 209 million hits for “the earth is flat.”

        How is that achieved..by narrowing down the range of acceptable rights….?

        Not sure what you’re getting at… The “range” of acceptable rights is infinite. All rights are derived from the right to life, and because you have the right to life you also have the right to liberty and the right to find happiness. About the right to liberty, Jefferson made a very concise point:

        “Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others.”

        Meaning that your right to action is boundless, except as far as others may exercise the same unobstructed action.

        “That’s why there can be no “right” to education, or housing, or medical care.,”

        …looks like it.

        Those are classic examples of positive rights. You see, the problem here is that you agree with the substance of what I am saying, but you haven’t heard the term “positive right” applied to the kind of right libertarians don’t believe in..

        Those are classic examples of privileges, not rights. There is no right to education, housing, or medical care precisely for the reason I stated above: there is no right to the product of someone else’s labor. There is the right to trade for the product of their labor, but there is no right to claim it without voluntary compensation. And this makes sense. Why should you get to exercise any claim on someone else’s labor or property without first producing something yourself with which to exchange? Isn’t that only fair?

        I’ve heard all your arguments before. There’s nothing new there. Frankly, they’re cliche.

      • Peter David Jones

        “Google hits are not really a relevant metric of truth. There are 209 million hits for “the earth is flat.”

        Instead of saying that, you could have read the articles and become better informed about the philosophy you espouse.

        “The “range” of acceptable rights is infinite. ”

        Since you reject positive rights, it is infinite only in some sense that isn’t also all-encompassing.

        “All rights are derived from the right to life, ”

        But not a positive right to life. We must not kill, but we need not strive to keep alive. But I am better off if someone is obliged to keep me alive, so what’s the attraction of your system?

      • Cowboydroid

        Instead of saying that, you could have read the articles and become better informed about the philosophy you espouse.

        I don’t accept your premise.

        But not a positive right to life. We must not kill, but we need not strive to keep alive. But I am better off if someone is obliged to keep me alive, so what’s the attraction of your system?

        That’s the philosophy behind the Non Aggression Principle, which you seem to be unfamiliar with. You have no right to harm others. You have a right to do anything as long as it does not harm others.

        You’re better off if someone is obliged to keep you alive, but are you better off if you are obliged to keep someone else alive, at the point of a gun? How does that make you more than a vassal to that other person?

        And you inadvertently expose the flaw of democracy and especially a socialist democracy – people will vote for those who promise them the wealth of others more than they vote for those who simply promise to protect their rights and liberties. And politicians are thus incentivized to construe all privileges as “right and liberties” because then they get the double benefit of promising the wealth of others as a right and a privilege.

      • Peter David Jones

        “You’re better off if someone is obliged to keep you alive, but are you better off if you are obliged to keep someone else alive, at the point of a gun? ” Yes. If I am taxed at an affordable rate to support other people, as part of a reciprocal arrangement that involves my being kept alive, that has nett utility. If I were in libertopia, I might want to insure myself against becoming unemployable. That would be based on the same logic.

      • Cowboydroid

        What if the rate you are taxed at is unaffordable? How do you decide whether the rate you are forced to pay for someone else’s livelihood is “affordable?” Would you have the choice to pay less if you felt like you were paying too much?

        There is no reciprocal arrangement in involuntary exchange. That’s kind of a defining aspect of involuntary exchange. It disproportionately benefits one party more than the other. If it was a reciprocal arrangement which benefited both parties, the exchange would have taken place voluntarily.

        Involuntary exchanges result in a net loss, since one party is made less well off.

        Voluntary exchanges result in a net gain, since both parties are made better off.

        In a market society, sure, you might want to insure yourself against becoming unemployable. And that’s exactly how unemployment insurance developed here in the US, as a market institution. It was also relatively affordable. Obviously, the government saw this and decided it couldn’t allow such a valuable product to be sold on the market, and so it took over the market.

      • Peter David Jones

        Yep. Libertarianism makes everything voluntary. Liberalism makes most things voluntary, and protects my right to life. Since freedom is no good to the dead, I choose the latter.

      • Cowboydroid

        Liberalism (the real kind) and libertarianism are the same thing.

      • Peter David Jones

        There is a substantive difference between liberalism, as I have defined it and libertarianism. The fact that you define words differently makes no difference, the territory remains the same,

      • Cowboydroid

        The problem is that liberalism as you have defined it is not consistent with liberalism as it is traditionally defined. I have not deviated from the traditional defintion of liberalism, which is a political philosophy founded on ideas of liberty and equality.

      • Peter David Jones

        Lack of equality is precisely where libertarianism and liberalism diverge. In libertarians socieities, losers lose more (sinc ehtey have no positive right ot welfare, or even life) and winners win more (since they are not burdened with the taxation necessary to support poistive rights).

      • Cowboydroid

        Nope. Both libertarianism and its antecedent of liberalism argue for equal rights. There is no divergence. In libertarian and liberal societies, the poor are free to act entrepreneurially, and enjoy the fruits of their labor without suffering from the predation of the political class. Their property is protected and so is their right to trade and pursue the business of others. This is why the poor in market-based economies are so much wealthier than the poor in non-market economies, and why so many of the very wealthy were once poor or very average. In market-based economies, those who were rich due to political position are unlikely to maintain their wealth.

        In non-liberal societies, everyone is less well off, equally poor, and those who have the most political connections happen to be the richest.

      • zarzuelazen

        Ah no, a libertarian world is based on ‘property rights’ and these are applied with full force against those with the least property (i.e dollars).
        Ironically, the cost to the tax payer of financing the enormous police and prison system that would to be needed to enforce all these ‘property rights’ in a totally libertarian world, would be far higher than simply providing basic welfare.
        You can see elements this today at work in the US, where (for the example) the police harshly enforce ‘property rights’ against the homeless (coming and throwing them out of stores, arresting them for ‘loitering’ etc. etc).

      • Cowboydroid

        Ah no, a libertarian world is based on ‘property rights’ and these are applied with full force against those with the least property (i.e dollars).

        That statement doesn’t even sound coherent. What is meant by “rights are applied with full force?” Rights are not something that are applied with force. Rights are claims to liberty or property. Those who have the least benefit the most when their liberty and property are protected.

        Ironically, the cost to the tax payer of financing the enormous police and prison system that would to be needed to enforce all these ‘property rights’ in a totally libertarian world, would be far higher than simply providing basic welfare.

        I’d like to see that calculation, but I suspect you don’t have it and I also question your premises.

        You can see elements of this today at work in the US, where (for example) the police harshly enforce ‘property rights’ against the homeless (coming and throwing them out of stores, arresting them for ‘loitering’ etc. etc).

        The police are not enforcing property rights when they criminalize homelessness. If you want to examine the phenomena of homelessness and what drives people into that sort of lifestyle, you need to look a lot deeper than the symptom and the superficial response to the symptom. You need to examine the myriad state policies that infringe rights to liberty and property that prevent these people from achieving what they are capable of achieving.

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        What if they have IQs of 75 and can achieve little?

      • Cowboydroid

        They’re still human beings and as such they still deserve the liberty to live their life as they see fit and in a manner they feel brings them happiness. And they have that right purely by virtue of being a human being.

      • Peter David Jones

        “They’re still human beings and as such they still deserve the liberty to live their life as they see fit and in a manner they feel brings them happiness. And they have that right purely by virtue of being a human being.”

        In other words, they a free to starve if no one will often them a job…and since they have no right to welfare in “Libertopia”. But what good is freedom to the dead?

      • Cowboydroid

        Perhaps you’re confused about the state of nature. In the state of nature, all human beings are born into this world with nothing. Whatever they have, they must work to achieve. You are born into this world with the life and body that nature gave you. Those are your original rights. From there, you have the right to use your body to produce what you believe you need to live your life how you see fit.

        You have the right to do nothing with your life, of course, and if you choose to exercise that right then you have no legitimate claim on what others have chosen to do with their lives. There is no great big pot of food that some mysterious force is withholding from you for choosing not to work and be productive. If you work and produce things that others value, you can reasonably expect not to starve.

        What good is the “right to eat” to a serf? Even slaves and prisoners are fed.

      • Peter David Jones

        “You are born into this world with the life and body that nature gave you. Those are your original rights.”

        Not those arent; rights.

        “You have the right to do nothing with your life, of course, and if you choose to exercise that right then you have no legitimate claim on what others have chosen to do with their lives. ”

        Rights aren’t exiiitng objects made of atoms, they are conjured up by humans. Human societies decide on whatever rights suit them,.

      • Cowboydroid

        Well, you might not believe life and liberty are rights, but I do. And so do most others.

        OBVIOUSLY rights are a theoretical construct. That seems like an odd tactic, to indict a theory of social organization for being constructed by human minds.

        Human societies have largely decided that each individual has a right to life, and that each individual (mostly) has a right to liberty. If you reject these theories, then you necessarily accept the opposing argument, that some humans have a greater claim on your life than you do, or that some humans have a greater claim on your labor or the product of your labor than you do. Essentially, you believe in slavery and authority, which are also theories of social organization, but are increasingly rejected by humanity.

      • Peter David Jones

        If you want person A to stop infringing on person B’s rights, you can ask them nicely to stop, and if that doesn’t work, someone somewhere will have to apply force, whether that person is a state employee or a private agent. Without such defence of rights, rights only exist in the hollowest of senses.

      • Cowboydroid

        Self defense is quite distinct from aggression in that force is applied in retaliation, instead of as an initiation. RIghts cannot be “applied with force,” but they can be defended with force.

        Rights are a theoretical concept, as are all political theories of social organization. Defense is also a theoretical concept. The purpose of these theories is to devise a system of social organization that produces the most peace and prosperity and thus generates the greatest social welfare.

      • Peter David Jones

        A purist version of the No Initiaition of of force Principle would prevent the police from taking a suspect in for questioning. What non-libertarian socieities have is better than the libertarian version, since it allows effective policing.

      • Cowboydroid

        I don’t accept any of the premises in your Orwellian argument.

      • Peter David Jones

        Well, that was a fully general counter argument. While we are on the subject , I don’t accept your premiss that making any kind of effort to apprehend criminals is Orwellian.

      • Cowboydroid

        Making any kind of effort to apprehend suspects, including the kind that violate individuals’ rights, is most certainly Orwellian. Actually, that’s kind of a defining characteristic of Orwellian government.

      • Peter David Jones

        Making no kind of effort to apprehend suspects is not policing at all. Despite your efforts to confuse the issue, there is a clear distinction between a state with a police force and aolice force. Try reading Wikipedia and other sources to find out his the rest of the world understands political concepts.

      • Cowboydroid

        There’s a difference between making “no” kind of effort, and making “any” kind of effort.

        When it comes to governing, the ends do not justify the means. For governance to work, the means must be consistent with the ends. If you violate rights in the effort to secure justice, then you have committed only more injustice.

        Despite your obliviousness to reality, there is little difference between a state with a police force and a police state. The only difference is the degree to which the monopolist enforcer of its own rules violates the rights of the people. Ideally, it would do so the least amount possible. In reality, the state has no incentive to restrain itself.

        Try reading Wikipedia and other sources to find out his the rest of the world understands political concepts.

      • Peter David Jones

        You say that the difference between a police state and a state with police is unimportant, and then say it is merely quantitative. But everyone cares about a range of quantitative differences — how much they make, how much tax they pay — and you probably do too.

        But actually, there is no reason to think liberal democracies are infringing on rights to any extent. Its possible to come up with all sorts of definitions of rights, but proving anything about them is much harder. The police force in a liberal country won’t regularly infringe on the rights as defined in that society, and probably won’t infringe on the de facto international standard.

      • Cowboydroid

        Actually, the very nature of government is that it violates rights. Its simple existence violates rights. The manner in which it extracts revenue – by force – violates rights. The manner in which it enforces most of its laws violates rights. The manner in which it polices violates rights.

        There are many reasons to believe that democracies in particular infringe rights more than other forms of government. Democracies, particularly pure democracies, are little more than mob rule. Representative democracies are just mob rule by proxy of an elected representative. In both cases, the mob rules by force of majority, and tends to violate the rights of minorities.

        Its possible to come up with all sorts of definitions of rights, but proving anything about them is much harder.

        You need to clarify the meaning of this statement.

        The police force in a liberal country won’t regularly infringe on the rights as defined in that society, and probably won’t infringe on the de facto international standard.

        It is true that a government that operates in a society that largely values rights and liberties will probably have little capacity to obtain consent for egregious abuses of power. But it is certainly no guarantee that it won’t. All governments are affected by the same authoritarian complex – they must control, they must obtain compliance, they must not be questioned, they must not be denied. Such a system populated by humans is prone to devolve into chaos, and cannot be trusted.

      • Peter David Jones

        If there is an unconditional right to not be subject to force, then governments, as organisations with a monopoly on the use force, will infringe on rights, And if not, not. All Government is Bad rests on a certain conception of rights, which needs to be defended.

      • Cowboydroid

        If there is an unconditional right to not be subject to force, then governments, as organisations with a monopoly on the use force, will infringe on rights

        Correct.

        And if not, not.

        Correct, and in order to believe that you’d have to believe that some humans have a natural “right” to force others to do as they wish, which means rights are not equal, the right to life would not exist, the right to liberty would not exist, nor any of the others we commonly accept to exist.

        All Government is Bad rests on a certain conception of rights, which needs to be defended.

        The converse is true. Since government is an intrusion into the individual’s life, the burden of proof for government lies with those who claim it is necessary. The burden of proof is on those who would block free action.

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        Your counterexample is surprising! Since suspects have the right to remain silent, what is the investigatory purpose of apprehending them? It’s a trap to induce forfeiture of rights.

        [On the other hand, characterizing the practice, which is today the norm, as Orwellian is rather hyperbolic.]

      • Peter David Jones

        If suspects have the right to silence, and police have no right of arrest, that would stack the deck rather heavily in favour of the criminal.

        But that was only one example of the problems with a purist NIOF principle.

      • zarzuelazen

        Like all ideologues, you are living in a fantasy world of meaningless abstractions, which bear no relation to what is happening on a concrete level.
        If you claim that a pie sitting on the table is your property, then no one else can eat it without your consent. If someone’s hand moves toward your pie , then defence of your property right entails you slapping their hand away to stop them eating your pie. So ‘property rights’ in Libertarianism entail just another form of power that stop people doing things, just like any other political systems.
        A 5-year old can see that in a totally libertarian-world, if you have no money, you have zero claim on any goods and services, so your freedom to do anything in practice is highly limited. Admittedly, in this world, people would in theory leave you alone, but this is small consolation.

      • Cowboydroid

        Like all ideologues, you are living in a fantasy world of meaningless abstractions, which bear no relation to what is happening on a concrete level.

        It would seem you are projecting.

        If you claim that a pie sitting on the table is your property, then no one else can eat it without your consent. If someone’s hand moves toward your pie , then defence of your property right entails you slapping their hand away to stop them eating your pie. So ‘property rights’ in Libertarianism entail just another form of power that stop people doing things, just like any other political systems.

        I would suggest you read some Locke before you go any further.

        A 5-year old can see that in a totally libertarian-world, if you have no money, you have zero claim on any goods and services, so your freedom to do anything in practice is highly limited. Admittedly, in this world, people would in theory leave you alone, but this is small consolation.

        A five-year old knows that it’s wrong to hurt someone who hasn’t hurt them.

        A five year old would also understand the concept of mutual exchange.

        If you have no money then you’ve most likely never been interested enough to participate in the economy in a productive capacity, and therefore you probably have no interest in exerting a claim on someone else’s goods or services. This doesn’t limit your freedom to do anything, as you are completely free to do anything that doesn’t require exchange with another human being, and you’re also completely free to actually produce something and exchange it, even for money.

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        Like all ideologues, you [cowboydroid] are living in a fantasy world of meaningless abstractions, which bear no relation to what is happening on a concrete level.

        Doctrinaire libertarians elevate into an ontology the common-law distinction between causing something and failing to prevent it from happening.

      • Mark Bahner

        “Good ideologies? Good for whom? Answer that question, and you’ll see the difference.”

        Both classical liberalism and libertarianism are good for the greatest number of people in the country. They maximize total welfare.

        Now, why don’t you answer these questions: Do you think classical liberalism is a good ideology? And what party, of all the political parties in the United States (Democratic, Republican, Green, Constitution, Libertarian, etc.) is closest to being the “classical liberal” party?

      • Peter David Jones

        “Both classical liberalism and libertarianism are good for the greatest number of people in the country. They maximize total welfare.”

        Maybe. Maybe not. As I have explained I don’t have to care only about total welfare. I don’t have to willingly live in an Omelas, where the majority are happy at the expense of the misery of the few. Utilitarianism, and other aggregate-based approaches, are not the only moral systems in the world. I have the option of adopting a moral system where individual rights are paramount, and GDP can be sacrificed for them.

        The Freedom House’s lists reflect their values, not the universe’s own objective values. Do you want to bet me that I can’t find a list of “good” nations from some other pressure group that reflects some other evaluation of “good”..maybe using the gini coefficient instead of GDP, maybe with a list topped by Sweden instead of Singapore…?

        “Do you think classical liberalism is a good ideology?”

        Already answered. The question is ill-posed because you are naively assuming that everyone is on the same page about what “good” is. It is for you to think about the question “good for whom?”, as you were asked to, not for me to answer your question for a third or fourth time.

      • Mark Bahner

        “Do you want to bet me that I can’t find a list of “good” nations from some other pressure group that reflects some other evaluation of “good”..maybe using the gini coefficient instead of GDP, maybe with a list topped by Sweden instead of Singapore…?”

        Why don’t you actually take <3 minutes to actually *do an Internet search* before you make your comments?

        If you did, you'd find that Singapore does NOT lead countries for combined Freedom House civil liberties and political freedom rankings and Heritage economic freedom rankings. That's because Singapore isn't even close to the top of Freedom House's civil liberties and political freedom rankings:

        https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2015/Singapore

        Instead, the countries that come out on top for combined Freedom House and Heritage freedom rankings are countries like New Zealand, Switzerland, and Australia.

        "It is for you to think about the question "good for whom?", as you were asked to, not for me to answer your question…"
        I did answer your question. I wrote that classical liberalism and libertarianism maximize "total welfare". Of course, it could be argued that, for instance, the problems of aboriginal people in Australia are so overwhelmingly bad that "total welfare" is not maximized. Similarly, very miserable people certainly could be found in New Zealand and Switzerland.
        And there are countries that aren't quite at the level of Australia, New Zealand, and Switzerland in combined Freedom House and Heritage freedom rankings, but have lower Gini coefficients, like Denmark, Sweden, and the Netherlands, that are also quite nice places to live.
        But that would not provide evidence that substantially disputes my point that countries that are the most free are generally the best places to live, and countries that are the least free are generally the worst places to live, and countries that are in the middle with respect to freedom are in the middle in terms of being nice places to live.

      • Cowboydroid

        Somalia, if it is a case for anything, is a case against autocratic authoritarianism. It was ruled by a tyrant before it’s government collapsed. It has since remained a stateless society – despite the US and Kenya’s best efforts- because its citizens remember what it was like to be ruled oppressively and generally don’t want that. That’s also why the US and Kenya’s efforts to install a puppet regime in Mogadishu are violently resisted.

      • Peter David Jones

        You have not answered th central point: if statelessness itself solved all the problems, Somalia should be paradise. Authoritarianism may be a very very bad thing, but that isn’t an argument for anarchy or extreme libertarianism, since there are more than two horses in the race. There are a whole bunch of moderate positions that reject both authoritarianism and anarchy.

      • Cowboydroid

        Statelessness itself does not solve “all the problems,” and that’s not a claim anyone has ever made except as a strawman against which to argue. Statelessness solves the problem of the worst abusers of rights and liberties, but it does not solve the problem of abuse of rights and liberties. Statelessness combined with a productive society that values rights and liberties in itself would solve most problems. Individuals in society must value rights and liberties, and the state cannot make them value those things. Even with a state, if society does not value rights and liberties, they won’t exist.

        There are no “moderate” positions that reject both authoritarianism and anarchy. Any argument against anarchy – no rulers – is an argument for rulers, and thus an argument for political authority. Those who reject anarchy may reject totalitarian authority, but they do not reject authority.

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        Individuals in society must value rights and liberties, and the state cannot make them value those things

        Then rather than advocating “libertarianism,” you should advocate a degree of liberty commensurate with the values of society. Which doesn’t take you very far.

      • Cowboydroid

        Not sure what that’s supposed to mean, “a degree of liberty commensurate with the values of society.” Can you explain why that is something I should be advocating, or what that even means? I should be advocating the status quo that society supposedly accepts at the given moment? Is that really what advocacy is all about?

      • Peter David Jones

        “a productive society that values rights and liberties in itself”

        You can also magic up a crime-free society by declaring that everyone will be honest. Basically, it’s cheating to assume your timber will be straighter than the other guy’s timber.

        “There are no “moderate” positions that reject both authoritarianism and anarchy. Any argument against anarchy – no rulers – is an argument for rulers, and thus an argument for political authority. ”

        Authoritarianism doesn’t mean having a nonzero amount of authority, it means taking authority to extremes.

      • Cowboydroid

        You can also magic up a crime-free society by declaring that everyone will be honest.

        Well, no, you can’t, and your point is completely irrelevant to my statement.

        For rights and liberties to work, there needs to be social consensus that people deserve these things. Obviously, if there is no social consensus that people deserve rights or liberties, there will be no common respect for property or liberty. But there is a common respect for liberty and property in virtually every society on earth, for at least the individuals that participate in a given community and even between total strangers who have no cultural connection.

        Authoritarianism doesn’t mean having a nonzero amount of authority, it means taking authority to extremes.

        No, it means rule by authority. Totalitarianism is rule by authority taken to the extreme.

  • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

    Law & Government Are Costly

    This doesn’t seem obviously true when you consider opportunity costs.

    At the margin, are the costs – including opportunity costs – greater for government action or inaction? Isn’t this the question? Isn’t it just another way of stating the libertarian vs. statist disagreement? Are you claiming something, in other words, that isn’t circular?

    • chaosmosis

      Yeah. Local actions and lawsuits are potentially costly too. And there’s an obvious mirror argument where someone could claim that we should lean statist and avoid attempting local reforms because “government action might work”. This post is pretty weak. It could potentially be fleshed out, but no evidence of an asymmetry is given in the above text.

    • Cowboydroid

      You’re confusing “government is costly” with “government inaction is costly.” Your presumption is government, when your presumption should be liberty.

      The reality is that government is costly in the same way the mafia is costly. Although there may be some “benefits” associated with security and authoritatively derived “order,” social welfare drops overall due to excessive takings and abuses of power.

  • free_agent

    You say, “If people do something that hurts those around them more, often those
    nearby others can coordinate to discourage them via contract and freedom
    of association.”

    But that leads to the conventional free-rider problem: There’s no way to ensure that every person who is hurt makes a suitable contribution to the bribe to stop the people in question.

    And indeed, it’s quite rare to see the mass of people bribing a minority to stop doing what they’re doing.

    But I think it’s more to the point to note that if 90% of the people want to stop something, it’s usually cheaper — for them — to pay taxes to cover the cost of enforcing a law that forbids it than to bribe the people who are doing it to stop.

    If
    people do something that hurts those around them more, often those
    nearby others can coordinate to discourage them via contract and freedom
    of association. – See more at:
    http://www.overcomingbias.com/2016/02/why-i-lean-libertarian.html#disqus_thread
    If
    people do something that hurts those around them more, often those
    nearby others can coordinate to discourage them via contract and freedom
    of association. – See more at:
    http://www.overcomingbias.com/2016/02/why-i-lean-libertarian.html#disqus_thread
    If
    people do something that hurts those around them more, often those
    nearby others can coordinate to discourage them via contract and freedom
    of association. – See more at:
    http://www.overcomingbias.com/2016/02/why-i-lean-libertarian.html#disqus_thread
    If
    people do something that hurts those around them more, often those
    nearby others can coordinate to discourage them via contract and freedom
    of association. – See more at:
    http://www.overcomingbias.com/2016/02/why-i-lean-libertarian.html#disqus_thread

  • Peter David Jones

    Your defense of libertarianism focuses on the aspect of individual freedom, but most criticism of libertarianism focuses on the downsides of corporate freedom and market mechanisms. There is a coherent philosophy that emphasises individual liberty while remaining middle-of-the-road on state intervention in markets and redistribution’ and its name is liberalism. Its coherent because there is nothing about individual liberty that implies anything in particular about corporations or markets. Corporations are legal fictions that don’t have to exist. Individual freedom doesn’t imply the freedom to enter into any contract whatsoever, since many possible contracts restrict indivivudual freedom.

    • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

      I imagine Hanson would disagree with you on whether one can clearly separate corporations and markets from individual liberty. However, this post was not about liberalism vs libertarianism as overall philosophies/policy platforms. Hanson says he is not a libertarian, but leans (or starts with a presumption) toward it. If you think that presumption is wrongheaded, you might argue that government is not so costly, local coordination is generally insufficient, and the courts are not well-suited to such manners (although the last point might also meet assent from a libertarian critic of government courts).

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        Hanson says he is not a libertarian, but leans (or starts with a presumption) toward it.

        The larger question is whether it can be anything but a bias to start with a presumption toward a policy as abstract as libertarianism. For the reason I’ve given, I don’t think Robin succeeds in providing a nonbiased basis for a (rebuttable) presumption for libertarianism.

        I think it’s possible to be “somewhat” libertarian. But what this means has to be cashed out as acceptance of certain libertarian principles. (Perhaps conceived in a rule-utilitarian manner.) For example, I agree with Robin on his five examples, but this is because I accept certain quasi-libertarian principles: anti-paternalism, no thought crimes (porno), no victimless crimes (guns). In accepting certain quasi-libertarian principles, I suppose I’m in a sense more libertarian than Robin. But his presumption extends much further than my principles.

      • Peter David Jones

        Somewhat Libertarian might in fact be fully center or left libertarian.

      • Peter David Jones

        Hmmm. One mans biases are other mans values, I guess.

      • Peter David Jones

        I think there is more to libertarianism than indivdual liberty. If you lean towards libertarianism as opposed to liberalism or Archipelago or something else, you favour certain policies for achieving liberty.

        I can’t respond to the comment about law being costly because its so vague … costly compared to doing nothing, or to some voluntary, local approach , or to some private, free market approach?

  • http://greyenlightenment.com/ greyenlightenment

    Who would enforce the verdict of lawsuits or the court rules? Without perjury laws, what is to stop the losing defendant from not paying or lying. There would have to be some way of handing this. Another problem would be frivolous lawsuits

  • demockracy

    Sorry, no libertarian public policy apparatus exists or existed in human history.

    On the other hand, there’s a real technological version that has existed. Take a look how it turned out: https://aeon.co/essays/why-the-hidden-internet-can-t-be-a-libertarian-paradise. Hint: It doesn’t turn out well.

    Meanwhile: “There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged.
    One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession
    with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted,
    socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The
    other, of course, involves orcs.” — John Rogers.

    • CentralCharge15

      Switzerland is moderately libertarian. The U.S. used to be pretty libertarian. I fail to see how left-wing and right-wing governments are okay, but it’s a problem when you have both social and economic freedom.

      • Daublin

        There are many examples where the U.S. has a libertarian policy. It’s just not cool to call it that.

        The U.S. has no military draft and hasn’t for many years. For ordinary citizens that’s a humongous difference compared to countries where everyone is a vassal of the state (meaning, whoever controls the state). Instead, the U.S. has a smaller number of professional soldiers, who among other things get some really fat pay in exchange for the gigantic risks they are taking.

        Food is sold on a *relatively* open market. While the FDA is pretty intrusive in an absolute sense, it’s leaps and bounds more open than the socialized food of the old communist countries. Or for that matter some of the more statist countries in the southern hemisphere today.

        For that matter, compare food and grocery stores to, say, education and medicine. One of these two industries has widespread access by almost all Americans. The other two are heavily regulated and have either poor quality or lower access. Arguably both, in the case of medicine.

        There’s also shopping hours, and on the flip side of the coin working hours. In the U.S., these are largely left up to private agreements, unless you are one of the few people still in a union. Surely that counts as libertarian, too.

      • demockracy

        No, the Swiss heavily regulate their economy. In fact they just recently made the news for clamping down on their own financial sector. The original statement is correct: “no libertarian public policy apparatus exists or existed”…unless you want to count the neo-feudal “Silk Road” Dark Internet site.

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  • don.

    Individual “wants” are the sum of a set of biologically determined largely uniform needs plus a set of partly diverse but still strongly socially shaped preferences. That challenges the positive/negative (coercion/noncoercion) dichotomy at the libertarian core since *every* society is *bound* to be coercive. The interesting metric is then not constraints of wants but promotion of needs and wellbeing, which the available empirical evidence suggests universal welfare states are best at. See the World Happiness report for a summary of research.

  • zarzuelazen

    How very disingenous of you Robin to list a few attractive-sounding features of Libertarianism that could arguably be considered to be a part of a wide-range of alternative systems, not just Libertarianism 😉
    Look, I passed through a Libertarian phase, so I know how attractive it seems, but when tested aginst the real-world it fails miserably. It’s empirical reality that should be the yardstick, not philosophical arguments.
    When I visited and lived in Europe for some months , I was able to make a direct empirical comparison between life in a more democratic-big government society and life in a more free-market regime. That was when the realization dawned on me that Libertarianism was utter tripe.
    Withdrawing govt. power doesn’t create more freedom, all that happens is that private powers just rush in to fill the ‘power vacuum’ – you know the expression; ‘meet the new boss, same as the old boss’. In the case of Libertarianism, the ‘new bosses’ turn out to be the corporations.
    The currency of ‘private power’ is of course, the dollar, so for the very wealthy, yes, Libertarianism means more freedom (which is why the very wealthy love Libertarianism so much). But for the 99% of other people that aren’t rich, Libertarianism means less freedom.
    When Libertarians preach freedom, people should ask themselves this question: ‘freedom for whom?’. The answers might not be to their liking.

    • Peter David Jones

      You might enjoy this, form Slashdot poster Moraelin a few years back:

      “If only it were that simple. I think if you look at history without the selective glasses of how it fits Ayn Rand’s _novels_, you’ll find that there was a subtly

      different common thing there: whenever you lost your rights and liberties, it was actually simply because rich and powerful fucks wanted more riches and

      power… and nobody could stop them.

      Yes, taking over the government is a popular way to do it, but even there the trend isn’t necessarily “giving the government too much powers” but equally often

      “the government wasn’t strong enough to stop them.”

      You can see such examples as:

      – the 1075-1990 civil war in Lebanon: rich fucks and political parties simply hired their private armies and started a devastating civil war, making everyone’s

      lives miserable in the process. Yeah, I’m so sure that in the ensuing war where extortion, theft, robberies and collecting “customs” at random checkpoints are

      everyday occurences was soo much better than a government you can control through democratic means. Newsflash: once those warlords managed to take

      over a region by just having a larger militia than the government’s army can do anything about, they _were_ the de-facto local governments, and they didn’t

      give a flying fuck about your thinking they should have less rights.

      – the chaos in Somalia: ditto. Nobody was in a position to stop the warlords’ private armies from plunging the country into chaos

      – various coups where an impotent government just couldn’t do more than watch a bunch of mercenaries or CIA/KGB agents shoot their way into the palace and

      have it their way. Yeah, I’m sure the people now live so much better because they didn’t give the democratically-elected government even enough power to

      defend itself.

      – heck, even the russian revolution: communism didn’t happen because of someone giving too much power to the Tsar’s government (though it already had

      too much,) but because said government couldn’t stop Lenin

      – the fall of the Roman Republic: it didn’t happen because some erosion of rights by the Senate, but because Caesar marched with the legions on Rome and

      nobody could stop him. Then he got all those titles and rights at sword point, as a conqueror. And, oh, the third century crisis? Yeah, it was soooo

      great that the government couldn’t even elect an emperor after the praetorian guard murdered the previous one. I’m sooo sure that after a century of internal

      warfare and millions dead, they were still congratulating themselves for having an impotent Senate 😉

      – some corporation simply getting powerful enough to do what it damn pleases, because nobody has the guts any more to say “no” to the largest employer and

      land owner in the country. Do a bit of googling on “United Fruit Company” and how the term “banana republic” came to be.

      Etc.

      It seems to me that past a point such cases can _only_ be stopped by a strong enough government.

      Yes, an uncontrolled government is dangerous too. Which is why you have to control it. If you still (think you) are a democracy and don’t want it snooping

      on you, fine, organize it so it can’t without a mandate.

      But “OMG, governments are evil, keep them away” attitudes are just bloody stupid. That’s how worse problems come to you further down the line.

      A government is nothing more than how a large number of people organize to live together in _some_ way, and mostly because anarchies are even worse

      and power vaccuums just beg to be filled by the biggest bastard. And arguing for a government which _is_ a power vaccuum, at most buys some time until

      some bastard gets powerful enough to replace it with himself.”

      • zarzuelazen

        yes, good!

        A favourite ‘short’ (film) of mine is this sci-fi short called ‘From the Future With Love’. In this futuristic flick, law enforcement is privitized. Here, two cops investigate a mysterious criminal organization. Can you guess the big twist at the end? 😉 Highly recommended to watch, very entertaining! (12 minute watch)

        From The Future With Love

    • Daublin

      zarzuelazen, why do you think many parts of life need any boss at all?

      For example, in most U.S. cities, residential property is traded on a relatively open market, both for rental and for purchase. In many parts of Switzerland it’s not like that, and you have rent control laws that make it very hard to both obtain and relinquish a rental unit once you have it. Is rental law an exception to your general rule, or have you just not thought about it? In the U.S., you just manage real estate on the open market, thus avoiding a lot of hassle in doing things through underground networks.

      The real estate market is not something just rich people enjoy. It’s ordinary people exchanging and loaning property to each other, with non-involved people staying out of it.

      Likewise for many other things. You can run a store at any hour you like. You can work for any number of hours a week that you like, or even just volunteer. You can drive as soon as you prove reasonable competence and buy private insurance, rather than having to spend thousands of dollars on training courses.

      In all of these ways and more, Americans just don’t have a boss. It’s possible.

      • Peter David Jones

        Another thing people would be free to do is raise rents so that current tenants are forced out to be replaced by wealthier ones. Rent controls exist to prevent that. Likewise for working hours. Your defence of Libertarianism, like all defences if libertarianism’ rests on the tacit assumption that the poor just don’t matter,

      • Daublin

        I see you did not address my point, which was that you really can just free up a part of human life and not have any boss overlooking it at all.

        It’s not like you remove the existing rent control and then…. some other form of rent control steps in to fill the vacuum. Most of the U.S. just doesn’t have rent control at all. Yet, that’s the core reason that zarzuelazen tells us that libertarianism is silly and cannot even really be implemented in practice.

      • zarzuelazen

        May be you can pick a few artificial situations where a given situation doesn’t seem to have anything running the show, but in general, the ‘water’ model of power is much more accurate: if you imagine that power is ‘water’, then any power vacuum just causes the water to rush in to fill the gap.
        Libertarianism just replaces one type of power with a different one.
        Take ‘property rights’ for instance, which Libertarians think are great. These have to be enforced, which is costly.
        If you imagine scrapping welfare for unemployed people for instance, the result is lots of homeless people clogging up the doorways of businesses.
        Then you need the police to come and stop these people from loitering, which is costly. You need to built an enormous prison system to house these people, entailing even more cost etc.
        It turns out that it’s far cheaper just to pay the unemployed not to clog up the doorways of businesses. So welfare turns out to atually be *good* for business.
        And so on, and on.
        The reason a lot of government regulations came in in the first place is just like the example I gave above.
        It turns out that its often much cheaprer *and* better for business to let the government handle it.

      • Peter David Jones

        I wasn’t arguing that you cannot “free things up”, I was arguing that doing so tends to have side effects which are unwelcome to many.

      • Cowboydroid

        Economists are generally in disagreement with you. Rent control is one of the few subjects on which economists agree, and they generally agree that it reduces housing stock and drives up prices, particularly for those who are unlucky enough to find a unit at the control price.

      • Peter David Jones

        t is argued by a number of neo-classical and libertarian economists [8] that some forms of rent control creates shortages and exacerbate scarcity in the housing market by discouraging private investment in the rental market.[9][10] This analysis targeted nominal rent freezes, and the studies conducted were mainly focused on rental prices in Manhattan or elsewhere in the United States. These studies were criticised on the basis that poorer standards in housing conditions were also seen in states which had no rent controls, and so the evidence was inconclusive in demonstrating a causal link.[11]

        Evidence based studies, particularly conducted by American economists in the 1990s found that new methods of regulation, allowing for nominal rent increases in defined situations (for instance, linked to inflation or behind wage rises) were “so different, they should be evaluated largely independently of the experience with first-generation rent controls” studied in the 1970s.[12] The view at the time was that “a well-designed rent control can be beneficial”.[13]

      • Cowboydroid

        Government planners have fantasized for centuries about a “well designed price that can be beneficial.” The problem is that their designed price is typically only beneficial for one at cost to others, and ignores fluctuations in supply and demand. In the case of rent control, the price is beneficial for those who are lucky enough to find a unit at the control price, but those unfortunate souls who cannot find at unit at that price are not able to find a unit at any price, and thus for them the real price is infinite. And there’s no motive for investors to attempt to increase supply since all profit motive has been removed, the result being a static supply and landlords who don’t give a crap about conditions since they don’t have to compete for tenants.

      • Peter David Jones

        ” And there’s no motive for investors to attempt to increase supply since all profit motive has been removed”

        That is a non-sequitur. The fact that a rent is fixed need not stop a landlord making a profit…it would depend on the level it is fixed at. In practice. landlords in rent control zones do not invariably go broke.

      • Cowboydroid

        First, in order for any rent-control policy to have significant effect, the price ceiling must be set significantly lower than the market price. That’s the only way politicians would gain favor with the special interest groups.

        Second, that’s a mischaracterization of profit. Profit in a competitive economy is earned by taking the risk of creating a supply to meet consumer demand. When competition is eliminated, as it is through rent control, the landlord no longer feels the need to compete – he has a waiting list of hundreds of individuals ready to move in. Since he is prevented from adjusting price for the higher demand, his path to profit is thus marked by spending as little as possible on maintenance and resident amenities. Elevators remain out of service, lights flicker in the hallways, the walls never get painted, and nobody is around to fix the busted water heater. Miss a payment on rent and you’ll find yourself kicked out immediately to be replaced by someone else on the waiting list. There are higher rates of homelessness in cities with rent control compared to cities without.

        Additionally, other producers have no incentive to increase the supply of housing, since they will not be guaranteed a reward for taking the risk in doing so. This leads to a shortage of apartments, meaning there are potential tenants who would love to move in at the going rate but can’t find any vacancies. These are the laws of supply and demand, and they cannot be dismissed by fiat.

      • Peter David Jones

        “First, in order for any rent-control policy to have significant effect, the price ceiling must be set significantly lower than the market price. That’s the only way politicians would gain favor with the special interest groups”

        The basic justification of rent control is to prevent people being forced out by rent hikes, so the basic thing a rent control policy needs to is cap the *rate* of rent rises.

        “Since he is prevented from adjusting price for the higher demand, his path to profit is thus marked by spending as little as possible on maintenance and resident amenities.”

        So rent control needs to be accompanied by mandatory maintenance codes..and often is in practice. You still have the problem that the apocalyptic consequences you are theoretically predicting form rent control don’t happen.

      • Cowboydroid

        Yes, that is the ostensible justification. In reality, the policy achieves the reverse effect: it raises the prices for those who are looking for an apartment but cannot find a vacancy well above the market rate, since they must now look outside the price control jurisdiction for a living space.

        Again, economists pretty much universally reject price controls because their effect is to either create a shortage or a surplus of either supply or demand. They manufacture market inefficiencies, and the costs of these inefficiencies are most often felt by those who can least afford them.

        You still have the problem that the apocalyptic consequences you are theoretically predicting form rent control don’t happen.

        Rent control cities have the lowest rates of apartment vacancies – and thus the highest shortages – and also the highest rates of homelessness. The national average rate of apartment vacancies is around 7%, and can be even higher, around 15%, in cities that welcome development. The average rate of vacancy in rent-control cities is around 2 or 3% or less. New York City has not had a vacancy rate above 5 percent since World War II.

        Yes, these problems most certainly do happen. Simply wishing them away does not work.

        http://www.amazon.com/Excluded-Americans-Homelessness-Housing-Policies/dp/0895265516

      • Peter David Jones

        I originally mentioned that a free rental market had certain problems…. you haven’t shown that it doesn’t. If both approaches have problems, that would explain why people dont flood into or out of rent controlled areas.

      • Cowboydroid

        What are these so-called problems that a “free rental market” has? Has haven’t done a satisfactory job of defending your claim. It’s not my responsibility to prove your claims wrong if you’ve submitted no evidence to support them.

      • Peter David Jones

        The problem of th poor not being able to afford housing if the rich raise rents. (But the poor don’t have a right to shelter…According to your notion of rights)

      • Cowboydroid

        That’s not a problem of the free market. In a free market, prices fall through competitive forces. Owners of housing for rent (vaguely termed “the rich” by you) are not able to arbitrarily raise rents in a free market as long as they value market share and avoiding bankruptcy.

        Nobody has a right to someone else’s housing, according to anyone’s theory of rights, unless they have contractually agreed to a consensual exchange.

      • Mark Bahner

        “(But the poor don’t have a right to shelter…According to your notion of rights)”
        What does “the poor have a right to shelter” mean? If poor people don’t have a house, is society required to build them one?

      • Peter David Jones

        Somethng like that. Its not really an argument to greet positive rights with snorting derision.

      • Mark Bahner

        “What does ‘the poor have a right to shelter’ mean? If poor people don’t have a house, is society required to build them one?”

        “Somethng like that. Its not really an argument to greet positive rights with snorting derision.”
        It’s never an argument to greet anything with “snorting derision.”
        But if society is required to build the poor shelters or “something like that”…what sort of shelters (or something like that) are required? A shack in the woods? A two bedroom apartment in Manhattan?
        What if the poor don’t want the shelter provided by society, but instead want something else (like free cable)? Can the poor trade their right to free shelter for free cable, or is the right to free shelter “use it or lose it”?

    • ipencil

      Talk about disengenuous. The very reason that Europe can afford to be as socialist as it is is because the US pays for Europe’s military and medicine.

      The currency of ‘private power’ is of course, the dollar, so for the very wealthy, yes, Libertarianism means more freedom (which is why the very wealthy love Libertarianism so much). But for the 99% of other people that aren’t rich, Libertarianism means less freedom.

      Again, so much disingenuousness! First and foremost, all Americans are rich. That some are richer than others doesn’t change this. The “poor” today live better economic lives than the middle class of the 1970’s. And the “poor” today live better economic lives than nearly everyone in 1900. Libertarianism and free markets did that. Not political diktat.

      • zarzuelazen

        Well of course wealth is relative and living standards have gone up with time.
        But given the US has never been ‘Libertarian’ it’s hard to see how ‘Libertarianism’ had anything much to do with it.
        Free markets did have something to do with the increase in wealth, but they were working in combination with a lot of other things.
        The fastest improvements to the living standards of the average person in the US came in the period from 1950-1970, when relative inequality was less than was today, and there was a lot of government intervention.

      • ipencil

        But given the US has never been ‘Libertarian’

        The US was the most libertarian country in the history of mankind.

        The fastest improvements to the living standards of the average person in the US came in the period from 1950-1970

        Incorrect. A logarithmic plot of American economic growth shows a pretty straight line from 1800 to the late 2000’s, at which time the slope decreases. If your claim was true the plot between 1950-1970 would slope upward to a greater extent than other times. It doesn’t.

        there was a lot of government intervention

        There is more government intervention today than during the 1950-1970 and as mentioned above the plot of growth has declined in the last decade.

      • zarzuelazen

        The GDP growth rate in the US in the preriod 1950-1970 was 4.4%, which is far above the average since (3.3%).
        Things stagnated because of the right-wing policies that were implemented by Reagan and co. onwards. Inequality increased – where as middle class income stagnated, most of the benefits of economic growth went to the rich; the extra money ended up parked uselessly in the bank accounts of rich arseholes, rather than being put to productive use.

      • ipencil

        1950-1970 had growth rates of 3.9 percent. 1820-1839 had 4.5 percent growth rates. There were many 20 year periods in US history that had high growth rates than 1950-1970.

        Things stagnated because of the right-wing policies that were implemented by Reagan and co. onwards

        Doesn’t even make sense. Reagen didn’t become president till 1981, a full 11 years after 1970. The stagflation of the 1970s was due exclusively to Keynesian policy, i.e., the opposite of “right-wing policies”. Nixon and Carter both believed in heavy government intervention into the economy.

      • zarzuelazen

        The stagflation of the 1970s can’t be blamed on domestic policies, it was largely a result of external shocks, such as the oil shock.
        But my comment applies to 1980s onwards.
        As Stephen points out, my claim was not that the 1950-1970 had the highest growth per se, but that it was the time that the *average* living standard went up the fastest, because the wealth was more equally distributed than today.
        The Great Depression was a result of largely libertarian monetary policies – this sort of thing was typical of what you used to see before Keynesian policies came in, the boom-bust cycles were much more extreme.
        So Libertarianism didn’t work, that was why Keynesian policies started to be applied instead. It was the big government spending for world war 2 that lifted the US out of recession and got the economy moving again. And this continued after the war, resulting in the big boom.
        An enormous amount of valuable basic research is done by the government, but right-wingers hide this by doing an accounting trick, where a lot of the basic R&D is classfied under ‘military spending’. It was the government that created the internet you know.

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        You’re changing the subject. He said living standards, not output.

        The fastest improvements to the living standards of the average person in the US came in the period from 1950-1970

        Incorrect.
        A logarithmic plot of American economic growth shows a pretty straight
        line from 1800 to the late 2000’s, at which time the slope decreases.
        If your claim was true the plot between 1950-1970 would slope upward to a
        greater extent than other times. It doesn’t.

      • Cowboydroid

        Actually, the fastest and most substantive growth in living standards of the average person in the US came in the late 19th century, when wages grew 60% between 1860 and 1890 and there was almost no government intervention.

      • https://www.facebook.com/app_scoped_user_id/1026609730/ Jim Balter

        Arch right winger ipencil calling others disingenuous … how droll.

      • ipencil

        Indeed.

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        The very reason that Europe can afford to be as socialist as it is is because the US pays for Europe’s military and medicine.

        I wonder whether Europe gains as much from burden shifting as America gains from its control over the medium of international exchange.

      • Peter David Jones

        “… the US pays for Europe’s military and medicine.”

        That is false.

      • dwpittelli

        We did pay a lot in military expenses to protect Europe. Not much any longer. But the Europeans are still not paying much either. I think that the US capability remains a major reason Russia is not (even) more aggressive in Europe.

        As far as pharmaceuticals are concerned, most of the profits are made in the US, while other countries demand drastically lower prices. They get the low prices because the marginal cost of production is low. They are free riders, as much less money would be invested in pharma research were it not for the prospect of large profits in the US.

      • Peter David Jones

        ” I think that the US capability remains a major reason Russia is not (even) more aggressive in Europe.”

        Russia is a mutual threat to Europe ad the US and there has long been a joint effort by Europe and the
        US to contain it, exemplified by NATO. So of course European forces+american forces are more effective than
        European forces alone..that’s kind of the point of NATO. What are the grounds for saying that one party s free riding in a mutually beneficial arrangement?

        The US puts a higher percentage of its GDP into its military, but is that a case of Europe paying too little or the states paying too much? Since European expenditures are in line with global averages, and US expenditures above, it is more like the latter. Is it really free riding if one party voluntarily puts more in?

        The US has a large military because it fights, or is prepared to, on many fronts. Here’s a funny thing: if there’s a war in the MidEast, the refugees cross the Mediterranean, not the Atlantic.

        Heres another funny thing: there’s a country that receives a cash subsidy for their defense from the US taxpayer. It isn’t in Europe, and you won’t hear a US right winger call it a free rider.

        http://www.economist.com/blogs/bagehot/2010/01/defense_europes_defense

        European health agencies are able to use their purchasing power to negotiate good prices. In most cases, we congratulate businesses who do that, and compare them unfavorably with the fools who pay the full list price. And there are people who think the answer is for the US healthcare system to bargain better, not to complain about Europe

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        The “poor” today live better economic lives than the middle class of the 1970’s.

        Utter nonsense. Were you alive in the 1970s or is this based on some kind of inference? I was in the middle class in the 70s and can observe the poor today. The comparison is utterly ludicrous.

      • ipencil

        What a coincidence, I lived in a middle class home in the 1970’s, too, and know that what I said was true. The typical middle class family in the 1970s had a modest home, possibly with central AC, 1 maybe two cars, a TV or two, with maybe a dozen channels, no computer, possibly a gaming station with a game or two, medical care that was worse than the third world today, no cell phone, plenty to eat, etc. The typical “poor” today have a modest house, almost certainly with central air, at least one car, at least one flat screen HD TV, with hundreds of channels, a gaming station, possibly two, medical care that is definitely better than the third world, a cell phone per adult, plenty to eat, etc.

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        What about now? Do you live in a gated community? Otherwise, I don’t see how you can be so wrong about the poor.

        OK, I guess we must turn to data. If anything should have improved, it is medical care, which you assure us has improved for the poor taking them above the old middle class. An objective measure is life expancy. These charts prove you’re wrong:

        https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/09/18/the-government-is-spending-more-to-help-rich-seniors-than-poor-ones/

        Notice that the medical care of the very poor – measured by declining life expancy – has actually declined since 1980.

      • ipencil

        An objective measure is life expancy.

        An objective measure is not life expectancy, as many deaths, particularly for the lower classes have nothing to do with medical issues, such as homicide (young lower income blacks, in particular kill one another at a shockingly high rate). Additionally, the very reason people are in the lower classes is because they consistently make bad choices. This extends to health choices. The so-called “food deserts” you hear so much about has nothing to do with grocery stores in low class communities not offering healthy foods, it has to do with the fact that grocery stores in low class neighborhoods stocking the shelves with the things their customers want. This has been demonstrated numerous times. The lower classes have worse health, not due to lack of access to health professionals, but by their own unhealthy choices. Equal access will still result in unequal outcomes due to choice.

        In other words, your chart proves nothing.

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        You’re again changing the subject. You said they live better economic lives. A shorter life isn’t a better life – of that we can hopefully agree. You now say it’s the poor’s own fault, but you previously claimed their lives had greatly improved!

        [Maybe you’ll want to quibble about “lives” versus “economic lives.” But defining the term to exclude life expectancy makes it a travesty. You can’t continue to claim that the poor have made huge gains.]

      • dwpittelli

        To say that people have better economic lives or are better off economically than in the 1970s is to say that their income or consumption is, in real terms, higher now. It doesn’t rule out that people might spend their money on junk food, beer and opiates, and therefore have a reduced life expectancy, but that is a social or moral problem, not a problem of scarcity or economics.

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        To say that people have better economic lives or are better off economically than in the 1970s is to say that their income or consumption is, in real terms, higher now.

        The poor are not. ( http://www.advisorperspectives.com/dshort/charts/census/household-income.html?household-incomes-mean-real.gif )

        The reason I went to life expectancy is ipencil would dismiss the relevance of real income. That’s why he loaded up on new technology. The poor have it great because they own cell phones and huge tv monitors!

        Even more than static to declining real income, declining life expecancy mirrors the real situation of the poor, being a truly vital interest. Perhaps these could be partly “moral” questions, completely unrelated to their economic status, but they show that the actual welfare of the poor hasn’t improved – certainly not to have exceeded the welfare of the 1970s middle class.

      • dwpittelli

        Indeed, measured income of the bottom quintile of households has stagnated in real terms, but this is better than it seems for a number of reasons:

        1. Staying at the same level in real terms is pretty good when you consider that the average household size has gotten smaller, with many more households headed by one adult rather than a married couple.

        2. Income does not include food stamps, the EITC, subsidized housing, free cell phones. “Moreover, users should be aware that for many different reasons there is a tendency in household surveys for respondents to underreport their income” (Census).

        3. It is legitimate to account for such differences by looking at consumption. One can do this either by adding/subtracting from income (but this won’t cover underreporting), or by seeing what people actually own and consume. The increase of computer tech of course says more about Moore’s Law than about economics more broadly, but indoor plumbing, AC, large appliances, square feet per resident, clothing owned, possession of a reliable car, also show improvements for the poor.

        https://www.census.gov/hhes/www/income/about/index.html

        http://freakonomics.com/2011/09/14/whats-the-best-way-to-measure-poverty-income-or-consumption/

    • https://entirelyuseless.wordpress.com/ entirelyuseless

      If you’re going to cite your anecdotal experience, I lived in Europe for over a decade, and I found the anti-libertarian character oppressive in many ways. For example, stores generally have the attitude of “either follow our rules or get out,” instead of the attempt to please the customer that you get in the States.

      • https://www.facebook.com/app_scoped_user_id/1026609730/ Jim Balter

        How silly. Private entities being able to say “either follow our rules or get out” is very much libertarian.

      • Cowboydroid

        Property rights are libertarian, but the nature of a libertarian economy is to gain a good reputation by pleasing the customer. Pissing off customers in a libertarian economy, where market share is not a given, is a good way to go bankrupt.

      • Peter David Jones

        You’re assuming that religion and other ideologies have conveniently vanished. In real-world cases where business people try to discriminate about whom they serve, their personal ideology has overridden the profit motive.

      • Cowboydroid

        Actually, that’s the opposite of reality. In the real-world, businesses value profit and market share over indulging the personal whims of an employee or owner, and owners who exercise their personal discriminatory whims are flogged in the arena of public perception and their businesses suffer as a result.

      • Peter David Jones

        In the real world, businesses do not invariably value profit and market share over ideology, or there would simply be no cases of discriminatory practices for the news media to report on.

        A healthy business will not go bankrupt if it refuses to serve 5% or 10% of its customers. (As so often, you are announcing as a universal law something that can only possibly be known in special cases where you have some figures available).

        It’s also not a universal law that when a business discriminates, it is an unpopular lone voice, that gets shouted down by popular opinion.

        Systematic discrimination against widely unpopular groups has existed historically, and systematic discrimination, where everyone discriminates against the same 5% or 10% is the acid test. You have no grounds for saying that it can’t happen under Libertarianism.

      • Cowboydroid

        In the real world, businesses do not invariably value profit and market share over ideology, or there would simply be no cases of discriminatory practices for the news media to report on.

        No, in the real world, businesses that do value ideology over profit and marketshare are driven out of business by those that do not. They are not nonexistent, but they don’t last very long and they have a very difficult time competing. Cases of discriminatory practices would not be nonexistent, either, but those case that do exist would get reported in the media and, as we all know, peer and social pressure are incredibly effective at influencing human action.

        A healthy business will not go bankrupt if it refuses to serve 5% or 10% of its customers. (As so often, you are announcing as a universal law something that can only possibly be known in special cases where you have some figures available).

        In a highly competitive market, refusing 5 or 10% of potential customers can potentially bankrupt a company, especially when profit margins are often less than that.

        Not sure how your second claim applies. Perhaps you can be more specific.

        It’s also not a universal law that when a business discriminates, it is an unpopular lone voice, that gets shouted down by popular opinion.

        Nobody said it was, and it’s not necessary to any argument. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

        Systematic discrimination against widely unpopular groups has existed historically, and systematic discrimination, where everyone discriminates against the same 5% or 10% is the acid test. You have no grounds for saying that it can’t happen under Libertarianism.

        Systematic discrimination against minorities has only ever existed with the support of the state. Without the support of the state, minorities are largely safe from oppression.

        I have no argument that discrimination won’t happen under a libertarian government. My argument is that discrimination is punished by markets while largely sanctioned by governments, and not the other way around as many economically uninformed attempt to argue. Especially when we’re discussing oppressed minorities, governments are the worst abusers of their rights, even going to so far as to commit genocide against them. There are no market actors who have ever attempted to commit genocide.

      • Peter David Jones

        Yet again, you are using handwaving, qualitative statements where you should be using quantities. A business that refuses to serve 95% of its customers will likely go broke, a business that refuses to serve 5% likely won’t. Anyone can see that a healthy business can survive giving 5% of its revenue to charity. Also, a business’s ideological stance may make it more popular with some.

      • Cowboydroid

        We’re discussing theory, not data. It’s perfectly fine to use qualitative statements when discussing theory. You’re the one making unverifiable quantitative claims, not me. I could challenge your 5 or 10% number, but you have no way of proving it.

        A business that refuses to serve 95% of its customers will likely go broke, a business that refuses to serve 5% likely won’t.

        Here you are making a qualitative statement right after accusing me of doing the same. Are you just being argumentative?

        The bakery that refuses to serve gays might become more popular with christians.

        And?

        And a gay club is more popular with gay people as opposed to straight people. Do straight people have a right to discriminate against that gay club by refusing their patronage and refusing to spend their money there?

        Just as you – a consumer – have a right to discriminate against a business for any reason you choose by refusing it your business, a business has a right to discriminate against you by refusing your business, for any reason it may choose. The liberty of the consumer to discriminate is more powerful than the liberty of the business to discriminate, and it is that liberty that keeps businesses on their best behavior. The threat of losing reputation, losing market share, and going bankrupt is a real threat. Reputation is probably the most valuable asset a successful company has in a competitive market.

      • https://www.facebook.com/app_scoped_user_id/1026609730/ Jim Balter

        All obviously true, but you can’t change the mind of a droid.

      • https://www.facebook.com/app_scoped_user_id/1026609730/ Jim Balter

        In any case, both these folks ignored the basic fact that “either follow our rules or get out” is entirely a libertarian concept and attitude, whereas liberals are generally opposed to such private discrimination within the commercial — and therefore social — sphere.

      • CentralCharge15

        It tends to vanish eventually, because of the “free society” part of libertarianism, especially free speech — the society eventually settles around an equilibrim.

      • Peter David Jones

        Is that based on theoretical argument or practical evidence? Because if you think merely being able to discuss differences in opinion will lead to convergence,you are a much more optimistic epistemologist than I am.

      • CentralCharge15

        Well, it works better than any single person deciding for the rest, I think. You can see societal ethics converging over time, across all borders, wherever there is some amount of free speech.

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        A libertarian society permits citizens to treat free speech as a taste. Free speech isn’t guaranteed to perdure in a libertarian economy.

      • Cowboydroid

        Free speech isn’t guaranteed in any system of government, since all systems of government by nature restrict freedom. But freedom of speech is more likely to endure in a society that respects freedom in general.

        Also, implied in your statement is the notion that a libertarian society is “permissive,” or that actions require permission. That totally mischaracterizes a libertarian society. Freedom of action in a libertarian society is the default.

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        A society where freedom is the subject of bargaining is less likely to honor free speech than a constitutional democracy. Freedom is a far-mode ideal, and the market encourages a near-mode mindset. It encourages seeing freedom as a commodity for which one may have limited taste.

      • Cowboydroid

        And a libertarian society is not a society where freedom is a subject of bargaining. I’m not sure how you came to that conclusion. Perhaps you can explain.

        Markets encourage cooperation and respect for rights. Rights are not “commodities,” but rules of social interaction that promote the most peace and cooperation which in turn generates a higher standard of living.

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        I inferred that your libertarian society is anarcho-capitalist. (If not, why not?)

      • Cowboydroid

        I am not in possession of a libertarian society, but I do advocate anarcho-capitalism.

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        OK, then I can answer your question. Under anarcho-capitalism (at least as described by David Friedman) law is a commodity priced on the market. Concretely, if I value free speech and have the money, I will buy protection. If either condition is absent, I won’t. I might chose to protect some forms of speech and not others. So, free speech is bargained for in the protection-agency market.

      • Cowboydroid

        No, law is not the commodity priced on the market. Law is the set of rules that are cooperatively agreed on by protection providers, and protection is the commodity priced on the market (as opposed to being arbitrarily priced by a monopolist provider).

        Consequently, if you don’t feel you have sufficient capacity to protect yourself and your property completely, you will purchase protection insurance.

        Free speech is not the commodity for sale in an anarcho-capitalist society. Protection from being harmed for speaking freely is the commodity for sale. You already have the liberty to defend yourself against aggression for speaking freely. You would simply purchase the protection service of a provider if you felt like you need a greater level of protection, just as you would purchase home or auto insurance if you feel like you aren’t able to cover emergency expenses from your own pocket.

        Here’s a quality video on the subject:
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8kPyrq6SEL0&feature=iv&src_vid=khRkBEdSDDo&annotation_id=annotation_768922

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        Law is the set of rules that are cooperatively agreed on by protection providers

        Then the assumption that they will agree – moreover, agree on a set of rules including full free speech – requires an argument. [To me it’s pretty clear they would disagree. For example, some will have a taste for sharia law.]

        The protection companies are just a bunch of monopolists dictating law, aren’t they?

        [I don’t think yours is Friedman’s model, under which the protection companies must bargain for law under the stimulus of competitive demand, and different protection companies provide different laws. Consistent with this, you agreed with Peter David Jones that a social-democratic enclave could exist in a libertarian society. Then, there are different laws for different folks. (I try to avoid videos.)]

      • Cowboydroid

        Then the assumption that they will agree – moreover, agree on a set of rules including full free speech – requires an argument. [To me it’s pretty clear they would disagree. For example, some will have a taste for sharia law.]

        Well, it’s not an assumption, at least not on my part. It’s an informed opinion based on an analysis of human behavior. In short: conflict is expensive. It’s much less costly to avoid conflict and resolve disputes peacefully. This leads to cooperation in formulating rules of interaction that promote peace and dispute resolution.

        The protection companies are just a bunch of monopolists dictating law, aren’t they?

        By definition, if there’s more than one provider operating in the market and competing with others, there cannot be a monopolist. “A bunch of monopolists” is almost an oxymoron.

        For a rule of interaction – which is what a law is – to be effective, it must be commonplace, uniform.

        For example, the universe would not exist if the law of gravity differed from place to place. However, from that uniform law of interaction – and a relatively simple one at that – the universe has evolved into a highly complex and ordered environment.

        Eventually, social laws among human beings would iterate and approach uniformity. Of course, there can exist competition – a socialist enclave could exist in a libertarian society – but a dominant order would be selected for as the less efficient systems were rejected. Crucially, there would still be room for those who don’t agree with the dominant order in a libertarian society to live their lives how they would see fit, unlike how our current system operates.

        To return expressly to my point: any agreement arrived at by the protection companies will derive from profit-maximizing considerations. If they reach agreement, it will not be on a far-mode principle like free speech. It will be some amalgam based on near-mode reasoning.

        And if you watched the video I linked, you’d have learned that the act of maximizing profit includes satisfying customers in order to retain market share, and satisfying customers means paying attention to reputation – which would be vitally important in such a market. Not sticking by customers or protecting their interests would be a death sentence for any company participating in that market.

        Thus, whatever the company’s goals are directly related to what its customers value.

        And, like I said, conflict is costly. The companies have every incentive to avoid conflict and cooperate on a resolution.

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        The protection companies have to offer the same law. Only the terms of enforcement vary. What tells you that the law they find it in their mutual competitive advantage to enforce will be the rules of free speech? (Or even that it’s likely.)

      • Cowboydroid

        I keep telling you, free speech is not what is being sold. What is being sold is protection against harm. Whatever motivates that harm is irrelevant to whether defense is provided. If someone is harmed because of the thing they said or wrote, they are still harmed, and the protection will be provided to keep them safe from harm. It is in the interest of the protection company to protect its users from harm, since that is the service the users are paying for.

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        If someone is harmed because of the thing they said or wrote, they are still harmed, and the protection will be provided to keep them safe from harm.

        Not if the protection companies decide that it will protect its users from having bad things said about them or from offense to their sensibilities. This is what I’m asking you to rule out.

        You make it hard to get beyond a wall of definitions. You may now say, “They won’t protect people from innoccuous words because that’s not a real harm.” But the point is that what is treated as a harm is determined by agreement among the protection companies. So, again, what makes you think that the protection companies will, in seeking competitive advantage, agree on rules that protect free speech?

      • Cowboydroid

        Not if the protection companies decide that it will protect its users from having bad things said about them or from offense to their sensibilities. This is what I’m asking you to rule out.

        You’re asking me to rule out that protection companies themselves would infringe the right to free speech by committing an act of censorship? The act of censorship is the act of aggression. It is the act protection companies would protect their clients from. A protection company is unlikely to commit an act of censorship because it involves conflict, which is costly, and thus damages its reputation.

        But the point is that what is treated as a harm is determined by agreement among the protection companies.

        It sounds like your real concern is that there would be disagreement on what constitutes harm. If that’s the case, why don’t you just be upfront and clear about it?

        I don’t doubt there would be disagreement on that topic – there’s been disagreement on that topic for millennia. But I believe disagreement would give way to agreement and cooperation in a marketplace, because that’s how marketplaces function.

        We already have functional theories of rights and liberties. These are not undeveloped or yet to be discovered, so I don’t believe it would take the marketplace or the process of competition long at all to iterate and arrive at a consensus. Disagreement along theoretical lines would not disappear, but it would diminish. Arbitration will exist to resolve disputes in such cases. In all cases, what is considered is that which will produce the least cost and most benefit, or in other words the greatest social welfare.

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        It sounds like your real concern is that there would be disagreement on what constitutes harm. If that’s the case, why don’t you just be upfront and clear about it?

        Because I want to grant you all the assumptions unnecessary to my point. So, I allow that the protection companies will reach agreement. What you haven’t justified, then, is your assumption/conclusion that this will be an agreement that doesn’t criminalize some forms of free speech – except to argue that the protection companies will above all else value conflict-avoidance. This assumption too I’m allowing you. But you haven’t made any argument why honoring what you call rights is, for the protection companies, the least conflict-ridden path. (I hope you won’t argue that violating rights is conflictual by definition.)

        I take it that you think people necessarily have a stronger attachment to rights than they have to the avoidance of petty irritation by unwanted speech. My argument is that this is apt to be the case in far mode, but not in near-mode, where personal economic decisions are made.

      • Cowboydroid

        But you haven’t made any argument why honoring what you call rights is, for the protection companies, the least conflict-ridden path.

        Because that’s not exactly my argument. If we agree that harm is the initiation of force or violence, and we agree that individuals prefer to be free from harm, then that is the preference that protection companies will seek to satisfy. The reason for harm is irrelevant from their perspective. Their product is protection from harm, however it is induced and for whatever reason. Crime becomes any initiation of force by one against another. A theory of rights is not necessary for this arrangement to exist.

        Where rights come in is during arbitration. Protection companies would not necessarily be engaged in arbitration. Arbitration services would exist, likely as a separate but related market, to resolve disputes that have not yet progressed to violent conflict, as well as those that have.

        I take it that you think people necessarily have a stronger attachment to rights than they have to the avoidance of petty irritation by unwanted speech or the protection of sacred idols. My argument is that this is more apt to be the case in far mode, when people vote, than in near-mode, where personal economic decisions are made.

        My argument is that people have a preference for peace and prosperity over poverty and conflict. A theory of rights simply organizes these preferences into a coherent system of social organization and rules of interaction.

        Most people value their own liberty much more than their neighbor’s. That’s why people are happy to vote for higher taxes on others, but upset when they’re the ones paying higher taxes. Voting as a means of social decision-making is extremely inefficient and fails to capture the preferences of minorities.

        However, in a society of mutual respect and voluntary exchange, people more apt to respect their neighbor’s liberty as their own. Minorities see their preferences satisfied, and social-decision making takes the form of “voting with your wallet.”

        A good analogy I’ve heard to compare the market versus democratic voting is the grocery store. If the grocery store worked like democracy, every shopper in the store would cast a vote for what products go in which shoppers’ carts. Each shopper will likely end up with a bunch of items he doesn’t desire, and thus doesn’t desire to pay for. The outcome would be inefficient, since most people’s desires are not fully satisfied, and the overall cost is quite high. Nobody would consider this a rational way to distribute groceries. In reality, each shopper picks which item he wants in his cart, and leaves out all the items he doesn’t want. He only pays for the items he wants, and his preferences are most nearly satisfied. Nobody questions what goes in each other’s carts, as long as their own preferences are satisfied. And the grocery store has an incentive to satisfy as many preferences as possible.

        The reality of political democracy is that no single vote will ever determine the outcome of a political election. Thus, no individual will have her preferences even nearly satisfied. Conversely, in free markets, each chooser actually gets what she chooses, and is not obliged to consume what she does not choose. Each chooser gets what she chooses without having to persuade anyone else to choose similarly.

        In the market, you get what you want and not what other people want. Choice in markets is more real, responsive, continuous, and reliable than is choice in political settings. Market decisions satisfy the preferences of a much larger number of people than does even the best designed system of collective voting.

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        My argument is that people have a preference for peace and prosperity over poverty and conflict. A theory of rights simply organizes these preferences into a coherent system of social organization and rules of interaction.

        A theory of rights of the sort you endorse doesn’t organize human preferences. You don’t encompass human preference by derivation from first principles like nonaggression. People used to think rights were given by God. Now, the best justification I’m aware of treats them as socially useful because of their bright-line character.

        [Nonaggression doesn’t follow from platitudes like “preferring peace and prosperity over poverty and conflict.” For one thing, it is also platitudinous that peace and prosperty may conflict, whereas nonaggression always errs on the side of peace.]

      • Cowboydroid

        The purpose of a theory of rights is to provide a system of rules-based interaction. The preference for a system of rules-based interaction is indicated by society by the manner in which such systems spontaneously arise. The theory of rights system of rules-based interaction is simply one of the theories that has emerged to coordinate these rules.

        The notion that rights are given by God, or the Creator, is the equivalent of saying they are inherent. They come from the nature of our humanity, not from another human being. This serves the purpose of ensuring that the rules apply consistently, and that no one is above the rules.

        Prosperity does not conflict with peace. It can be shown economically that those who engage in conflict in order to enrich themselves in the short term actually impoverish themselves in the long term. Thus, peace and prosperity are functions of one another.

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        Why would peace and prosperity never conflict – unless God arranged it that way (which he clearly didn’t)?

        If peace promotes prosperity in general, that doesn’t preclude conflicts. How could you possibly rule out conflicts between two values?

        Nobody but maybe a Buddhist or something believes peace and prosperity always promote each other. Unless I misunderstand you, this discussion has become completely theoretical. (Which is OK with me.)

      • Cowboydroid

        Prosperity requires production and exchange. Production and exchange require peace.

        Any gains gotten from conflict are inferior to the ultimate gains gotten from trade. Conflict might reward in the short term, but it impoverishes in the long term. Both sides of a conflict are worse off than if they had instead traded peacefully. The cost of conflict would eventually reduce it to an outlier behavior (should society ever eliminate coercive institutions of political authority).

        If peace promotes prosperity in general, that doesn’t preclude conflicts. How could you possibly rule out conflicts between two values?

        Peace promotes production, and production promotes exchange, which promotes prosperity. That’s the causal link. Conflict is not precluded, but it originates in the erroneous belief that the gains outweigh the costs.

        Nobody but maybe a Buddhist or something believes peace and prosperity always promote each other.

        That’s an awfully assertive, blanket claim. I’m not a Buddhist. The Quakers believe it. Pacifists believe it. Most libertarians of the anarchist variety believe it.

        Sure, this is a theoretical discussion. I think it’s also a discussion on what is practical for humanity. If humanity values peace and prosperity – which I think it does – then it will reject conflict and it will reject institutions that promote conflict. This isn’t going to happen anytime soon, obviously. The last time humanity saw a mass disintegration of political authority was following the fall of Rome. But we’re on the right track. Humanity is at its most peaceful and prosperous than at any time in history, and the concepts of liberty and rights are spreading further and further.

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        Nobody but maybe a Buddhist or something believes peace and prosperity always promote each other.

        That’s an awfully assertive, blanket claim. I’m not a Buddhist. The Quakers believe it. Pacifists believe it. Most libertarians of the anarchist variety believe it.

        The other ideologies don’t believe there’s no conflict between peace and prosperity. You can believe you should foreswear violence for reasons other than believing it never conflicts with other values. You might regard avoidance of aggression is a higher value. You can believe that avoiding aggression is more important than gaining prosperity (isn’t that Bryan Caplan’s view) – there’s supposedly a right to be free of aggression, but nobody claims people have a right to be prosperous, since it depends on more than institutions.

        I suppose you’ll require an example. Consider this hypothetical, which may not be too far from your dreams. Imagine that we experience mass conversion to strict libertarian ideology. Overwhelming numbers of countrymen favor anarcho-capitalism. Should they immediately introduce the new system or do it gradually?

        Peace (nonaggression) dictates an immediate transition. Once it’s understand that taxation is immoral, it is immoral to continue it. It’s an issue comparable to what slavery became in the middle nineteenth century. Abolitionists and anarcho-capitalists brook no delay because its a matter of rights – of peace.

        This may – probably will – decrease prosperity. A kind of model is the transition to capitalism under the Russian Yeltsin, with terrible consequences for Russian prosperity for a period of time, such that they have only now even come back to equal the German GDP.

        The hypothetical transition to libertarianism itself proves that peace (no taxation, etc.) can conflict with prosperity (a reasonable transition to a new system).

        One more example: pre-emptive war. Striking first volates the nonaggression principle, but may be the alternative to conquest by a rival. [I’m strongly against pre-emptive war against Iran, but “prosperity is never fostered by aggression” isn’t a convincing argument.]

      • Cowboydroid

        there’s supposedly a right to be free of aggression, but nobody claims people have a right to be prosperous, since it depends on more than institutions.

        Well I didn’t argue there is a “right” to be prosperous, but I suppose you’re somewhat correct. There is a right to pursue prosperity, but there is no right to wealth itself.

        I suppose you’ll require an example. Consider this hypothetical, which may not be too far from your dreams. Imagine that we experience mass conversion to strict libertarian ideology. Overwhelming numbers of countrymen favor anarcho-capitalism. Should they immediately introduce the new system or do it gradually?

        Any movement in that direction would necessarily be gradual. Any sudden change would be the result of a collapse of the existing power structure, such as happened following the collapse of Rome. The reorganization of the political structure took place gradually, and favored decentralization and autonomy. The “new system” would necessarily be an end to the old system, but it’s not something like a one for one replacement. It’s an entirely different sort of ordering.

        Peace (nonaggression) dictates an immediate transition. Once it’s understand that taxation is immoral, it is immoral to continue it. It’s an issue comparable to what slavery became in the middle nineteenth century. Abolitionists and anarcho-capitalists brook no delay because its a matter of rights – of peace.

        It’s not likely everyone will wake up one day and suddenly understand the arguments. That sort of transition takes time, naturally. And there are many who have a vested interest in the current power structure and are thus disincentivized to accept the argument of liberty.

        Yes, I suppose you could make an analogy with slavery. The transition away from it was gradual across the industrialized world over the 19th century, not sudden (except for the US). And it occurred due to the spread of the political theories of liberty and rights.

        I don’t see any such similar act taking place regarding taxation, which would require a complete dissolution of the existing structures of political authority, something which would be violently opposed by the political class.

        This may – probably will – decrease prosperity. A kind of model is the transition to capitalism under the Russian Yeltsin, with terrible consequences for Russian prosperity for a period of time, such that they have only now even come back to equal the German GDP.

        I’d argue you have cause and effect confused. The terrible consequences were a product of decades of the communist economic arrangement, which collapsed. The transition to a market based economy allowed Russia to escape crushing poverty, but the predatory and kleptocratic nature of the ruling political class was not going to allow any mass economic growth spurred by an entrepreneurial class of business owners. They want control, above all else, and they still rule.

        The hypothetical transition to libertarianism itself proves that peace (no taxation, etc.) can conflict with prosperity (a reasonable transition to a new system).

        I disagree. I don’t see where you’ve proven this.

        A transition to libertarianism would not be a peaceful transition, since it could only result from the collapse of the state – rulers are not going to voluntarily give up power. And political collapse almost always means economic collapse, since the political class will almost always waste capital in a violent conflict to maintain power.

        But if a society ordered and structured around liberty and rights with a decentralized political system manages to emerge, the result would be more peaceful and prosperous than before.

        The maintenance of peace is necessary for prosperity.

        One more example: pre-emptive war. Striking first volates the nonaggression principle, but may be the alternative to conquest by a rival. [I’m strongly against pre-emptive war against Iran, but “prosperity is never fostered by aggression” isn’t a convincing argument.]

        Switzerland proves this theory false. It has maintained a policy of neutrality for centuries, and as a result has enjoyed no threat to its sovereignty since. Similarly with Liechtenstein.

        Aggression is not acceptable, even if it is in response to a perceived threat. If you’re strong enough to strike preemptively and prevent an invasion, then you’re strong enough to strike in defense.

        Indeed, prosperity is never fostered by aggression. Both the US and Iran would be better off if the US would cease hostile economic relations with Iran, which impoverish both the Iranian people as well as the rest of the world which is prevented from enjoying trade with the Iranian people. Only impoverishment can result from aggression. Aggression does not produce economic goods and services, it only consumes them.

      • Peter David Jones

        You claim that prosperity and peace never conflict, but only provided evidence that they don’t conflict in the long term. If I am a short termist, I might want to hit you over the head and steal your wallet to enhance my prosperity. Its agreed by almost everybody that the long term approach is better, but nonlibrtarians see government as one of number of mechanisms that are needed to push people towards the long term behaviours that are in their interests, rather than the short term

      • Cowboydroid

        Prosperity only exists in the long term, so my statement stands. If you’re a “short-termist,” you’re probably going to end up in the poorhouse. People with high time preferences are not generally wealthy.

        Non-libertarians see the government as an authoritative entity whose power to coerce should be used towards their own ends. Government pushes people towards short term consumption (because it improves “aggregate demand”).

        Libertarians, on the other hand, believe government power should be used to protect rights, which allows society to develop the complex economic and social relationships necessary for a well-functioning and prosperous society. Society is spontaneous.

        Those who don’t believe that people will spontaneously do what is in their own interests have a hard time explaining how a government of the people ever came to be.

      • Peter David Jones

        “Prosperity only exists in the long term, so my statement stands.

        That’s playing with definitions.Short term gain is enough to motivate people, whether you call it prosperity or not. A world in which everyone automatically acts in their long-erm interests is a world in which no one smokes. People aren’t like that.

        “Non-libertarians see the government as an authoritative entity whose power to coerce should be used towards their own ends.”

        ie society’s ends, ie to encourage long term prosperity by discouraging short-termism, by punishing short termist behaviours such as mugging.

        “Libertarians, on the other hand, believe government power should be used to protect rights”

        Falsely implying that non libertarians think gioevernments should not protect rights. In fact , libertarians and non libertarians have different concepts of rights, and non liberatarians gernally accept a lot more rights.

        “Government pushes people towards short term consumption (because it improves “aggregate demand”).”

        Another completely misleading statement. Governments encourage a range of long-termist behaviours..staying in school, avoiding crime, staying healthy, saving for retirement, etc.

        “Those who don’t believe that people will spontaneously do what is in
        their own interests have a hard time explaining how a government of the
        people ever came to be.”

        Yes, people are capable of co-ordinating to enhance long-term behaviours, and uyes governments are among the systems and structures they set up as part of doing that. By “spontaneously”, I mean people managing to co-operate in prisoner’s dilemma-type situations without precommitments or punishments for defection — coordination that “just happens” without systems and structures.

        What libertarians have a hard time explaining is why having *less* of those systems and structures results in *more* of the behaviours they exist to support!

      • Cowboydroid

        That’s playing with definitions.Short term gain is enough to motivate people, whether you call it prosperity or not. A world in which everyone automatically acts in their long-term interests is a world in which no one smokes. People aren’t like that.

        For wealth to accumulate, which is what prosperity is, people must be willing to act in their long term interests. People can only act in their long term interests when they can be reasonably sure that their wealth will be protected from unpredictable or untimely takings. And that is what people do when their property rights are assured. They work productively to build up and save their earnings in order to enjoy a better standard of living later.

        Sure, there are people with high time preferences who are incapable of saving their earnings and spend them all immediately. These people generally stay poor. But that is their choice, and they do not represent the majority of society.

        ie society’s ends, ie to encourage long term prosperity by discouraging short-termism, by punishing short termist behaviours such as mugging.

        No, I meant what I said, ie their own ends. People only desire political authority when they want to force other people to act as they wish. The desire to force others into preferred action has nothing to do with encouraging long term prosperity, but with acquiring short term gains at someone else’s expense and punishing those who chose to save up their earnings.

        Falsely implying that non libertarians think gioevernments should not protect rights. In fact , libertarians and non libertarians have different concepts of rights, and non liberatarians gernally accept a lot more rights.

        Political takings violate property rights. Non-libertarians generally disregard most rights, if not outright rejecting rights altogether.

        Another completely misleading statement. Governments encourage a range of long-termist behaviours..staying in school, avoiding crime, staying healthy, saving for retirement, etc.

        People already have a natural incentive to do the above things without any government interference. Government does not supplement that incentive. It violates it by selectively interfering in people’s decisions, often creating perverse incentives, like buying a house that one can’t afford, or getting a degree with a loan that isn’t likely to be paid with the earnings from that degree, or eliminating the natural interest that can be earned on retirement accounts, or creating an enormous black market in drugs that incentivizes mass crime, or telling us all to avoid dietary fat and consume carbs, which consequently resulted in the fattest population on earth.

        Yes, people are capable of co-ordinating to enhance long-term behaviours, and yes governments are among the systems and structures they set up as part of doing that. By “spontaneously”, I mean people managing to co-operate in prisoner’s dilemma-type situations *without* precommitments or punishments for defection — coordination that “just happens” without systems and structures.

        Government is not a system of social coordination. It is a system of social coercion. There was no social coordination that produced government. It was created by a very few elitists – at their own impetus – who did not consult with the millions others in society and simply assumed their consent.

        Like I said, if you don’t believe that people will spontaneously do what is in their own interests, then you have a hard time explaining how a government of the people ever came to be. You already claimed that people don’t spontaneously act in their own interests. So either people DO spontaneously act in their own interests, or government is some primordial, external entity that presented itself outside of human conception.

        Your beliefs are contradictory.

        What libertarians have a hard time explaining is why having *less* of those systems and structures results in *more* of the behaviours they exist to support!

        The problem with this statement is your implication that structure and order are only a product of government. But authoritarians have a hard time proving this. Libertarians believe structure and order are spontaneous, not derived from government. We don’t need less structure and order, just less government. Government interferes in social order and function, which is why social order collapses when government gets too big.

      • Peter David Jones

        “For wealth to accumulate, which is what prosperity is, people must be willing to act in their long term interests. People can only act in their long term interests when they can be reasonably sure that their wealth will be protected from unpredictable or untimely takings. And that is what people do when their property rights are assured. They work productively to build up and save their earnings in order to enjoy a better standard of living later.”

        So what is the argument? That libertopias have property rights, and non libertarian states don’t, in some black-and-white sense? But non libertopias do have property rights, they have laws on their statute books, they arrest thieves and cheats.

        (Some libertarians at least manage to say “decent property rights”)

        And many have the prosperity, too, enough to be put forward as proving the benefits of libertarianism. But the libertarian NIoF seems to weigh against being able to arrest white collar criminals. Why would you expect more prosperity to follow from less protection against being cheated?

        Or are you arguing that property rights are a sufficient condition for prosperity? They are a necessary condition, all right, because, there is no point in pursuing long term prosperity if your assets will be subject to arbitrary seizure.

        But property rights are not a sufficient condition. I need to know that I am not going to be cheated by my trading partners, as well as needing to know that my assets are not going to be seized. But I can come with a non-arbitrary, per arranged level of taxation in a functional nonlibertopia, just as I can cope with pre arranged payments to whoever supplies my utilities, security, etc, in libertopia.

        The kind of nonlibertopia that is under the rule of law is very different, in operation and outcome, to a kleptocracy. In a kleptocracy, only politicians flourish.

        So you have systems that operate in different ways and get different results. Yet your theory that all states flatly ignore property rights, by your definition of property rights, predicts uniform failure.

        “No, I meant what I said, ie their own ends…People only desire political authority when they want to force other people to act as they wish”

        If that is what you meant, you need some evidence.

        “Like I said, if you don’t believe that people will spontaneously do what is in their own interests, then you have a hard time explaining how a government of the people ever came to be.”

        If people are capable of realising how limited their abilities to coordinate spontaneously are, they can then solve the problem by putting someone in charge. Of course, that is not the only historical origin of a power structure .. and of course the genetic fallacy is still a fallacy. You can see this outside of government … a mutual hobby, a charity, or a business needs someone to coordinate things once it gets a certain, very small, size. Teams have captains, churches have pastors.

        “You already claimed that people don’t spontaneously act in their own interests. So either people DO spontaneously act in their own interests, or government is some primordial, external entity that presented itself outside of human conception.”

        Or people spontaneously set up governors and create governments, in the broadest sense, and are then are non-spontaneouly directed by them.

        “The problem with this statement is your implication that structure and order are only a product of government”

        Show me a businesses with no chief executive, the charity with no leader, and I’ll show you one with less than ten, probably less than five, people involved. The unstructured approach doesn’t scale.

        “Libertarians believe structure and order are spontaneous, not derived from government. ”

        Then why is govern-ing, hierarchical structure, ubiquitous in areas that have nothing to do with statecraft?

      • Peter David Jones

        Markets encourage profit. If you don’t enforce rules, don’t expect them to be followed. If you enforce them privately, don’t expect your private agencies to pass up opportunities for profit arising from applying the rules in their richer customer’s favour.

      • Cowboydroid

        Yes, markets encourage profits, which encourages producers to supply the demand of consumers. Without profits, there is no incentive to create that supply, which means the demands of consumers go unmet.

        Yes, if you don’t enforce rules, don’t expect them to be followed. Governments are horrendous at enforcing property rights, and they add salt to the wound by frequently violating them, both formally and informally.

        Property rights enforced privately would be far more successful. A private, competitive market in property protection would drive down the price of this service, far below what the government currently charges, and would offer a much, much higher quality of service than the government monopolist. Why? Because competition is always better than monopoly at meeting consumer demands.

        What we have now is a system that applies the rules in the richer customer’s favour, the richer customer being the one who can afford the most political connections. What we need is a more democratic system of competitive market providers to satisfy the greatest level of consumer demand.

    • David Murphy

      To be fair, Robin’s position is a very soft version of libertarianism: that politicians should actually think about whether there’s better ways of handling a problem before writing a poorly worded law about it.

      Sometimes the best answer is government intervention. Sometimes the best answer really is to stand back and let people sort things out themselves.

      It’s not a tall ask to say that the burden should be on politicians to justify intervention rather than being on everyone else to justify non-intervention.

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        It’s not a tall ask to say that the burden should be on politicians to justify intervention rather than being on everyone else to justify non-intervention.

        The usual procedure is that the person who advocates change bears the burden of proof. Robin’s postulates imply that the burden is always on the statist side. Quite a difference; quite tall.

      • David Murphy

        ??? A politician proposes a change, say a new law or regulation on something. The person who advocates change bears the burden of proof.

        His motivation doesn’t really matter.

        I’m not really seeing your point.

        Sadly the common position amongst the kind of psychos who actually run for office is that they don’t need to justify anything and that they’re always right so it’s wrong to even question them.

      • http://juridicalcoherence.blogspot.com/ Stephen Diamond

        Hanson should maintain the libertarian law is presumed better than statist law, even if the status quo is statist. The burden of proof is on the statist, even when the libertarian argues for privatization. That’s different from whoever proposes bears the burden of proof. Often the status quo is statist, but Robin would have to say that the statist bears tho burden of proof against the libertarian reformer.

      • Peter David Jones

        The normative rule is that the person proposing the change bears the burden of proof. One can’t derive normative rules of reason form the actual behaviour of politicians, etc, because the norms aren’t modal.

    • CentralCharge15

      What Robin discussed is pretty much the core tennet of libertarianism. You can very well create a socialist or social democratic country within a libertarian one, as long as you don’t force people inside. If this country happens to succeed compared to other ones, people will start joining it, but if you fail, people will leave.

      In that sense, a libertarian nation is a free-emigration zone which also provides non-aggressive law and order.

      • Peter David Jones

        You could create a authoritarian state within such a ‘libertarian’ state, although its hardly a way to maximise indivual freedom Libertarianism qua devolution is different to Achipelago, where there is a right to exit backed by a federal government and archipelago is itself quite different to libertarianism qua anarchy or statelessness.

        These ideas shouldn’t really be mentioned in the same breath,

  • https://www.facebook.com/app_scoped_user_id/1026609730/ Jim Balter

    What if I want to burn trash in the open air?

    Your article is silly and intellectually dishonest because it completely ignores the difference between libertarianism and liberalism.

    • MC

      Libertarianism allows the enforcement of laws that infringe on my rights. If I am your neighbor I do not want the fumes from your burning trash to infringe on my right to breathe clean air. If I buy food I do not want you to be allowed to sell me carcinogenic food without my knowledge. Does that explain it a little better for you? Or do you need someone to infringe on your rights to get it?

      • MC

        And if you infringe on my rights in those certain cases I have remedies, including petitioning the government if they have a reasonable solution or filing a lawsuit against the offender.

      • https://www.facebook.com/app_scoped_user_id/1026609730/ Jim Balter

        Your comment completely fails to address what I wrote, but it does demonstrate that you’re a juvenile asshole.

      • MC

        Ad Hominem attacks work when you don’t have a valid point. Good job.

      • MC

        You clearly don’t understand the difference between strict libertarianism, moderate libertariansim, and liberalism. I mean, come on. Is that just a joke? I know you comment a lot and provide no value to society but at least take a moment and try and think about what you are saying.

    • MC

      Just curious,Jim, what is your education level?

  • Anon

    There’s also an efficiency cost to deciding when and how to adjudicate these issues outside of a government sanctioned rule of law framework. If I have to figure out how to contact my neighbors and/or landlord and get them to fine my neighbors for being loud that will likely be much more complex and costly (especially from a personal point of view as there is no “objective” party in this scenario) than simply calling the police department to fine my neighbors. Neither is obviously ideal, but the costs of local coordination are there as well, and can possibly be higher than people realize when taking into account psychic costs.

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