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Rats and roaches live by competition under the laws of supply and demand. It is the privilege of human beings to live under the laws of justice and mercy.
--Wendell Berry

... you Libertarians are amazing. You've managed to construct an entire political ideology based on the phrase 'FUCK OFF.'
--Richard James Winters III


I use the more formal literary term 'explication' because libertarianism isn't so much a working government (no government on earth has ever been libertarian--wisely, I might add) as a set of quasi poetic beliefs about man and the world. These quasi-poetic or metaphoric beliefs are adhered to by people who call themselves libertarian in the same way that fundamentalist Christians cling to the literal word of the bible despite direct evidence that God really did not create the world in seven days.

So what do Libertarians believe?

Libertarianism, as I understand it, really starts with a very simple metaphor. The metaphor is this: "the market" is a force of nature. The market metaphor originates from Adam Smith, of course, who says that if everybody pursues their own profit, then the profit of all will be maximized by the "invisible hand" -- by which he means nature. Adam Smith may not have known the term but many people now interpret the 'purity' of market forces to inform a kind of elemental Social Darwinism; the best in products, services and businesses will survive while the worst will fall to the wayside and be rightfully forgotten. The market becomes modern man's jungle, red in tooth and claw. Thus, there is also an ancillary metaphor at play, as George Lakoff points out: well-being is wealth--or closer to reality-- survival is wealth, yet ultimately, the market is good because it maximizes opportunities and encourages meritocracies--merit, being of course, enforced by the natural 'invisible hand' of the marketplace. Combine them, and you get the conservatives' version that says if everybody pursues their own well-being, the well-being of all will be maximized by nature.

Like most fundamentalist, libertarians approach this basic belief not just as an economic theory; it's a moral theory, as well. Libertarian thinkers--especially those like Ayn Rand --reserve a separate ring of hell for those altruists --a dirty, dirty word among libertarians--who would thwart such so called enlightened self interest in the name of doing good for an abstraction such as 'other people'.  These so called "do-gooders," or altruists, are precursors to hideously deformed bureaucratic  'nanny states' (like socialism, or big government liberalism) where no one will ever achieve anything except boredom and ugly apartments.

Unfortunately, the world view based on this metaphor is not merely mean spirited, it is wrong because the fundamental premise--the metaphor, itself-- is wrong. A market is not a 'force of nature', it is a man-made construct and as such is open to manipulation coercion and all the problems that beset any man made instrument or enterprise.

Precisely because of this, of course, no "free market" truly exist. It's a postulate of faith, but not a fact. There is no such thing. All markets are constructed--and most are constructed based on contingency that will favor one group over another, one people over another or one nation over another. Think of the stock exchange. It has rules. The WTO [World Trade Organization] has 900 pages of regulations. The bond market has all kinds of regulations and commissions to make sure those regulations carried out. Every market has rules. For example, corporations have a legal obligation to maximize shareholder profit. That's a construction of the market. But it doesn't have to be that way. In fact, as George Lakoff has noted, a much more humane and rational rule would be to make a rule that said, "Corporations must maximize stakeholder value." Stakeholders -- as opposed to shareholders, the institutions who own the largest portions of stock -- would include employees, local communities, and the environment. That changes the whole notion of what a "market" is.  In that instance, it would actually favor those who have the most interest in seeing their company succeed--for their own survival. But of course, the rule put in place by our 'free market' construct insists that corporations must maximize shareholder profits--those who own the company, not stakeholder profits--those who are employees, communities effected by the company, and the local environment for the company (Like the old joke says, apparently libertarian's relationship to employees, environment or local community is roughly that of a doctor to a patient--when the doctor's name is Kevorkian.).  Shouldn't we change that? Yes. Can we change that? Yes. Who can do it? The government that the libertarians want to do without. In fact, the government which provides the laws that define property--its limits, its rules for ownership and non-ownership, its methods of exchange, even, in fact, a definition of whether it is a commodifiable property or not--is the only thing that can control the rules--the construction of the market place.  
Yet, libertarians argue heatedly that the less of this control the better. But what I suspect they really want is for a particular market construct that favors a radical vision of property rights of a specific kind--shareholder rights over stakeholder rights to serve in perpetuity. Again, there's nothing natural about this--it's quite indefensible and arbitrary. Once those rules are fixed, if you already have lots of money and property, libertarianism makes sense from a purely selfish point of view. If you don't, you'll be really sorry you supported it

From this original misconception, must of the other fallacies of libertarian thought follow.  These are quite many. Below is a short list of some elemental principles to help us get acquainted with the basics:

One of the first principles of Libertarian thought is the notion of an absolute 'right' to property.

The economist Murray Rothbard is probably the most extreme of the libertarian property rights advocates.  He was originally regarded as an extreme right-wing Republican, but went on to edit la Boetie's libertarian classic Of Voluntary Servitude.  'If you wish to know how the libertarians regard the State and any of its acts," he wrote in  For A New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto (1973), 'simply think of the State as a criminal band, and all the libertarian attitudes will logically fall into place.' He reduces the libertarian creed to one central axiom,

'that no man or group of men may aggress against the person or property of anyone else'.

According to Rothbard, neither the State nor any private party therefore can initiate or threaten the use of force against any person for any purpose.  Free individuals should regulate their affairs and dispose of their property only by voluntary agreement based on contractual obligation. In theory this sounds wonderful, but in practice, you're effectively describing the agreements that 'regulate' a drug dealers corner. Living outside the 'suffocating' regulatory body of the government, most drug dealers must rely on 'voluntary agreements based on contractual obligations'.  To maximize profits, if they are to make a real living--and not just your friendly highschool dime drop-- and become the Horatio Algers of drug dealing-- they would have to take some serious risks and generally the riskier the deal outside the law, the more likely it is someone will cheat you, or, simply, kill you. In fact, if you examine almost any enterprise that must take place outside of the enforcement mechanism provided by the government, (Al Calpone's Chicago, a Richmond hooker's life, etc...) what you find is generally criminal disaster. Ultimately, Protectionist rackets then become the next logical step in a libertarian paradise that looks more and more like a very dark alley in the Bronx. In fact, I suspect adherence to such libertarian 'values' will deliver us to the Hobbesian state that most folks have sufficiently evolved to want to avoid. My highly evolved middle class sense says this: thanks, you keep that gun slinging stuff to yourself. I think I'll stick to paying a simple tax, and not my life--it seems by far the most sensible trade.

Rothbard, of course, has an answer for this. He proposes that disputes over violations of persons and property may be settled voluntarily by arbitration firms whose decisions are enforceable by private protection agencies
I sense a problem with this solution, somehow: those 'private protection agencies' sound ominous in the same way that my childhood next door neighbor sounded ominous when he threatened to shoot me with a bb gun unless I gave up my GI Joe. Not a lot of room for the free exercise of reason in such a power based society. This is not to say that people should not or cannot simply barter their way into a friendly mutual existence--I think this is quite possible and quite plausibly happening all over liberal Democracies around the world. Nothing in the world wrong with this--but to suggest that the gold standard for national or even international commerce should be the equivalent of a friendly written contract with no teeth outside a few buddies named Guido from Black Water Security is flatly insane: I wouldn't vote for a system of governance that relied on Guido for enforcement anymore than I'd like to live near John Gotti or have to depend on his sense of justice, or the 'ethically' correct vis a vis contract enforcement to determine my own fate. In a word, Rothbard would have our reasonably civilized world devolved to the tribal security and protectionist type rackets we see sprouting in such wonderful success stories as Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq.

Despite the obvious drawbacks of their proposed solution, this question comes up rather often, since absolute ownership of property is fundamental to most flavors of libertarianism. Such 'propertarianism' fuels daydreams of being able to force the rest of the world to swirl around the immovable rock of your property. For example, there were trespass lawsuits filed against airlines for flying over property.  People on their homesteads assumed they had rights to the 'air' above them. But such absolute ownership rights exists only in the libertarians heads (see 'dream world' above).  Property is regulated just as the market place is regulated. And government-- that huge social contract in which we all have a vested interest-- makes the rules. Of course, a libertarian will argue something like "But it's my property. I paid money and hold the deed!" But what do they hold the deed to? Property as recognized by a government. As such, you can address infringement of your rights through the legal system. However property as recognized by the legal system is limited.

This isn't too surprising, since limitations created by private transactions are also common. For example, property is often sold without water rights or timber rights. Property is commonly sold with easements: for example a neighbor may have the right to cross to reach the road. And property may be sold with limitations to its usage: for example, the Adirondack State Park was bequeathed to the people of New York State with the stipulation that it remain forever wild.

Most government limitations on property are analogous. Just as it would be wrong to deny the validity of an easement sold by the previous owner, it is wrong to deny the validity of the current system of limited ownership of property. For example, a clear statement of such an "easement" is in the Fourth Amendment, which essentially says that the government can enter your property with a valid search warrant and not be trespassing.
There are many existing limitations such as government rights to tax and to zone property, limitations to ownership of navigable waters, how far property extends to the water, etc. And sometimes new limitations are specified, such as non-ownership of airspace above property (but, not, of course, within a libertarian's head).
The second big principle for libertarians involves taxes, how they'd really, really prefer not to pay any. In fact, in their view, taxation is outright theft.
But really, taxation isn't theft, it's part of a payment in terms of the social contract. In fact, property without taxation might be considered theft, because the only way property becomes effectively yours is through the legal entity of the government that confers the right of ownership. Without that, there is no 'right' to property. The notion behind property is that A declares something to be property, and threatens anybody who still wants to use it. Where does A get the right to forcibly stop others from using it? Without government or laws backing up his claims he only has the force of arms, again a return to a pathetically regressive and primitive Hobbesian state. Libertarians, deny that they implicitly support the initial force that has already taken place in the formation of the system of property, and wish to continue to use force to perpetuate it and make it more rigid. But their claim to ownership started somewhere--if you go far enough back--at least on this continent -- you arrive at the doorstep of an Indian village--and they have a more valid claim than any libertarian on earth. Most Indian views of property, by the way, would also find ridiculous the libertarians 'absolute rights' claims to property. The Wampanoags of New England for example, believed that people own land only when they are actually using it, quite different, and a much more sensible view than the permanent and immutable idea of ownership espoused by Westerners.
 The National Libertarian Party membership form has "the pledge" on it: "I do not believe in or advocate the initiation of force as a means of achieving political or social goals." It's quite amusing to hear how much libertarians disagree over what it means: whether it is or isn't kosher to overthrow the US because it has "initiated force" and they would be "retaliating". Rarely do they stop long enough to ponder whether their own claims to 'property' are even valid within their own narrow worldview. Based on their primitive first come, first serve, ideology, they're probably not. Again, the Indians on this continent would have first dibs. We know, of course, with what deep respect our National ancestors treated the Indians 'right' to ownership.
In fact, you need only look to New Orleans to see how your primitive Libertarian world might end up. How many Libertarians have the money to pony up for their own Black Water Security force (Many of those guys scored a grand+ a day in Iraq)? How many will outfit themselves with a mini arsenal of handguns and semi-automatics and say, three days supply of food, busily fending off the natives?
Of course, many Libertarians will argue from a purely economic view that they would be much wealthier if they didn't pay taxes. For short term, maybe, but certainly not in the long term because if taxes are eliminated, you'll need to purchase services that were formerly provided by government (definition of commidifiable property, protection of said property, education, enforcement of health codes, purity of water, transportation, etc. The war tax resisters league--whom I personally look on with admiration but not emulation--have the best game plan for ensuring they pay no taxes, they've learned to live in our consumerist society by staying below the taxable limit. Kudos to them. If libertarians want to practice a tax free life, might I suggest voluntary poverty as a very easy method to achieve this goal?)  Finally, many libertarians take the view that government taxes used for social programs are coerced. Here's the shibboleth: "It ain't charity if you are using someone else's money."  What they overlook is that, in many philosophical and religious systems (including Judaism and Islam), charity doesn't determine the virtue of the giver: charity is for the relief of the receiver. In short, it really doesn't matter if they feel emotionally coerced or not, it's not about them; it's about people who need the money and resources more than they do--and it's money and resources they would never have had rights to without the government to begin with. Luckily, whether such greed heads like it or not, they belong to a government that still makes sure some nominal support is provided. Actually, this 'liberal' government policy has done more to save the Libertarian's middle class bacon then all their hoarded foods and weapons ever could, and yet as most conservative leaning folks, Libertarians are inclined to sentimentalize their past, believing that they lived in a fairly libertarian society in the US 150 years ago.  Something of a principle for them is the belief that their golden age was actually ruined by FDR, and the 'liberal' agenda, when in fact their lives were made considerably better because of it.
Now, in all fairness, Libertarians do usually remember and criticize some of the more prominent non-libertarian features of that period, such as unequal protection under the law for blacks and women. However, they seem to overlook a lot of other important things. Yes, the Federal government had a much lighter hand then. However, state and local governments had a much greater influence. There is not one class of positive duty or obligation in the US today that did not exist 200 years ago at state or federal level. All the biggies were there except income tax. The equivalent of income tax was property tax (on all possessions) or head tax by many states. There was involuntary conscription, eminent domain, etc. As a matter of fact, things got much better when powers of states were interpreted to be restricted by the US constitution (much later.) Powers such as state religious authority. Also, society was organized quite differently before the industrial revolution spread to the US. Our "nation of shopkeepers" was actually a nation of farmers. The means of production were controlled primarily by the workers (who were the owners of the farms and shops.) Government of that era would be as out-of-place today as the tariffs and scientific knowledge of that era. As to the liberal agenda, it's a huge blind spot for libertarians because they refuse to understand that without the so called 'liberal agenda' their world would be infinitely darker and more dangerous.

Consider just a short list of the accomplishments of the 'Liberal' agenda

Liberal Accomplishments

 Interstate Highway System
era: 1950's-present
Proposed by Roosevelt and erected by Eisenhower (a Republican), the Interstate system was a big government project. As much as anything else in the post WWII era, the Interstate is responsible for tremendous economic growth, prosperity, and has spawned an entire culture (some of it admittedly not so good).

 GI Bill
era: 1950's
This act of Congress enabled millions upon millions of Americans to get college educations, something that most Americans had never had the opportunity to do previously. An entire generation of leaders, scientists, and business people owe their education to the GI Bill.

 Labor Laws
era: 1930's-present
An end to child labor, 40 hour work weeks, the right of employees to collectively bargain, overtime pay, workplace safety, all of the things we take for granted today are thanks to liberal laws passed in the first half of this century. It was the conservatives who fought tooth and nail against the end of sweatshops and exploitation.

 Marshall Plan
era: late 1940's-1950's
Foreign aid is a popular scapegoat these days. Those who would cut it should look back at the Marshall Plan, which rebuilt Europe, and is the major reason that Communism never made it past East Berlin.

 Environmental Laws
era: 1970's-present
The environment has gotten much better in the last 30 years thanks to liberals. Bald Eagles fly once again thanks to endangered species laws, most rivers and lakes are clean again due to anti-pollution laws, and frequent smog days are a thing of the past in most big American cities.

 Food safety laws
era: 1910's-present
Ever read Sinclair's "The Jungle?" That's what things were really like before food purity laws were on the books. Today cases of food poisoning are rare, and consumers know that whatever they buy is safe to eat.

 Workplace safety laws
era: 1930's-present
Long hours in unsafe conditions are much rarer today than in the past. Tragedies such as the Triangle Shirtwaist fire and child labor have been eliminated by liberal and progressive legislation.

 Social Security
era: 1930's-1970's
This program has provided three generations of Americans retirement benefits, and nearly eliminated poverty among the elderly. The program is weakening now, but for 50 years it did its job to a T.

 Economic Growth
era: 1950's-1960's
Liberalism and economic prosperity go hand-in-hand. Unlike the pseudo-boom of the 1980's, the 1950's and 1960's were a period of sustained and real growth for all sectors of the economy and all social classes. Taxes were fair--that is to say, progressive, government worked, and America prospered under both Democratic and Republican administrations

 Space Program
era: 1950's-present
It was Kennedy who challenged us to make it to the moon, and it is under his and Johnson's administrations that the space program took off, with numerous benefits to American industry and peoples' standard of living, not to mention national pride. If you are reading this on a computer, thank the space program and the liberals who got it going.

 Peace corps
era: 1960's-present
Kennedy inspired thousands of Americans to ask what they could do for their country, and the Peace Corps is his most visible and effective legacy

 Civil rights movement
era: 1950's-present
Liberal ideals drove the biggest change in American society since the Civil War, the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. All Americans who believe in freedom and opportunity cannot help but be inspired by the valiant struggles of MLK and others. Also recall if you will that the major opponents of civil rights were conservatives.

 The fight against Totalitarianism
era: always
World War II was fought by all Americans; liberals and conservatives fought together the evil of Nazism. The ideal we fought for was freedom and the dignity of the individual against totalitarianism. Under the leadership of Roosevelt and Truman, we won. But the battle is never over, so we must remain vigilant.

 The Internet
era: 1960's-present
Not a liberal program per se, but rather a government one, which many equate as the same thing. The internet is a good example of what a government program can do when allowed to work.

 The Tennessee Valley project
era: 1930's
The Depression-era government program bought electricity to thousands of impoverished families in Appalachia, prevented floods, and created thousands of new jobs.

 Women's right to vote
era: 1920's-present
Before 1920, half of America's population could not exercise the essential duty of citizenship.

 Universal Public Education
era: 1890's-present
The reason America is so strong economically is because we have a well-educated citizenry. Public schooling is the true melting pot of America, where every student, regardless of economic background can be taught the basics of citizenship. It is no coincidence that in the last 20 years, as conservatives have greatly weakened the public school system, that American students have scored lower on tests and our civic society has started to unravel.

 National Weather Service
era: 1930's-present
This is one of those things you never think about, but you are glad its there. Far from just forecasting the weather, the NWS also provides vital data to pilots and sailors, and the NWS satellites and observation posts provide the raw data that all other weather forecasting services (private ones too!) depend on.

 Scientific Research
era: 1940's-present
Much of the great discoveries in science have come about through grants from the government. This is not to say that scientific genius depends on Washington, but the fact remains that pure science is expensive, and private industry will often not fund experiments which don't have a direct commercial potential. From Salk's polio vaccine to todays Human Genome Project and Hubble Space Telescope, the government is an important partner in scientific discovery.

 Product Labeling/Truth in Advertising Laws
era: 1910's-present
"We take it for granted that if a claim is made publicly for a product, it's reasonable to assume it's true. Plus, every time we check the ingredients on a can or package of food, we should mentally call down blessings on the liberals who passed the necessary legislation over the anguished howls of the conservatives, who were convinced such info would be prohibitively expensive, and too big a burden on business."

 Public Health
era: 1910's-present
Government funded water and sewage systems are an important part of modernity. In addition, organizations such as the National Institute of Health and the Center for Disease Control play an important part in maintaining the national health and preventing epidemics through research, vaccination programs, etc.

 Morrill Land Grant Act
era: late 1800's
This act is the reason why nearly every state in the Union has a large public university. These centers of learning have educated untold millions of Americans. If you went to a school with a state name in it, then you were helped by liberalism.

 Rural Electrification
era: 1930's-1960's
This allowed remote, rural areas of the country the basic convinience of electricity. I am sure that those of us using computers on the internet, sitting in our air conditioned homes, under our electric lights consider electricity a basic necessity - one that the pure market would never have found profitable to provide to isolated farming communities.

 Public Universities
era: 1890's-present day
Put a college education within the reach of nearly every American. In addition to education, many of these institutions have played key roles in all kinds of scientific research and been a strong influence on our entire society.

 Bank Deposit Insurance
era: 1930's-present day
About 1934, as part of extensive New Deal banking legislation, Congress created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to provide federal insurance for bank deposits.Ê This was instrumental in restoring confidence in our nation's banks, and remains so to this day.

 Earned Income Tax Credit
era: 1970's-present day
Reduces the tax burden for working families who make under $28,500.00 You have to earn income to get it. It is not a handout. It's a great incentive for families to stay off welfare. But the atmosphere has changed in Washington, and Republicans had to find a way to pay for their capital-gains tax cut, and EITC was their ticket to success. So, the Republicans voted to cut this program by $29 billion over a certain time frame. Well guess what? They just raised the taxes on lower income working families.

 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
era: 1940's-present day
The world's foremost authority and defense against infectious disease and epidemic is a department of the United States government.

 Family and Medical Leave Act
era: 1993-present day
This is a program which mandates that you have the right to job leave to take care of sick family members, or to have a child. Many conservatives were opposed to this valuable piece of legislation. Perhaps they were opposed to family values?

 Consumer Product Safety Commission
era: 1972-present day
These guys regulate consumer products for safety. Everything from sharp (and edible) baby toys to flammable pjamas have been taken off the market due to the work of this commission.

 Public Broadcasting
era: 1930's-present day
Millions of our children have learned from shows like Sesame Street, 3-2-1 Contact, and Mister Rogers (and so many more). Millions of adults continue to learn from shows like Nova. Also, the best broadcast journalism is by far National Public Radio. PBS and NPR have served to enrich our national culture.

 Americans With Disabilities Act
era: 1990-present day
Civil rights for disabled citizens. It is fair, just, and it is the law of the land. Credit where credit is due, former Senator Bob Dole helped push this through, a rare nod in favor of liberalism from Mr. Dole.

This is not to say that Liberalism is perfect. Far from it. Like any ideology, it must be constantly on guard for signs of internal decay,  and rigidity. But the core values of Liberalism are what made these accomplishments possible--compare these to the accomplishments that the core values of Libertarianism have made possible within the last few years when the closest thing to a true believer has been in power:

Libertarian Accomplishments

     Income tax cuts, one of which was the largest dollar-value tax cut in world history. Increasing the wealth of the top 1% of our citizens exponentially, while maintaining or only marginally reducing tax levels for the lower 99%

Provided support for permanent elimination of the Estate tax.

Killed the Kyoto Global Warming Treaty

     Significantly eased field-testing controls of genetically engineered crops.

   Changed parts of the Forestry Management Act to allow clear cutting of national forests

     Killed Clinton's CO2 anti-pollution regulations that were helpful in reducing overall CO2 emissions, a major contributor to global warming.

     Killed U.S. involvement in the International Criminal Court

     Killed the International Ban on Small Arms Trafficking Treaty

     Privatized government by putting hundreds of thousands of jobs up for bid--in many cases not even up for bid, simply doling them out to the friendliest crony and politically best connected crony, weakening public-sector unions and cutting pay across the board for public sector employees.

Of course, we could go back through the Reagan years and pick up more 'accomplishments' along the same line, but notice the items listed are almost uniformly defined in the negative, eliminating something government had previously offered, or cutting taxes that allow government to operate. They offer nothing positive, at all actually, in the sense of a government program or accomplishment.  

Why do the libertarians have so few real government accomplishments to point to?

  1. There's never, ever been a purely Libertarian government, (phew!). This is probably as close as we have ever gotten outside of the Reagan era, or farther back, the McKinley era (also known as the era of the Robber Barons) and...

  2. Because Libertarians fundamentally don't think government can or should do anything. They believe in the individual, but not the group, and the individual can do very little except work energetically (or, in Ayn Rand's obsequious view, heroically) within the market constructed by the government to aggregate wealth to himself or herself. They can also of course, work the refs (government officials and pols) to make sure the market constructs are hugely favorable for those who already possess property. This has produced nearly zero overall benefit for the public good in terms of public policy--and has gone a long way to make it worse.

Liberals believe that group survival is more efficient than individual survival. That belief, by the way, is actually based in our nature, at the species level, homo sapiens are social creatures, not simply and simplistically 'individuals'. That is why true hermits are so extremely rare. But any group effort requires group agreement, cooperation and coordination. This in turn necessitates a social contract defining each member's rights and responsibilities. In the U.S., voters have created their social contract in the form of their constitution and laws. Breaking the law constitutes breach of contract, and legitimizes the appropriate law enforcement measures.

What forms the basis of rights and property found in the social contract? Whatever the voters agree to -- which means they can be anything, as indeed history has shown. And how are their rights and property defended? Primarily by the enforcement mechanisms authorized by the contract: police, military, legislatures, courts, etc. Without such enforcement, the agreements themselves would be precarious, and nothing could stop a stronger neighbor from violating your rights or your property.

Many conservatives consider rights to be natural, inalienable, God-given and self-evident. But rights cannot be natural, like the laws of nature, because they can be broken. They cannot be inalienable, because history is filled with examples of people who never had rights in the first place, or had them taken away. They cannot be God-given, because the world's religions widely disagree on what rights are; even Judeo-Christianity allowed slavery for thousands of years, whereas today it doesn't. Rights cannot be self-evident, because slavery was viewed as natural by Aristotle and defended by the Church as such until the 19th century. The fact that rights have changed so much throughout history demonstrates that they are social constructs. Liberals believe that advances in moral philosophy and science are responsible for our improving concept of rights. We are, after all, children of the Enlightenment, while Libertarians, in their purest state, tend more toward children of the corn.

In societies that reward merit and success the most, competition becomes supreme, the fittest survive, and people get what they allegedly deserve. Such systems are called "meritocracies," and they are accomplished by relaxing the rules. On the other hand, when equality is awarded to everyone, people become less treacherous and more civilized to one another, but they lose incentive to achieve, since there is no reward for going the extra mile. Such systems are called "egalitarian societies," and they are accomplished by expanding the rules. Most societies try to strike a balance between these two extremes.

Liberals believe that a completely unrestricted meritocracy is ruthless -- the absence of rules allows the strong to eliminate or subjugate the weak. In economic terms, power and wealth concentrate in fewer and fewer hands. We know this dynamic just by a quick summary of financial sheets: CEOs pulled in median compensation of about $14 million in 2004, up 25% from 2003, meanwhile real earnings--in terms of actual buying power-- for the middle and lower tier workers fell dramatically.

Liberals therefore advocate a moderated meritocracy: those with the most merit continue to earn the most money or power, but a percentage of it is redistributed back to the middle and lower classes. This is accomplished by progressive taxes, anti-poverty spending, and other forms of regulation. Liberals do not see this as a "giveaway" to the poor -- on the contrary, they view the runaway profits of the rich (especially in the later stages of wealth accumulation) as undeserved (how, exactly, is interest on inherited wealth, earned?), so redistributing them back to the workers who produced them is necessary to prevent exploitation. A moderated meritocracy retains the best of both worlds: incentive to achieve, and a healthy talent pool from which merit is drawn. Numerous studies confirm that these are the healthiest economies. In one of the more famous studies, economists Torsten Persson and Guido Tabellini conducted a thorough statistical analysis of historical inequality and growth among modern democracies, and found that those with more equal incomes generally experience faster productive growth.

Personal Responsibility and Freedom

The third principle that motivates libertarianism is the notion of personal responsibility coupled with their idea of freedom. Put simply, for most libertarians, freedom is measured by absence of governmental laws.  Another way of stating it is that only the government can restrict your rights.  (Some Libertarians strongly support this wording, saying that a law removes or restricts your rights, but a private entity can only infringe on your rights without changing them.)  But really, this is an artificial double standard, which labels a restraint on your freedom by one outfit in a completely different way than the same restraint by a different outfit, because one has the label of "government" and the other does not.  Indeed, much of the fabric of reasoning in Libertarianism is based on presuming that the government is uniquely unlike any other entity, and therefore must be judged by entirely different standards from how anything else is appraised.
The question in terms of personal freedom and responsibility is how much power others have over you and how constrained your choice of actions is, not whether the constraint is by public action rather than private action.  What matters to those that hold this view is how free you are on paper, not how free you are in actuality.  According to this view, a destitute person with no public support is more free than one who gets some kind of pension or welfare, despite the fact that the latter is the one who can do many things that are closed off to the former. It's silly reductionism, of course, that leads to these conclusions. Reductionist reasoning is very attractive to Libertarians, many of whom, as noted, are in the information technology field and are thus already likely to think in very simplistic and binary ways.

Okay, well, let's play the game. I will refer to these two definitions of freedom as Abstract Freedom and Walking Freedom, the former being freedom on the books and the latter being freedom available in the concrete moment. The freedom that I most value day to day is Walking Freedom -- the practical opportunity to arrange my life the way I best like, not the theoretical opportunity to do things that some random legislator might want to outlaw someday.  Now Abstract Freedom is indeed important, make no mistake; it is only by making sure of some guarantees in this area that we preserve our rights and make sure that Walking Freedom has a stable foundation. In fact, a good argument can be made that Walking Freedom is the evolved form of Abstract Freedom, but the Freedom that counts to me in my waking, breathing life is the Walking variety. Walking Freedom depends on things like how much money you have and how healthy you are.  So we tend to avoid confronting the question politically, and many conservatives argue that it should not be considered at all, since that's a slippery slope leading to socialistic intervention.  But in disregarding it for the sake of clarity and fairness, we can easily argue ourselves into a situation where by increasing our Abstract on the book "freedom" we actually curtail our Walking Freedom in in practice: this is exactly the deal with the devil the Libertarians would make.
Let's take an example to make this more concrete. Raising the minimum wage, or even having a minimum wage. One suspects that a Libertarians view of the minimum wage would be a forthright 'no'. In principle it's obviously a socialistic attempt to manipulate business into providing a baseline nanny state social net for labor costs that artificially drives up the costs of the products involved and is overall hurtful to the economy. But more importantly, it's a constraint on the sacrosanct and brilliant workings of the 'invisible hand' of the market place. So I would suspect a clear and declamatory 'no' from the Libertarian party. This despite the fact that it would greatly increase the Walking Freedom of many of our fellow citizens--even, I would suspect, a few of our less noteworthy Libertarians might benefit directly from a rise in the minimum wage. They will argue 'no' based on their understanding of the Abstract Freedom that would be constrained. But even at an Abstract level they would only be right for a short term, because ultimately, the 'invisible hand' of the market place would show itself to be a failure and the social cost of keeping wages below poverty level for a larger majority of our citizens would become untenable and their would be something like a revolution that could quite easily wipe out all 'Abstract Freedom' that the Libertarians so deeply cherish. Libertarians don't much like to think about class based revolutions in these terms but they ought to--because ultimately it could have a much deeper impact on their cherished Abstract Freedom then some penny ante hike in the minimum wage which would have increased the Walking Freedom of so many others. That communistic radical, Christopher Caldwell, from the conservative Weekly Standard makes something of the same point here:

Yet, the Libertarian philosophy sometimes argues that even the most drastic loss of Walking Freedom is right and proper and not to be worried about for an instant if it comes about by increasing Abstract Freedom.  In this, Libertarians can readily fall back on the tried and true argument long used by capitalist conservatives of the old school, that is, those wonderful Social Darwinist dunderheads:  namely that once you are free, then whatever goes wrong for you in the area of Walking Freedom is axiomatically your own fault, and therefore it would be morally wrong to do anything but leave you to get yourself out of it however you can.

There are psychological reasons outside the scope of this discussion why our culture has often promoted an attitude of "blaming the victim", of finding reasons why anyone who suffers misfortune must have somehow brought it on themselves.  This attitude manifests in extreme cases as a magical belief that whatever happens to you is something that you "chose" unconsciously, somehow, or have failed to work sufficiently 'hard' to achieve. Laziness is a great crime and is coupled directly with unemployment. The fact that 5-6% unemployment is a practical and built in necessity of our current market structure (otherwise inflation would get out of hand) is never mentioned. Instead, it's the persons fault for not finding a job. Predictably, 5-6% of our population can never find work and yet, the Libertarians rather than offer some type of reasonable social safety net for the loser prefer, one assumes ostracization and if push comes to shove, some form of private charity, but nothing mandated by law, which means effectively, many times, nothing at all. Politics aside, this is stupid, callous, mean, and repugnant behavior. Ultimately it's a defense mechanism that soothes fears (and guilt) at the expense of other people.  When any political philosophy incorporates this attitude, that philosophy is corrupted.  This is especially true when, as has often been the case with Republican-style conservatism, this blaming attitude is put in the service of class interests and racial and sexist biases.  The argument implies that the advantaged must have earned and created their advantage through merit, whereas the disadvantaged are in a worse position strictly because of their own inadequacy.  

Since what most Liberals want for society is the best spread of opportunity as measured by the combination of Abstract Freedom and Walking Freedom, rather than by just one of them, and privilege issues greatly undercut Walking Freedom in ways that, despite smooth lies to the contrary, have nothing to do with what people have brought upon themselves, most Liberals rightly--and most Americans rightly -- conclude that the Libertarian agenda is not the one  to support.

The other ad hoc article of faith that crop up in various Libertarian arguments is that the reason the family is "breaking down" is because the government has intruded itself as a kind of surrogate family member, superseding so called traditional values; the reason people do things that are crazy and mean and destructive is because current law does not properly model and reinforce personal responsibility; and that anyone who opposes libertarian ideals is some kind of closet fascist whose true agenda is to run other people's lives. Well, let's begin by suggesting this is not true on the face of it for the simple reason that most people apparently have a better understanding of human nature than your average Libertarian.  Most people understand that government and laws are in fact necessary to keep people from starving other people to death, to keep people from, for example, price gauging during a national disaster. What do Libertarians say about the example of price gauging during Katrina? Is that right? Shouldn't there be laws against it? And how do those laws not properly model and reinforce personal responsibility? Are they somehow suggesting that the absence of laws in such situations would encourage more personal responsibility? How does personal responsibility take into account the acts of those individuals who are certainly acting according to the market, but who, meanwhile, are destroying others who have been put in such a precarious position? Ultimately, libertarianism is ineffective not so much because of its utopian belief that everyone will take action to obtain all necessary information and will act rationally--although that's silly enough--but because they don't understand that humans who are indoctrinated by this very notion of heightened individualism with a strong emphasis on personal responsibility will tend to neglect their equally important responsibility to society at large: to their neighbor. The greatest failure of libertarianism is its failure to even recognize an entire dimension of the human condition: the cooperative model of existence that finds relations with other humans as good in and of itself, without reliance or even regard for a reductionist (and, I might add, extremely materialist) market place.  I am put in mind of John Kenneth Galbraith's famous quote:

... "extreme capitalism": the obsessive, uncritical penetration of the concept of the market into every aspect of American life, and the attempt to drive out every other institution, including law, art, culture, public education, Social Security, unions, community, you name it. It is the conflation of markets with populism, with democracy, with diversity, with liberty, and with choice---and so the denial of any form of choice that imposes limits on the market. More than that, it is the elimination of these separate concepts from our political discourse, so that we find ourselves looking to the stock market to fund retirement, college education, health care, and having forgotten that in other wealthy and developed societies these are rights, not the contingent outcomes of speculative games.

That's why libertarianism and its adjunct, extreme capitalism, and the 'conservative movement' in general doesn't rise to the level of a philosophy. They are more like one dimensional cartoons, which at the end of the day, have done more harm to society than good --witness the ethos of the rapist sports star, the gansta rappers and the Ken Lay crooks all of whom have their roots in a deformed Horatio Algerism which is nothing more than libertarianism writ cartoon large for the common man. Many people who subscribe to the libertarian metaphor--especially in the world of higher finance--are effectively tax evading criminals who have found methods of staying within the framework of the law while essentially breaking the spirit of the law every day of their lives. I hope someday we will have the political courage to shut down their Cayman Islands, their Jersey islands and their illicit offshore tax havens. They are members of no community worth belonging to, and truly deserve no more respect than the most common thief. If the libertarians favor such thinking, and such people, they favor a selfish and adolescent venality that is beneath contempt (but really, what's new?). Thanks, but again, I think I'll stick to paying my taxes. That's the price we pay for belonging to community. If you don't want to belong, of course, there is an option that I highly advise my libertarians friends to take: leave. The sooner the better. Especially leave if you think any other nation on earth would be silly enough to shelter such selfish souls within their own borders.

Libertarians have certainly done more harm than anything the Liberal 'agenda' of compassion and a social safety net might have achieved. Their so called philosophy of selfishness is the problem with our deteriorating family values. The term 'personal responsibility' has as much depth and force in a culture built primarily on greed as the term 'bling'. It's a magpie's philosophy full of shiny, trembling things that are worse than useless for running a country. In this regard, libertarians desperately need to heal themselves. But they must first understand that much like a strict materialist interpretation of Marx, their perverse ideology reduces man to a ticker in a market, idealizes a consumerist ethos that commoditizes every aspect of existence, and makes man at best a hero of greed, the most noble, the king of selfishness--and thus, because it aims no higher then our lowest desire is the root illness of this century. Libertarians need to understand this corruption at their core. They won't be cured otherwise.

Originally posted to DelicateMonster on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 04:00 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  No cure, I'm afraid (4.00)
    Cato-ite libertarians are incapable of being cured because they believe that man's most fundamental flaws--greed, jealousy, and selfishness--are actually good things.  This brand of libertarian is convinced that ALL good things come from what the rest of us view as flaws.  To the libertarian of this strain there is no such thing as altruism.  The only way to get man to do the right thing is to get him to do it for the wrong reason.

    Notice, however, that this does not apply to all libertarians equally.  Many geo-libertarians realize the fundamental flaw of the Ayn Rand strain of libertarianism and in fact acknowledge that some level of social programs are necessary and that taxation must occur for those programs to be funded.  They also wisely understand, as the Cato-ites fail to, that taxation of wealth is a better method of taxation than, for instance, a national sales tax.  

    Its also amusing that objectivist libertarians often proclaim individuals such as Thomas Jefferson believed their brand of libertarians when Jefferson strongly supported the taxation of property and inheiritance.

    •  Thank You (4.00)
      I feel that lumping all libertarians together under Cato is similar to viewing all members of the left as totalitarian Stalinists.  It's unhealthy and unproductive.  Thank you for pointing out the variety without the movement.

      Socially Just, Fiscally Responsible: Freedom Democrats.

      by LoganFerree on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 04:58:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Libertarianism in the GOP (4.00)
        Is pretty unified by the belief that selfishness and egocentrism are morally good.
        •  John Nash (none)
          Didn't John Nash (recall the movie/book "A Beautiful Mind") win the Nobel Prize in Economics by prooving that Adam Smith's theory was incomplete?  He proved with game theory that the best of outcomes is achieved when all the players work in concert to not only satisfy their own self interest but the interest of all the players.

          It has been proved in business and in diplomatic negotiations between governments.

          Liberals and conservatives are two gangs who have intimidated rational, normal thinking beings into not having a voice on television or in the culture.

          by Dave B on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 06:51:58 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yes And No (none)
            It's true that the best of outcomes can be produced when all the players work together.  But a libertarian would object to an outside external authority (government) dictating to the players what the best outcome is.  They'd prefer for the players to work that out individually.

            Socially Just, Fiscally Responsible: Freedom Democrats.

            by LoganFerree on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 06:57:10 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  That's the problem with pure liberatarianism (none)
              It's the mirror image of communism.  A communist society, one not forced by weapons, only works on a national scale if everyone sublimates their goals for the good of all.  Libertarians require a perfectly rational nation of individuals who do not sublimate their goals into that of a larger group

              Humans aren't just social animals.  Humans are political animals.  This is a long way into our evolutionary history and is seen in bonobos and chimps.  Moreover, humans also naturally form hierarchies.  There's a rule of thumb that about 5-10% of humans are "born leaders", people who have an almost instinctual motivation to be in charge (not that this is a bad thing, mind you).  This is used by the military and police all the time: you want to stop a riot or keep control of a large POW camp, you identify the people who are leading (which may not have anything to do with actual ranks or their normal roles in society).  Keep them under wraps and you've eliminated 99% of your problems.

              And there's the problem for people seeking ideal systems.  That 5-10% screws up your communist system because they won't be sheep.  That 90-95% screws up libertarianism because they can be led as a group rather than acting as rugged individuals.

              •  Natural Hierarchies (none)
                Well, to be fair, there are some that believe that humans tend to form egalitarian bands in small numbers, but hierarchies in larger numbers.  Your average Ayn Rand reading 16 year old libertarian might see a global libertarian society, but your more developed ones will tend to favor massive decentralization and a return to a human scale in society.

                Socially Just, Fiscally Responsible: Freedom Democrats.

                by LoganFerree on Sun Oct 23, 2005 at 07:43:13 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

          •  John Nash (none)
            Actually, no. Whether or not a player's best move is best for all the other players depends entirely on the game being played. Game theory says it's sensible to screw your opponents into the ground, if you profit from it, and if you can get away with it.

            Nash showed that a player must take his opponents' possible choices and actions into account when making his move. Adam Smith's theory assumed players could ignore each other and consider only themselves.

      •  I don't know... (3.00)
        ...sorting out libertarians seems more akin to sorting out the "good" and "bad" members of NAMBLA.

        "What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the wish to find out, which is the exact opposite." - Bertrand Russell

        by Mad Dog Rackham on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 06:37:28 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  All libertarians shouldn't be grouped together... (none)
        If geo-libertarians are what you describe, then I would say that I am one of them. I know many libertarians who believe in social programs, civil rights laws, certain benefits and more. As you said, characterizing all libertarians as greedy and uncaring for the general public would be like characterizing all liberals as Stalinist. It's just unfair.

        To explain, I believe that gov't should stay out of people's lives as much as possible. But unless there are certain 'liberal' laws, government will be forced to step in peoples' lives due to the problems caused from not having certain laws. So while I detest abuse of welfare or other social programs, they are necessary to keep the country steady and avoid major problems. I disagreed with Cato almost completely on SS because I felt that privatization would have caused many problems that the government would have to involve itself in. Libertarians like I believe that certain taxation is necessary for these programs. But on the flip side, I am capitalist and I hate programs that I feel punish people for their wealth. That is the essence of the Libertarian mantra. I suppose that "Geo-Libertarians" are more moderate than the Cato ones and have things in common with both Democrats and Republicans.

        Keep in mind, however, that I, like all libertarians, am a strong believer in gun rights and property rights and I believe that these two rights are as equally important as any other right in the Bill of Rights. Which is why unlike many Kos people, I supported Congress' law shielding gun manufacters from lawsuits stemming from the victims of gun crimes and I felt that the recent Supreme Court decision on eminent domain was a very bad one. Yet, I'm still moderate on these and I'm willing to take sacrifices when necessary.

        •  Geo-Libertarians (none)
          Think of a geo-libertarian as someone who has a mixture of the stereotypical Green and Libertarian views.  

          It's obvious that they'll both be pretty strong social libertarians and be critical of imperialist foreign policies.

          When it comes to economic issues, the Old New Deal Democrats tended to favor economic growth and increasing wages over all other factors.  Today we've seen the rise of people concerned about quality of life issues.  Your typical geo-libertarian will tend to show some concern for quality of life issues, and will tend to view them through the prism of property rights.

          Example, pollution is an invasion of one's property rights.  One's right to one's own life, one's body, influences the importance of having control over what substances go into one's body--need for consumer protection in the form of informing consumers so they can make wise decisions.

          The big thing with geo-libertarians is that they tend to favor one big safety net instead of lots of small programs.  Their big safety net tends to be supported through taxes on the use of land and other natural resources.  Like a carbon emissions tax.  Or maybe some type of tax on the sale of real estate.

          Of course, this is just a very brief overview.  But I'd call myself a geo-libertarian and an avid Democrat.  There's a group of libertarian Democrats and other freedom-oriented Democrats that congregate at the online blog Freedom Democrats that I help manage:

          Socially Just, Fiscally Responsible: Freedom Democrats.

          by LoganFerree on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 08:49:38 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  "natural" rain, and umbrellas (4.00)
      Some of us recognize that, although markets arise naturally, the "state of nature" is not automatically equated to "good."

      In the state of nature, we get rained upon, so we invent umbrellas and raincoats.  

      We might have a preference for "natural" foods grown organically, and then realistically defer to the need for occasional and careful use of pesticides.

      So here's a libertarian proposal for dealing with the regulation of business:

      Premise: safe working conditions, dignified wages, environmental protection, etc. are sensible measures for any sensible company.  But it's not necessarily the best solution for government to dictate methods (as distinct from outcomes), and paperwork-overhead is almost always bad because it really does kill off innovation, and in particular kills off small business of the Jeffersonian type, that is in everyone's interest to have flourish rather than die.

      First, eliminate the use of "no contest" and "paid a huge settlement but did not admit wrongdoing" and similar bullsh--.  If a company or its executives are alleged to have broken the law, the outcome must be as clear and decisive as it is for common lawbreakers of any other kind: guilty or not guilty, responsible or not responsible.  

      Second, if the owners and managers of a new or existing company are free of any past history of criminal and civil wrongdoing, then they get to apply for "honor system" status.  This means they are accountable for outcomes, but they are free of the paperwork burdens and the dictated methods.  (If you're not familiar with the term "honor system" look it up in relation to the academic world.)

      Third, if a company abuses its "honor system" standing, for example is convicted of criminal or civil wrongdoing, then the whole weight of the existing regulatory regime comes down on it like a ton of bricks.  

      Companies that are honest, honorable, do the right thing, will have a competitive advantage because they will not bear the costs of all of that regulatory overhead.  

      Managers who achieve results and keep their companies in the honor system, will be in high demand.  Managers who play fast & loose, who screw up bigtime, and get their companies clobbered with expensive regulatory overhead, will become poison: no one will hire them.  Their way of doing business will die out quickly.  

      And, doing business the right way, since it eliminates the regulatory overhead costs, will enable companies to boost wages and low to mid level salaries, lower prices to consumers, etc.: thus gaining advantages in the competition for employees and for customers or market share.  

      This isn't a panacea, but it would be viable in a number of industries.  And it would certainly be viable on the scale of small businesses that are locally-based rather than global, since the feedback loops there are much shorter and more direct.  

      •  Great ideas! (none)
        I love this site more and more. So many brilliant minds coming together.

        Course the trolls are out there too. But hehe that's what TU status is for ain't it?

        What a piece of work is man, in form and moving... ...quintessence of dust. and all that

        by Erevann on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 07:30:55 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Interesting idea... (none)
        ...I like the honor system, but I don't quite see how you 'catch out' the folks who are breaking the honor system without a regulatory agency of some type: wouldn't you still need something like the FDA?

        Furthermore, although paperwork might be onerous, I suspect the real problem at the FDA is the actual lack of enforcement--as in, they don't do enough inspections currently. In fact, it's such a state that I suspect we already have something of an ad hoc honor system. Is the difference that, in your view, there should be less paperwork and the penalties should have more 'real' teeth? Just asking.

        If your answer is 'yes' I suspect we're having semantic difficulties. What you're calling a 'libertarian solution' I'm calling rational governance.

        •  yes and sorta' (none)

          Yes, less paperwork and more real teeth in the law.  I don't have to file a ten-page form saying that I didn't shoplift or rob a bank during the last three months.  It's presumed that I've been a law abiding citizen, but if I steal or rob, I can reasonably expect to be caught and punished.  

          FDA is an interesting case because the consequences of botched medications are potentially widespread and devastating.  No doubt there are cases where regulatory burdens are a rational preventive measure, but these are not the majority of cases, and they occur in an entirely different "layer" of the economy than the "Jeffersonian small-business layer."  

          I've been working on a bunch of papers on these and related topics, one of which has to do with points of convergence between liberal & honest-conservative values.  

          Here's another point where libertarian values produce progressive results:

          The libertarian value of "freedom of contract between consenting parties" necessarily requires the principle of consent.  Externalized costs such as ecological impacts, are non-consensual costs (though not necessarily financial costs) imposed on non-participating parties, and therefore are not legitimate.  

          And, just as it's not legitimate to impose externalized costs on others in the present-tense, it's also not legitimate to do so on others in the future, for example by creating huge budget deficits and assuming some future generation will pay them off.

    •  Ethical Egoism and the Founding Fathers (none)
      If men were angels, no government would be necessary.

      --James Madison

      The Founders themselves were quite opposed to the free-for-all espoused by modern-day Cato/etc Libertarians and with good reason: that brand of market philosophy was tearing up Europe at the time. Their use of Adam Smith, in particular, i am always amused with. They clearly did not read (or selectively read) his works. He was not in favor of unrestrained "free market" capitalism and was in favor of capitalism only insofar as it served the common good of all people. Quite the opposite from what those who try to claim him believe.

      But then: we don't fight back, so they get away with it.

      The Shapeshifter's Blog -- Politics, Philosophy, and Madness!

      by Shapeshifter on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 11:16:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •   I've always defined "libertarian" (none)
      as a wealthy anarchist who wants a strong police force to protect his property and money.

      "While there is a lower class, I am in it. While there is a criminal element, I am of it. While there is a soul in prison, I am not free." - Eugene Debs

      by matthewc on Sun Oct 23, 2005 at 06:35:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  As an anarchist... (none)
        I think that's close, but i think it goes farther than that. They don't just want a police force, they want a corporate everything. They want to supplant the government with corporations. (Which means tyrrany, not anarchy, but they use anarchy as a smokescreen to disguise their true desire... or maybe they're just too stupid as a group to see the implications.)

        There is also a substantial group who are not wealthy but say to themselves "If only we didn't live in this damned age of government! I would be successful if only the government would quit holding me back with its damned regulations and taxes... i mean theft."

        The Shapeshifter's Blog -- Politics, Philosophy, and Madness!

        by Shapeshifter on Sun Oct 23, 2005 at 12:50:32 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  ohdeargodinheaven (4.00)
    I'm sorry. I tried. I really tried.

    but when faced with that vast expanse of verbiage, I shuddered and gave in to my first impulse, which I ordinarily disparage in others AND myself...

    to post a comment without reading the complete text of the diary.

    Because, really, I just wanted to make a quip riffing on the Winters quote:

    Funny, I'VE constructed an entire political ideology based on the phrase, "Fuck you, you fucking fuck."

    •  I'm so sorry Maryscott (4.00)
      I realized when I posted this, I'd gone over board--verbiage wise...

      I'd been in a heated argument for a week or so with a diehard libertarian and so got carried away. Don't waste your eyeballs. I'm sure you know most of the problems inherent in their world view, but I thought I'd make it explicit. I'm running it through the dKos mill to see if they're any obvious arguments (or counter arguments) I've missed...


      •  Too many words? (4.00)


      •  Why Not Just Post A Link To (4.00)
        Critiques Of Libertarianism, one of the oldest and most venerable sites on the web?  (Now celebrating it's TENTH Anniversary!)

        Not now, of course. Not after a week of debating insectoid zombies.  I can well understand the need for excessive cathartic release after that sort of experience.

        I mean before.

        When you run into a libertarian, just say, "Thank you for sharing.  Please click on this link, read everything it has to say, and then come back and talk to me in three years."

        I mean, if you want to argue with senseless idiots, why argue with libertarians?  That's why God invented hockey fans!

        •  No Silver Bullet (none)
          To be honest, the site isn't nearly the silver bullet that you and others pretend it to be.  And in many ways it's similar to a Christian in the middle of a religious debate saying, "Read the Bible, then get back to me."  

          Socially Just, Fiscally Responsible: Freedom Democrats.

          by LoganFerree on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 05:00:19 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I'm Afraid You Missed The Part (none)
            where I said "come back and talk to me in three years." That's the part that does the trick!

            Actually, I haven't debated libertarians online for years. But when I used to, I repeatedly referenced and/or quoted from material on or linked to from that site.  The responses were always pathetic.

            Well, of course they were pathetic.  We're talking libertarians here.  I mean, they were pathetic, even for libertarians.

            Libertarian "refutations" of Huben's material were invariably particularly amusing.

            •  Pathetic Libertarians (none)
              Sometimes I encounter online a 'libertarian' who is pro-Bush, pro-Iraq War, and believes that coporations have every right to exist and are not creations of the state.  They are certainly pathetic but I tend to acknowledge that they are likely pathetic because they are most likely some 18 year old boy who's simply read too much Ayn Rand.  But I dislike it when people characterize all libertarians as teenage boys with angst and Ayn Rand.

              Socially Just, Fiscally Responsible: Freedom Democrats.

              by LoganFerree on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 05:28:25 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  The greatest weakness... (none)
        Is that the lesser parts detract from the greater by making the whole piece rather long. I'm not sure if that's a sign it needs to be gutted, though.

        You, of course, realize that your Libertarian friend won't be convinced. Right? Keep in mind a good 3/4ths of the "Libertarian Philosophy" is dedicated to propping up the "Philosophy" itself in the face of overwhelming attacks against it. Or rather, pretending to do so. But in terms of discussion i think it's quite solid. A number of times, while reading it, i thought up a good comment to add only to find you had added it yourself (i have some others, but i'm not really sure if they're going to get posted or not since, well, it's really late at night).

        But i feel your pain. I can only hope it's not kuro5hin: Home of the brick-dumb Libertarian Brigade of over-privileged white boys who think everyone should be a computer geek and revel in The Good Life while simultaneously revelling, themselves, in their own supposed intellectual superiority over the statistical majority of humanity.

        The Shapeshifter's Blog -- Politics, Philosophy, and Madness!

        by Shapeshifter on Sun Oct 23, 2005 at 01:48:15 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  From my personal point of view, (none)
          which of course makes no claim to theoretical viability, libertarianism ("Pop" or "vulgar libertarianism" if you wish) seems to have begun its fateful flourishing here in the mid-70's. At the time it struck me, subjectively of course, as flourishing especially among many young women of my acquaintance who had played Cinderella-type roles in their families of origin and were breaking free of all that (I tried to help as many of them as I could ...). A deeper and more universal strain struck me, though: it's emergence precisely at the time when the Vietnam War military draft ended, millions of boomers graduated from college (I among them), the economy tightened like a tourniquet, unions and blue-collar workers were at their height of economic power, and Affirmative Action started up.   I'm really starting to like that Kevin Phillips fellow, particularly when he states that all political movements, whatever their rhetoric, are at heart self-interest groups - or as Tip O'Neill said: Politics is about who gets what.

          Also very glad to see The Real Adam Smith defended from his latter-day "admirers." There's a real need to rescue Christ as well, and probably Nietzsche too, while we're doing this.

          "There are only murderers in this room" - John Rooney in The Road to Perdition

          by jlb on Sun Oct 23, 2005 at 04:40:18 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Shorter summary of libertarianism (4.00)
      If you don't like sitting in the back of the bus, you need to buy your own bus company.

      I applaud the diarist's attempt to explain libertarianism carefully, but it's really just an alternate version of the white supremacy and sexism found in other kinds of conservative thought.

      If you think you're that far ahead, then get the chips in the middle of the table!

      by theran on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 04:29:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Godam you MSOC! (none)
      I have Cabernet Franc and nsal ejecta all over my screen, and my kids think I'm possessed!


      Strange and beautiful are the stars tonight, that dance around your head.

      by deepfish on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 04:32:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Thank you MSOC (none)
      I needed that.  ;-)  I started reading, then I went to skimming for the substance, then just skimming, and then I just went to the bottom and looked for comments.

      So far, your's is the best!!

      Seriously - this would have been SO much better as a series of three to five diaries... a la the old AdvisorJim diaries on how to deal with dittoheads...

      We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time. T.S. Eliot

      by gbussey on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 05:20:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well, now... (none)
        I don't think I'd go so far as to say the fault lies with the diarist's choice to post it all at once, nor with the verbosity of the diary itself.

        I won't speak for you, but in my case, the fault is mine alone. It's Saturday and everyone's at home and I just can't concentrate on a treatise right now.

        I bet if I revisit it later, it'll come easier.

        •  You got me feeling guilty ... (none)
          Like I was weak and without moral fiber for not - in the silence of my office - reading the entire diary.

          So - I copied and pasted into WORD.  Then did a page and word count.  24 pages of 12 point Verdana font, about 35 lines to the page, 7,990 words.

          Now I don't feel so weak and without moral fiber.  Anything this long that I am trying to understand gets printed out, the colored highliter comes out, and I curl up in a big chair and take my time digesting.

          We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time. T.S. Eliot

          by gbussey on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 06:10:38 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  MSOC speaks insult to power... (4.00)
      Funny, I'VE constructed an entire political ideology based on the phrase, "Fuck you, you fucking fuck."

      Yes, but actually the difference between the two phrases is fairly critical. The market-worshipping types endorse the right to say "Fuck you" at any place and any time, and seem to think that there are few circumstances where it isn't the right thing to say. On the other hand, your philosophy uses a phrasing that requires some "fucking fuck" as a proximate target, and my experience has been that, in practice, it is not your intention to address yourself to those who haven't earned the honor of being on the receiving end of your, er, philosophizing.

      "What do I get out of this? / I always try. I always miss."

      by plover on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 11:39:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Vice Verse (none)
      When passions push our battle pens,
      Who knows where it will rightly end?
      We grapple with our target foe,
      Ideas and ink just flow and flow.

      Restraint is not for this time here,
      Send Restraint out to have a beer.
      For this is battle, pure and plain
      'Gainst Evil Error and the real pain

      That Evil Error's sure to cause
      Were warriors of words in pause
      Afraid to make their total case
      Afraid to state it clear and plain
      Afraid to cause some eyeball pain.

      And yes, afraid to make us work
      Be criticized: "long-winded jerk."

      The pen must march in any case
      To fight that good fight, and give chase
      To Evil Error, Bad Ideas,
      Lies And simply be as
      Complete as need be,
      The pen will rest
      When the Warrior of Words
      Has done her best.

      And please don't this as a snark
      When I hasten to remark
      That while we may love steak for chow,
      We cannot eat the whole durn cow.
      Not all at once... anyhow.

      The problem with the French is that they don't have a word for entrepreneur. -- GW Bush to PM Tony Blair

      by PJBurke on Sun Oct 23, 2005 at 05:59:30 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  this should become a dkos classic (4.00)
    Wow, is about all I can say.  Excellent analysis.

    Liberal, Christian, Feminazi, Mom.

    by TeresaInPa on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 04:17:26 PM PDT

  •  There are libertarians... (4.00)
    ... with a little "l", and then there are the Libertarians, the Cato types, the social Darwinists, etc.

    You've nailed it with this diary.

    I'm in the small "l" category myself:  preserve the Bill of Rights, including the Second Amendment (dammit!), dump the PATRIOT Act, etc.  Anti-prohibition, too.

    And what American doesn't want the Bill of Rights preserved?  What American doesn't value their civil liberties?  I'm talking about people other than the neocons in the Bush administration.

    It's a rhetorical question, although I am certain that people will come up with an answer.

    •  Very true. (4.00)
      "Libertarians" have become known by the most strident among them.  Heads full of dogma and little else.

      It's too bad, because in many cases, moderate libertarianism is a healthy ingredient to put in the political stew.  It is healthy to have a voice at the table asking "wait -- why get government more involved in this?  What are the effects?  What are the alternatives?"

      However, "moderate libertarianism" is pretty much viewed as an oxymoron today.

    •  I am a socil libertarian (none)
      That means that I reserve all liberty for myself.

      In the area of commerce there is the need for regulation.  Without it, certain commerce leverages off the welfare of the rest of us.  For example, if a manufacturers fires with coal and doesn't scrub the emissions, it may be passing along the cost associated with his pollution to those that breath the air.  

      Additionally, markets as noted are human constructs.  Without monitoring the constructs run just via natural chance and variance to favor one over the other and as time goes by produces an upper class that contributes little.  Inheritances perpetuate and increase the imbalance caused by the initial variance.  You end up with Paris Hilton - as a good example.

      Accordingly, markets have to be monitored and corrected to ensure that resources are churned throughout our society.  Only through redistribution can the abilities of all our citizens be developed.  That's why Jefferson was such a big proponent of public education.

      I claim the libertarian mantel for personal life choices.  That this libertarian perspective is the basis of government and reflected in our constitution is helpful, but even so I would claim liberty for the individual - against the majority or the society.  Hence it is nice that sodomy is a constitutional right - it is.  But if it were not laws against it would be immoral.

      The question posed by Roe V. Wade should be posed on all such issues - "What is the State's compelling interest?".  Without a compelling interest, I claim liberty for the individual.

      In the realm of politics, it seems to me the Democrats have more to offer libertarians than the Republicans.  I suggest the readings of Thomas Paine, the first American to suggest Social Security.    


      •  Framing! (3.90)
        It comes as a total surprise to me that here at DailyKos, with so many people who worship George Lakoff, that there are people who continue to oppose the idea of absolute property rights and say that we need a government to infringe on our property rights in order to provide for services like environmental protection.  You'd think that we'd wake up and find new approaches to framing.

        Let's try to repeat this mantra as much as possible.

        Pollution is trespassing.
        Pollution is a violation of my property rights.
        Environmental regulation is defending my property rights.
        Environmental regulation is no more an infringement of my property rights than the police going after a criminal that stole my car.

        Come on people, it's not that hard!

        >I suggest the readings of Thomas Paine, the first American to suggest Social Security.<

        It's important to remember what Thomas Paine was advocating in Agrarian Justice (, not just the end result:

        "It is a position not to be controverted that the earth, in its natural, cultivated state was, and ever would have continued to be, the common property of the human race. In that state every man would have been born to property. He would have been a joint life proprietor with rest in the property of the soil, and in all its natural productions, vegetable and animal.

        But the earth in its natural state, as before said, is capable of supporting but a small number of inhabitants compared with what it is capable of doing in a cultivated state. And as it is impossible to separate the improvement made by cultivation from the earth itself, upon which that improvement is made, the idea of landed property arose from that parable connection; but it is nevertheless true, that it is the value of the improvement, only, and not the earth itself, that is individual property.

        Every proprietor, therefore, of cultivated lands, owes to the community a ground-rent (for I know of no better term to express the idea) for the land which he holds; and it is from this ground-rent that the fund proposed in this plan is to issue."

        Paine believed in the libertarian position that we have a right to the fruit of our labors.  He would certainly oppose the payroll tax to finance Social Security.  But he also believed in the geo-libertarian position that the earth is a commons and is not private property.  Ever user of the earth's natural resources owes a rent to the community.  Paine's ideas for Social Security today would be to push something like a carbon tax on emissions and use it to provide for the service.

        Socially Just, Fiscally Responsible: Freedom Democrats.

        by LoganFerree on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 05:20:02 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  It pains me to inform you (none)
          that Paine, like Jefferson, was a strong proponent of a graduated income tax, where the wealthy pay in proportion to their ability to pay. You can find it in The Rights of Man, towards the end, Right above it is Paine's general thoughts on welfare (he's for it). I doubt he'd oppose SS (except the regressivirty of the tax) and he certainly would think the estate tax much too small - 100% would probably be more to his liking.

          The other problem with Libertarians is they make a lot of claims that simply aren't true.

          We all go a little mad sometimes - Norman Bates

          by badger on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 08:20:51 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yes and No (none)
            I think we've got to contrast between some of the ideological thoughts of Jefferson and Paine, and what the situation on the ground actually encouraged them to support.  I think one thing about Libertarians that is a problem is they tend to ignore what the real world needs.

            After all, Jefferson was both a strong advocate of free trade, but also as a pragmatic politician saw the tariff as a reasonable form of revenue for the young American republic.

            Both Paine and Jefferson believed in the ideological foundation of geo-libertarians.  In an ideal sense there should be an absolute right to private property.  But that the earth is a commons and in the abstract everyone owed a ground-rent to the community for the use of the earth.  Today most of the corporate libertarians at Cato and their Ayn Rand reading followers have forgotten the distinction between land and capital and tend to view the earth as just another commodity.

            Yet in the practical real world both of them were faced with the reality that the natural resources of the world were still relatively abundant.  Taking from the earth didn't necessary leave less for everyone else.  Today we clearly realize the problem of the tragedy of the commons.  They didn't.

            Today, Paine and Jefferson would quickly see just how scarce our natural resources have gotten.  They'd see the utility in taxing pollution and the use of the natural commons.

            Although I'd agree that they'd strongly favor a high estate tax.

            I am not saying that Paine and Jefferson would object to social welfare programs.  I believe they'd be uncomfortable with how they are financed.

            Socially Just, Fiscally Responsible: Freedom Democrats.

            by LoganFerree on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 09:00:22 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  If you read Paine (none)
              I don't see how you can escape the conclusion that he's more in favor of redistribution of wealth than any Democrat, alive or dead (and that includes Jefferson, who also advocated redistribution).

              In fact it's hard to not read the final chapter of The Rights of Man as an attack on both Libertarianism and the kinds of psuedo-libertarian policies the GOP pursues today - especially the longish section where Paine advocates what is basically a large negative income tax to support both the poor and the aged (and he favors retirement at age 60 IIRC). They both believed in the aboliton of primogeniture (and Jefferson counted it among his greatest accomplishments) precisely to redistribute wealth. Jefferson advocated that the vacant land of the wealthy be turned over to the needy. They opposed taxation because it fell most heavily on the poor, not because they thought taxation was theft.

              Jefferson was already adamantly opposed to industrialisation and he backed things like the Northwest Ordanace and the Louisiana Purchase precisely because he was worried that resources (most notably arable land) would be exhausted (he also performed a remarkably accurate calculation of the US population well into the 20th century). He favored an agrarian society over a society of "wage-slaves" (not his term though) precisely because he believed it guaranteed individual freedom more completely.

              Jefferson and esp Paine were class warriors and economic populists. To be sure they both advocated strongly for human freedom, but not for property or economic policies or structures compatible with anything that could reasonably be called Libertarian today.

              We all go a little mad sometimes - Norman Bates

              by badger on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 09:18:03 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Type of Property (none)
                Again, I think you need to remember that to Paine and Jefferson there were differences between the types of property.  Remember the context of their times.  Much of an individual's wealth was likely due to their family's accumulation of wealth over time and specifically the accumulation of wealth extracted from natural resources.  Hence their strong opposition to primogeniture.

                As I've noted elsewhere, a libertarian-anarchist came up with the two phrases "Property is theft" and "Property is freedom."  And if they had been alive at that time, Paine and Jefferson would agreed.

                Paine and Jefferson saw the wealthy elites resting on the value of the land.  At the time you didn't have Robber Barons and their industrial empires.  People tended to get rich through being able to extract the value of the land the monarch said was their land, their property.

                Hence the idea that "Property is theft."  Paine and Jefferson saw the land as a natural commons to be shared by all.  Paine in specific was dealing with England, a country with an established aristocracy.  How was it created?  They didn't become wealthy through hard work and labor.  Instead the monarch was handing out huge estates to form an aristocratic elite.  The monarch was just making up property rights.  

                In the same way, I suspect they'd strongly oppose the government giving Monsanto genetic patents.  That's theft from what is properly the common property of mankind.

                It's clear that Jefferson and Paine were advocates of economic populism that attacked the rich, because the rich at the time were getting rich because of stealing from the commons.  Their problem wasn't with the rich, but how they became rich.

                Socially Just, Fiscally Responsible: Freedom Democrats.

                by LoganFerree on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 09:37:53 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

          •  Paine & Social Security (none)
            Paine was for it.  

            "At fifty, though the mental faculties of man are in full vigour, and his judgment better than at any preceding date, the bodily powers for laborious life are on the decline. He cannot bear the same quantity of fatigue as at an earlier period. He begins to earn less, and is less capable of enduring wind and weather; and in those more retired employments where much sight is required, he fails apace, and sees himself, like an old horse, beginning to be turned adrift.

            At sixty his labour ought to be over, at least from direct necessity. It is painful to see old age working itself to death, in what are called civilised countries, for daily bread."


    •  There's a small-l-libertarian in many of us here (none)
      I for one loath bureaucracy and am spooked by too much government power no matter what ideology props it up. And unlike classical liberals (or at least the strawman libertarians have made of them), I don't believe that taxation-based redistribution of wealth is the way to create social equality.

      I view libertarianism as a healthy antidote to the potential evils of government. Yet as a utopian model of society, libertarianism sucks. The three most influential social utopias of modern time are fascism, communism, and libertarianism. Of these, I view only fascism as inherently evil. Both communism and libertarianism are cool in theory. We just have no clue how to get there, because they have inherent prerequisites that are nowhere near met (and may never be met, or may yet, a long time from now). To make either of them work, you would first have to get to a stage of perfect equality where nobody is disempowered or disenfranchized.

      If you cannot convince them, confuse them. Harry S. Truman

      by brainwave on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 08:13:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  And then... (none)
        To make either [Communism or Libertarianism] work, you would first have to get to a stage of perfect equality where nobody is disempowered or disenfranchized.

        And then, once you unleash perfect Libertarianism, you have to accept the fact that lots of people are going to starve to death and the vast majority are going to end up as slaves to a small minority of more talented and/or less scrupulous individuals.

        If we assume that that's not 'inherently bad', then I guess you're right.


    •  OK (none)
      Libertarians, l or L, are too full of ideology based on novels to be taken serously. Any political philosophy that holds itself to be 100% right and all others wrong is suspect. Seems more like fundie religion than anything. Besides, isn't libertarianism supported by RWers so they can press for their economic policies while people applaud as their financial security fades away?
  •  Good stuff. (4.00)
    Like someone once said to me "Libertarianism is like frictionless collisions: it's nice on paper but doesn't work in practice".

    Much like communism, which can look good on paper too, but it just doesn't work.

    I do not have my own blog.

    by Frank on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 04:21:55 PM PDT

    •  Another thing both sets of true believers (none)
      have in common: while atheist argue with passion that there is no god, Libertarians and old-style Communists, when you talk to them face to face, seem to have absolutely no soul.

      Your analysis is great, a little mind numbing for people like me who are genetically incapable of entertaining their notions.

      I think of what was said of Skinner's discredited Behaviorism: demeaning, even to rats.

      -7.88, -7.74 In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.

      by melvin on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 04:28:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  A Quick Comment on Adam Smith (4.00)
    He was describing (or so he thought) what was, not what should be.  The libertarians don't get that.

    And, at the end of Wealth of Nations he even states that, given that there are scoundrels in the world, some oversight may be called for.

    •  The "well governed society" (4.00)
      Oversight was hardly an afterthought to Adam Smith's vision of capitalism.  It was only a "well governed society" which could produce the "general opulence" that was his goal.  Left to its own devices, he seems to think that his holy grail--the division of labor--will tear society apart.  Which is why, he argued, we need the government for, among other things, educating the working class.

      This is, after all, a man who said, "When the regulation, therefore, is in support of the workmen, it is always just and equitable; but it is sometimes otherwise when in favor of the masters."  His metric for the well-being of a society was the standard of living of the poorest of the poor.  He was a serious radical.  

      Wealth of Nations is well over a thousand pages long.  Guess how many times he mentions this 'invisible hand.'  

      He was not talking about laissez faire capitalism.  People today have a lot of ideas about what Adam Smith wrote.  They are pretty much always wrong.

      the secretary of war is out of order. so's the plumbing. make a note of that. -groucho marx

      by rufustfyrfly on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 07:24:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  dkos seems to have ground to a halt (none)
    as everyone mulls this diary over.

    -7.88, -7.74 In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.

    by melvin on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 04:32:30 PM PDT

    •  Exactly. This was great to read, but at first I (none)
      wasn't quite sure why. It's because there is an element of cruel overkill in it. Like in a Roadrunner cartoon, you've swatted the pesky varmint with a hydrogen bomb. Good job!

      "The bicycle, the bicycle surely, should always be the vehicle of novelists and poets" , Christopher Morley

      by Chris Kulczycki on Sun Oct 23, 2005 at 06:15:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Libertarians. (4.00)
    A lot of them strike me as know-it-alls who are arrogant enough to think that structures that developed in human society over tens of thousands of years are bogus, and can be done away with.

    Now, a lot of people may go through a phase like that (in college usually), but most will grow out of it. Those who don't become irritating radicals.

    Although I do get the impression that a lot of people who claim to be "libertarians" are just Republicans in disguise (maybe they're ashamed).

    I do not have my own blog.

    by Frank on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 04:33:02 PM PDT

    •  Ironic (4.00)
      I tend to think that many extremists on the left are arrogant know-it-alls that believe that the human mind is a blank slate, not the product of millions of years of evolution, and can easily be molded into the 'New Man' through education and a utopian society.

      I think that it just goes to show that there are extremists everywhere.  

      Socially Just, Fiscally Responsible: Freedom Democrats.

      by LoganFerree on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 05:06:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  When we get an extremist of the left (4.00)
        In the White House, I will worry about it.
      •  There's Actually Research On This, You Know (4.00)
        There were certainly a lot of leftwing blank slatists in the West 40 or 50 years ago. Existentialism was very big after WWII, after all. And you had so-called leftists of the Pol-Pot variety a bit more recently, with faint echoes still around.  But the latter are clearly not your conventional leftist.  They are anti-urban, anti-intellectual, anti-industrial... it's hard to see them as leftists at all, really.

        But more to the point, applying the "extremist" label to both sides equally simply flies in the face of decades of research.  Right wing authoritarianism has been well documented.  Left wing authoritarians have been searched for, and are "as rare as hen's teeth," according to Robert Altemeyer, the principle investigator in the field--though he did find "wild-card" authoritarians who showed evidence of intense right wing authoritarianism, along with much weaker tendencies toward left wing authoritarianism.  (He speculates that figures like Mussolini could be explained by this sort of mix.)

        The other most impressive attitudinal construct, Social Dominance Orientation, shows egalitarianism as a value of the left, and anti-egalitarianism as a value of the right.  This is hardly a symmetric relationship.

      •  Well, sure. (none)
        That's why communism is just as useless (see my earlier comment).

        I do not have my own blog.

        by Frank on Sun Oct 23, 2005 at 04:31:12 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Marvelous diary. (4.00)
    Heh...and certainly better than my long-time simplistic definition of Libertarians. That being:  
    Lib·er·tar·i·ans   n.
    Republicans who like to party.

    You've got a President who is not versed in international relations. And not too much interested in them either. Col. Lawrence Wilkerson

    by Caldonia on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 04:39:05 PM PDT

    •  Or the equally deep... (none)

      "When a Democrat is ashamed to call themselves a Democrat the say they're an Independent. When a Republican is ashamed to call themselves a Republican they call themselves a Libertarian."

      Hmmmm, with all the scandals and general incompetence coming to light in the GOP, I expect to see a lot more self-identified 'libertarians' here really soon. <>

      As long as the prerequisite for that shining Paradise is ignorance, bigotry, and hate... I say the Hell with it. --Inherit the Wind

      by kingubu on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 10:23:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Adam Smith (4.00)
    You can't understand Smith's The Wealth of Nations without seeing it origin in The Theory of Moral Sentiments.

    Wikipedia discusses the problem Schumpeter had fitting it into his view of economics:

    There has been considerable controversy as to whether there is a contradiction between Smith's emphasis on sympathy in his Theory of Moral Sentiments and the key role of self-interest in The Wealth of Nations. Economist Joseph Schumpeter referred to this in German as das Adam Smith Problem. In his Moral Sentiments Smith seems to emphasize the broad synchronization of human intention and behavior under a beneficent Providence, while in The Wealth of Nations, in spite of the general theme of "the invisible hand" creating harmony out of conflicting self-interests, he finds many more occasions for pointing out cases of conflict and of the narrow selfishness of human motives. Yet it would be inaccurate to describe the Adam Smith of the Moral Sentiments as disbelieving of an essential selfishness of most human motives, for he writes that:

    "Thus self-preservation, and the propagation of the species, are the great ends which Nature seems to have proposed in the formation of all animals. Mankind are endowed with a desire of those ends, and an aversion to the contrary; with a love of life, and a dread of dissolution; with a desire of the continuance and perpetuity of the species, and with an aversion to the thoughts of its intire extinction. But though we are in this manner endowed with a very strong desire of those ends, it has not been intrusted to the slow and uncertain determinations of our reason, to find out the proper means of bringing them about. Nature has directed us to the greater part of these by original and immediate instincts. Hunger, thirst, the passion which unites the two sexes, the love of pleasure, and the dread of pain, prompt us to apply those means for their own sakes, and without any consideration of their tendency to those beneficent ends which the great Director of nature intended to produce by them."

    Now whoever posted this on Wikipedia apparently comes down on the side of libertarians because the quote has been carefully chosen to defend selfishness.  It begs the question of what Schumpeter's problem was.  This quote is also the seeds of the work of Gary Becker for whom even altruism is selfish.

    Either economics is a social science or it's a branch of philosophy.  Libertarians think it's a branch of philosophy.  Experimental economics is becoming a behavioral science that sheds light on the innate selfishness or altruism of human beings.  Not surprisingly, the answer seems to be both.

    The revolution starts now--in your own back yard, in your own home town

    by TarheelDem on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 04:49:38 PM PDT

    •  I Would Also Suggest The Book Economic Sentiments (4.00)
      Economic Sentiments: Adam Smith, Condorcet, and the Enlightenment by Emma Rothschild, explains how Smith and Condorcet (one of the first modern feminists and the first to write about proportional representation) thought of the free market as an escape from the economic system dominated by state-sanctioned monopolies, and were regarded as dangerous radicals at the time.

      It was only after the Napoleonic Wars that Smith was reincarnated as economic liberal culture hero, with his moral and political ideas carefully pruned back  The wars had accelerated a shift in power and the emergence of the urban commercial forces in England as the dominant strain in political discourse. Economic liberalism was their cry, and Smith was there man. But he was a far cry from the Smith who actually wrote The Wealth of Nations in 1776, a good 40 years earlier.

      The big corporations of today--protected as they are by the state in various ways--are surprisingly similar to the state-sanctioned monopolies that Smith and Conrocet wrote in opposition to.  To the extent that libertarians wittingly or unwittingly support their political agendas, they are fighting precisely on the other side from Smith.

  •  America is the only country (none)
    in the world where a Libertarian fits this definition.  Most libertarians around the world are actually Social Libertarians or Anarchists.  The American Libertarians would likely be called Liberals elsewhere (as in market liberals).

    It is interesting to note the opposing libertarian viewpoints in America -- the Libertarians (yuk) and the Social Libertarians (yay!) as in Chomsky, Zinn, etc.

    •  That's actually an excellent distinction (none)
      ...I had in mind while I was writing this--but I wanted to focus my fire--so to speak--on the fiscal libertarians as opposed to the social libertarians (most of whom I actually like very much). The distinction is worth fleshing out in a seperate essay, but I figured I'd already gone on enough.
      •  I understand (none)
        and figured you knew that.  I have been working on a diary for a number of days on this very subject (which I hope to post soon).  I feel there is a lack of knowledge here about Social Libertarianism (or Anarchism) and what it really means.  

        Your diary was very educational, and interesting for me.  As a student and follower of Anarchism (and yes I'm still a Democrat somehow) I'd love to see more of these "ism" discussions on DKos.  Political philosophy has become so narrowed in this country as to become non-existent outside of issues (abortion, etc.)

        Thanks you for giving us something to chew on.  Market Libertarianism (or survival of the fittest) is a terrible perverse opposite from those Social Libertarians who brought us the Paris Commune and the 8 hr workday.


        •  "We're all individuals..." (none)
          The type of libertarianism under discussion is sort of the logical complement of one anarchist ethic – i.e. instead of 'Property is theft', they have 'Everything but property is theft'.

          It has also long seemed to me that many idealistic philosophies like libertarianism, anarchism, and Marxism (in their more sensible forms) all have a fairly similar sort of 'end state' in mind, i.e. some kind of relatively free form system that 'just works' because the aspects of how human societies are organized that produce tyranny have been removed, and that a large amount of the disagreements between them are really about how we get from the world as it currently is to that 'end state'. Note, I'm not using 'idealistic' here in any pejorative sense, only as a general term to denote a philosophy that posits (perhaps vaguely) an ideal, and thus a direction in which society should move. (The pejorative form here would be 'utopian' or perhaps 'fundamentalist'.

          "What do I get out of this? / I always try. I always miss."

          by plover on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 08:12:21 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Property is theft (none)
            It is ironic that the saying "Property is theft" was created by a libertarian/anarchist.

            Prouhdon also came up with the saying "Property is freedom."

            That's the contrast between property rights enforced only by a government (think of Monsanto's 'property rights' with its genetic patents) and property rights that are obvious and natural (I own myself).  

            Socially Just, Fiscally Responsible: Freedom Democrats.

            by LoganFerree on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 09:07:41 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  DelicateMonster (how charming that sounds), (none)
        I'm not grounded in theory. I would like you to address two points.

        1. Where is there any room for most of what we recognize as morality?

        2. Address the idea of civil society vs the state vs political organization as such. Is civil society at a low ebb and is that a bad thing? (I think it is,)

        Then, just clean up that mideast thing and you can have a cookie.

        -7.88, -7.74 In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.

        by melvin on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 05:08:57 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Ridiculous (4.00)
        It's ridiculous to treat fiscal libertarians as separate from social libertarians, as in many ways their ideologies are reinforcing and come together as a package.  What you are really doing is taking one specific group, pro-coporation whores at Cato and the like, and holding them up as the epitome of libertarianism.  It's unproductive when libertarians of a more moderate and general nature have every reason to be unhappy with the Bush Administration and every reason to join the Democratic Party.  Where in the world are you planning on finding the allies needed to get Democrats elected if you're scaring off people who, given its current track record, have every reason to be distrustful and fearful of government.

        Socially Just, Fiscally Responsible: Freedom Democrats.

        by LoganFerree on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 05:09:48 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Social libertarians (none)
          and fiscal libertarians have somethings in common, it's true.  But the market version uses it's anti-government theories to justify an absurd set of policy proposals.

          Social Libertarians believe in government without hierarchy.  Market libs want to eliminate as much govt as they can.  There is a difference.

          Social libs want a government from the ground up, whose primary role is to protect us from each other and from the excesses of govt itself.  Market libs want people to leave them alone.

          •  Social Libertarians (none)
            I find it hard to believe that you're suggesting social libertarians as superior to fiscal libertarians when one example given, Chomsky, supports the draft.

            Socially Just, Fiscally Responsible: Freedom Democrats.

            by LoganFerree on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 05:21:34 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I'm not suggesting (none)
              anyone is SUPERIOR to anyone.  You are free to believe in what you wish, and fight for those beliefs.  In that you have my support.

              However, while what we have in common is a belief in a right to privacy and social rights, that is basically where it ends.  I do not support deregulation of the economy, classism, survival of the fittest, or any other such agenda.  I belive in collectivism, and workers rights.  I believe in an accountable govt that works to protect the rights of all.

              If Chomsky supports the draft he is wrong, I had nodtread that.

          •  So many distinctions... (none)

            The Libertarians I'm familiar with here in Montana don't fit either mold really. They're more the epitome of Conservative Liberalism, which is how I've always defined Libertarianism. They don't consern themselves with economic or social theories as much as they're simply the "Fuck off and leave me alone" crowd.

            BTW I really tried to read this diary through but my eyes started glazing over. Saying the Libertians are screwballs is like saying the sky is blue.

    •  Social libertarism=Libertarian socialism for you? (4.00)
      I refer to myself as the libertarian socialist, social minarchist, or anarchist.  Saying that I still feel more in touch with the right libertarians than most liberals for a rather odd reason that delicate monster used as a piece of her argument.  The concept of "property is theft" while making right libertarians claims fraudlent also makes liberal's claims awry.  Government is the ultimate owner of property and the Constitution is but an easement guaranteeing the rights and priveliges we have on and with that property.  Government indirectly controled by its subjects is preferable to private government whether it be monarchy, dictatorship, or mercenary police firms.  Yet the government of the former is still unable to recieve the consent of all those it governs, it must resort to force. Right libertarians try to formulate methods of making the individual sovereign, but for sovereign individuals there is no retaliation for aggresive actions they take against weaker persons for their own gain.  When individuals must attach themselves to these stronger aggressive individuals for survival they are in actuality entering into a new monarchy or dictatorship.  

      What exists now is preferable to that but I am still just a tenant to a monopoly of force to which I have only little direct control.  Unanimity is impossible, majority rule alienates many, and with the Iraq War it is clear how even constitutional restraints can overrcome by government striving for one man rule.

      Delicate monster, did you use Liberalism Resurgent as a source of arguments: ? Some of your wording sounded eerily similar but I might just be because rebutting libertarian ideas usually follows in that way.            

  •  So Long (3.80)
    I'll do my best to respond to the points you've attempted to make against so called libertarians.

    First off, as we both live in a country that has as its goal the creation of a 'more perfect union' it seems to me that libertarians would hold in their minds their vision of the 'more perfect' society they wish to live in, while always aware that they may come up short.  Certainly this is similar to how advocates of democracy operate.  I would not hold it against them that no government has ever operated in a 100% perfectly libertarian manner.  Democratic regimes also tend to come up slightly short, don't you think?

    >Libertarianism, as I understand it, really starts with a very simple metaphor. The metaphor is this: "the market" is a force of nature.<

    No, libertarianism starts with a very simple principle.  That humans are endowed with inherent and inalienable rights: life, liberty, and property.

    >The market becomes modern man's jungle, red in tooth and claw.<

    Like Social Darwinists, this simply illustrates that evolution and economic forces are more complex than simple cut throat competition.  Peter Kropotkin was a Russian scientists that studied the importance of cooperation and working together in evolution and the survival of species (Mutual Aid: A Factor in Evolution), he also was an avid advocate of "anarchist communism" which in many ways is one approach to society based on libertarianism.  In the same way, a free market can be one of cut throat competition and be like nature red in tooth and claw, but it can also foster free and voluntary cooperation for the mutual benefit of individuals.  This is, after all, what trade is.  

    Specialization, division of labor, and the development of technology unless we had some degree of cooperation and trust.

    >Libertarian thinkers--especially those like Ayn Rand --reserve a separate ring of hell for those altruists --a dirty, dirty word among libertarians--who would thwart such so called enlightened self interest in the name of doing good for an abstraction such as 'other people'.<

    Absolutely wrong and it simply shows your ignorance of the libertarian movement.  Libertarians, anarchists, mutualists, Georgists, and the entire anti-state spectrum of the left-wing are opposed to forced altruism.  Often the centralized planners promising to do good are distant from the people in need and care more about staying in power than actually helping people.

    Look at Hurricane Katrina, where our own federal government became a malevolent actor that not only failed to aid our citizens in need, but prevented other non-governmental organizations from providing help.

    >A market is not a 'force of nature', it is a man-made construct and as such is open to manipulation coercion and all the problems that beset any man made instrument or enterprise.<

    You are correct, the market is man-made.  But libertarians and their political brothers and sisters believe that the market should arise from "spontaneous organization" and not through the centralized authority of a government.  It would form through voluntary actions and agreements formed by willing individuals.

    It is the contrast between democracy developing below from the people and democracy being imposed from above by an external authority.  

    >The WTO [World Trade Organization] has 900 pages of regulations.<

    But the WTO isn't necessary for a free market.  It's existence is in fact a block to the creation of a free market and one cause for the negative impact of globalization.

    >For example, corporations have a legal obligation to maximize shareholder profit. That's a construction of the market. But it doesn't have to be that way.<

    More importantly, corporations are creations of the state.  They are not creations of "spontaneous organization" because they are granted special privileges by the government.  I am sorry if your experiences are limited to pro-corporation libertarians, but I would ask that you avoid taking them as the representation of the broader libertarian movement.  Like the Holy Roman Empire, they are not what they claim to be.

    >One of the first principles of Libertarian thought is the notion of an absolute 'right' to property.<

    Actually, no.  As I stated earlier, they believe in life, liberty, and property.  Quite simply, I have a right to my own life and murder is morally wrong.  I have a right to my body as my own property, which condemns slavery as a moral wrong.  Beyond a right to my body, I have a right to my mind and to express myself freely.  And I have a right to the fruits of my labor, what I have produced as my own property.  I may also acquire property through exchange and trade.  This is the core of libertarianism.  Self-ownership.

    >The economist Murray Rothbard is probably the most extreme of the libertarian property rights advocates.  He was originally regarded as an extreme right-wing Republican,<

    You really know nothing about what you're talking about.  Rothbard was a vocal supporter of the anti-war left during the 1960s and later in the 1970s and 1980s became closely allied with the Libertarian Party.  Only later, after the end of the Cold War, did he begin to align himself with some on the right, specifically Pat Buchanan.  Rest assured, if he were alive today he'd most certainly be an anti-war activist opposed to the GOP.

    >Rothbard, of course, has an answer for this. He proposes that disputes over violations of persons and property may be settled voluntarily by arbitration firms whose decisions are enforceable by private protection agencies<

    Yes, Rothbard was an anti-state anarcho-capitalist.  You also have minimists, libertarians that believe in a limited role for the state.  There are a host of specific libertarian movements that vary based on how they approach key issues like intellectual law, the state, and natural resources.  Your application of Rothbard's principles to the entire libertarian movement is similar to a Republican demagogue attacking the Democratic Party by linking their ideas to Stalin or Mao.

    >For example, there were trespass lawsuits filed against airlines for flying over property.  People on their homesteads assumed they had rights to the 'air' above them. But such absolute ownership rights exists only in the libertarians heads (see 'dream world' above).<

    Actually, as I noted above, there are disagreements within the libertarian movement on the treatment of natural resources (land, oceans, air, etc.).  But this isn't the only objection to your point.  Property rights are a bundle of rights.  One can have the right to the surface property while selling off the rights to the mineral deposits beneath the land.  Or be absolute in one's ownership of the surface, but not the air above a certain height.

    >Of course, a libertarian will argue something like "But it's my property. I paid money and hold the deed!"<

    That's a child, not a libertarian, who ignorantly clutches onto anything they value and yell "MINE!."  One's property rests on moral rights that exist outside of the state and it is the state's duty to protect those rights.  

    Or do you want to weaken our claim to free speech.  After all, what is free speech if not a right that exists outside of the state and the state is created to protect.  There is a difference between rights and privileges.  A right is something, obviously, you have the right to do.  The state does not grant you a right, it protects your right.  A privilege is something that the state has granted to you and the state can take away.  

    What worries me about active anti-libertarians such as yourself is that you are creating a system in which property becomes a privilege, not a right, and is fully regulated by the state.  If we are to diminish property to a privilege, what is to prevent us from diminishing civil liberties to the status of a privilege?  

    Right now the biggest divide between Democrats and Republicans is over foreign policy and social issues.  And I'm of the opinion that one's foreign policy preference is heavily influenced by one's social views.  I want as many allies as possible to defend my civil liberties and my rights from George Bush's warfare state.  Now is not the time to be picking on libertarians.

    I'm going to give up on responding to the rest, I think I've already wasted enough time.  I'll try to focus on the comments of others, who I hope will be more constructive than your own rant.

    Socially Just, Fiscally Responsible: Freedom Democrats.

    by LoganFerree on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 04:57:32 PM PDT

    •  Libertarianism Unglued (4.00)
      No, libertarianism starts with a very simple principle.  That humans are endowed with inherent and inalienable rights: life, liberty, and property.
      No, this is a principle of liberalism, social contract theory, and the justification of the limited (i.e. non-absolutist) state. In the state of nature, these rights exist only in theory, however, since there is no security or protection, and life is, how shall we say it? Oh yes!  Nasty, brutish and short.  Ergo, the state exists to secure these rights.  Except, that Jefferson rightly recast it as "life, liberty and pursuit of happiness," since property has always been a rather scarce commodity since the dawn of the agricultural age.
        Libertarianism exists by (1) stripping liberalism of its historical context and/or (2) ignoring the lessons of history--such as the catastrophic failure of laissez-faire noted by Dickens in his novels--which have spurred liberalism to continue evolving.
        •  We've Gone Through This Before (none)
          You refuse to admit that libertarianism is American liberalism.  Over in Europe, libertarianism and liberalism mean the same thing.  Tell me how something like the FDP isn't libertarian and liberal.

          Socially Just, Fiscally Responsible: Freedom Democrats.

          by LoganFerree on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 06:27:14 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  FDR Is Basically New Liberal (none)
            Ala Green, Hobhouse and Hobson.  As for the claim that liberals outside the US are libertarians, why not look at what themselves (The Liberal International) say about Hobson, for example:
            J.A. Hobson's political thinking was shaped by the conditions in England of the second half of the 19th century, where the doctrine of laissez-faire liberalism seemed ill-equipped to deal with the challenges of alleviating poverty, poor housing and health, working conditions and education. Hobson was one of the leading minds--together with T.H. Green and L.T. Hobhouse --of the so-called New or Social Liberalism. Hobson was a member of such progressive ethical societies as the "Rainbow Circle" and "South Place Ethical Society", a prolific journalist, active political campaigner and political theorist.

              Hobson compared the workings of society to a biological organism and took the concept of a "social organism" further than any other thinker of his time. He made the "organic" perspective the linchpin of his social philosophy. He incorporated natural science into his analysis of social relations without adopting authoritarian, deterministic undertones often associated with those theories. Society to him was "rightly regarded as a moral rational organism in the sense that it has a common psychic life, character and purpose, which are not to be resolved into the life, character, and purpose of its individual members". (Hobson,The Crisis of Liberalism, 1909).

              Hobson carved out a new intellectual and political middle-ground, evident in three areas: first, he advocated a greater role for the state than laissez-faire liberals, yet smaller than socialists. Second, he criticised both classic liberals and socialists for the hard-and-fast lines drawn by them between individualism and collectivism.  Third, while rejecting an atomistic view of society, and advocating public property in addition to individual property, he nevertheless also opposed socialist blueprints of a central-planned economy. He thought of human nature as combining collectivist and individualist characteristics, and on this basis he aimed to intertwine individualism with collectivism in society.

              Doesn't sound very libertarian to me.  
              •  Carriage Before Horse (4.00)
                The reason it doesn't sound very libertarian to you is that you start out by defining libertarian by looking at Cato, Ayn Rand, and the like.  And whenever you encounter something that doesn't look like that, you're free to lump it in with liberalism.

                I would simply say that modern social liberalism and libertarianism are equal heirs to the classical liberal tradition.  

                The strong hatred that social liberals have for libertarians is understandable; heretics are always hated more than heathens.

                Socially Just, Fiscally Responsible: Freedom Democrats.

                by LoganFerree on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 09:47:01 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  It's Not The Heresy, It's The Hair-Brainedness! (none)
                  You don't want to be associated with any of the top names in libertarianism as it is best known to the world at large. But they're the ones who've earned the hairbrained reputations.  And they quite clearly aren't legitimate descendents of classical liberalism. They are bone-pickers of it.

                  You, OTOH, claim to be part of tradition that includes non-American liberals.  But even they cite the likes of Hobson, who is clearly not in the libertarian tradition.  

                  Now, I'm fairly ideosyncratic myself, so I don't want to tar you for having few you can identify with.  But you've got to admit you're making it hard for me to get a bead on exactly who or what you are defending against what false charge, know what I mean?

                  p.s. I don't find your arguments about Paine convincing.  We are simply too far removed from his time to say what he would think in ours.  He was a very dynamic, very protean thinker.  We can't even say for certain if he would still be a Deist, be an atheist, agnostic or perhaps even Buddhist or Taoist were he alive today.  There are simply far too many intellectual options that were not living options in his day.  

                  Figures like Paine, Blake, Godwin, etc. are far more valuable to read for stretching our minds than for salving our egos by imagining that they would think just like us.

                  •  Geo-Libertarians (none)
                    Locke, Jefferson, Paine, and Henry George.

                    I stick with the classics.

                    And leaving aside your objection that Paine might be won over by other intellectual ideologies, I'm saying that his own intellectual ideology, if applied to today's world, would be geo-libertarian.

                    Socially Just, Fiscally Responsible: Freedom Democrats.

                    by LoganFerree on Sun Oct 23, 2005 at 07:49:48 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Two Problems (none)
                      (1) "Geo-libertarian" is your term, not Locke's. Or Jefferson's. Or Paine's. Or even George's.  You are selecting certain elements of their thought to highlight and claim as a coherent tradition.  But Jefferson's slaveholding and Locke's ownership of slave-trading stock make it rather hard to take with a straight face.  But, then, libertarians have long-standing problems with racial matters.

                      (2) I'm not arguing

                      "that Paine might be won over by other intellectual ideologies."
                      I'm arguing that Paine was a bold and original thinker who drew on a wide range of sources for his evolving thought, and he would have done the same in our time. This would have utterly defeated your attempts to extrapolate his atttitudes in a straight line fashion from 200 years ago.
                      •  It Is Coherent (none)
                        I think it's obvious in the work of Locke, Jefferson, and Paine that they distinguished between private property and the natural commons.  Nothing you've said has brought forward any objections to that point.  Their points have grown all the more important as our natural resources become increasingly scarce.

                        Socially Just, Fiscally Responsible: Freedom Democrats.

                        by LoganFerree on Sun Oct 23, 2005 at 03:08:06 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

          •  Nope (none)
            Libertariansism is a negative response by anti-social nerds to demands by others that they participate in society.

            Humans are social animals yet soemtimes anti-social people will appear. The worldview of libertarians is anti-human since it wants to remove most aspects of society that makes it work for everyone. Since they can't stand social acitivities (since they're regualted by tradition, norms, taboos, and laws to protect people), they methods would make life miserable for others simply for following their human instincts for social interaction.

        •  Property (none)
          "I may also acquire property through exchange and trade"

          Where do you believe the right of anyone to own land or natural resources originated?

          •  I Personally Don't (none)
            The Lockean approach to private property is that by mixing my labor with nature I form it into my private property.  This is a 'theft' from the natural commons, but Locke says it is ok for two reasons.  First, if I didn't I'd starve and die.  Second, the natural commons is so bountiful and abundant me taking from the commons doesn't leave less for everyone else.

            We can see today that times have changed and Locke's second point is wrong.

            I would say that in today's society every use of natural resources should come with a user fee.  That's your payment to make up for the fact that you're taking from other individuals.  I'd like to see the bulk of money used to create a social safety net.

            Socially Just, Fiscally Responsible: Freedom Democrats.

            by LoganFerree on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 09:13:47 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  The users fees you advocate (none)
              were generally already paid for in the past.

              This took the form of valiant defense of the realm, Revolutionary war bounties, homesteading against hostile indigenous tribes, and laying down railroad tracks here in Florida where I live.

              People now buy property from other people who have already paid the user fees.

            •  Sure. (none)
              I would say that in today's society every use of natural resources should come with a user fee.  That's your payment to make up for the fact that you're taking from other individuals.  I'd like to see the bulk of money used to create a social safety net.

              Mechanisms like this already exist; they are called taxes.

              And who's going to enforce this? The government.

              So you're advocating taxes and government control over natural resources. Nothing wrong with that, but kind of strange coming from a libertarian. Well, if you call yourself that; your signature implies "Democrat with libertarian twist".

              I do not have my own blog.

              by Frank on Sun Oct 23, 2005 at 04:48:27 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Types of Property (none)
                I think that's been the major point I've tried to make elsewhere.  The original libertarians, the classical liberals, held a strong belief in absolute private property.  But they also did not believe that natural resources were included in private property.  

                Today's libertarians tend to focus only on their belief of absolute private property, and hence attack all forms of taxation.  A position true to the old classical liberals would say something like- "Payroll tax on workers is bad.  Tax on carbon emissions good."

                That's why I call myself a libertarian and a Democrat.

                Socially Just, Fiscally Responsible: Freedom Democrats.

                by LoganFerree on Sun Oct 23, 2005 at 07:53:45 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

        •  But ... (none)
          It is the contrast between democracy developing below from the people and democracy being imposed from above by an external authority.

          Gee, I thought America had developed democracy "from the people" back in 1776. So what's your libertarian beef?

          Do you feel that because you weren't around then that democracy is now being imposed from above?

          So, that would mean that every individual in every generation would have to what? Re-develop democracy? Re-pass every single law? Re-institute every social, legal and cultural norm? Sounds exhausting.

          Or is it enough if everyone buys in?  We have to do that anyway. Or not.

          Personally, I wonder how "Lord of the Flies" it would get on Libertarian Island before they were busily instituting (and enforcing) government. Make for an interesting reality show!

          "Help us to save free conscience from the paw -- Of hireling wolves whose gospel is their maw." --John Milton

          by ohiolibrarian on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 08:02:53 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  My Libertarian Beef (none)
            My criticism wasn't of our democracy system, but I was drawing parallels between a nation's economic system and a nation's political system.  

            The criticism was that libertarians supposedly treat the market as a force of nature, when in actuality it's a man-made construct.

            I was pointing out that libertarians do believe that the market is a man-made construct.  They disagree with authoritarians in that they believe that the market should be created from the bottom up by the people, not from the top down by a central authority.

            It's the difference between wanting prices to be governed by supply and demand, or wanting them set by some central management board.

            Socially Just, Fiscally Responsible: Freedom Democrats.

            by LoganFerree on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 09:18:53 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  But what is "man-made"? (none)
              Some parts of our world are designed and made by human beings deliberately: this sentence, a pencil, a corporation, the Constitution.

              Others are products of human action, but not of human design: the English language, the human genome, the broad patterns in a market.

              Hayek argues that a grave defect in modern thought is its habit of regarding spontaneous orders that result from human action as if they were the products of human design. They aren't, and they often embody more knowledge than is held by any individual; indeed, more knowledge than can be collected and mobilized by any organization.

              Deliberate actions can of course influence languages, genetics, and market patterns, but this is not the same as designing, redesigning, or replacing them.
              </ deep-philosophical-point>

              The Trade Center attack: Demanded a swift, forceful response.
              9/11: Changed everything, forever.
              No more "9/11", please.

              by technopolitical on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 11:41:58 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  very nice discussion (none)
        but did it really need this cheap shot?

        "many of whom, as noted, are in the information technology field and are thus already likely to think in very simplistic and binary ways."

        I'm not an IT guy, but most of my committed liberal and far-left friends who are not in academia are in IT. They do have a disproportionate number of libertarians there, granted, but they also have a disproportionate number of the kind of people who log into daily kos.

        •  Hi Sean... (4.00)
          I actually didn't mean it to be cheap shot. I'm in the IT field myself and I can tell you that most IT folks DO have reductionist logic and it's of necessity because we have to trouble shoot insanely complex bugs by using that self same reductionist logic. That's why we develop it and find it appealing. Consider it an evolutionary ancillary benefit to the information age. The problem isn't reductionism in bug fighting (which is necessary) the problem is reductionism when thinking about macro-economics (which is insane).
      •  Libertarians in 5 words. (3.66)
        Smoke pot. Oppress the poor.

        Those against politics are in favor of the politics inflicted upon them. Bertolt Brecht

        by akapensensei on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 05:02:38 PM PDT

      •  Nice work! (none)
        I always love me a good smackdown of the asinine attempt to ideologize selfishness that is libertarianism. I've bookmarked this one - like Maryscott, I have to confess there was so much here that I didn't catch every word. But I skimmed most of it, and I really liked it. A lot.

        Libertarianism is basically made possible only by late industrial capitalism, where folks can envision the unrealistic possibility that they can live their lives totally apart from the rest of society. It's "I am an island" attempting to masquerade as political theory. But in fact, no man is an island. Libertarians could stand to remember that.

        Plus, let's face it, Libertarianism in America is basically used to destroy the public sector and individual rights in favor of the large corporations. Libertarians often talk a lot about rights and liberties, but seem totally ignorant of the power that wealth confers.

        So, yeah. Excellent work. Happily recommended.

        I'm not part of a redneck agenda - Green Day

        by eugene on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 05:13:26 PM PDT

        •  History Check (none)
          What could be more libertarian than the hunger-gatherer societies of old, where egalitarianism ruled and there was no centralized government?  Libertarianism not an invention of industrial capitalism.

          Socially Just, Fiscally Responsible: Freedom Democrats.

          by LoganFerree on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 05:23:10 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  They Had No Sense of The Individual As We Know It (4.00)
            Hence, recasting them as libertarians is sheer projection on our parts.  Unless, of course, you mean something quite different from what libertarians today mean by "libertarian."

            This sort of redefinition-on-the-fly is quite common in libertarian circles.

          •  hunter gatherers (none)
            didn't have to work at WalMart.
          •  That's flatly absurd (4.00)
            Hunter-gatherer societies were basically Communist, if you think about it. Libertarianism is predicated on there being an individual that is fundamentally not responsible to society.

            Others below have mentioned that individualism is a modern construct. In hunter-gatherer societies, such things most assuredly did not exist. You had a social place, defined very strictly, and there was no way around it - if you violated the social rules, you were thrown out of the group, and left to die, which you most assuredly would have without the support of the community.

            In the end, Libertarians refuse to admit that the preservation of liberty depends on communal action. And therein lies their basic flaw.

            I'm not part of a redneck agenda - Green Day

            by eugene on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 06:32:56 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Close (none)
              >Libertarianism is predicated on there being an individual that is fundamentally not responsible to society.<

              You are one word off.

              Try: Libertarianism is predicated on there being an individual that is fundamentally not responsible to GOVERNMENT.

              Socially Just, Fiscally Responsible: Freedom Democrats.

              by LoganFerree on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 06:41:09 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  BINGO! (none)
                Libertarianism is predicated on there being an individual that is fundamentally not responsible to GOVERNMENT.

                Government is not a deity to be worshipped.

                Government should exist only insofar as it serves people.

                People do not exist to serve government.

       Response For Hurricane Evacuees

                by socal on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 10:59:13 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

          •  Not true (none)
            In hunting-gathering societies, everyone was dependent on others. Hunters (usually men) killed animals for meat while gatherers (usually women) collected fruit and vegtables. Both had to provide for their children (if any) and their parents (if alive) since the parents would be too old or injuried to hunt-gather. Other roles such as shamans were needed to perform rituals, worship, and healing. Everyone needed each other to survive. That is why humans formed families and societies. Libertarianism is a result of Rand's novels read by losers who couldn't get dates in college if ever.
      •  Great stuff (4.00)
        If man is a bad machine, as Kurt Vonnegut suggests, then one of the prime mechanical flaws is this philophy' and clearly, God isn't issuing a recall any time soon. It would be great if when the machine when it went bad in this way, you could take it into a good mechanic and get the bugger fixed for a standard price, say $280.00 with labor and a lifetime's warrenty against selfishness. Warrenty invalid if Ayn Rand used as fuel.

        Darkness washed over the Dude...darker than a black steer's tookus on a moonlight prairie night...there was no bottom

        by moon in the house of moe on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 05:30:46 PM PDT

      •  I've long said (4.00)
        Libertarian (with a capital L): noun. Unindicted sociopath.

        Someone said, "A Libertarian is an Anarchist who wants police protection from his slaves." You can't get more apt than that.

        Libertarianism, its close cognate Anarchism, and Communism are all absurdly Utopian. They work wonderfully if you ignore human nature.

        As all utopianisms, these systems work better with much, much smaller populations. Small self-sufficent groups can approximate communism. Empty countries with distantly scattered populations can approximate the Libertarian ideal (as some Libertarian philosophers have noted). And either state of society can support anarchism to some extent.

        Having studied early medieval history extensively, I always see Libertarian philosophy as leading straight to the proto-feudalism which arises in almost all recently tribal societies, as a simple outgrowth of deeply rooted male primate dominance dynamics. Some Libertarians, such as Heinlein, have even pointed out this link to feudalism. It's yet another example of how Libertarians (Heinlein and Rand are great examples) can be very smart and observant in certain ways even while being dreadfully blinkered and spectacularly stupid with respect to the big picture.

      •  Libertarianism (4.00)
        A group of supposedly free market government haters who work in defense companies and do a great deal of free work on a government created network to convince people that the profit motive is all powerful.
      •  Libertarianism = Satanism (4.00)
        No, I'm not condemning Libertarianism on religious grounds. I'm just making an apt comparison:

        A Satanist views himself as his or her own god; the Satanic rituals are quite similar Crowley's magick, with an eye towards furthering the Satanist's ends. The LaVeyan Satanist maintains that those who find themselves naturally aligned with Satanism should not adhere to herd mentality and assume there is something ethically wrong with them, but should instead adopt an individualistic attitude, and consequently should strive constantly to stand head-and-shoulders above the so-called Moral Majority, and not hesitate to exploit their misguided and naive altruism as necessary.

        "It is a common delusion that you make things better by talking about them." - Dame Rose Macaulay

        by Zackpunk on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 06:09:37 PM PDT

      •  misconceptions (4.00)
        this diary reflects a common misunderstanding among many liberals and even kossacks - who ought to be politically knowledgeable enough to know better.

        the position you are attacking throughout is a subset of libertarianism known as anarcho-capitalism. it represents only a small zone of libertarian thought in terms of intellectual space.  but it is disproportianately represented in the public eye because promoting its extremist corporatist theories is something that is remarkably well-funded for reasons which should be obvious.  it is also the school of thought represented by ayn rand and her cult, sometimes known as "objectivism" which holds that greed is the greatest good, among other counter-moral tenets.

        the non-coercion principle is really the core of libertarian thought, and quite possibly the only thing all agree on.  (if you've ever witnessed a conversation among libertarians you'll know well that three libertarians will quickly arrive at seven positions on any issue.)  the non-coercion principle is that all people should be free to act without being subject to physical force, threats of bodily harm, or deception. the freedom extends to one's own behavior, and is only limited when it becomes harmful to another person, their freedom, or property.

        properly understood, libertarianism is not the opposite of liberalism (nor conservatism), it is the opposite of authoritarianism.  left-libertarians such as myself would say that right-libertarians have deceived themselves by their slavish apologia for corporations, and acceptance of the doctrine of corporate personhood.  because it is self-evident that big business is currently a greater threat to personal liberty than big government.  so by serving the corporate interests and advocating "liberty" for these artificial lifeforms known as corporations they have been duped into facilitating corporate authoritarianism which is no better than state authoritarianism in the end.  and of course there are many people who voice the right-wing corporate authoritarian philosophy while calling themselves "libertarian."  that is simply the big lie - similar to the way that german fascists called themselves the "national socialist" party.

        so you have people who either don't really believe in libertarianism at all, or who have managed to twist their own thinking around 180 degrees.  an example is one that you've nailed with rothbard:

        Rothbard... proposes that disputes over violations of persons and property may be settled voluntarily by arbitration firms whose decisions are enforceable by private protection agencies
        you are absolutely correct that this flatly contradicts the non-coercion principle he claims to espouse.  it's just one example of the problems with the anarcho-capitalist approach.  the experience of the eastern-bloc countries after the fall of the USSR demonstrates this - romania as a notable example.  the authority of the state fell to such a point that even traffic laws could not be enforced.  but instead of becoming some anarchic paradise, organized crime stepped into to the power vacuum.  and corporations are not much different in the end.  they are bigger, stronger, wealthier and more politically connected than any individual citizen, just like any criminal organization.  you will not be able to protect your freedom by yourself against such an entity - you need to band together in community to make this happen.

        liberal libertarians recognize this, and consider that one valid function of government is protecting citizens from exploitation and coercion, whether by force or fraud or economics.  it's morally no different than protecting citizens from harm by means of the armed forces, which is something most libertarians agree is a valid function of government (but only when used defensively.)

        as far as property rights absolutism goes, this is something else that libertarians do not agree on.  on the one hand you have the randians who think that property rights should be absolute, and if you want to mine the uranium on your property, refine it and detonate a nuclear weapon that should be okay as long as you keep it on your own property.  on the other end you have very liberal libertarians, notably the geo-libertarians who believe that land should not be owned at all.

        finally there's the idolatry of market forces.  this is also not a core libertarian principle, just one for the corporatists.  they not only think of "the market" as a force of nature, they treat it as a deity.  they don't just consider it powerful:  look at their rhetoric and you'll find that they talk of the market as being omniscient and mysteriously benevolent in some twisted parody of theistic religions.  this is also not an ideology shared by left-libertarians.  partly because we recognize that there is no such thing as a "free market" in a vacuum.  there have to be rules and referees, because if there aren't the largest and most unscrupulous players will re-organize the playing field to their benefit.  what we all really want from a "free" market is a fair game, where papa jones' hardware can effectively compete with behemoths like home depot.  and more importantly, we put people and personal liberty first, and the freedom and health of communities over the demands of the market.

        we'd better decide now if we are going to be fearless men or scared boys.
        — e.d. nixon, montgomery improvement association

        by zeke L on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 06:27:26 PM PDT

        •  Libertarianism (4.00)
          This posting is spot-on. Libertarianism is not a monolithic value system based on "FUCK OFF", to paraphrase a quotation used at the start of this diary. There are a whole spectrum of libertarian viewpoints, and the initial posting on this diary is really an excercise in stereotyping based on some of the more extreme libertarian ideas about governance.
          The more serious problem with libertarianism is that the label has been appropriated by authoritarians in recent years. The sort of warped, dysfunctional governance that we are seeing from the GOP right now has very little to do with libertarianism, no matter what some Republicans might claim, and has a lot to do with the principles of theocracy and authoritarianism. What you are seeing is somewhat analagous to what happened to Soviet Communism when it was distorted into Stalinism.
        •  Great Response (4.00)
          Perhaps the best response so far in this diary.  As a geo-libertarian and a Democrat I dislike it when I'm lumped in with other pro-corporate extremists.  And I think there's fertile ground in appealing to moderate pragmatic libertarians.  

          Socially Just, Fiscally Responsible: Freedom Democrats.

          by LoganFerree on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 06:38:12 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Hi Zeke (none)
          I think you're right on the two points I've highlighted below ( and possibly more, these are the two that stood out). What I'd like to know is how standard FDR liberalism does not address them. Because I think it does. And, because of this, I think libertarianism -- left or right--is --if not problematic--at any rate--impotent in terms of these issues, and, of course, many, many others:

          >you will not be able to protect your freedom by yourself against such an entity - you need to band together in community to make this happen.
          liberal libertarians recognize this, and consider that one valid function of government is protecting citizens from exploitation and coercion, whether by force or fraud or economics.  it's morally no different than protecting citizens from harm by means of the armed forces, which is something most libertarians agree is a valid function of government (but only when used defensively.)

          >what we all really want from a "free" market is a fair game, where papa jones' hardware can effectively compete with behemoths like home depot.  and more importantly, we put people and personal liberty first, and the freedom and health of communities over the demands of the market.

          •  loves me some new deal... (none)
            again, i'm both a proud liberal and a proud libertarian.  so i think the new deal was a great improvement to capitalism. fundamentally i have no problems with that approach.

            if i had to give a critique or suggestions for improvement, they would be along the lines of re-tuning new deal programs for the 21st century and taking care of the cruft problem.  that is to say, i would advocate pruning back a number of these programs to make them grow closer to what was originally intended, removing any entrenched bureaucratic fiefdoms that have grown up, etcetera.  possibly we might remove some of the programs which have outlived the problems they were created to address, or have gone off track, and replace them with something different.  we shouldn't be afraid to try new things nor hesitate to junk what isn't working.  that's the progressive approach, i believe.

            granted that is not an option with the reactionary right currently in power.  any changes they make are sure to be to our detriment, so the best we can hope for until we get political change is the conservative approach, which is more or less what guys like harry reid are doing. (conservative meaning keeping what we've got now.)

            perhaps i am not as ideologically pure a libertarian as some, such as logan, but i don't necessarily consider all government the enemy.  i do believe in "government of the people, by the people, for the people."  but it also seems clear to me that the larger and more centralized government becomes, the farther it gets from this ideal.  so whenever leviathan gets off course, it needs to be savagely beaten by the people until it gets back on track.

            so any philosophical differences i have with FDR liberalism might be of that variety.  do all those programs really need to be done at the national level, or can they be done locally by individual communities?

            i fully support socialized medicine and public education, for instance. i think they should be considered essential social infrastructure, the same way that roads and ports are vital physical infrastructure.  now i realize the advantage of risk-pooling and evening out disparities in wealth for healthcare and education, so that argues for funding being pooled at the national level.  but for decision-making, i think local control is better.  one size does not fit all communities, which is why NCLB is so misguided.  similarly, i don't want bureacrats in washington making medical decisions when they are insulated from the consequences by distance.  (on the whole i'd prefer that to the current arrangement where the decisions are made at corporate HQs in hartford or omaha, though.)  much better for the decisions to be made by doctors, or when it comes down to allocation of limited resources, by people in my own town.  they'll have to face the backlash from the community if they try to screw people over, after all.

            so i don't think of libertarianism as necessarily being synonymous with individualism, to anticipate somebody's next question.  i think that's yet another axis to the political space, and i'd come down on the communitarian side of that, though that term is even more poorly defined than libertarian, it seems.

            the way i square those two things is by thinking of the community as the primary level for mutual support by its members, as well as non-coercive influence.  social pressure is a very effective means to get humans to do things, after all.  look at the results of the social pressure campaign against smoking compared to the police & prohibition approach of the "war on drugs."  now when it comes to the inter-community level, that's where i'd put the maximum level of individualistic freedom.  let each community decide how to run its own affairs to the maximum extent you can.  just be sure nobody's basic freedoms are being infringed on.  since that can be subjective, one good way to accomplish this is to give people a full education and an option to leave, choosing another community (or maybe even none.)

            what i'm describing - what i'd do if i were king of the world i guess - is maybe not unlike the phyletic society of stephenson's the diamond age.  let everyone decide what kind of society he wants to live in, and let him vote with his feet.  if the ayn-rand-heads want to create their anarcho-capitalist society, they could even do that on their own dime.  and perhaps it might even form a small but viable tribe.  but the key is that they would not be able to impose their social darwinism on the working folks.

            we'd better decide now if we are going to be fearless men or scared boys.
            — e.d. nixon, montgomery improvement association

            by zeke L on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 07:59:04 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, there are different views... (4.00)
          ...under the banner of "libertarian." But the problem I have is that none of those views leads to a workable society.

          My usual put-down of libertarians is to point out what happens when you get a few together and ask them to figure out how to keep cars from running into each other at intersections.

          Given enough time, they'll invent traffic laws, courts, fines, jails, and confiscation of property for unpaid fines.

          In other words, there are real, basic, problems in societies that simply can't be answered with the libertarian framework. It always ends up betraying its principles when it tries to deal with situations where there is an intuitive "right" answer that doesn't seem reachable by the basic ideas of libertarianism.

          That's why the "fuck you" approach to libertarianism is so much easier and more popular.

          "What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the wish to find out, which is the exact opposite." - Bertrand Russell

          by Mad Dog Rackham on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 06:48:44 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  The problem with such arbitration (none)
          is that Mr. Rich would pay for the arbitration service more often than Mr. Poor.

          Therefore, the arbitration service would tend to favor Mr. Rich.

          Even without the payment of money, the well-known Mr. Rich would get better treatment than Mr. Poor. You see expensive messages indicating the importance of familarity on TV every time you watch. Advertisers know than if you hear a name often enough, you will tend to trust it.

          Under a democratic system, if Mr. Poor and Mr. Arm and Mr. Povero don't like things, they can introduce changes peacefully at the ballot box.

          The alternative is the Iraqi way, armed revenge.

          This is not to say governments in America are doing a very good job for their citizens.

          If I am not a member of a special interest group, governments now treat me as a lone sheep to be sacrificed for the welfare of the wolves.

          The healthcare system is a case in point.

          Hospitals are basically required by Medicare law to try to gouge me unless I am with an insurance company.

          The insurance company will avoid me unless a doctor indicates it can collect money from me without expecting to provide anything in exchange for the money I paid.

      •  prisoner's dilemma (4.00)
        One of the simplest, in my opinion, refutations of libertarianism is the prisoner's dilemma:

        This scenario shows up again and again in areas of externalized costs such as environmental degradation, destruction of the middle class to lower production costs, offshoring jobs without labor standards, etc. where the standard libertarian approach creates a destructive downward spiral that will eventually hurt all parties involved and from which there is no possible escape without government intervention.

        A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?

        by kenjib on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 06:34:50 PM PDT

        •  Not Really (4.00)
          One of the best solutions to the prisoner's dilemma is dealing with a situation where you play the game over and over again and you're dealing with a pool of potential competitors that's small, maybe 150 or less.  That is, after all, what the human brain is designed for.  We evolved to deal with small groups and keep track of who's naughty and nice.  With big groups, it's too easy to treat everyone like dirt.  With small groups, we feel compelled to help people out.

          The solution to the prisoner's dilemma is decentralization.

          It's as Pete Seeger said: "I like to say I'm more conservative than Goldwater. He just wanted to turn the clock back to when there was no income tax. I want to turn the clock back to when people lived in small villages and took care of each other."

          Socially Just, Fiscally Responsible: Freedom Democrats.

          by LoganFerree on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 09:23:32 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  controlling the input (none)
            But you are assuming that you can control the input - the scenario of the game.  The real world doesn't work like that unless the government steps in to do just that.

            A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?

            by kenjib on Sun Oct 23, 2005 at 12:19:46 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Different Scenarios (none)
              I think I'm admitting that the scenarios may be different in different situations, but on the whole the best approach is to encourage a community in which the other individuals aren't just nameless faces, but people you know and have grown up with.

              Socially Just, Fiscally Responsible: Freedom Democrats.

              by LoganFerree on Sun Oct 23, 2005 at 03:10:15 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  libertarianism (none)
                Great poin.  How does libertarianism encourage such a community?  I would argue that it often doesn't, which is precisely when it tends to fail most spectacularly - i.e. a corporate board living in Los Angeles deciding on pollution output of a plant in Michigan.

                A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?

                by kenjib on Sun Oct 23, 2005 at 03:12:37 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Decentralization (none)
                  While big scale libertarianism that many view as representative of the movement may not encourage this, there's also a strong tendency toward decentralization in libertarianism.  Many libertarians are supportive of sepratism and self-determination.  Of course this is not a value exclusive to libertarians, it's one of the best traits of most Greens I know--a respect for small scale community.

                  Socially Just, Fiscally Responsible: Freedom Democrats.

                  by LoganFerree on Sun Oct 23, 2005 at 04:06:48 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  decentralization (none)
                    and how do you enforce decentralization?

                    A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?

                    by kenjib on Sun Oct 23, 2005 at 05:38:27 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Enforce? (none)
                      Decentralization is the product of a lack of enforcement mechanisms.  It would primarily be created through the right of secession.  Most of the decentralist libertarians I know personally are involved in the secessionist Republic of Vermont movement.

                      Socially Just, Fiscally Responsible: Freedom Democrats.

                      by LoganFerree on Sun Oct 23, 2005 at 06:04:15 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Nice but it doesn't solve (none)
                        the problem of the corporate board living in CA deciding on Michigan's 'acceptable' pollution levels. I mean, when's the last time you talked to a Coke Executive who spoke glowingly of the financial benefits of becoming smaller, less profitable but ultimately more humane and manageable? Liberalism attempts to use government to balance the chutzpah and stupidity of business. Libertarianism --of your flavor du jour -- wants to do away with the nasty oligarchs and government enforcement alike--which is simply unworkable, because, precisely because there are no Coke Executive who wants to go play in your little green fields voluntarily. You either have to come up with a profit motive or you have to enforce it via government. Given that the profit motive--if any even exists--is about 100 years out--I'd suggest a government that can take the long term view on this is absolutely essential. But you want to do away with the elemental force of government in this instance. This is exactly the Libertarian's failure of vision. You actually need to control big business because if you don't, it very easily and very often self destructs. The invisible hand of the market, is quite visible and quite stupid and has expansions and contractions in business cycles as predictable as the moon--these cycles destroy people and their lives--part of liberalism is simply understanding and trying to correct for this. To think otherwise is to become a fundamentalist true believer. Libertarians have their polarity reversed--that's why they are so nuts to talk with--government doesn't need business, business needs, desperately needs government (though of course they'll never admit it--even as United or Northwest seeks its perennial congressional bailout, or as Boeing, Raytheon or Northrup Grumman counts on that welfare check from the Pentagon to keep its factories open--or as they count on medicaide and Social Security to soften the impact of their abysmal / non existent health/pension plans). The liberal agenda is to use government to benefit as many folks as possible rather than the oligarchic few, libertarianism simply refuses to recognize the gross deficiencies of the so called free market, and rather idealizes businesses that in the end depend upon governments still to keep them afloat. In a perfectly pastoral state of 500 people with 500 acres and good fertile land libertarianism might work, if the weather held. Please make sure to write to me when we get there.
                        •  Corporations? What Corporations? (none)
                          Perhaps you didn't notice some of my earlier comments.  But the existence of corporations is something that is typically only allowed by Cato libertarians and their like.

                          I am not surprised that the most pro-corporation faction of the libertarian movement has managed to receive the most attention; they receive the most funding from corporations.  Anti-corporation libertarians are ignored.

                          Let's be clear, corporations are creations of the state.  They are granted privileges like legal personhood and limited liability for their stockholders.

                          Big business is the creation of the government.  The old mercantilist countries created the British East India Company and similar colonial ventures.  The rise of the great titans of industry, the Robber Barons, would have been virtually impossible with a certain interpretation of the 14th Amendment concerning legal personhood for corporations.

                          Without the support of government it's hard for me to imagine the rise of big business.

                          Socially Just, Fiscally Responsible: Freedom Democrats.

                          by LoganFerree on Sun Oct 23, 2005 at 07:31:48 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  well good... (none)
                            ...we are definetly in agreement on the definition of a corporation, their birth and their illegitimate (in my view and I presume yours, as well) rise...however, that still doesn't answer how your vision of a --let's call it pastoral libertarianism -- addresses their presence--and their problematic power. That seems to me to be the most immediate question. ... It's not like you can close your eyes, click your heels and they'll just go away, right? These guys have more money then most small countries. I don't think wishful thinking is going to make them disappear. And most countries inevitably are going to have to deal with their invasive efforts at prying open their markets or their labor pools. Libertarianism of almost any flavor seems impotent in the face of the most real problem of the 21st century--the rise of corporate power, precisely because they refuse to recognize it as the main problem...Having said all that, I'd be very happy to be proven wrong.
                          •  Increasing scale of economic organization (none)
                            I would need a much greater deal of evidence to believe that power does not naturally centralize into large hierarchical structures in an anarchic environment.  The rise of technology in the 20th century for transportation and communication has made the ease of large scale organization, manipulation, and control grow exponentially.  In an environment without state checks against it, it seems a given to me that those who seek power would consolidate it very efficiently using every tool at their disposal, and then use that power to muscle out any competition or threat.  After a certain amount of inertia was attained there would be almost nothing to stop them except for another big business.  Furthermore, the very nature of libertarianism encourages just this sort of behavior.

                            I think the changes in economic structures we have seen have much less to do with specific events or governing structures in history than they do with a general trend, and that those specific events rather were a response to the technological currents underpinning them.  Communism, socialism, capitalism, facism - roughly the same large scale economic structures emerge only in different manifestations.  A libertarian approach would not change these undercurrents, but rather be swept away by them.  Sooner or later ideology always has to face reality, and when it does it always loses.  Trying to fight this is Quixotic in the purest sense.

                            State sponsored big business is a problem, I agree, but if we were to attempt to adopt a libertarian approach today's problems would look like a communal utopia in comparison.  Replace 9 out of 10 CEO's today with Al Capone and that's roughly what I predict would happen.

                            A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?

                            by kenjib on Mon Oct 24, 2005 at 01:16:39 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

      •  interesting... (none)
        Thanks for the good wonk.  Some quick thoughts -

        For better or worse libertarian thought has often been espoused, in my little world of very technical technical professionals, as an expression of the immanent value of Walking Freedom, rather than a rigid lassiez faire view of society.  Your article's weakness, and I don't mean to poke 'cause I loved it, seemed to me in using libertarian to encompass a totalizing philopsophy, rather than a single issue perspective; I see people who identify as libertarians with enormous range in the kind of social contract they support.  The one psychological universal seems to be that they don't like the scratchy feel of the current contract, and don't want to think about it all too much.  Which isn't to say they don't think about it at all.  Has the word been so hijacked in the last 10 years???

        My own critique of libertarianism is in terms of what i see as its shallowness; it definitely expresses an identifiable part of something I see as graceful and fierce in America, a determination to act on individual conscience in every case.  Before your article I would have identified it more with Thoreau than Any Rand, or with a TANSTAAFL that can only work if every citizen is an IQ 200 armed moon settler of a certain class.  As someone who defines as a liberal and social democrat, I got to give my own libertarian impulses free rein when living and working in the Netherlands.  I agreed with everything and still missed my autonomy!  It was distressing until I began to see how the Dutch weave a practical anarchy into society in other ways.  Anyway, guess I think libertarianism is a pretty shallow, single perspective take on the social contract, and sometimes I wonder if the degree of liberty and working quality of life a society manages is more along the lines of the sophistication it retains, rather than any one workable label.  

        Cool post.

      •  Wow (none)
        I made it through and I only needed 2 naps and a bathroom break!!

        I love the subject, though. Libertarians are the pacifists of the left. Both are ideologies that would only possibly work in a best case scenario... Both would end with self destruction...

      •  another way (none)
        Rather than rely on balancing selfish interests..

        "According to Rawls, a society is a cooperative venture between free and equal persons for the purpose of mutual advantage.  Cooperation among members makes life better because cooperation increases the stock of what it is rational for members of society to desire irrespective of whatever else its members may want.  Rawls calls these desires "primary goods" which include among others: health, rights, income, and the social bases of self-respect.

        The problem every society must confront, Rawls noted, is that the members will oftentimes disagree about what constitutes the good and how the benefits and burdens within society will be distributed among its members.  Some believe, for example, that the good consists in virtuous conduct which perfects the commonweal while others believe that the good is discovered in the pursuit of individual happiness, at least in so far as the members of society define these terms.  Some members believe that an individual's merit should determine how one will participate in society's benefits while others believe that society must provide the least advantaged extra assistance so that they will be able to share equally in society's benefits.  If society is to exist and to endure despite these and other such differences, its members must derive a consensus regarding what minimally constitutes the good."
        John Rawls

        SOCIAL SECURITY: Invented by Democrats yesterday, Protected by Democrats today

        by mollyd on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 07:06:39 PM PDT

        •  Rawls' Contribution (4.00)
          We have many discussions on DailyKos about how Democrats come across as lacking a overall, coherant philosophy.  When it comes to economic justice, I think the diarist is correct that the GOP has gotten enormous mileage out of Libertarianism.  In my opinion, Utilitarianism and Rawls' later work growing out of that philosophy, provide Democrats with a coherant framework that would give us the power to make devastating common sense replies to libertarian homilies.  I believe that New Orleans has changed everything.  After Katrina, we need to drive a stake through the heart of libertarianism.

          The most basic common sense reply to Libertarianism, which is the same thing that Socrates forced Thrasymachus to admit in Plato's Republic:  

          There is a standard of justice beyond the advantage of the stronger.

          In the Objectivist or Libertarian worldview, the just society is economically organized solely by the free, private transactions of individuals, pure capitalism.

          Most utilitarians (and Democrats) see capitalism as the best economic system available, but they don't see capitalism as a religion.  It is a means to an end.  Bentham's formulated the rule of utility: that the good is whatever brings the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people.  The Political Liberalism of Rawls makes important adjustments to Utilitarianism, by essentially creating an individualist framework to justify utilitarian ideals.  His ideas can be distilled to these two propositions:
          a) Each person has an equal claim to basic rights and liberties.
          b) Social and economic inequalities are to satisfy two conditions: first there is fair equality of opportunity, and second, the economy ensures benefit to the least advantaged members of society.

          A basic difference between modern Democrats and Republicans follows from this philosophical difference.  Democrats don't see capitalism as a religion, but as a means to an end.  Capitalism is the economic system that can provide the most good to the most people, but it takes communities to guarantee rights and equality before the law and to make sure the system benefits not only the rich but also society's least advantaged.

          During Katrina, in the face of a genuine crisis affecting a great city, libertarianism stands revealed as a moral catastrophe.  Individuals in the poor neighborhoods were abandoned.  They were on their own.  Look at heroic individual, the old man floating in his attic or the baby dead on the sidewalk outside the Convention Center.  

          As a party, I think it's past time to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off.  It's been a hard twenty five years to be a Democrat, but there has never been a moment so utterly revealing of the ideological bankruptcy of the GOP.

          Probably a little early for me to go to Tikrit.

          by wetzel on Sun Oct 23, 2005 at 02:36:52 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  sure, to put it simply (none)
            Basic Fairness:

            The one who cuts the cake does not get to pick the peice. So simple everyone understands this.

            That is why businees interests must be seperate from government.

            SOCIAL SECURITY: Invented by Democrats yesterday, Protected by Democrats today

            by mollyd on Sun Oct 23, 2005 at 01:20:03 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  I'll take the Libertarian Party (none)
        Over the democrats any day.  At least the Libertarians have the balls to say what they believe in.  

        I'll vote for a Libertarian in favor of ending the drug war over a democrat who pretends to love the drug war just to get votes.

        •  You can vote for them now (none)
          Why don't you?
        •  That's nice angry george... (none)
 you want to just vent or would you like to address one of the many actual arguments in my diary that you've totally avoided on your way to espousing your true fundamentalist faith? I can have the same discussion with a far right Christian who proclaims quite loudly 'the rapture is coming soon?' It's not very interesting or edifying. My problem is you have yet to explain how your isolated and unverfiable belief is any better, or different from a rightwing zealot's. Try working up an actual argument in favor of your ideology, okay? Outside of balls--which the Christians--God help them--have too.
          •  let me rephrase (none)
            I like pot, libertarians are trying to keep me out of jail for liking pot.

            Good enough?

            •  Pass a law then, right? (none)
              You don't have to be libertarian to want to normalize pot laws. I want to normalize pot laws and I'm a liberal. Furthermore, some of the best arguments for legalization of pot are actually those that appeal to the broader community

              Legalizing pot would...

              1. Reduce prison population
              2. Reduce the hardening of juveniles/young adults in prison systems
              3. Help sick people who want to smoke pot
              4. Increase tax base (like booze)
              (I'm sure there are many more good arguments out there for legalizing pot from a community perspective, I'm just listing a handful that occurred to me immediately..)

              I'm not so sure that a libertarian appeal to so called individual rights is that much more effective because then you get into issues of regulatory mechanisms on ALL drugs, which may be principled, but is probably politically unwinnable.

              If I'm not mistaken, Greens, who are not especially libertarian in their outlook vis a vis tax growth etc., are also very much in favor of legalizing pot.

              Finally I'd note the five word definition of libertarianism upstream: Smoke pot. Oppress poor people.


        •  LOL (none)
          Greens are better. Greens state what they want to do and stand for. Libertarians hide behind the image of a nation with more liberty in civil life but have economic life dominated by corporations to the point that we're all property of corporations rather than be employees or customers.

          Dems aren't great now but it seems like some more non-corporate people are getting louder so there might be hope.

      •  It's about freedom (4.00)
        The "market" as metaphor or otherwise, is not the starting point of libertarianism.  The starting point is liberty, and the market is only a by-product of the free enterprises of free people.

        You make some good points, but the problem with dogmatic libertarianism is much easier to describe.

        Libertarianism is a belief in liberty unfettered by anything except appropriate responsibility.

        It is a great ideal, but it is not pragmatic if people are not actually responsible.

        Someday maybe humanity will grow up enough to really be free. Until then, libertarianism is a good ideal to aspire to, but not a very good dogma to enforce. Until humanity matures, we should all be libertarian idealists, but also pragmatic supporters of the societal structures that shield us against the vicissitudes of irresponsibly wielded freedoms.

      •  Excellent (none)
        Your points are very sound. I really enjoyed reading this diary.
      •  NOT Libertarianism (4.00)
        You're describing a weirdly American strain of thought called "property-rights libertarianism", not libertarianism in general.

        Core principles of classicial libertarianism, as understood by libertarians in the rest of the world, do not include a right to property.  They do include ideas like the right of a woman to choose who to have sex with and whether to be pregnant or not, the right to free speech, and so forth.  Property is a construct of the state, and therefore any "rights" over it are conditional at best; the right to control one's own mind and body is, in contrast, considered paramount and inviolable.  Many of the Founding Fathers were classical libertarians.

        The modern American "Libertarians" you describe, who control the so-called "Libertarian Party", give a bad name to libertarianism.  However, it is unfair to real libertarians to act as if all libertarians are like this.  Classical libertarian thought was instrumental in the Enlightenment, and remains a powerful force against philosophies which believe in total social control (we decide who you marry, where you work, what you say), such as are resurgent in the so-called 'religious right'.

        •  I believe that the property (none)
          comes from the Latin word prope meaning near.

          What was near you was considered to be yours.

          You would probably be very upset if someone took something out of your shopping cart in a store.

          I live in Florida on homesteaded property. The idea of a homestead probably is related to the word steady. Your steady occupancy of a place was an indication to your fellow human being that a certain location was your territory.

          Property is simply a formal recognition by the legal system of the need to limit fighting over things and places.

        •  From the Daily KOS FAQ (none)
          "Many users believe that the rating system is intented to be an opportunity to express agreement or disagreement with a post, or with the poster themself. This is not accurate; ratings are intended to help elevate those posters that consistently make clear, good arguments and points, regardless of content, and to prevent trolls from invading the message board. Downrating commenters on the basis of agreement or disagreement with their arguments leads to a monolithic forum, free of new ideas and input. So, please don't downrate comments just because you disagree with them!"

          So way did you give me a 1 rating when all I did was agree with this diary???
      •  Clever (4.00)
        Are there libertarians like the straw man you set up? Probably. In 300 million people just about anything can be found at least once.

        But you've got to understand that there are also Jeffersonian libertarians; and in more recent years Daoist libertarians; and thousands of other shades. You've also got to understand that even Adam Smith was not the sort of capitalist you imagine libertarians to be.

        Beyond that, most of the libertarians (the real ones, not your pack of straw men) are disgusted by Bush, and could readily go Democratic if the Democrats would only begin to show some real understanding of our nation's manifold inheritance of liberty, and the desirability of government working with a lighter hand.

        •  Try defining your libertarian light... (4.00)
          ...and I'll try to understand them in a whiter shade of pale than Grover Norquist with a really fucking bad
        •  I've heard this before... (4.00)
          Political Debate Strategy
          Count only the benefits of libertarianism, count only the costs of government.
          Five of a factoid beats a full argument.
          All historical examples are tainted by statism, except when they favor libertarian claims.
          Spiritually baptize the deceased as libertarians because they cannot protest the anachronism: Locke, Smith, Paine, Jefferson, Spooner, etc.
          The most heavily armed libertarian has the biggest dick and thus the best argument.
          The best multi-party democratic republics should be equated to the worst dictatorships for the purposes of denouncing statism. It's only a matter of degree.
          Inviolate private property is the only true measure of freedom. Those without property have the freedom to try to acquire it. If they can't, let them find somebody else's property to complain on.
          Private ownership is the cure for all problems, despite the historical record of privately owned states such as Nazi Germany, Czarist and Stalinist Russia, and Maoist China.
          Require perfection as the only applicable standard to judge government: libertarianism, being imaginary, cannot be fairly judged to have flaws.
          Only libertarian economists' Nobel Prizes count: the other economists and Nobel Prize Committee are mistaken.
          Any exceptional case of private production proves that government ought not to be involved.

          absolute freedom for one individual undoubtedly limit's the freedom of another.

          by jbou on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 11:46:59 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  brilliant deconstruction (none)
        Absolutely excellent article.  I have been wishing this site did more basic analysis, instead of just reacting to each day's news.  This kind of analysis is exactly what we need if we're going to reframe issues and counter Republican propaganda.  Market liberalism is all-pervasive in our country right now, and this article serves as a devastating, long-overdue, and brilliant deconstruction of it.
      •  Great post! (none)
        I am heartened to see how many commentors came down on the side of a cooperative social model, one that strives to level the playing field for all.

        Parties divide, movements unite.

        by Gegner on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 10:50:15 PM PDT

      •  people hate bureaucracy (none)
        it's just.....inhuman.

        corrupt socialist states have given fuel for the no-staters, and their will to return to the 'my land is my kingdom' approach, that can only work in an underpopulated, ecologically stable area...and historically, not for long.

        libertarianism is not common in europe, i believe, because there are too many peeps in proximity to indulge in such potent, pleasurable fantasy.

        when confronted with examples of bloated, corrupt and inefficient governments, libertarianism can seem like a cell window, bright in promise, but needing infinite patience and good behaviour before delivering.

        and if we were that evolved we could make any system work!

        why? just kos..... *just cause*

        by melo on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 11:28:09 PM PDT

      •  Geez wow (none)
        So that's what an "explication" is.


        •  I was wondering about that word myself. (none)
 just says "explanation", but googling the word suggests that it means making a precise definition or explanation out of a vague or unformed concept, specifically in situations where "scientific" recourse is not available.

          I guess in so far as Libertarians are defined by a "poetic metaphor" that's appropriate.

          hurray word of the day.

      •  Marx and Rand sitting in a tree (4.00)
        libertarianism is basically the Marxism of the Right. If Marxism is the delusion that one can run society purely on altruism and collectivism, then libertarianism is the mirror-image delusion that one can run it purely on selfishness and individualism. Society in fact requires both individualism and collectivism, both selfishness and altruism, to function. Like Marxism, libertarianism offers the fraudulent intellectual security of a complete a priori account of the political good without the effort of empirical investigation. Like Marxism, it aspires, overtly or covertly, to reduce social life to economics. And like Marxism, it has its historical myths and a genius for making its followers feel like an elect unbound by the moral rules of their society.

        The problem as I see it is the libertarians are better organized then the Marxists, and the libertarian free market fanatics have been better at selling their ideology as of late, which is why those of us that believe that things like Universal healthcare are of the up most importance can't get our voices heard.  

        We really do need a Marxist think tank on the level of the Cato institute so the public can get a fair assessment from both sides and we can get a good mixed policy like we have gotten in the past.  

        absolute freedom for one individual undoubtedly limit's the freedom of another.

        by jbou on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 11:40:23 PM PDT

      •  libertarian bashing is fun (none)

        One of the most attractive features of libertarianism is that it is basically a very simple ideology. Maybe even simpler than Marxism, since you don't have to learn foreign words like "proletariat".

        This brief outline will give you most of the tools you need to hit the ground running as a freshly indoctrinated libertarian ideologue. Go forth and proselytize!

        In the beginning, man dwelt in a state of Nature, until the serpent Government tempted man into Initial Coercion.
        Government is the Great Satan. All Evil comes from Government, and all Good from the Market, according to the Ayatollah Rand.
        We must worship the Horatio Alger fantasy that the meritorious few will just happen to have the lucky breaks that make them rich. Libertarians happen to be the meritorious few by ideological correctness. The rest can go hang.
        Government cannot own things because only individuals can own things. Except for corporations, partnerships, joint ownership, marriage, and anything else we except but government.
        Parrot these arguments, and you too will be a singular, creative, reasoning individualist.
        Parents cannot choose a government for their children any more than they can choose language, residence, school, or religion.
        Taxation is theft because we have a right to squat in the US and benefit from defense, infrastructure, police, courts, etc. without obligation.
        Magic incantations can overturn society and bring about libertopia. Sovereign citizenry! The 16th Amendment is invalid! States rights!
        Objectivist/Neo-Tech Advantage #69i : The true measure of fully integrated honesty is whether the sucker has opened his wallet. Thus sayeth the Profit Wallace. Zonpower Rules Nerdspace!
        The great Zen riddle of libertarianism: minimal government is necessary and unnecessary. The answer is only to be found by individuals.

        Libertarians invented outrage over government waste, bureaucracy, injustice, etc. Nobody else thinks they are bad, knows they exist, or works to stop them.
        Enlightenment comes only through repetition of the sacred mantra "Government does not work" according to Guru Browne.
        Only government is force, no matter how many Indians were killed by settlers to acquire their property, no matter how many blacks were enslaved and sold by private companies, no matter how many heads of union members are broken by private police.
        Money that government touches spontaneously combusts, destroying the economy. Money retained by individuals grows the economy, even if literally burnt.
        Private education works, public education doesn't. The publicly educated masses that have grown the modern economies of the past 150 years are an illusion.
        Market failures, trusts, and oligopolies are lies spread by the evil economists serving the government as described in the "Protocols of the Elders of Statism".
        Central planning cannot work. Which is why all businesses internally are run like little markets, with no centralized leadership.
        Paternalism is the worst thing that can be inflicted upon people, as everyone knows that fathers are the most hated and reviled figures in the world.
        Government is like fire, a dangerous servant and a fearsome master. Therefore, we should avoid it entirely, as we do all forms of combustion.

        The FDA is solely responsible for any death or sickness where it might have prevented treatment by the latest unproven fad.
        Children, criminals, death cultists, and you all have the same inalienable right to own any weaponry: conventional, chemical, biological, or nuclear.
        All food, drugs, and medical treatments should be entirely unregulated: every industry should be able to kill 300,000 per year in the US like the tobacco industry.
        If you don't have a gun, you are not a libertarian. If you do have a gun, why don't you have even more powerful armament?
        Better to abolish all regulations, consider everything as property, and solve all controversy by civil lawsuit over damages. The US doesn't have enough lawyers, and people who can't afford to invest many thousands of dollars in lawsuits should shut up.

        Libertarian Party
        The Libertarian Party is well on its way to dominating the political landscape, judging from its power base of 100+ elected dogcatchers and other important officials after 25 years of effort.
        The "Party of Oxymoron": "Individualists unite!"
        Flip answers are more powerful than the best reasoned arguments, which is why so many libertarians are in important government positions.
        It's time the new pro-freedom libertarian platform was implemented; child labor, orphanages, sweatshops, poorhouses, company towns, monopolies, trusts, cartels, blacklists, private goons, slumlords, etc.
        Libertarianism "rules" Internet political debate the same way US Communism "ruled" pamphleteering.
        No compromise from the "Party of Principle". Justice, happiness, liberty, guns, and other good stuff come only from rigidly adhering to inflexible dogmas.
        Minimal government is whatever we say it is, and we don't agree.
        Government is "moving steadily in a libertarian direction" with every change libertarians approve of; no matter if it takes one step forward and two steps backwards.
        Yes, the symbol of the Libertarian Party is a Big Government Statue. It's not supposed to be funny or ironic!

        Political Debate Strategy
        Count only the benefits of libertarianism, count only the costs of government.
        Five of a factoid beats a full argument.
        All historical examples are tainted by statism, except when they favor libertarian claims.
        Spiritually baptize the deceased as libertarians because they cannot protest the anachronism: Locke, Smith, Paine, Jefferson, Spooner, etc.
        The most heavily armed libertarian has the biggest dick and thus the best argument.
        The best multi-party democratic republics should be equated to the worst dictatorships for the purposes of denouncing statism. It's only a matter of degree.
        Inviolate private property is the only true measure of freedom. Those without property have the freedom to try to acquire it. If they can't, let them find somebody else's property to complain on.
        Private ownership is the cure for all problems, despite the historical record of privately owned states such as Nazi Germany, Czarist and Stalinist Russia, and Maoist China.
        Require perfection as the only applicable standard to judge government: libertarianism, being imaginary, cannot be fairly judged to have flaws.
        Only libertarian economists' Nobel Prizes count: the other economists and Nobel Prize Committee are mistaken.
        Any exceptional case of private production proves that government ought not to be involved

        absolute freedom for one individual undoubtedly limit's the freedom of another.

        by jbou on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 11:45:03 PM PDT

      •  If the smallest government were the best (none)
        then Somalia would be a paradise and Sweden a Hell on Earth.

        Neither one may be a paradise, but I know which one of those I want to live in if I had to choose.

        There's a balance to be struck, of course. I think the real issue is that the US is already fairly far over on one side, i.e. no health care for too many, an imperial Presidency, corporations running far too unchecked, the list goes on.

        There's a balance. It's just another case where the mythology is contrary to reality, those in power want the public to believe that it's an over-regulated socialist state and needs reform- it's far from it. Over-regulated Socialist states exist and I've lived in them. The US is not one of them, not by a long shot.

      •  Ex-libertarian... (none)
        I was into the whole Ayn Rand Milton Friedman thing for years, even went through courses with friends in a cult-like organization called the Free Enterprise Institute (google it).

        It is very idealistic.  It tends to appeal to certain personality types more than others, I think.  Long story there.

        Radical free-market libertarians have an almost mystical, religious belief in the power of the free market.  Just about any vital government service can be performed not just equally well, but better by the free market.

        And that's where it takes a huge leap of faith that grownups have problems with.

        Here's the pothole:  Roads.  Libertarians have problems with this, and have worked out all kinds of arcane solutions to the problems of how to build roads through only free market forces.  But it fails to recognize two important things:

        1. The role of governments in creating roads and new trade routes is an important one.  Much of history revolves around dates and times when things like the building of the intercontinental railroad, the first trip to the moon, the rounding of the cape horn, the building of the Panama Canal, etc.  These things might be solvable through free market solutions, but that's speculation.

        2. Roads benefit all of us.  From a selfish point of view, why should I care if people in San Francisco get a bridge to Berkeley?  Why should MY tax money pay for that?  It sounds like altruism.  But I profit from it, because increased prosperity in Berkeley and San Francisco benefits me, all the way down here in Los Angeles, because prosperous Berkeleyites are more likely to purchase products from Angelenos than poor ones.

        The same analogy stretches to other government services.  

        For instance, why should I pay for Mexicans to get free health care?  Because my kids go to school with their kids and I don't want my kids coming home with diseases.  A city of healthy people benefits me, even if I'm so healthy and wealthy I don't need public health services.

        Rephrasing issues in this manner will make free-market extremists furrow their brows because they don't rely on appeals to higher motives like altruism or sympathy.

        •  Didn't it ever bother you (none)
              That the Objectionables you were hanging with were using altruism as a bad word?
              That's really along the lines of the Nazi perversions of the German language, trying to make words like "brutal", "ruthless" and so on into good words.  It's a warning flag that something is Not Quite Right with these guys.

              Semantics aside, there's a basic incompatibility between libertarian rhetoric and actual deeds.  Ask yourself:
              Where were the libertarians during the Civil Rights movement?  Marching in Birmingham?  No, they were trying to protect the "liberty" of racist businessmen to refuse to serve blacks.
              Where were the libertarians when we were trying to pass the Equal Rights Amendment? (Something we still very much need in this country.)  Were they marching with feminists?  No, they were proclaiming that there should be no legislation that gives women "special treatment".
               Where are the libertarians now when it comes to gay rights?  How many protested the criminal neglect of AIDS research in the 1980s?  How many libertarians would march with a Pride Parade today?  How many would their legislators for a hate crimes bill?  How many really did anything to stop DOMA and all of the anti-gay state amendments?   Damn few, that's how many.  Once again, the libertarians' real agenda is revealed by their whining about "special rights" and "speech codes" and other vaporous "infringements of liberty", while the real freedoms of the individual are being ground down by a nexus of government and corporations.
               The fact is that libertarians stand not for the liberties of the "little people", but only for the liberties of corporations and the rich.  They turn a blissfully blind eye to the fact that most of the oppression of the people of this free country comes, not directly from the government -- not when it functions in its proper role as the servant of the people -- but from the selfish, unaltruistic acts of the wealthy and the corporate bodies they run, sometimes directly, sometimes using government as their tool.  That's the reality which libertarianism was constructed to deny.  Libertarianism may be good for Bill Gates, Ken Lay, and Dick Cheney, but it's no damn good for the rest of us.

          •  Exactly, well said. (none)
            And the examples of 'Walking'actions (civil rights, ERA movement etc, where were the libertarians?) as opposed to their Talking 'ideas' is spot on.
          •  Altruism as a bad word... (none)
            My first exposure to the word altruism came when I was about fourteen years old and I read The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand.  There was something very paradoxical about the suggestion that unselfishness  might be bad, which made the whole idea very appealing to my perverse teenage imagination, something worth considering and arguing.  I'm 48, now.

            An observation:  I have posted on Dkos for a long time.  Occasionally, I bring up the subject of my past political affiliations with groups that diverge from the Dkos mainstream.  A few times I have been yelled at about it, as if I was trying to subvert Dkos by merely admitting I voted for Reagan.  

            I prefer to think it gives me a little extra perspective.  

            My point, in the previous post, was to point out that even from a purist libertarian perspective, there are logical holes you can drive a truck through.

      •  Libertarian Appeal (none)
        This work (of DelicateMonster's) may be long but welcome nonetheless, for the vast majority of the literature available on libertarianism has been written by its advocates... there is very little available in the way of neutral and dispassionate literature about libertarianism, and this isolation from the fray of normal political discourse makes it difficult to evaluate libertarian claims without much more research or analysis than most of us have time for. Compare this to (for example) the extensive literature of socialism and communism written by ideologues, scholars, pundits, etc. on all sides. Libertarianism is scantily analyzed outside of its own movement.

        I've always seen Libertarianism, in most of its multitude of flavors, as a utopian conflation of self with property... as if both were part of each other in some real, organic way.  Liberty is inextricably bound up with property, and so therefore comes out as "touch my stuff" = "touch me."  

        A fundamentally immature emotion rather than a political philosophy, it seems to me.

        The problem with the French is that they don't have a word for entrepreneur. -- GW Bush to PM Tony Blair

        by PJBurke on Sun Oct 23, 2005 at 08:04:54 AM PDT

      •  wow - 192 posts and no one has gotten it right yet (none)
        ...although the last post hints at it.

        the moral premise of libertarianism is the fundamental tenet of self-ownership -- I own myself, while you own yourself.

        from this premise the non-coercion principle logically flows...each individual has the inalienable right to live his life in whatever manner he chooses, so long as he does not infringe upon the equal right of others to do the same -- thus, the concept of negative liberty is freedom from coercion.

        extending then from the right to one's self is the right to the fruit of one's labor (i.e., the right to property) that we derive from engaging in self-generating activity transforming natural resources inorder to sustain our lives...and seeing as though we must occupy some space inorder to physically exist, we all then must also have the right to labor somewhere without having to have it gifted or purchased from someone else...therefore the right to the fruits of our labor are absolute while the right to occupy a specific location must be made conditional.

        as Logan had referenced in prior posts it was John Locke in his Proviso that determined when private enclosure of the natural commons was just -- so long as "enough and as good are left for others"...beyond which exclusive use creates a legal and monetary obligation -- called economic rent -- that can only be satisfied by sacrificing the excluded's absolute right to the fruits of their labor - essence a landlord backed by state force imposes an income tax on those they excluded from their location - -paid immediately by tenants and in the future for buyers.

        unfortunately what trips a lot of people up is their belief that the right to absolute land ownership is essential for a free society -- it is not -- only that people be secure in their labor-based property...many people believe that land ownership is one single right when in fact it is a bundle of rights any of which can be alienated - they are:

        1. use
        2. possession
        3. exclusion
        4. transferability
        5. economic rent

        in a system that provides the greatest amount of equal freedom for the greatest number of people the first 4 bundle rights remain owned privately and it is only necessary that the 5th bundled right -- which only appears beyond Locke's Proviso -- remain owned in common by a direct and equal citizens dividend being paid from all landowners to those being excluded from their location to uphold their equal liberty claim to the right of self-owership.

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