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"MY WAVE!"
February 13, 2012 7:46 AM   Subscribe

LearnLiberty: a libertarian Khan Academy.

Today I was trying to listen to this sweet Ratatat song on YouTube, and suddenly this guy popped up instead, and started talking about the Broken Window Fallacy, of all things. Thrilled that it was not an advertisement for the next Hollywood action film, I heard the man out.

He was advertising the above website, which is intended at least in part for classroom use, and has lecture videos on such topics as "Property Rights and Prosperity", in which it is explained how multiple surfers decide who gets access to a finite number of surfable waves (the post title comes from this video).

The website is a project of the Institute for Human Studies, whose chair of the board of directors is the politically-conspicuous Charles Koch.
posted by edguardo (183 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow, what a fantastic learning opportunity! Have you heard of this fine complementary resource?
posted by bicyclefish at 7:53 AM on February 13, 2012 [16 favorites]


in which it is explained how multiple surfers decide who gets access to a finite number of surfable waves

Through strongest-gets-to-surf brawls and gang beatdowns of regular people who just want to use the beach? That the group with the least principled, most violent members gets everything, and the worst of them treated like kings?

Because that's how it fucking works where there's no Beach Patrol, or the Beach Patrol has been bought off or intimidated or is sympathetic to the locals. Hit up youtube sometime for "surfer fight" or "beach fight."

Surfer pecking order can and will descend into utter anarchy without strong government oversight.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:57 AM on February 13, 2012 [53 favorites]


Through strongest-gets-to-surf brawls and gang beatdowns of regular people who just want to use the beach?

The professor in the video actually mentions that the "spontaneous order" sometimes results in violence.

He did not sound disapproving to me, in either tone or diction.
posted by edguardo at 7:59 AM on February 13, 2012


I got all the way to how property rights discourage waste and was loling to hard to continue.
posted by DU at 8:03 AM on February 13, 2012 [10 favorites]


Man, this is completely awesome. Thanks for the great link. I've never heard this song before.
posted by koeselitz at 8:08 AM on February 13, 2012 [14 favorites]


Surfer pecking order can and will descend into utter anarchy without strong government oversight.

Anarchy is the absence of government. It is not the absence of order, or the presence of violence.

Man, this is completely awesome. Thanks for the great link. I've never heard this song before.

I KNOW RIGHT!
posted by edguardo at 8:09 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


"...the politically-conspicuous Charles Koch."

I almost drowned in my coffee.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:09 AM on February 13, 2012


Anarchy is the absence of government.

...which lasts all of about five minutes before the absence of order and presence of violence kick in.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 8:11 AM on February 13, 2012 [16 favorites]



Anarchy is the absence of government.

...which lasts all of about five minutes before the absence of order and presence of violence kick in.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 8:11 AM on February 13 [+] [!]


Dude did you not read past the part you quoted, or are you deliberately misrepresenting the comment?
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:13 AM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


...which lasts all of about five minutes before the absence of order and presence of violence kick in.

If that's been your experience, I never want to go camping with you.
posted by edguardo at 8:13 AM on February 13, 2012 [24 favorites]


If a state is an organized political community, and a government is that which enforces its policies (I'm just cribbing from Wikipedia here), then as soon as an ungoverned group organizes itself--isn't it a government?
posted by LogicalDash at 8:16 AM on February 13, 2012 [11 favorites]


If that's been your experience, I never want to go camping with you.

Because the behavior of a small group of people who are familiar with each other in a very small controlled and regulated space is representative of how much larger groups groups behave when competing for resources in an unregulated environment?
posted by MrBobaFett at 8:16 AM on February 13, 2012 [14 favorites]


I thought you said "Rattata song". I was disappointed, but it's still a cool song.
posted by demiurge at 8:17 AM on February 13, 2012


I don't know, knife fights over gorp and conch shell calls to the smores fire sound awesome.
posted by zippy at 8:17 AM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Course syllabus.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:19 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was imagining a much different "libertarian Khan Academy".

"Liberal Commie mathematicians talk about how there's infinite numbers and stuff, but really that's just number inflation. We need to go back to when numbers were backed by physical goods."
posted by kmz at 8:20 AM on February 13, 2012 [25 favorites]


If that's been your experience, I never want to go camping with you.

You've gone camping in places with no government and with people who had no (internal or external) governors? I'd be very interested in hearing how you survived.
posted by DU at 8:22 AM on February 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


I don't get it. Why is this free? Information this valuable, why isn't it put to the open market???
posted by Think_Long at 8:23 AM on February 13, 2012 [17 favorites]


A spectre is haunting America.
posted by symbioid at 8:24 AM on February 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


The marketplace of ideas will clear, like any other market. If when that happens the vendors of libertarian ideas find themselves with few buyers, what possible grounds for complaint would their ideas allow them?
posted by hoople at 8:24 AM on February 13, 2012


You've gone camping in places with no government and with people who had no (internal or external) governors? I'd be very interested in hearing how you survived.

You've obviously never been libertarian camping; it's camping without regard for any kind of regulation, and it rules. I totally bring in out of state firewood with no regard for consequences of emerald ash borer infestation. Suck it trees, you should have asserted your private property rights.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:24 AM on February 13, 2012 [31 favorites]


You've gone camping in places with no government and with people who had no (internal or external) governors? I'd be very interested in hearing how you survived.

I've been plenty of places without police around, and I survived because everyone I was with had internal governance, as you aptly put it.

The law of the land, the external governance, couldn't have protected me from violence at all.

You don't have to be way out in the country for this to be the case, either.
posted by edguardo at 8:27 AM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


If that's been your experience, I never want to go camping with you.


*Awkward cough*
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:27 AM on February 13, 2012


Suck it trees, you should have asserted your private property rights.

And because you privately own your camper, it can't be emitting pollution as that would be waste, which is impossible! Therefore those complaints from the next campsite over are groundless.
posted by DU at 8:27 AM on February 13, 2012


Because that's how it fucking works where there's no Beach Patrol, or the Beach Patrol has been bought off or intimidated or is sympathetic to the locals.

...and from the shadowy coves emerges the surf avenger, RIP TIDE and his boy sidekick MOONDOGGIE.
posted by griphus at 8:28 AM on February 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


The guy actually uses the phrase "trickles-down" non-ironically.
posted by demiurge at 8:28 AM on February 13, 2012


I survived because everyone I was with had internal governance...

Not everyone is so lucky.
posted by DU at 8:28 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Coercive hierarchical authority is not the only way to ensure peace and order. It takes a profound lack of imagination to think it could be.

But for the sake of this discussion, let's distinguish between right wing liberarianism and a level playing field.

The right wing libertarians always advocate for "small government," but are just as quick to condemn unions and strikes. It's all fair in the open market, but if you try to push back against the boss suddenly we've got a police state.

Stripping away social security and protections for labour aren't going to create liberty, they're going to stratify power even more.

A genuine "libertarian" would be advocating for new, less heirarchical systems to ensure that we keep our freedom.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:33 AM on February 13, 2012 [11 favorites]


I've been plenty of places without police around, and I survived because everyone I was with had internal governance, as you aptly put it.

The law of the land, the external governance, couldn't have protected me from violence at all.

You don't have to be way out in the country for this to be the case, either.


Can't believe I'm being drawn into this, but . . .

Theoretically, the possibility of prosecution also prevents your companions from doing anything they please. Do you really think you're Mad Max for spending a night outside (probably on government owned property) .

Am I missing the sarcasm? I haven't had any coffee yet.
posted by Think_Long at 8:33 AM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Theoretically, the possibility of prosecution also prevents your companions from doing anything they please.

I don't think that the possibility of prosecution is what keeps people from doing bad things.

Would you do something you really thought was wrong, even if you had every reason to believe you would get away with it?
posted by edguardo at 8:37 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


You posted a website linked from a popup ad on YouTube to the front page of Metafilter?
posted by eustacescrubb at 8:40 AM on February 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


I don't think that the possibility of prosecution is what keeps people from doing bad things.

Not everyone and not everything. But there are plenty of things where only regulation keeps it working. Consider anything where the local effect is so tiny as to be unnoticeable but the global effect is huge, like pollution or poisonous ingredients (lead paint, etc). Most people doing/using those things are never even going to know what's wrong and if they did, "eh, what's one more little puff of smoke".
posted by DU at 8:40 AM on February 13, 2012


edguardo: First off, that assumes that the person in question accurately recognizes the goodness/wrongness of the act in question. Second, it happens all the time.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:41 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's a good Ratatat song! I've found that Wildcat has made its way onto many mixes I've made; particularly for nighttime driving, it's just wonderful.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:41 AM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's all fair in the open market, but if you try to push back against the boss suddenly we've got a police state.

I hate how metafilter in particular, and liberals/progressives in general, insist on engaging with the worst, most stereotyped form of their opponents' arguments. I know, snark is the currency of the internet, conservatives are worse etc. etc. but it just gets so boring.

To answer your question as to this alleged inconsistency, libertarians (correctly, I think) surmise that unions are untenable without government support. There is plenty of evidence for this; in Europe unions are very well integrated with the state, and here, one of the primary non-macroeconomic causes for the decline of unionization was the reversal of pro-union legislation by Republicans in the 1980s.

Economically, unionization functions as a transfer from rentiers to the middle class, and you can be for or against that, but if your first principles are noninterference and noncoercion, you very logically won't like unions.
posted by downing street memo at 8:43 AM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't think that the possibility of prosecution is what keeps people from doing bad things.

This argument is so abstract as to be completely useless. "People" are a surprisingly diverse bunch who tend not to think and behave uniformly like objects in a theoretical abstract model.

What's the old saying? He who generalizes is an idiot?

I don't believe in anarchism/libertarianism simply because I've seen no evidence it can exist for long. Usually what people describe as "non-hierarchical" systems of organization are really just different kinds of hierarchical ordering. Even if it's just peer pressure that keeps the whole thing organized, well, then, there you've got great big papa peer pressure squatting on your chest all day. Unless you're a sociopath, in which case, you'll just exploit your lack of self-imposed moral constraints to cheat like crazy at the expense of everyone else.

Even in Libertarian fantasy land, I assume lenders will have the right to dictate the terms of money they lend?

Well, if so, there you go: you've got a rule-making hierarchy with capitalists on top.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:45 AM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]



To answer your question as to this alleged inconsistency, libertarians (correctly, I think) surmise that unions are untenable without government support. There is plenty of evidence for this; in Europe unions are very well integrated with the state, and here, one of the primary non-macroeconomic causes for the decline of unionization was the reversal of pro-union legislation by Republicans in the 1980s.


Yeah, unions gained traction as they gained support through legislation. Because the cops have always there to tell the workers go back to work through genuine coercion, or to clear them out to get scabs through the picket line.

Unions require government support because the employers already have government support.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:46 AM on February 13, 2012 [25 favorites]


What's the old saying? He who generalizes is an idiot?

My personal favorite is "Death to all extremists!"
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:46 AM on February 13, 2012


I watched exactly one video on that site, Don Boudreaux's response to Robert Reich's claims on wage growth over the last 30 years, and it's so intellectually bankrupt I don't even know where to begin.

I'll take on the most bizarro claim; that the qualitative betterment of goods and service over time is not calculated over time and therefore is an unrealized benefit to consumers, and therefore should be considered when discussing wages...what you buy is better today than it was yesterday, so we shouldn't feel so bad about only receiving a 10% real wage boost in the last 30 years because it buys us better stuff.

Let's spin that around; the workforce as a whole is significantly more educated, innovative and produces more per capita now than it did 30 years ago by a long shot. This also isn't attributed when calculating average wages (the quality of the labour you're buying...same basic theory) and if it was, it would show that pay, adjusted for expertise and production, has been vastly, vastly under compensated versus its real worth.

So you can't really say that consumers are getting a pretty awesome deal because TVs are better unless you also acknowledge that employers are getting a pretty amazing deal because the labour they're purchasing is vastly improved upon. When you introduce that variable, suddenly a 10% wage growth doesn't seem so hot when you consider that 2/3 of the workforce has some post-secondary education now.

Plus, his analogy of the kids is a little weird; what's actually happened is that we've added some babies who bring the average down, however one of our kids has gigantism and is 40 feet tall today and is being fed 5 times as much food as the others, so he's growing faster still.

The average problem still exists, but not for the reason he suggests, and he doesn't even acknowledge that a median helps to educate us on what's happening with the average anyways.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 8:47 AM on February 13, 2012 [11 favorites]


libertarians (correctly, I think) surmise that unions are untenable without government support.

Piffle. A union can just walk out. When the company hires scabs, the unions block the doors. Company goes under.

Or do you mean unions require the government to support the bosses a little less? I.e., don't use the police and military to break unions?
posted by DU at 8:49 AM on February 13, 2012 [11 favorites]


Through strongest-gets-to-surf brawls and gang beatdowns of regular people who just want to use the beach? That the group with the least principled, most violent members gets everything, and the worst of them treated like kings?

I think we just wrote the pitch for the sequel to Point Break.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:50 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think we just wrote the pitch for the sequel to Point Break.

Point Breaking Bad?
posted by mullicious at 8:53 AM on February 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Most people doing/using those things are never even going to know what's wrong and if they did, "eh, what's one more little puff of smoke".

That is indeed a problem.

But if we decide that "most people are never going to know," even granted an ideal public education system, then it seems that we are morally obligated to give the appropriate power to those who do know and can decide well, right?

Yet, if most people do not know or decide well, can we trust the voters in a democracy to get power into the right hands?
posted by edguardo at 8:57 AM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, unions gained traction as they gained support through legislation. Because the cops have always there to tell the workers go back to work through genuine coercion, or to clear them out to get scabs through the picket line.

Unions require government support because the employers already have government support.


I mean, look, I'm not defending the whole of the libertarian worldview here, even though some of my thinking is in line with it. I think intellectually honest libertarians would prefer a world with as little government and employer support as possible, but I recognize that in practice the tribalism of politics often leads libertarians to side with "pro-business" conservatives (although that has declined, I think, in the last five years or so).

I also think that, to your specific examples, honest libertarians would object to state-to-labor coercion to return to work, but also to labor-to-corporation coercion in blocking scabs.
posted by downing street memo at 8:58 AM on February 13, 2012


I guess the other weird thing about Ratatat (and this was actually touched on in a YouTube comment on the linked vid, oddly enough), is that many of the songs are extremely catchy, and I often find that I'd like to sing along to them. But how does one? It's a lot of swooshy beeps and transformers-noise percussion. Ultimately, it sounds like you're just trying to a groovy robot impression if you're singing it while walking down the street.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:08 AM on February 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Rodrigo Lamaitre: “I watched exactly one video on that site, Don Boudreaux's response to Robert Reich's claims on wage growth over the last 30 years, and it's so intellectually bankrupt I don't even know where to begin. I'll take on the most bizarro claim; that the qualitative betterment of goods and service over time is not calculated over time and therefore is an unrealized benefit to consumers, and therefore should be considered when discussing wages...what you buy is better today than it was yesterday, so we shouldn't feel so bad about only receiving a 10% real wage boost in the last 30 years because it buys us better stuff... you can't really say that consumers are getting a pretty awesome deal because TVs are better unless you also acknowledge that employers are getting a pretty amazing deal because the labour they're purchasing is vastly improved upon.”

Those are good points against Boudreaux's silly claim that goods and services are 'better' now; one more is that the improvement of the quality of goods and services is simply much more limited than he lets on. Televisions are much higher-quality, yes. But everything that pretty much matters is not, and moreover is almost overwhelmingly subject to a higher inflation than society at large. Things like food and housing are just food and housing – you can't say that food feeds us better or that housing houses us better than it did thirty years ago. And both food and housing have been subject to much higher inflation than the average rate of inflation; so even if pay does increase, it's likely that actual people can't afford food and housing as easily as they did a few decades ago.
posted by koeselitz at 9:09 AM on February 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


Would you do something you really thought was wrong, even if you had every reason to believe you would get away with it?

Since people already do things they think are wrong with reason to believe they might get caught, I don't see how removing that "might" would help.

More importantly, people tend not to care if something is "right" or "wrong" if it benefits themselves.
posted by spaltavian at 9:10 AM on February 13, 2012


There was a short period of time around 2004 wherein I saw Ratatat three times in about three months. The first time I went to see them, specifically. The second two times they opened for bands (Radio 4 and Clinic, I think) I was planning to go see. Their set was exactly the same each time. They were also trying to get the audience to buy them drinks, and no one did.
posted by griphus at 9:11 AM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


and it's so intellectually bankrupt I don't even know where to begin.

The only basic difference between prostitution and think-tank work is the kind of service being performed. Basically, think tanks are like brothels for plausibly intellectual-seeming people who are willing to engage in being "intellectual" for money. So intellectual honesty and integrity probably factor into that kind of work about as much as faithfulness and sincerity factor into the sex trade (which is of course to say they are liabilities).
posted by saulgoodman at 9:18 AM on February 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm always hesitant to out myself as a member of this community's maligned libertarian preterite, but here goes:

I attended several seminars sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies in college. I was even a "Charles G. Koch Fellow" one summer. (Let the hate flow through you).

Without exception, the atmosphere at IHS was one of remarkable intellectual integrity. Their events brought together scholars who have earned respect for their academic achievements and not just their political beliefs, who expected us to challenge their arguments and treated disagreements with great generosity. It was an environment more open to inquiry and the honest and courteous exploration of ideas than many of the classes at my university (and certainly MetaFilter!). Believe it or not, there is great diversity of opinion among those who sympathize with libertarianism. I met no libertarian cartoons of the sort that pop up so often on this site.

This is not always the case with libertarian organizations, and the decency and rigor of IHS earned my respect. To be fair, I haven't yet watched the YouTube videos, and I don't know if they meet the standard of the events I attended.

You may now continue your scheduled snarking about Somalia.
posted by ecmendenhall at 9:19 AM on February 13, 2012 [19 favorites]


I'll take on the most bizarro claim; that the qualitative betterment of goods and service over time is not calculated over time and therefore is an unrealized benefit to consumers

Does he really say that? If so, the silliest, most wrongest part of his argument isn't the way that it's not very useful. It's that CPI inflation data *do* include those hedonic adjustments.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:20 AM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wasn't asking a rhetorical question, by the way.

I am asking you personally—Think_Long, DU, rmd1023, saulgoodman, spaltavian, and anyone else—if you would knowingly do something you thought was wrong, even in the absence of possible punishment.
posted by edguardo at 9:20 AM on February 13, 2012


This thread is so like high school. Officially it's about simplistic "taxes is are icky" indoctrination, so the best thing to do is enjoy the weird music.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:24 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I knowingly do something I think is wrong all the time, due to the absense of possible punishment: I drive over the speed limit.
posted by muddgirl at 9:29 AM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I drive over the speed limit.

Why do you think that is wrong to do?
posted by edguardo at 9:30 AM on February 13, 2012


I was even a "Charles G. Koch Fellow" one summer.
ecmendenhall

Can you expand a little on what this entailed?

I met no libertarian cartoons of the sort that pop up so often on this site.
It's not "this site". The "cartoons" are the kinds of libertarians I, and many here, have encountered in general online and in real life. I've only met one self-identified libertarian whose views were actually grounded in philosophical objections to violence and were not just a cover for being pro-business/a virulent contempt for the poor.

You may now continue your scheduled snarking about Somalia.
ecmendenhall

I take it the Von Mises Institute is not one of the libertarian organizations you respect? Because that snark comes from an amusing Von Mises piece about how Somalia is a libertarian model.


I wasn't asking a rhetorical question, by the way.

I am asking you personally—Think_Long, DU, rmd1023, saulgoodman, spaltavian, and anyone else—if you would knowingly do something you thought was wrong, even in the absence of possible punishment.

dguardo

Why? The issue at hand isn't what some particular users do. It's an argument about social order and general behavior.
posted by Sangermaine at 9:31 AM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


It was an environment more open to inquiry and the honest and courteous exploration of ideas than many of the classes at my university (and certainly MetaFilter!).

As a libertarian-leaning progressive, this has been my experience with the vast majority of that community, too. Certainly, there was very little in the way of the personal insults thrown around in this thread.
posted by downing street memo at 9:31 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Greece: Socialist Paradise.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 9:31 AM on February 13, 2012


@ecmendenhall

Despite having loud opinions and a recent accusation of painting with broad strokes, I honestly do enjoy debating this crap and sorting it all out, why else would we be doing this? I'd hope that you and your libertarian ilk wouldn't feel pressured to stay silent on political debates. I'm all for honest debate.
posted by Stagger Lee at 9:32 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


libertarians (correctly, I think) surmise that unions are untenable without government support. There is plenty of evidence for this; in Europe unions are very well integrated with the state, and here, one of the primary non-macroeconomic causes for the decline of unionization was the reversal of pro-union legislation by Republicans in the 1980s.

It's an slightly interesting inductive arguments, but a pretty sweeping conclusion from a limited experiment, and it doesn't seem to settle well with deductive thinking, from which perspective it'd seem that unions are precisely as tenable or untenable without the state as any other form of collective. If unions are untenable, then so are coops and corporations.

(And if libertarians are taking the inductive rather than deductive angle here, I guess we're not talking about austrians, right?)

I suspect the state angle has more to do with which institutions the state decides are more generally beneficial and facilitates rather than which ones are possible.

Economically, unionization functions as a transfer from rentiers to the middle class

I'd think in a competitive market, the transfer would be from capital to labor, clearing only if both had optimized their contributions for their draws.

if your first principles are noninterference and noncoercion

I pretty much think anybody who actually believes in an overriding hierarchy in which a given "first" principle always takes precedence -- rather than a reality which as far as I can tell often consists of tension in a network of good principles -- is going to be crippled philosophically. But as far as I can tell, the strain of libertarianism most commonly active can't possible believe in principles of noninterference and noncoercion -- either that, or there's a blind spot to private power and the nature of economic coercion.
posted by weston at 9:33 AM on February 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


Why? The issue at hand isn't what some particular users do. It's an argument about social order and general behavior.

Because I'm planning a camping trip.
posted by edguardo at 9:33 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am asking you personally—Think_Long, DU, rmd1023, saulgoodman, spaltavian, and anyone else—if you would knowingly do something you thought was wrong, even in the absence of possible punishment.

What you're asking is "Will you be willing to say that you forsee yourself doing wrong things?" People don't see themselves as bad, so they won't forsee themselves doing bad things. Even AFTER people do bad things, they rationalize it as if they hadn't done anything wrong. So asking someone "Would you knowingly do something you thought was wrong" is a worthless question. If your argument depends on an answer to that question, you've lost already.

It is much better to look at aggregate human behavior in the past for clues on how people would behave. It's not perfect, but it beats ASKING them.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 9:34 AM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


if you would knowingly do something you thought was wrong, even in the absence of possible punishment.

Of course, in most cases, barring any other external/internal influences, I wouldn't do something I personally thought was wrong: but that's tautological. If I thought it was wrong, why would I do it?

On the other hand, if I were under the influence of an addiction or other medical constraint, or were coerced by someone else (say, if someone threatened to deprive me of my ability to support myself and my family), then yes, I might even do something I considered wrong--within bounds. There are some bright moral lines I wouldn't cross, but in fact, I have had to do things I personally consider wrong. Everyone I know who has a professional career will usually admit they've had to do things they didn't morally agree with.

What's your point?
posted by saulgoodman at 9:34 AM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


BTW, the bit about think tankers being like prostitutes isn't just a throwaway insult. It's also an honest attempt to characterize what I think the underlying economic power relations in that particular service arrangement are. But then, I honestly do believe private think tanks are an intellectually corrupting influence on culture and society.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:37 AM on February 13, 2012


there's a blind spot to private power and the nature of economic coercion.

Probably the biggest problem with libertarianism, in general, and the reason I identify myself as a libertarian-leaning progressive instead of a progressive-leaning libertarian. But I'm hard-pressed to think of any political philosophy without blind spots.
posted by downing street memo at 9:39 AM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


It is much better to look at aggregate human behavior in the past for clues on how people would behave. It's not perfect, but it beats ASKING them.

I don't know. Among the reasons that looking at models of aggregate human behavior isn't perfect is because it allows us to generalize so irresponsibly about what we can and can't trust our neighbors to do, and cultivates a culture of fear and stereotyping.

What's your point?

You made it for me. People do bad things when not in their right minds, when in great pain, or under coercion.

I don't think it's fair to pass judgment on strangers regarding what they would and would not do. It seems, more often than not, to amount to deciding that they are not good people.

But sure enough, those really bad people are hard to actually meet, although we frame our political discourse as if they make up the majority of the population.
posted by edguardo at 9:39 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


If I thought it was wrong, why would I do it?

Because it's super fun!
posted by Greg Nog at 9:39 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why do you think that is wrong to do?

Really? I actually studied traffic engineering in school, so maybe I'm more knowledgeable than most, but I thought the dangers of speeding were well-known.

In a majority of areas in the US, speed limits are chosen for the safety of drivers, the safety of pedestrians, and to decrease long-term costs to individual drivers and to general infrastructure. By driving over the speed limit, I am endangering other driver as well as pedestrians because my reaction time is fixed and I can't 'make up' for the increase in car speed.

Of course breaking the speed limit is safer on some roads than on others, but I habitually drive 5-10 miles over the speed limit, regardless of road condition, even though I know it's ethically wrong to endager myself and others for convenience. The reason I do this is because the consequences (accidents, tickets) are far removed from the negative action itself.

Government of all kinds can be very adept and making consequences more immediate - indeed, I think this is one reason that people are anti-government.
posted by muddgirl at 9:40 AM on February 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


Because it's super fun!

But if it's that wrong, then it has to be right!
posted by saulgoodman at 9:41 AM on February 13, 2012


if you would knowingly do something you thought was wrong, even in the absence of possible punishment.

I have. I have stolen, cheated, lied, driven over the speed limit and vandalized property. I knew these actions were wrong (in the sense of being unethically and could cause harm to others) before I did them, while I did them and after I did them. I did them because at the time I perceived the benefit to me as more important than any harm I thought the actions would cause.
posted by nooneyouknow at 9:42 AM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've only met one self-identified libertarian whose views were actually grounded in philosophical objections to violence and were not just a cover for being pro-business/a virulent contempt for the poor.

How many should there be? Half? Do they all have to agree?
posted by michaelh at 9:43 AM on February 13, 2012


Things like food and housing are just food and housing – you can't say that food feeds us better or that housing houses us better than it did thirty years ago.

Err, yea I can.

Can't say for food specifically (although I do note there are tons more varieties of everything from fresh fruits to specialty foods available to me now. All at nominal costs), but you might want to peruse the UBC from 30 years ago. Everything from methods to durability to structural integrity to maintenance costs have improved dramatically in the past 30 years. You are indeed housed better than you were 30 years ago (although given the current housing bubble, it is difficult to say at a better cost).
posted by quintessencesluglord at 9:43 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


By driving over the speed limit, I am endangering other driver as well as pedestrians because my reaction time is fixed and I can't 'make up' for the increase in car speed.

Of course breaking the speed limit is safer on some roads than on others, but I habitually drive 5-10 miles over the speed limit, regardless of road condition, even though I know it's ethically wrong to endager myself and others for convenience. The reason I do this is because the consequences (accidents, tickets) are far removed from the negative action itself.


But you wouldn't drive, say, 30 miles over the speed limit? Is this because you'd more likely get caught, or because it would more likely hurt someone?

I think you probably drive a speed you consider reasonably safe, and therefore, not a speed you actually consider morally wrong.

I think if you really thought it was wrong, you wouldn't do it, except under circumstances such as those that saulgoodman mentions.
posted by edguardo at 9:44 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think the biggest fallaacy that Libertarians (but not only the Libertarians) make is that the "market" somehow organically arises and that the government (or more precisely politics) is grafted upon the market, causing inefficiencies in the market, which is supposedly more fundamental.

In reality, IMHO, markets and poltics are inextricably intertwined, so it makes no sense to talk about markets without politics. And far from distorting markets outcomes, governmental policy helps determine market outcomes ab initio.

And I've never heard from Libertarians a good explanation of how to deal with things like negative externalities without government action. (At least from simplistic Internet Libertarians; I don't want to strawman them.)
posted by JKevinKing at 9:44 AM on February 13, 2012 [11 favorites]


I have. I have stolen, cheated, lied, driven over the speed limit and vandalized property. I knew these actions were wrong (in the sense of being unethically and could cause harm to others) before I did them, while I did them and after I did them. I did them because at the time I perceived the benefit to me as more important than any harm I thought the actions would cause.

Were you right? Were those actions really more beneficial to you than they were harmful?
posted by edguardo at 9:45 AM on February 13, 2012


I don't think it's fair to pass judgment on strangers regarding what they would and would not do. It seems, more often than not, to amount to deciding that they are not good people

There are reasons why people do things we regard as "bad", and they have nothing to do with the "quality" of a person. The reason why you aren't meeting "bad" people is because they don't exist. But there are plenty of just plain people who sometimes do bad things, and other times do good things. Don't assume people who disagree with you hold a comical view of human nature.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 9:46 AM on February 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


How many should there be? Half? Do they all have to agree?
michaelh

If you're trying to argue that not all libertarians are Randroids/Austrians, then yes, more than one who isn't might help support the point. Perhaps a few who aren't pro-liberty for business but absolutely opposed to, say, labor organizing.

But I'm hard-pressed to think of any political philosophy without blind spots.
downing street memo

This is true, but the problem is especially pronounced with libertarianism (and most especially with the anarcho-capitalist strain) is that this blind spot essentially forms the core of the ideology, that state power is the only problem and is all that needs to be dealt with.
posted by Sangermaine at 9:47 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think you probably drive a speed you consider reasonably safe, and therefore, not a speed you actually consider morally wrong.

I think if you really thought it was wrong, you wouldn't do it, except under circumstances such as those that saulgoodman mentions.


This is circular.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 9:47 AM on February 13, 2012


Well put, JKevinKing. That's exactly how I see it, too.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:47 AM on February 13, 2012


But you wouldn't drive, say, 30 miles over the speed limit?

I have indeed driven 30 miles over the speed limit.
posted by muddgirl at 9:49 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Because I'm planning a camping trip.

Stop being disingenuous. We are not going on a camping trip. We are living on a planet choc-a-bloc full of human beings, who have been proven to act poorly from time to time. You don't get to invite only the people you think are nice.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:49 AM on February 13, 2012 [10 favorites]


In my 'defense,' I-5 through California's central valleys is really REALLY boring, and there are never cops.
posted by muddgirl at 9:50 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


We are not going on a camping trip.
posted by griphus at 9:51 AM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


If you're trying to argue that not all libertarians are Randroids/Austrians, then yes, more than one who isn't might help support the point. Perhaps a few who aren't pro-liberty for business but absolutely opposed to, say, labor organizing.

I can think of several.
posted by michaelh at 9:51 AM on February 13, 2012


Suck it trees, you should have asserted your private property rights.

Well, that's a different reading of The Giving Tree.
posted by Apropos of Something at 9:52 AM on February 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yep, off the top of my head, I can think of five or six non-randian libertarians, including ones that write for public consumption. That's the danger of nutpicking and arguing against strawmen; you never get to critically examine your own beliefs.
posted by downing street memo at 9:53 AM on February 13, 2012


Don't assume people who disagree with you hold a comical view of human nature.

Not everyone who disagrees with me holds a comical view of human nature, but everyone who holds a comical view of human nature I disagree with.

This is circular.

Let's hammer it out flatter, then:

Assumption: nobody wants to be, or be seen as, a bad or unjust person.

A is somebody.
B is an action.
C is the knowledge that, if they did action B, it would justify anyone thinking of them as a bad or unjust person.

Therefore, A will not perform B while in the possession of C.
posted by edguardo at 9:57 AM on February 13, 2012


As can I. I was just saying that the people who call themselves libertarians I most often encounter online and in real life fall into or near that camp.

I think one issue here is how people are using "libertarian". Though there is a strong tradition of left-libertarianism, in the US, at least, the term most often refers to those of the anarcho-capitalist persuasion.
posted by Sangermaine at 9:59 AM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wait, I think he's linking to the site unironically guys. Hmm. This doesn't seem like really that great a post.

I hate how metafilter in particular, and liberals/progressives in general, insist on engaging with the worst, most stereotyped form of their opponents' arguments. I know, snark is the currency of the internet, conservatives are worse etc. etc. but it just gets so boring.

SCOFF. Yeah, like the conservatives/libertarians are better somehow! You won't find anywhere on the internet where people from the two sides sometimes try to talk to each other more than here, which might not be saying much but at least people try some engaging once in a while.. Please take your stereotyping of Metafilter members elsewhere.

To answer your question as to this alleged inconsistency, libertarians (correctly, I think) surmise that unions are untenable without government support. There is plenty of evidence for this

EXTRA SCOFF. You're going to need to bring more of that evidence rather than relying just on your say-so.

This website is nothing more than propaganda dressed up to look respectable in the hopes of fooling people into thinking it's anything more than shilling for the wealthy. The Khan Academy is one of the most amazing and wonderful learning projects I've ever seen in the same way Wikipedia hit the scene, it came directly out of nowhere and is making the lives of countless people, many of them not American, substantively better. LearnLiberty is riding on its coattails to try to push an odious agenda bought and paid for by one of the foremost Republican puppetmasters, and the things it "teaches" doesn't even make sense to people not in the U.S.

I flipped through the video list a bit. I saw three on Occupy Wall Street on the first page, I didn't watch them but I think I have a pretty good idea what the thrusts of those would be. I did find one on The Tragedy of the Commons, which I figured would be interesting because that's one of those things that typically gets brought out to explain exactly why we need regulation, to prevent individual interests from consuming all the resources to the determent of all.

The video's suggestion is, basically, to take the communal property and find some way to sell it to the individual actors, which basically means, give up! Let those with the most resources have what they want! It argues that, since they own the resource in question, they will work towards trying to preserve it -- tactically failing to mention that this only optimizes towards their specific economic uses of the resource to the exclusion of all others, and that it privileges current actors over any that might want to exist in the future.

It then uses its whimsical felt cutout art style to present a rather ridiculous example involving a forest ranger inventing a device that provides a new way to fight forest fires not being rewarded for it, because forest rangers are all about hydrodynamics I guess.

I think what this site proves, above anything else, is that the Koch brothers' noise machine is listening and adaptive and, recognizing that most people are not discerning in their choice of what to believe and just go with whatever seems the most respectable, constantly work to lower the perceived difference between their ideology and that of anything not of it. The Khan Academy is gaining positive buzz for doing good, real work? Let's ride its coattails and try to get some of our agenda propagated to people who can't tell the difference between them and us!
posted by JHarris at 10:00 AM on February 13, 2012 [19 favorites]


Why? The issue at hand isn't what some particular users do. It's an argument about social order and general behavior.
----
Because I'm planning a camping trip.


I'm also planning on your camping trip. ::fetches hockey mask, machete, Cato Institute t-shirt::
posted by FatherDagon at 10:00 AM on February 13, 2012


A is somebody.
B is an action.
C is the knowledge that, if they did action B, it would justify anyone thinking of them as a bad or unjust person.


You're assuming that the worst consequence of B is C, whereas in fact the consequences of B is death, destruction, poverty, ie the entire reason the law would exist in the first place.
posted by Think_Long at 10:01 AM on February 13, 2012


Someone here on the blue once linked to the Anarchist FAQ, in a deleted OWS thread IIRC, and I've reading bits of it every now and then. While I'm not sure if I'd consider myself an an anarchist now, the fact is that everytime I see someone saying "libertarian" or "anarchist" when referring to extreme-right free-market supporters (and I've certainly been guilty of that) I feel the urge to link to this post by actual libertarian Iain McKay. Pedantry over.
posted by Bangaioh at 10:03 AM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


edguardo,

I see that you are a fan of Aristotle! ;)

I'm not sure that intentional harm is necessarily the issue, even Libertarians seem to recognize the necessity of police.

I think the issue is that an action done by an individual, even if that action is not intended to do harm, can cause harm in the aggregate.

For instance, it's prudent for individuals and businesses to increase savings during times of economic uncertainty. But if all individuals so so, general business activity will fall causing more uncertainty.

I believe it is part of the role of a government to counteract such situations.
posted by JKevinKing at 10:04 AM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


But sure enough, those really bad people are hard to actually meet, although we frame our political discourse as if they make up the majority of the population.

Framing it in terms of bad people and doing wrong things is kind of missing the overall point of why and government and laws enforced by that government exist. Legal systems fundamentally perform the function of resolving disputes between people. Without a government to regulate things like land ownership, business contracts, etc. an ad hoc set of laws and regulations will form in its place (you can see this in things like illegal drug trade or other similar situations where official government legal systems do not provide regulation). In a hypothetical camping trip, the government oversight around those sorts of things are always present even though they might not be visible, in that the land you camp on is regulated property, the stores you buy camping gear are regulated, and various other systems exist that regulate interactions between people.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:04 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


As can I. I was just saying that the people who call themselves libertarians I most often encounter online and in real life fall into or near that camp.

I think one issue here is how people are using "libertarian". Though there is a strong tradition of left-libertarianism, in the US, at least, the term most often refers to those of the anarcho-capitalist persuasion.


You said you had only met one. Now you can think of several? If you are using headcount of a sub-group as a reason to disagree with a group, you need to be right. That's why I originally asked how many you thought should not be Randians.
posted by michaelh at 10:05 AM on February 13, 2012


A will not perform B while in the possession of C.

Like hell I won't!
posted by Greg Nog at 10:10 AM on February 13, 2012


Wait, I think he's linking to the site unironically guys. Hmm. This doesn't seem like really that great a post.

I'm sorry you don't like it. Thank you for composing a thoughtful comment, though; it is the kind of stuff I was hoping to read in response to this.

I see that you are a fan of Aristotle!

What gave me away?

Also, I think that anarchism and libertarianism have a serious problem dealing with exactly what you mention, and what others have mentioned upthread: the "tyranny of small decisions." It seems like, on that scale, people just can't be trusted. I'd like to be wrong about that, but I see people litter all the damn time.

You're assuming that the worst consequence of B is C, whereas in fact the consequences of B is death, destruction, poverty, ie the entire reason the law would exist in the first place.

You mean, the consequences of B for whoever does B? Or for someone else?

I meant to imply the consequences for whoever does B.
posted by edguardo at 10:12 AM on February 13, 2012


I think Libertarianism is - at its core - a utopian philosophy. If everyone acts rationally and nobody violates anyone else's property rights and all people act rightly, then everything will be great without the need for any governmental interference!

The problem is that some people can't agree on what constitutes their property rights, or what actions are rational and what actions are correct or incorrect in a situation. People are messy, flawed, and chaotic beings that are far better at rationalizing than at being rational.
posted by rmd1023 at 10:12 AM on February 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


Not everyone who disagrees with me holds a comical view of human nature, but everyone who holds a comical view of human nature I disagree with.

Your statement is incredibly egocentric. I'm sure you are the perfect judge of who holds comical beliefs.

The beginning of wisdom is in self-examination, in asking one's self this: Are the beliefs that I was raised with true and accurate? How would I know if they are? What should they be?

Any person who has never asked themselves these questions is suspect. No one is exempt. Everyone must look at what they believe to be true and decide, honestly, if it's really right or not.

Few people do this, and many of those that do do a shoddy job of it, looking at what they already believe and giving it a free pass because of things they think are obvious*. Some people who have not done this will tell you they have.

I tell you, a lot of things that look obvious at first glance are in fact not. When you look hard at the world, situations that look easy to make decisions about from a distance fracture and skitter around, and often refuse to obey simple paradigms.

(* It could be argued that it's actually impossible to competently examine our own beliefs, that there's always some aspect of them that relies on prior assumptions, that there are limits to how far outside onesself one can step in self examination. Yes, but the effort should be made anyway.)
posted by JHarris at 10:14 AM on February 13, 2012 [9 favorites]


You won't find anywhere on the internet where people from the two sides sometimes try to talk to each other more than here

I love how this is one of the central thrusts of a post full of nasty invective about those with different ideologies, featuring, for extra good measure, a Big Bad Wolf in the form of the dread Koch brothers.
posted by downing street memo at 10:14 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


edguardo: if you don't see that your thought experiment merely replaces one form of consequences dished out by third parties with another -- replacing "getting caught" with "being thought of poorly" -- you're probably inadequately equipped to philosophize on these kinds of topics. I mean this with all due respect.
posted by hoople at 10:15 AM on February 13, 2012


rmd1023: do you think some people are capable of being more rational than others?

If libertarianism is really unrealistic, and someone is always going to tell other people what to do, shouldn't it be the rational ones telling the irrational ones what to do?

It seems that way to me, but I don't know how to make that happen.

If you don't see that your thought experiment merely replaces one form of consequences dished out by third parties with another -- replacing "getting caught" with "being thought of poorly" -- you're probably inadequately equipped to philosophize on these kinds of topics. I mean this with all due respect.

Okay, there are consequences either way. Is one kind of consequence better?

It seems like actually being a bad person is worse than just being thought of as one, come to think of it. There are certainly some reputations I'd rather have than live up to.
posted by edguardo at 10:18 AM on February 13, 2012


Assumption: nobody wants to be, or be seen as, a bad or unjust person.

Counterpoint: Vikings will steal your shit, kill your sons, and sing a song about how awesome how it was.
posted by Winnemac at 10:19 AM on February 13, 2012 [15 favorites]


Sangermaine: I did policy research on fiber optic cables in Africa and privacy issues with electronic medical records for a small think tank. The program is designed to give undergrads some experience in the public policy world; I learned that I wasn't as interested in the public policy world as I thought. There were also lectures every few days and a seminar at the beginning and end. These were the part I enjoyed most, and were more academic.

My beliefs lie at the liberal side of the libertarian spectrum, informed mostly by Hayek. He just called himself a "liberal" and even believed in a basic income guarantee! The Mises Institute is at the other end, and people there have been responsible for some pretty ugly stuff in support of conservative fusionism and political influence (see: Ron Paul newsletters). They are not one of the organizations I respect, and they certainly don't represent the views of all libertarians.

Stagger Lee: Alright, come at me, bro! I've rather lost my stamina for internet arguing, but I'm trying to contribute more on MetaFilter, which is a community I like very much.
posted by ecmendenhall at 10:21 AM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Therefore, A will not perform B while in the possession of C.

Really? Tell it to the half-dozen or so drivers I encounter on my drive to work every morning, who act as though They Are The Most Important people on the road, and because of this, they can drive at unsafe speeds in less-than-ideal conditions (like this morning: rain, wet roads, heavy traffic, shitty visibility) - cutting people off, changing lanes abruptly without using the turn signal, etc. I was forced to honk at one gay - I almost never do, because what's the point? - when he tried to move into my lane at a point where I was actually using it. He flipped me off, cut off someone else, and roared away (for half a mile).

You think he cared other people thought badly of him? He did not.
posted by rtha at 10:21 AM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


You think he cared other people thought badly of him? He did not.

Well, do you think if they cared, then knowledge could make them better drivers?

I mean, if you don't care about being a good person or anything, then I don't think education or awareness or consciousness-raising or whatever you wanna try can help.
posted by edguardo at 10:25 AM on February 13, 2012


Surfers and campers behave very, very differently with regard to surfing and camping than people in general do with their livelihoods in massive, industrialized societies. Why on earth would surfers finding waves be a good point of comparison? Why not pick examples from real life, where government regulation was sufficient, insufficient, well-executed, poorly-executed, or a mix of everything?
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:25 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


rmd1023: do you think some people are capable of being more rational than others?

Not really. Everyone ends up rationalizing the decisions that they made unconsciously, and acting on hidden biases. It's biology. We can try and be aware of those things and adjust, but you still end up with crazy results because humans are all stupid. We all have giant blind spots.

The majority of people think they're above-average drivers. White conservative males don't just risk the same way as other people. People will swear up and down that they're not racist or sexist and still end up scoring papers from people of color and women differently than those from others.
posted by rmd1023 at 10:28 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I love how this is one of the central thrusts of a post full of nasty invective about those with different ideologies, featuring, for extra good measure, a Big Bad Wolf in the form of the dread Koch brothers.

Yeah, and I hate how I keep having to say these things over and over again every time the Koch brothers invent some new think tank or website dedicated to Telling The World The Way It Is yet again.

Have you, you, downing street memo, ever thought hard about what you believe in? Have you stopped to consider that the way you think the world works, the model upon which you base your decisions, might be grievously wrong? Have you thought about what the consequences might be if you are wrong? How do you know you aren't drowning in a sea of confirmation bias? How do you know that your preconceived notions don't flavor every sight and sound that touches your benighted brain?

I have tried to examine my own beliefs, to see if I could determine if they are valid or not. It resulted in rather a realignment of ideas for me some time ago. I'm not absolutely sure if what I now believe is accurate, but if it's not then at least I'm honestly wrong! And if I am honestly wrong, then at least I have a mechanism I can use to maybe someday become right. Surety is the solace of fools.
posted by JHarris at 10:28 AM on February 13, 2012 [9 favorites]


Well, do you think if they cared, then knowledge could make them better drivers?

I don't really get what your point is with this. Government regulation makes people "better" drivers in terms of making it easier for tons of people to use the same roadway. For example, street lights exist and are planned in order to make intersections more efficient, and there are standards like everyone driving on the right or left side of the road. If you go to places where none of these regulations exist, driving is much less efficient and organized because orderly driving just doesn't happen naturally. People internally deciding to "do the right thing" does not really help if there's not a clear overall framework of standards that is enforced.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:34 AM on February 13, 2012


Have you, you, downing street memo, ever thought hard about what you believe in? Have you stopped to consider that the way you think the world works, the model upon which you base your decisions, might be grievously wrong? Have you thought about what the consequences might be if you are wrong? How do you know you aren't drowning in a sea of confirmation bias? How do you know that your preconceived notions don't flavor every sight and sound that touches your benighted brain?

Yes.

And I'm not exactly sure where in this thread I've endowed myself the giver of all truth, but I guess it's the lot of strawmen to burn.
posted by downing street memo at 10:39 AM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


edguardo

No, people aren't (generally) going to do something they thing is wrong, even if they thought they could get away with it.

That said I don't think it's wrong when, some asshole sits out on my street at 5 in the morning honking his horn to let his friend know he's there to pick him up, for me to pepper his car with a paint ball gun from my balcony. Hell I'd probably say it's not wrong for me to smash his windshield with a baseball bat. Guess why I don't do that? I don't want to deal with the police, and doing that could likely be illegal. Not wrong, since wrong is a value call, but likely illegal.

Similarly if I caught a kid tagging store fronts in my neighborhood I don't think it's wrong for me to take the can away and smash his hand in a door. That would however be illegal, the trade off being what he is doing is also illegal and I can report him to the police. Absent a police force I'm slamming his fucking hand in a door.
posted by MrBobaFett at 10:41 AM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have tried to examine my own beliefs, to see if I could determine if they are valid or not. It resulted in rather a realignment of ideas for me some time ago. I'm not absolutely sure if what I now believe is accurate, but if it's not then at least I'm honestly wrong! And if I am honestly wrong, then at least I have a mechanism I can use to maybe someday become right. Surety is the solace of fools.

What would you think of someone who agreed with you now but hadn't examined that belief? Would you call them a fool? And what about someone who examined their beliefs and found they disagreed with you? Not a fool?
posted by michaelh at 10:44 AM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


I mean, if you don't care about being a good person or anything, then I don't think education or awareness or consciousness-raising or whatever you wanna try can help.

Let's see if they care about heavy fines and points on their license.

I don't need them to be a good person. I don't give a shit about that, honestly. I just want them to behave as if there are actually other people whose lives might be affected by their actions (like, getting killed by a guy like this? It might affect you), and if it's the Power of the Almighty State that brings that in cases like this, all good.

Or we can just do it the way some people do it anyway: don't like how someone is behaving on the road? Chase them down and shoot them, citizen!
posted by rtha at 10:45 AM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I love how this is one of the central thrusts of a post full of nasty invective about those with different ideologies, featuring, for extra good measure, a Big Bad Wolf in the form of the dread Koch brothers.
downing street memo

Skepticism where the Kochs are concerned is valid. They have been behind a lot of the anti-regulation/worker efforts of the last few decades. It's like when you encounter some site that ostensibly is about "reproductive health" which you discover is sponsored by "Christian Americans for Traditional Families" It makes you wonder.

You said you had only met one. Now you can think of several? If you are using headcount of a sub-group as a reason to disagree with a group, you need to be right. That's why I originally asked how many you thought should not be Randians.

michaelh


I think we are misunderstanding each other here, or you didn't see what I was initially responding to, which was that what many people here in the thread are attacking are "cartoon" versions of libertarianism.

My point was that these depictions get brought up because they are what we actually encounter among libertarians. I was saying that in my personal experience, these "strawmen" libertarians are the majority, though I do personally know one who isn't. So while I do know of thinkers who don't fit the mold, they don't seem to the ones most often encountered.
posted by Sangermaine at 10:48 AM on February 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Assumption: nobody wants to be, or be seen as, a bad or unjust person.

A is somebody.
B is an action.
C is the knowledge that, if they did action B, it would justify anyone thinking of them as a bad or unjust person.

Therefore, A will not perform B while in the possession of C.


Does not follow. The most basic problem (among others) here is that you go from a desire to an action, without a clear link. If people are not always rational or in possession of all facts (which is always the case), this breaks down. Also, we do many things that have consequences we don't prefer.

But maybe the WORST thing about it is that you think you've proven that no one does anything wrong on purpose. There is plenty of evidence to the contrary in the world. Even if this is true, who cares? Even accidental wrong, or wrong of which I am unaware or rationalize away, is bad. Are you going to claim that there is none of that in the world?
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 10:55 AM on February 13, 2012


Therefore, A will not perform B while in the possession of C.

Very apt case in point.

Less than a century ago, people routinely lynched african americans they thought had transgressed in some way, like say were disrespectful to a white woman. They thought they were doing the right thing and were not ashamed of it. Hell, people took pictures and celebrated what they were doing.

What people think is "the right thing" is often far from it.
posted by aspo at 11:03 AM on February 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


downing street memo: Yes.

Oh I see then. Then I'll let it pass with just this note: if someone actually turns out to be wrong in the end, no one pays a greater price for it than that person.
posted by JHarris at 11:04 AM on February 13, 2012


I think we are misunderstanding each other here, or you didn't see what I was initially responding to, which was that what many people here in the thread are attacking are "cartoon" versions of libertarianism.

Well, the website seems to present a cartoon version of libertarianism. It's a valid target. (I mean, it even uses cartoons!)
posted by JHarris at 11:08 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Even if this is true, who cares?

Doing something on purpose seems to me to mean that you are doing it deliberately, with knowledge of both your action and its consequences. Perhaps that is an idiosyncratic understanding of mine, but it forms the basis of my opinions expressed here.

If education regarding consequences (which seems to be a particular kind of knowledge) can prevent people from doing things that would cause harm, that seems significant to me.

But if the desire to be genuinely good, and to avoid doing wrong, can never override the desire to serve oneself at all costs, then education is pretty pointless.

If no amount of knowledge or education can stay the hand of a would-be murderer, or reckless driver, or rapist, or whatever, then we can only hope that harmful acts are, and continue to be, considered personally unprofitable by people who do not care about being good.

And perhaps that is exactly how it is.
posted by edguardo at 11:16 AM on February 13, 2012


The only basic difference between prostitution and think-tank work is the kind of service being performed.

Mmm... no, that was a throwaway insult. The only basic difference between prostitution and any other kind of work is the kind of service being performed.
posted by 2N2222 at 11:21 AM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


If no amount of knowledge or education can stay the hand of a would-be murderer, or reckless driver, or rapist, or whatever, then we can only hope that harmful acts are, and continue to be, considered personally unprofitable by people who do not care about being good.

How do you feel about things like being able to drink non bottled water?
posted by aspo at 11:24 AM on February 13, 2012


it's so intellectually bankrupt I don't even know where to begin.

I'm pretty sure the right filed for moral and intellectual chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and have been given an unlimited amount of time to try and organize their few thoughts into something more successful. With any bad luck the various flavors of rightwingnuttery will obtain supreme court personhood and gay marry into a single party at some point triggering the RonPaulocalypse before we have to bother paying for the next Fallout sequel. Or, given the current Prepublican primary status, this has already happened.
posted by srboisvert at 11:28 AM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Profit incentive, artificial scarcity, and commodication should probably be factored into any discussion of allowable freedoms and human behavior.

If you can reduce or eliminate some of those pressures, you may find that people spend less time stepping on each other.
posted by Stagger Lee at 11:28 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


How do you feel about things like being able to drink non bottled water?

I feel like nobody should have to buy water, and that natural sources of drinkable water should be kept clean.

So, uh, great, I guess.
posted by edguardo at 11:32 AM on February 13, 2012


This seems to have gotten buried somewhat, but the person who posted the FPP, edguardo, said upthread:

Anarchy is the absence of government. It is not the absence of order, or the presence of violence.

Yes, you're going to have to elaborate on this, as saulgoodman notes, it is not an obvious thing.

From your most recent comment: But if the desire to be genuinely good, and to avoid doing wrong, can never override the desire to serve oneself at all costs, then education is pretty pointless.

A flaw in your reasoning here is in assuming that we're talking about all wrongdoing. In real life, moral beliefs do prevent some bad behavior. Some people do want to be genuinely good, and some people are dissuaded from killing people because it's wrong.

And a problem with leaving the market to solve things is that it assumes that consumers, or whatever passes for them, have perfect information on the product, or "product." If something you eat gives you cancer, it's not usually possible to determine what exactly it was that caused it, so if some provider of food has substandard production that allows carcinogens into their product they are shielded from the negative effects from the uncertainty. You can have inspectors that go around and ensure quality, but if you want any hope that they won't be corruptable by short-term economic pressures, you basically have to go with some kind of government agency.
posted by JHarris at 11:34 AM on February 13, 2012


Most people care about not being seen as being bad people by *some* people. One big disconnect, however, is whose perception they care about. In the above example of lynching, the white folks didn't care if black folks thought they were bad people - they cared about being seen as good people by their immediate community, where lynching was considered a correct response to black people behaving like
posted by rmd1023 at 11:34 AM on February 13, 2012


If no amount of knowledge or education can stay the hand of a would-be murderer, or reckless driver, or rapist, or whatever, then we can only hope that harmful acts are, and continue to be, considered personally unprofitable by people who do not care about being good.

My sex ed teacher in 7th grade had us all chant, again and again, "Hope is not a method!"

And if harmful acts *are* in fact, personally profitable to people who don't care about being or being perceived as good, what recourse should there be? Chemicals poured into rivers until they caught fire - well, that technique was not considered personally unprofitable by the companies that did it, and so they did it. Do we just sit back and hope they decide to be good?
posted by rtha at 11:34 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sangermaine: I was saying that in my personal experience, these "strawmen" libertarians are the majority, though I do personally know one who isn't..

I can think of at least one who was kinda awesome. (Mentioned in the last paragraph for tl;dr prevention porpoises).
posted by titus-g at 11:34 AM on February 13, 2012


So how should people keep drinking water safe?
posted by aspo at 11:35 AM on February 13, 2012


I feel like nobody should have to buy water, and that natural sources of drinkable water should be kept clean.

No one will ever pollute water because free markets!

The fact that so many of us have clean drinking water is the result of government regulation, not despite it.
posted by JHarris at 11:36 AM on February 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm kind of conflicted about this conversation now, but my bottom line is that, while I think that most people are essentially moral (putting aside sociopaths, which we probably shouldn't), I also think that humans have a great capacity to rationalize their situation such that behavior which gets them a desired outcome is 'moral.'

So on one hand, I rebel against the idea that we need governance to keep us moral (after all, I am an atheist, and I manage to get through life without murder, pillage, and plunder despite my disbelief in cosmic justice). On the other hand, I recognize that I do curtail my behavior because I live in a society with consequences (and I'm not going to say 'government' here because I think it's a red herring - every society of humans has formed one kind of government or another, even if it's anarchic). I don't do drugs (even though their fun) because I could lose my job. I don't 'borrow' sweet cars because we live in a society which values private property. I pay for a common sewer rather than dumping my waste in the street where some other poor sod will have to deal with it.
posted by muddgirl at 11:38 AM on February 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


The actions of a small, homogenous population concerning a renewable resource are very different from those of a large, heterogenous population with a nonrenewable resource or a resource (or a resource that through inaction can become nonrenewable.)

Our country if a large, heterogenous population. Many resources are non renewable when being used at a large enough scale. People's lives are also non-renewable.
posted by aspo at 11:48 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


If education regarding consequences (which seems to be a particular kind of knowledge) can prevent people from doing things that would cause harm, that seems significant to me.

Education can indeed improve things, but it is much less effective than we'd like it to be. People aren't rational, and no amount of assuming they are, or wishing they are, will make them so. They can act in ways that are consistent with reason sometimes, but they are not rational.

But if the desire to be genuinely good, and to avoid doing wrong, can never override the desire to serve oneself at all costs, then education is pretty pointless.

What's with the black-and-white? Is anyone espousing this belief? People are complicated, and have many competing drives that their behavior attempts to satisfy. One's moral self-image is only one of these, and, in fact, one's moral self-image can be more easily built up by post-hoc rationalization than it can through changes in behavior. It is thus no surprise that sometimes other motivations win out over maintaining a spotless moral self-image.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 11:49 AM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


I was forced to honk at one gay - I almost never do, because what's the point? - when he tried to move into my lane at a point where I was actually using it.

Please don't use gay as an insult, rtha.

I'm totally kidding obviously, that was kind of a funny typo.

And wow did I ever misinterpret the purpose of this post. It's good to be presented with different worldviews every once and awhile though.
posted by ODiV at 11:50 AM on February 13, 2012


Is the Institute of Human Studies at all related to George Costanza's "The Human Fund." I'd like to imagine that their motto is "Money. For People."
posted by Saxon Kane at 11:50 AM on February 13, 2012


The fact that so many of us have clean drinking water is the result of government regulation, not despite it.

And the civilized state, or the corporations it supports, had no role in dirtying the drinking water in the first place?

Yes, you're going to have to elaborate on this, as saulgoodman notes, it is not an obvious thing.

It's been elaborated on by more eloquent writers than I. The anarchism wiki article is a good place to start.

And if harmful acts *are* in fact, personally profitable to people who don't care about being or being perceived as good, what recourse should there be? Chemicals poured into rivers until they caught fire - well, that technique was not considered personally unprofitable by the companies that did it, and so they did it. Do we just sit back and hope they decide to be good?

Well, if they won't listen to attempts to educate them, violence is the only thing left, isn't it?

I mean, sure, fines and such first, but if they don't pay? Violence.

If you can't teach someone to be good, even with fines and points on their license, well, you chase them down and shoot them, citizen. Or you have a violence professional, like a police officer, get their hands dirty for you.

I'm not ignorant of how this plays out in real life. What I respect about anarchism and libertarianism is that they take their opposition to violence very seriously, although both of them can put the cart before the horse, and sometimes enable greater harm to society through a reluctance to coerce than they would cause harm by cracking a few heads.

So I'd say that although it is always regrettable and never an optimal solution, violence is sometimes advisable.
posted by edguardo at 11:51 AM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Coercive hierarchical authority is not the only way to ensure peace and order. It takes a profound lack of imagination to think it could be.

You left out "at scale," and that's really where a lot of utopian ideals break down. Advocates of both communism and anarchism, for example, tend to point to small-scale success stories when confronted with the difficulties of scaling things to hundreds of thousands or even millions of people.

Totally non-coercive societies only work well when ejection is a viable option: "You don't like being a part of our society and the things we've agreed on? Awesome, go form your own." Unfortunately, in the last few years our planet has been explored and "claimed" to the point that there are not really any options for people who do not want to pick an existing society, or people who explicitly want to go form their own. Land is a finite resource and there is precious little of it available to people who want to go set up a new, fresh social contract.
posted by verb at 11:55 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Correction: I meant to say that in the last few hundred years our planet has been explored to the point that there aren't really large "unclaimed" swaths of land.

The result is that eviction from an existing society is an effective death sentence unless a different one is willing to open its arms to you, and you are willing to accept its terms. That is not a failure of imagination; rather, it's a failure of physics.
posted by verb at 11:56 AM on February 13, 2012


I mean, sure, fines and such first, but if they don't pay? Violence.

Aka regulation.
posted by aspo at 11:57 AM on February 13, 2012


Laws without enforcement are just so many words.
posted by edguardo at 11:59 AM on February 13, 2012


Please don't use gay as an insult, rtha.

*falls out of chair laughing*

Holy cow. I completely missed that (obviously). This is going to amuse me all day. (Which is good, because I have a work thing that involves using a bit of software that is so irritating that it makes arguing with libertarians seem like fun in comparison. Instead, I will now contemplate my Freudian slip.)
posted by rtha at 12:01 PM on February 13, 2012


Well, if they won't listen to attempts to educate them, violence is the only thing left, isn't it?

I mean, sure, fines and such first, but if they don't pay? Violence.


You know what's weird is how you just handwave "fines and such first" like "oh, who would pay attention to *that*?" when we have a whole bunch of history, much of it in living memory, that shows that "fines and such" (including tax incentives) have cleaned up our water and air remarkably well in the last 40 years. And we haven't had to take one CEO out back to shoot him, even if we really felt like it sometimes.
posted by rtha at 12:05 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think the biggest fallaacy that Libertarians (but not only the Libertarians) make is that the "market" somehow organically arises and that the government (or more precisely politics) is grafted upon the market, causing inefficiencies in the market, which is supposedly more fundamental.

In reality, IMHO, markets and poltics are inextricably intertwined, so it makes no sense to talk about markets without politics. And far from distorting markets outcomes, governmental policy helps determine market outcomes ab initio.

And I've never heard from Libertarians a good explanation of how to deal with things like negative externalities without government action. (At least from simplistic Internet Libertarians; I don't want to strawman them.)


Is this a fallacy libertarians actually promote? Hate to say it, but it sounds like a straw man. It's not clear what you mean that markets arising "organically". It seems to me that markets arise in the presence or absence of politics. From what I can tell, libertarians aren't particularly interested in what comes first, but rather seek to divorce politics from markets as much as possible. The extent to which markets are separated from the influence of politics seems to be the real source of disagreement. Philosophical and commercial interests constantly pressure politics to influence markets, even create markets of political influence of their own.
posted by 2N2222 at 12:05 PM on February 13, 2012


What I respect about anarchism and libertarianism is that they take their opposition to violence very seriously, although both of them can put the cart before the horse, and sometimes enable greater harm to society through a reluctance to coerce than they would cause harm by cracking a few heads.

I see it more as co-opting the term violence and applying it to any kind of government intervention in personal affairs, rather than actual non-violence. For instance I know plenty of self-identified libertarians who own firearms with the intent to defend themselves and their property with deadly force. But if you start talking about taxes or traffic tickets the "monopoly on violence" rhetoric comes out.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:14 PM on February 13, 2012


You know what's weird is how you just handwave "fines and such first" like "oh, who would pay attention to *that*?" when we have a whole bunch of history, much of it in living memory, that shows that "fines and such" (including tax incentives) have cleaned up our water and air remarkably well in the last 40 years. And we haven't had to take one CEO out back to shoot him, even if we really felt like it sometimes.

The threat of police intervention is still there, though, right?

So the CEOs caved. What if they didn't? There's a long decision tree with a long list of possible punishments, especially for the very rich. Eventually, those punishments include "not being rich anymore."

And for the less wealthy, things aren't so cushy.

Even if nobody ever lays a hand on you, being forced to starve in the street, or to die of a preventable illness, is a death sentence all the same.

It's the concept of structural violence: not all bodily harm comes from fists and bullets.
posted by edguardo at 12:16 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I mean, sure, fines and such first, but if they don't pay? Violence.

This is all very strange coming from a person who, upthread, tried to prove that people are good all the time because they want to be, and thus there would never be a need for state coercion. Is coercion per se bad? Or is coercion in theory ok, but unnecessary?
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 12:22 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I see it more as co-opting the term violence and applying it to any kind of government intervention in personal affairs, rather than actual non-violence.

I think the idea is that all state actions -- taxes, regulations on businesses, laws preventing people from jaywalking, whatever -- exist with the ultimate threat of violence. This is not to say that jaywalking gets you killed. Rather, it's that you either have to play along with the system, or be killed.

For example, if I jaywalk and I'm ticketed, I can ignore it. If I ignore the resulting fines when I don't pay my ticket, and I do so long enough, legal punishments keep ratcheting up. Eventually I might be arrested, or property of mine might be seized. If I refuse to go along with those things, and I physically resist arrest or property seizure, physical violence is probable. Eventually things hit a point where it is legal for a representative of the state to kill me.

I don't mean to make that sound worse than it is; "at some point" almost every system boils down to that problem. An anarchist friend of mine used to use the phrase "voting is violence" as a shorthand summary of why democratic -- rather than 100% consensus based -- decision-making was ultimately coercive. I tend to think that the biggest moral challenge to that view is the difficulty of opting out of modern society without also leeching on its positive externalities, either intentionally or unintentionally. But that's another matter.
posted by verb at 12:30 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is all very strange coming from a person who, upthread, tried to prove that people are good all the time because they want to be, and thus there would never be a need for state coercion. Is coercion per se bad? Or is coercion in theory ok, but unnecessary?

An excellent question. And mind, I was up-front with my assumption that nobody wants to be bad, and I never said I was unwilling to change my mind about it, either.

And likewise, I hope I didn't come across as saying that everyone is good all the time. I know better. What I meant to suggest was that when they are not good, it is because they are ignorant of their actions (or the consequences thereof) or because my assumption was wrong.

It seems that the discussion here established that my assumption is indeed wrong, and it is not the case that people want to be good and not bad.

Since that is not the case, it also seems to me that any amount of education regarding what's good and bad will not change behavior, because "moral uprightness" or whatever you want to call it isn't an effective incentive for people. So if education is to be effective with someone who doesn't care about good and bad, then I gather it has to appeal to their self-interest.

One way to appeal to someone's self-interest that we already use is to establish an extensive set of incentives and punishments to encourage and discourage certain behaviors, and experience shows that violence is an effective punishment for people who don't care about what kind of person they are.

So is coercion bad? I'd say it's better than the alternative of letting wholly immoral people do whatever they want.

But is coercion ever appropriate when you could use reason and education instead? I suspect it is not. That would take a while to discuss, I think, but I imagine I'd have a sympathetic crowd if I said 'let's only use violence where we have to.'
posted by edguardo at 12:33 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


It seems that the discussion here established that my assumption is indeed wrong, and it is not the case that people want to be good and not bad.

I'm kind of astonished that you can be a breathing, sentient human on this planet, with a full set of neurotypical observation skills, and not know that this assumption is wrong.

It's not even that simple, as has been pointed out upthread. It's not that (non-sociopathic) people "want" to be bad: it's that they regard their wants as more important than anyone else's - their desire to be the first one in line, their desire to increase profits, their desire to have the thing they want, their desire to get to the exit ramp two whole cars ahead of you.
posted by rtha at 12:42 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I mean, isn't that roughly what it means to be a sociopath when you 'regard your wants as more important than anyone else's?'
posted by edguardo at 12:47 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


But is coercion ever appropriate when you could use reason and education instead? I suspect it is not.

But this is only to say "only use coercion when necessary", and, as you point out, everyone agrees with that. But you yourself pointed to the extreme case, where minor coercion doesn't work and ends in violence, in what appeared to be a denunciation of state coercion itself. But then you disclaimed that. I don't really understand what your position is.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 12:48 PM on February 13, 2012


I mean, isn't that roughly what it means to be a sociopath when you 'regard your wants as more important than anyone else's?'

no.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 12:49 PM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


For example, if I jaywalk and I'm ticketed, I can ignore it. If I ignore the resulting fines when I don't pay my ticket, and I do so long enough, legal punishments keep ratcheting up. Eventually I might be arrested, or property of mine might be seized. If I refuse to go along with those things, and I physically resist arrest or property seizure, physical violence is probable. Eventually things hit a point where it is legal for a representative of the state to kill me.

My point was that while they use the concept that laws are ultimately backed up by physical force as a way to frame their anti-government intervention views as anti-violence, they themselves are perfectly willing to use actual non-theoretical violence in real life situations such as enforcing their own personal property rights. The term violence is used for the negative connotations associated it beyond what a word like coercion implies, rather than because libertarian ideology represents a strong commitment to non-violence in general.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:55 PM on February 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Hey 2N2222,

Perhaps it is a strawman, but it seems implicit in the arguments I hear and read from Libertarians, at least in the economic sphere. Whenever they argue against some governmental action, it seems to me they assert that it is distorting the market, i.e, disrupting the natural order of things. As an example, I've heard Libertarians argue against the minimum wage on this basis.

But it does not seem correct to me to ignore the power relationships between employers and employees in bargaining for wages or working conditions -- these power relationships are a direct result of politics.

To generalize, there are numerous information asymatries, externalities, etc. that affect markets where politics basically determine the rules under which markets operate. Even without a goovernment enforcer there are social norms that are determined by who has power, the ability to impose one's will.

Markets are, after all, the result of collective action, and whenever you have collective action you have politics because various actors will almost certainly have conflicting wills.

I guess this is trite, but I believe it bears repeating: markets cannot exist without rules, and the rules are set by politics, in the most general sense.
posted by JKevinKing at 1:05 PM on February 13, 2012


"Liberal Commie mathematicians talk about how there's infinite numbers and stuff, but really that's just number inflation."

If that's what you're looking for, allow me to present the Conservapedia "Critical Thinking in Math" course. They are not as impressed with (agnostic anti-nationalist Jew) Albert Einstein as most people are.
posted by escabeche at 1:07 PM on February 13, 2012


But is coercion ever appropriate when you could use reason and education instead? I suspect it is not. That would take a while to discuss, I think, but I imagine I'd have a sympathetic crowd if I said 'let's only use violence where we have to.'

How do you apply this to actual everyday situations in ways that are significantly different than any governement that exists today though? Let's say I think Steve owes me $500. Steve on the other hand, thinks he doesn't owe me $500 for various reasons. How exactly do these sorts of situations get resolved in a better way than through the coercion of a government enforcing a legal system? These sorts of problems are the reason why the first known legal systems were created and why they are a key part in allowing people to interact with other people that they don't completely trust.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:10 PM on February 13, 2012


Should have written asymmetries ... Sorry

And I should have written that the rules often determine the outcomes.
posted by JKevinKing at 1:14 PM on February 13, 2012


But is coercion ever appropriate when you could use reason and education instead? I suspect it is not. That would take a while to discuss, I think, but I imagine I'd have a sympathetic crowd if I said 'let's only use violence where we have to.'

Generally yes, although there's a world of potential disagreement in those simple words where we have to. If we wrote that sentence with the words the same relative size as the potential amount of argument they may cause then those would be six feet tall.

Ultimately I think libertarians have some good ideas, but once they start talking about abolishing government that they are speaking directly from a position of ignorant decadence. Since we've lived in an orderly society without poisonous food, with relatively decent working conditions, with something of a social safety net and without (general) threat of violence for generations, some of us actually find it possible to talk unironically about doing away with government altogether. It's kind of frightening to me that people can think this is even slightly a good idea.
posted by JHarris at 2:13 PM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


jharris: I think it's about the same thing as the anti-vaxers. "Because of the minor pain of x, I never knew the crushing pain of y. Obviously y isn't a problem, as I've never had to deal with it, so we should get rid of x." Actually every antivaxer I've met in the real world identifies as libertarian. (insert remark about anecdote vs data here).
posted by aspo at 2:20 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


So I was only one that read libertarian Khan Academy and Ricardo Montebahn was training an army to fight Kirk?
posted by Chekhovian at 2:46 PM on February 13, 2012


Whenever they argue against some governmental action, it seems to me they assert that it is distorting the market, i.e, disrupting the natural order of things. As an example, I've heard Libertarians argue against the minimum wage on this basis.

But governmental action in markets is market distorting. Describing it as "the natural order of things" is your spin, which is at least somewhat useful as an analogy, though subject to a little colorful interpretation. It appears you object to a religious interpretation of market forces rather than an economic one.

markets cannot exist without rules, and the rules are set by politics, in the most general sense.

I'd say they can. In fact, markets sometimes exist in spite of rules. An easy example is marijuana. Regardless of laws, the market would exist. Governmental reacted to the market by implementing distortions. If government were to decriminalize pot and simply ignore it, the market would still go on, creating its own rules. You might be generous enough to describe these rules as a kind of politics, implemented by and involving the persons involved in the trade and consumption of pot, but most other folks would probably refer to the phenomenon as supply and demand.
posted by 2N2222 at 3:00 PM on February 13, 2012


Actually every antivaxer I've met in the real world identifies as libertarian.

What on earth? I have actually professionally studied the anti-vax movement. The vast, vast majority of anti-vaxers are antiestablishment left-wingers (see, for instance, vaccination rates in Marin County).
posted by downing street memo at 3:09 PM on February 13, 2012


edguardo: Anarchy is the absence of government. It is not the absence of order, or the presence of violence.

If you have a society without a government, and someone else comes along and decides to destroy your society and take your resources, what happens next? The Parable of the Tribes:
Imagine a group of tribes living within reach of one another. If all choose the way of peace, then all may live in peace. But what if all but one choose peace, and that one is ambitious for expansion and conquest? What can happen to the others when confronted by an ambitious and potent neighbor? ...

I have just outlined four possible outcomes for the threatened tribes: destruction, absorption and transformation, withdrawal, and imitation. In every one of these outcomes the ways of power are spread throughout the system.
A very long argument that I had with a "taxation is theft" libertarian on USENET, 10 years ago: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10.
It's not enough to say that, "If nobody had a government, there'd be a lot less violence." That's like saying that the world would be a better place if nobody had any guns or armies. For people living in territory A with neighbors B and C, can people in A do without their government? What happens if they get attacked by the governments of B and C? ...

I'm not saying that "government is good." I'm saying that you can't ensure your own security on an individual basis; to ensure your security, you need an effective government. The fact that in modern times, you mostly need protection from other governments may be ironic, but it's not a counter-argument. It's like saying that you wouldn't need a government for protection if you could convince everyone else in the world simultaneously that they didn't need a government, either.

... my point is that our choice isn't between government and no government, it's between good government and bad government.
posted by russilwvong at 3:28 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


The vast, vast majority of anti-vaxers are antiestablishment left-wingers

As I said, that I've met. And you know what, I think the key link there is the antiestablishment part. (I deal with the crazy by walking away, sadly you can't do that as easily in a work setting, and my job attracts more libertarians than hippies. (and yes I know hippies is the wrong word here, but you know what I mean)).
posted by aspo at 3:39 PM on February 13, 2012


What on earth? I have actually professionally studied the anti-vax movement. The vast, vast majority of anti-vaxers are antiestablishment left-wingers (see, for instance, vaccination rates in Marin County).

Anecdote: the first time I saw anti-vax posters in Brooklyn, I saw them right underneath Ron Paul posters.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:28 PM on February 13, 2012


the first time I saw anti-vax posters in Brooklyn, I saw them right underneath Ron Paul posters.

On the other hand -

"Senators John Kerry of Massachusetts and Chris Dodd of Connecticut have both curried favor with constituents by trumpeting the notion that vaccines cause autism. And Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a scion of the most famous Democratic family of all, authored a deeply flawed 2005 Rolling Stone piece called “Deadly Immunity.” In it, he accused the government of protecting drug companies from litigation by concealing evidence that mercury in vaccines may have caused autism in thousands of kids."

posted by IndigoJones at 4:47 PM on February 13, 2012


>markets cannot exist without rules, and the rules are set by politics, in the most general sense.

I'd say they can.


Without government in the form of law enforcement, anyone stronger than you can reach in and take your possessions. Without a judicial system, there's no way to decide who actually owns a thing in dispute (and without such a method everything is soon in dispute). Without government in the form of currency creation and protection, you have nothing to exchange for services other than gross bartering. Both of these things are true regardless as to whether government is attempting to outlaw trade in a thing or not; in fact, they are part of the justification that governments use to outlaw that trade in the first place. Governments create the structure in which markers can form. But let's not forget: the idea of private property itself is pretty airy-fairy.
posted by JHarris at 5:18 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, my research (for a client, unfortunately, so no link) showed a significant negative correlation between Democratic share of vote and vaccination rate, particularly among counties in the upper quartile of income distribution.

Plenty of libertarians are antivaxers too, don't get me wrong, but they're a rounding error (as libertarians are, generally). They are very vocal on the internet though.
posted by downing street memo at 5:24 PM on February 13, 2012


It is true that there are goofy anti-vax folks on the left, who some liberal types looking for support have courted in the past.

But it remains that Ron Paul is, except for one or two not-unimportant things, a perfect-looking candidate to a certain (grossly simplified, hypothetical, stereotypical) mindset that isn't incompatible with either the left- or right-wing. If there is a Republican who these people (whatever that means) could vote for, it's Paul. He more strongly places on the libertarian/authoritarian axis than the liberal/conservative one, which is part of why he's not doing well in the Republican primaries overall.
posted by JHarris at 5:26 PM on February 13, 2012


In 2005 a lot of people were worried about mercury in vaccines, and every day people were hearing scare stories that seemed fairly legit. Back then many people with kids were worried not about vaccines but about the mercury, and government response was not one of investigation, but one of stonewalling.

It turned out to be bad science, but honestly, I think the anti-vax epidemic we have today came out of that horrid early response. If the government had suspended using mercury in vaccines quickly and made damn sure the science behind the autism claims was bullshit before allowing it again, people would have felt a lot more secure. Stopping a panic early is important, even when the panic turns out wrong.
posted by aspo at 5:32 PM on February 13, 2012


Yeah, my research (for a client, unfortunately, so no link)

I hate to say it because I believe your heart is in the right place, but if you can't cite it it probably doesn't have much of a place here. You could say anything at all and give it an air of authority that could in fact be completely unjustified. We can't examine the methodology, and that really is important.
posted by JHarris at 5:33 PM on February 13, 2012


I'm kind of astonished to see so much debate about whether ordinary people will do immoral things without a single person name-checking some of the strongest evidence we have in this matter the Milgram Experiment (and its various replications and variations). Look, we have experimental evidence that ~2/3 of ordinary adults will perform acts which they have every reason to to believe will directly result in a man being tortured to death. They* don't need to be forced to do this. They* are at liberty to walk away at any time, the experimenter will only ask them to stay a maximum of three times.

*I say they, but statistically I should probably be saying we
posted by Proofs and Refutations at 6:45 PM on February 13, 2012


The only basic difference between prostitution and any other kind of work is the kind of service being performed.

Well, except that sex has another, more natural role to play in human society outside of the commercial sex trade, and intellectual activity does, too (the term "natural" is not without problems here, but it'll do). Whenever someone engages in sex strictly as commerce, it seems to me they're taking a natural, organic process and commodifying it in a way that decouples it from its normal social/biological function, for better or worse. Paying someone to be intellectually interested (when they don't necessarily come by that interest on their own in the way a truly independent thinker or academic in a credible institution with protective measures in place to preserve academic independence and integrity might) seems to me to have something fundamental in common with paying someone to fake an interest in a sex partner. Anyway, I don't want to belabor the point, so I'll drop it. Just reading it as a cheap insult works too. But in my mind at least, it's a more supple insult than it seems at first glance.


Not that this demonstrates any particular point, but my wife has an anti-vaxer friend whose husband is (or at least was) a Republican political operative/consultant. My friend's wife is kind of crunchy-seeming, and claims to not care about politics. And the husband never says a word to anyone else whenever we cross paths with them at family-friendly functions around town; he always just hangs back, being aloof. The kids, meanwhile, are constantly sick.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:15 PM on February 13, 2012


An easy example is marijuana. Regardless of laws, the market would exist.

That just proves the point. In the real world, even though it's an illegal market, that market effectively has private laws that are enforced by private entities. Just try ripping off a dealer and see if the deed goes unpunished, even though there's no state law enforcement mechanism in effect. I challenge you to contrive any kind of market that doesn't somehow implicitly require rules and enforcement mechanisms. Rules and enforcement mechanisms are government; once you accept that, it's just a question of deciding how to structure the rules and enforcement mechanisms, and whom should be entrusted with that authority and under what conditions.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:26 PM on February 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


I hate to say it because I believe your heart is in the right place, but if you can't cite it it probably doesn't have much of a place here.

That's kind of dumb. A response of "I've done research on this" to "I've only met libertarian anti-vaxers" is discouraged? They're both stories about things posters have experienced. You can and should take them with skepticism, but given that there are probably other ways to verify the research in question, and not at all that someone has only met libertarian anti-vaxers, I can tell you which anecdote I think has more value...
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 11:25 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hm, you may be right. It's just there's an air of "It's this way because I say so, for a reason I can't give" about it. It seems like it'd be easy to abuse, sort of thing.
posted by JHarris at 1:53 AM on February 14, 2012


(Philosopher Dirtbike: I'll admit it. My anecdote has no value. I also know A LOT of left-wing anti-vaxers, which constantly makes me scratch my head in wonder...)
posted by saulgoodman at 8:17 AM on February 14, 2012



For any learnliberty.site there ought to be a dispelbullshit.site

Look for instance at Richard Dawkins, James Randi, Derren Brown, Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky, Penn & Teller, Operation Clambake on Scientology.

What's the do they have in common? Not much, except they all denounce, some ridicule, some debunk (expecially Brown and Randi), so they all go against the "wisdom of the crowd".

Contrary to a rather widely help perceptions, many so called think tanks run on faith and often empty promises more than on money, expecially since it was discovered that hammering tons of fashionable bullshit on people is far more short term cost-effective than asking them to reflect and analyze; hence Foxnews, hence learnlibery, hence the disappointment of people in think tanks who actually spent part of their life effectively trying to figure out things, who intimately know how crass and idiotic much of the business talking and thinking is.
posted by elpapacito at 8:20 AM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised we don't see Penn Jillette on 'learnliberty.site,' as you call it - his political and social opinions would fit in quite well and are about as well-sourced.
posted by muddgirl at 8:26 AM on February 14, 2012


muddgirl: I wouldn't be much surprised; there are many reasons for not using Jilette in a particular context, and one could be that he isn't considered to be an "authory figure". Or quite simply, he wasn't contacted yet or he wasn't interested in the deal.
posted by elpapacito at 9:17 AM on February 14, 2012


elpapacito - I was questioning your inclusion of Jillette as an apparent counter-example to the original link, considering his skepticism leads him to very similar conculsions to the videos at learnliberty.org. Perhaps I misunderstood you.
posted by muddgirl at 12:00 PM on February 14, 2012


What I meant to suggest was that when they are not good, it is because they are ignorant of their actions

"Right" and "wrong" are artificial, arbitrary concepts. The issue has nothing to do with ignorance or education. Most people are actually egoists; and most moral philosophy is just window dressing for someone expanding their circle of empathy so that someone else gets some degree of coverage under an egoist outlook.

We protect our families not because we have intellectually absorbed one of the many versions of the social contract, but for the most egoist reason of all, love. Most forms of morality are attempting to get us to expand this circle of empathy even further. Modern legal codes basically attempt to do the same thing but have mostly given up the ghost on trying to convince us that we should do this for objective, cosmic reasons.

We are able to have this conversation because we are in a time where we have all to some degree accepted that beyond animialistic empathy, there's no real reason not to hurt someone else, other than to let society function. So we have a concept of rights that we acknowledge are not like the laws of physics, but we still put them beyond the reach of everyday rationalzation because everything works a lot better if we do.

The rational basis for modern government is "Yeah, you'd probably be better off if you stole money from a stranger, but if we allowed this to happen all the time, in aggregate you'd probably be better off if we didn't allow it, and we all say that we shouldn't do it."

But sometimes people reject this bargin in part or in whole, because they think they're going to get a better deal on their own. Sometimes they're even right. This is what state coersion is attempting to discourage. But since no system is perfect, and because people don't always have perfect information, and not everyone is a perfect rational actor, things slip through all the time.

This is all along way of saying that you're begging the question. Any attempts of someone to explain their actions in the way you are talking about is just to cover that they consciously or unconsciously plugged different numbers into the formula, and rightly or wrongly, they got a different number.
posted by spaltavian at 9:49 AM on February 29, 2012


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