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July 2, 2012 6:35 PM   Subscribe

Let it Bleed: Libertarianism and the Workplace from Crooked Timber.
posted by klangklangston (184 comments total) 51 users marked this as a favorite

 
I had thought of posting this when I read it yesterday. More insights into nasty nasty libertarianism and it's essentially hollow core.
posted by wilful at 6:38 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Brilliant, and comprehensive.
posted by Jimbob at 6:51 PM on July 2, 2012


I'm not even a libertarian, but I think they misunderstand the libertarian position. First, the article relies on an in practica argument because it focuses only on the modern, extant workplace. Second, even if they are right that libertarianism is fundamentally inconsistent, it does not follow that state regulation is the only or best alternative.
posted by polymodus at 7:04 PM on July 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


I've always found it amusing, the mental hoops libertarians have to jump through to maintain their disdain for unions. An honest, fair application of the principals they claim to hold dear should result in support for unions.
posted by Jimbob at 7:05 PM on July 2, 2012 [30 favorites]


I'd never heard of a boss being such a jerk that they would fire someone for having donated a kidney to the said jerk boss. I know of plenty of terrible bosses, and I've had my fair share. But that just takes it to a whole different level. I don't know how that can be topped, and I don't really want to find out.
posted by vidur at 7:06 PM on July 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


Well, yeah. Libertarians are people who haven't thought through the consequences of their beliefs, and expect the world to conform to their own ignorance. Jimbob's point is salient: the libertarian position appears to be one of pre-determined beliefs (government, unions: bad. private sector: good) and the forcing of any real-world square peg into their ideological round hole.

The links to the bleedinghearts essays demonstrate this. They're even trying, the poor bastards, but even into adulthood apparently these people have never even considered the question "Why exactly is it okay for private actors to wield such immense power over individuals when you're so opposed to the government doing it?". The examples given where libertarians actually came down on the side of basically "Fuck me or you're fired is okay, because at least it's not the government saying that" showcase that the libertarian viewpoint is nonsensical in even the most charitable reading.

And some of the examples given early on of legal things employers do is hair-raising, such as the kidney example (although am I the only one who found most of the links went to the generic front page of the "Can they do that?" google book?), and it's heart-breaking how readily the average American has swallowed the Calvinist party line that it's they who are broken and deserving to suffer, because they don't have a job that pays them reasonably, or treats them humanely, or doesn't exploit and then discard them at the drop of a hat.
posted by hincandenza at 7:13 PM on July 2, 2012 [38 favorites]


I have a strong libertarian streak in me, but the idea, deeply embedded into modern "Libertarianism" that collectivism by corporations and collectivism by governments are somehow as different as night and day has always sounded sounded awfully hollow to me.
posted by tyllwin at 7:20 PM on July 2, 2012 [10 favorites]


Hahaha - you would shudder to meet the 'libertarians' I work with. It is really odd, hearing military servicemembers spout off about Ron Paul, the dangers of the 'Welfare State,' and all those undeserving leeches...
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:30 PM on July 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


Libertarians are people who haven't thought through the consequences of their beliefs, and expect the world to conform to their own ignorance. Jimbob's point is salient: the libertarian position appears to be one of pre-determined beliefs (government, unions: bad. private sector: good) and the forcing of any real-world square peg into their ideological round hole.

The links to the bleedinghearts essays demonstrate this. They're even trying, the poor bastards, but even into adulthood apparently these people have never even considered the question "Why exactly is it okay for private actors to wield such immense power over individuals when you're so opposed to the government doing it?".

This is silly. Did you read the essays? All three are considered responses to this question (even if you don't agree with their conclusions). Serious discussions of contentious problems like this begin with the principle of charity. Bertram and his co-authors did a pretty good job with this, but MetaFilter usually doesn't.

I look forward to seeing Bertram show his work on the UBI calculation, which is really critical to the argument here. I'm skeptical that a means-tested UBI that replaces piecemeal social spending would require such a high tax burden, even if it provided guaranteed income at minimum wage. I agree that the UBI argument shouldn't excuse waving away concerns about private power and coercion, but it seems important to get the real costs right.
posted by ecmendenhall at 7:37 PM on July 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


replaces piecemeal social spending

What does this mean? Can you give me specific examples of government programs that would be eliminated in exchange for a cash rebate?
posted by maxwelton at 7:42 PM on July 2, 2012


ecmendenhall, I'll give libertarians the principle of charity, but not the principle of humanity.
posted by wilful at 7:44 PM on July 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've always found it amusing, the mental hoops libertarians have to jump through to maintain their disdain for unions. An honest, fair application of the principals they claim to hold dear should result in support for unions.

I'm fairly libertarian, and I think unions are important. I'm not too happy with the idea of forced membership in a union, but I see no problem whatsoever with workers cooperating to negotiate from a stronger position. It seems to me that this is how labor balances itself against capital; the factories are essential, but so are the skills and the grunt labor needed to make the factories work.

In many ways, libertarianism looks very much like classic liberalism. Modern liberals have gone off in some very weird directions, but classical liberalism is about self-determination, self-improvement, helping others whenever possible, but not demanding that others help in return. It's about sharing what you can, when you can, but not forcibly taking from anyone unless it's absolutely necessary. It's about being the society you want to live in, instead of demanding that others live to your standards.

It seems like both lefties and righties have gone weirdly authoritarian over the last few decades, both of them thinking of state power as the right way to solve everything. The righties want to use it as a tool to kill brown people and suppress the ungodly, the lefties want to use it as a tool to take from those they define as rich and give to those they define as poor. Instead of forming groups to convince people to do this voluntarily, in other words, they want to use the coercive power of the state to confiscate wealth by force.

Both of these stances are extremely repellent to libertarians. The lefties especially like to paint them as immoral assholes, and while I have certainly known some of those, I've also met a number of libertarians I thought were operating at a higher ethical plane than most... ones who wanted to lead by example, and not by coercion. I like to hang out with people like that. I think they're better exemplars of liberalism than most people who call themselves liberal.
posted by Malor at 7:45 PM on July 2, 2012 [16 favorites]


The liberal position appears to be one of pre-determined beliefs (government, unions: good. private sector: bad) and the forcing of any real-world square peg into their ideological round hole.

This is fun.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:45 PM on July 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've always found it amusing, the mental hoops libertarians have to jump through to maintain their disdain for unions. An honest, fair application of the principals they claim to hold dear should result in support for unions.

This is unfair. Most libertarians do believe that people can and should have the right to form unions if they want to. They just tend to also believe that the bosses are under no obligation to negotiate with them if they don't want to, and should also have the right to fire union members if they want to. This is not a logically inconsistent position.

The problem that many libertarians have with current unions or governmental unions is that labor law prohibits employers from dealing with unions as they would prefer to - in many cases preventing them from hiring scabs, firing striking workers, etc.

The part of this piece talking about libertarians referring to unions as engaging in bullying and "moral coercion" is not talking about how unions deal with bosses, but about how unions deal with scabs - which often does result in harassment.
posted by corb at 7:48 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, corb, but the article highlights the gleeful acceptance of equivalent harassment within workplaces by libertarians. A picket line? That's coercion and harassment. Wanting to go take a piss while at work? That's up to your employer to grant you permission!
posted by Jimbob at 7:51 PM on July 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


The problem that many libertarians have with current unions or governmental unions is that labor law prohibits employers from dealing with unions as they would prefer to - in many cases preventing them from hiring scabs, firing striking workers, etc.

Said labor laws are necessary because even when organized, workers do not have the resources or power of their bosses. There have been times in history when employers were permitted to "deal with" unions as they would prefer to, and it has always been pretty shitty for the unions. Without the protection -- and frankly, the power to enforce that protection -- of the state, employers can run roughshod over unions.
posted by Saxon Kane at 7:53 PM on July 2, 2012 [13 favorites]


Often, it's been the state itself doing the riding, Saxon Kane.
posted by Malor at 7:58 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Malor, the linked article makes a very specifically argued claim and presents both concrete and logical evidence in support of that claim. Your comment makes extremely general claims, claims that do not answer the claims in the linked article, and you present no evidence for them, they're simply naked assertions.

So. Not a whole lot to go on there.

I found the article compelling, and it seems unlikely that this comment thread will yield any similarly-compelling criticisms of it. O well.
posted by kavasa at 7:59 PM on July 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


A true libertarian mines bitcoins instead of working for someone else.
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:00 PM on July 2, 2012 [8 favorites]


maxwelton: "What does this mean? Can you give me specific examples of government programs that would be eliminated in exchange for a cash rebate?"

Medicaid. Food stamps. Unemployment insurance. Earned income credit. SSDI. Winter Heating credits. The Special Milk Program. Student loan subsidies. HUD Section 8 housing. Basically the stuff in here. The general espoused principal here is that everyone documents proof of income anyways for the IRS, so instead of filling out (and attaching your 1040 to) applications for the dozens of income-based programs listed, we lump these cash, near-cash and non-cash payment programs together into one cash payment program, and the recipient decides how much of the cash benefit gets allocated to health care vs rent vs nutritional food vs education.

P.S. It is ridiculous that I have to link to wikileaks for such a document.
posted by pwnguin at 8:03 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


The argument is about consent, essentially - so it's not necessarily inconsistent. The argument is that by consenting to remain employed by the employer that makes you do all these awful things, you are voluntarily consenting to the abusive situation.

However, individuals who are going to work for an employer only have one contract - that with the employer. They do not have a contract with the striking workers outside - thus, they have not consented to being verbally or physically abused by them.

Said labor laws are necessary because even when organized, workers do not have the resources or power of their bosses. There have been times in history when employers were permitted to "deal with" unions as they would prefer to, and it has always been pretty shitty for the unions.

This is true, but I'm not talking about whether or not that would be good or bad for unions, just countering the claims that this was not internally consistent. There is still room for criticism of that position, I just think it logically holds together.


One problem I have with the article is that it talks about these "Bleeding Heart Libertarians" as though they are a larger percentage of the population than I believe they are. "Bleeding Heart Libertarians" may well have logical inconsistencies, but I don't know that they're really an actual faction, so skewering them seems like more of a straw man than not.
posted by corb at 8:04 PM on July 2, 2012


It is really odd, hearing military servicemembers spout off about Ron Paul, the dangers of the 'Welfare State,' and all those undeserving leeches

Service guarantees dickizenship.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:04 PM on July 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


The argument is about consent, essentially - so it's not necessarily inconsistent. The argument is that by consenting to remain employed by the employer that makes you do all these awful things, you are voluntarily consenting to the abusive situation.

Totally. Just choose to starve and lose your house, you silly, abused goose.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:08 PM on July 2, 2012 [11 favorites]


Malor: Oh, absolutely. And that is why government and corporate power need to be completely separate.

Anyway, I think that a lot of the contradictions of Libertarianism aren't surprising if you understand it as essentially a fundamentalist religion where the "free" market is God, and economics is the unerring Scripture.
posted by Saxon Kane at 8:16 PM on July 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


The argument is that by consenting to remain employed by the employer that makes you do all these awful things, you are voluntarily consenting to the abusive situation.

Not to mention that in some cases, the abuse gets so bad that you don't think you are employable elsewhere, so you can't leave.

This is some pretty silly victim blaming.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:17 PM on July 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


pwnguin, so they are being disingenuous, to a huge degree. The total, in rough, rounding-up numbers for the items you list, combining both state and federal expenditures, is $610B in 2004 dollars. Inflation calculators tell me that's $740B today.

And since most of those programs have benefits for the young, old, and non-working, we have to stipulate that the UBI needs to be paid per capita, not per household or especially not only to working people.

$740B / 310M people is under $2,400 per person. So, smoke and mirrors, in other words.
posted by maxwelton at 8:19 PM on July 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


"In many ways, libertarianism looks very much like classic liberalism."

Hahahahaha!

I can only speak to Cato-McArdle-Paulist Libertarianism because, as of 2012, that's what it is.

And this is complete bullshit.

For all their big talk, 95% of the time Glibertarians are lockstep with the GOP/Neocon agenda. The only exception is drug law, and I'll give Radley Balko a nod for actually giving a shit about the encroaching police state.

Costly occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan? Glibs didn't just sit on the sidelines, most of them actively cheerled for what basically broke the US, forever. Gay marriage? Funny how quiet they are on this one too. What could be a better example of individual rights needing to overcome government coercion.

Modern-day Libertarianism has jack shit to do with individual rights against the goverment and everything to do with licking the boots of corporations.

So maybe you are a principled Libertarian. In which case you should give it up, because the train of "authentic" Libertarian principles has done left the station.

Hell, the Koch brothers aren't even trying to hide the fact that Cato is a wing of the RNC.

So this is why us adults don't and never will take you seriously.
posted by bardic at 8:20 PM on July 2, 2012 [31 favorites]


So this is why us adults don't and never will take you seriously.

Well, since your version adulthood is apparently defined as, "I can steal your stuff, because I know how to use it better than you do", well, let's just say that's not a club that anyone should be joining.
posted by Malor at 8:26 PM on July 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Without the protection -- and frankly, the power to enforce that protection -- of the state, employers can run roughshod over unions.

Or just kill them, usually with that same "protection" of the state. Which is what happened quite often, historically.
posted by junco at 8:32 PM on July 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


How is the principled Libertarian argument for firing workers for needing to pee, to name just one example out of scores in the link, not a form of coercion? And a truly nasty and anti-human one at that?

Sorry Glibs, you let the Koch brothers take over the crazy-train and now you expect to be taken seriously as high-minded "independent" thinkers?

Libertarians = Republicans who smoked pot once or twice, nothing more. Worse, actually, because the sole project of modern-day Libertarianism is to mainstream as much Republican crazy as possible under the guise of "independent, non-partisan" thought.

So, also the most useful of idiots.
posted by bardic at 8:35 PM on July 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


The argument is about consent, essentially - so it's not necessarily inconsistent. The argument is that by consenting to remain employed by the employer that makes you do all these awful things, you are voluntarily consenting to the abusive situation.

What a lot of people who disagree with the Libertarian view think is that the difference in power between rich people and poor people creates relationships that are unjust even if there is a sense in which you can describe them as "voluntary." More unjust, even, than having the government taking some of our stuff (at gunpoint if necessary).
posted by straight at 8:39 PM on July 2, 2012 [8 favorites]


Well, since your version adulthood is apparently defined as, "I can steal your stuff, because I know how to use it better than you do"

Who says it's your stuff?
posted by Jimbob at 8:44 PM on July 2, 2012 [15 favorites]


"pwnguin, so they are being disingenuous, to a huge degree. The total, in rough, rounding-up numbers for the items you list, combining both state and federal expenditures, is $610B in 2004 dollars. Inflation calculators tell me that's $740B today.

And since most of those programs have benefits for the young, old, and non-working, we have to stipulate that the UBI needs to be paid per capita, not per household or especially not only to working people.

$740B / 310M people is under $2,400 per person. So, smoke and mirrors, in other words.
"

I think I initially misread you — were you saying that libertarian proponents of UBI who argue that UBI can replace social services at the same cost were being disingenuous in ignoring the actual price tag of general, rather than targeted, domestic aid? And that as such, it is hard to reconcile that position with arguing against further tax increases, when the best remedy proposed from libertarian think tanks would require them?
posted by klangklangston at 8:44 PM on July 2, 2012


Well, since your version adulthood is apparently defined as, "I can steal your stuff, because I know how to use it better than you do", well, let's just say that's not a club that anyone should be joining.

What I don't think libertarians understand is that as long as humans are humans, this is always going to be how the world works, and the modern nation-state does it more equitably and with better results than any other regime in history.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:51 PM on July 2, 2012 [19 favorites]


There's a reddit thread in r/libertarian that is discussing this very article. The top comment (as of now):

The only thing an employer has to threaten you with is firing you. And all of an employers "oppression" can be dismissed with two words "I quit".

The whole argument falls down there. An employer can't make you do anything.

Once we accept a voluntary labour market the only thing left for people who want an active and vibrant society is to have lots of job opportunities. Repealing laws that stifle competition, or make something's outright illegal, is one way of increasing the diversity and number of workplace opportunity.

I'm still undecided if Bleeding Heart Libertarians are a good resource for libertarian thought or not. Haven't read them in awhile.

posted by zardoz at 8:54 PM on July 2, 2012


The only thing an employer has to threaten you with is firing you. And all of an employers "oppression" can be dismissed with two words "I quit".

Yeah, whatever. Maybe in a country with universal healthcare, but that wouldn't be very libertarian, would it. Also, once again, the rent isn't going to pay itself. Employees almost always have more to lose than employers. It's a naturally unequal relationship, and the natural outcome is the maximization of that inequality. Natural and abhorrent.
posted by adamdschneider at 9:05 PM on July 2, 2012 [34 favorites]


klangklangston: "And that as such, it is hard to reconcile that position with arguing against further tax increases, when the best remedy proposed from libertarian think tanks would require them?"

Indeed, enacting such legislation in a revenue neutral way would require Congress to shift the tax brackets around to the point that the average citizen sees the UBI benefit erased by additional taxes. I haven't sat down to figure out the exact math behind this because this all has a snowballs chance of passing, and a good deal of the benefits are already paid in cash, so it's little more productive than rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic.
posted by pwnguin at 9:11 PM on July 2, 2012


Modern-day Libertarianism has jack shit to do with individual rights against the goverment and everything to do with licking the boots of corporations.

Modern day US conservatives believe the government should rule your life -- no abortion, no unions, no unemployment.

Modern day US libertarians believe corporations should rule your life.

Really, there's no difference. One bows to God, one bows to Market, otherwise, they're exactly the same.
posted by eriko at 9:16 PM on July 2, 2012 [15 favorites]


It's not a black and white "I quit!" issue. Your dependents have little to no control over any aspect of the employer/employee relationship. Their individual freedom is directly tied to your own.
posted by Brocktoon at 9:18 PM on July 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


Well, since your version adulthood is apparently defined as, "I can steal your stuff, because I know how to use it better than you do", well, let's just say that's not a club that anyone should be joining.

Malor, the quintessential libertarian response is that you're welcome to leave and go to another country anytime. I'm sure you can find a very nice country with a very low tax burden somewhere that will be happy to have you.

Everyone else likes the current set of rules.
posted by GuyZero at 9:30 PM on July 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


Wait, is the UBI just another name for what Alfred Hitchcock called a MacGuffin? Because to me, they both seem to be imaginary devices that only exist to move the story along.
posted by stannate at 9:30 PM on July 2, 2012


labor law prohibits employers from dealing with unions as they would prefer to - in many cases preventing them from hiring scabs, firing striking workers, etc.
One of the ways employers would prefer to deal with unions is to fire anyone who wants to join one, and they do this, though it is technically illegal.

The part of this piece talking about libertarians referring to unions as engaging in bullying and "moral coercion" is not talking about how unions deal with bosses, but about how unions deal with scabs - which often does result in harassment.

Which has nothing to do with coercion, because the way a boss can deal with an employee is to take away his job, meaning that he cannot eat. While for upper middle class libertarian writers, I completely understand how being jeered as a scab might seem almost as bad as not having enough food to eat and being evicted from your apartment because you can't pay rent, I have very, very little sympathy for this argument.

The issue here is that libertarians believe that taking the side of the employer is the best and most efficient way of acquiring social capital-- by taking the side of those with economic capital. As a consequence of this, they consider social opprobrium from either strikebreaking or mistreatment of workers on the part of the bosses to be the worst possible thing you can do because it interferes with the "proper" social hierarchy, particularly the ones that the libertarians are attempting to ingratiate themselves with.
posted by deanc at 9:30 PM on July 2, 2012 [13 favorites]


I quit!

We can probably posit that eating is a basic human right. If I have all the food, and I say to you "you can have food by working for me"...how is that not coercion?

(Especially since there are always a few people happy to take jobs from me in exchange for food, no matter how awful the terms, because that's how they're wired. My job for them is to point guns at you.)

Libertarians are almost without exception exceptionally privileged (wealthy whites, especially men) or feel like they're destined to be exceptionally privileged (see the teenage children of aforementioned wealthy whites).
posted by maxwelton at 9:35 PM on July 2, 2012 [8 favorites]


The righties want to use [state power] as a tool to kill brown people and suppress the ungodly, the lefties want to use it as a tool to take from those they define as rich and give to those they define as poor. Instead of forming groups to convince people to do this voluntarily, in other words, they want to use the coercive power of the state to confiscate wealth by force.

posted by Malor at 9:45 PM on July 2


In other words, corporations are good, because cooperation with them is entirely voluntary (because the marketplace is perfectly efficient).
posted by goethean at 9:47 PM on July 2, 2012


Pwnguin has it, maxwelton. A UBI would be the grandest of impossible political bargains.
posted by ecmendenhall at 9:49 PM on July 2, 2012


bardic: ""In many ways, libertarianism looks very much like classic liberalism."

Hahahahaha!
"

No, that's not a ridiculous observation at all. Although you're correct that modern libertarianism is a convenient self-inflicted label for "selfish and crazy," classical liberalism is really similar to what libertarianism purports itself to be. They make a lot of the same observations, share a lot of the same core values, and draw wildly different conclusions and prescriptions from those observations.

Classical liberals acknowledge that personal freedoms are important, but also recognize that a free-for-all is untenable, and that there are indeed cases where the government damn well knows what's best for you (wear your seatbelt and stop smoking, goddamnit).

Basically, Jon Stuart Mill and his compatriots thought this stuff a lot further than the Libertarians did. (It's really fascinating to trace the roots of Classical Liberalism, because a lot of the early stuff sounds a whole lot like an Ayn Rand screed, but eventually ends up actually accounting for and addressing the fundamental flaws and drawbacks in the basic arguments)
posted by schmod at 10:03 PM on July 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


Who says it's your stuff?

See, and this is where it gets really scary.
posted by eugenen at 10:20 PM on July 2, 2012



I've always found it amusing, the mental hoops libertarians have to jump through to maintain their disdain for unions. An honest, fair application of the principals they claim to hold dear should result in support for unions.

It's doubly ironic, because who was John Galt ?

Why, he was a union organizer.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:23 PM on July 2, 2012 [14 favorites]


We can probably posit that eating is a basic human right. If I have all the food, and I say to you "you can have food by working for me"...how is that not coercion?

But food has to be created. It doesn't just exist, as a thing, it has to be worked for. Growing food is hard!

What right do you have to demand that someone else work to feed you?
posted by Malor at 10:24 PM on July 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


See, and this is where it gets really scary.

Seriously. What could ge scarier, and less free, than questioning a presumption?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:26 PM on July 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


Which has nothing to do with coercion, because the way a boss can deal with an employee is to take away his job, meaning that he cannot eat. While for upper middle class libertarian writers, I completely understand how being jeered as a scab might seem almost as bad as not having enough food to eat and being evicted from your apartment because you can't pay rent, I have very, very little sympathy for this argument.

Ok, but suppose now that you have an unemployment insurance system which allows the fired employee can continue to eat. Add to that a health insurance system which lets you keep getting healthcare. Could we address the being-jeered-as-a-scab problem then?
posted by alexei at 10:35 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


See, and this is where it gets really scary.

Asking where property rights come from is really scary?
posted by asterix at 10:45 PM on July 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


But food has to be created. It doesn't just exist, as a thing, it has to be worked for. Growing food is hard!

What right do you have to demand that someone else work to feed you?


Food isnt just created, it takes land to create. You need land for farming, hunting etc.
Those that own land can coerce others into working for them because food is not created out of a vacuum.

The one type of libertarianism I have some sympathy towards is geolibertarianism because it acknowleges this- nobody creates land. The natural resources you get out of the land are not entirely created by you.
posted by phyle at 10:45 PM on July 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


For all their big talk, 95% of the time Glibertarians are lockstep with the GOP/Neocon agenda. The only exception is drug law, and I'll give Radley Balko a nod for actually giving a shit about the encroaching police state.

Costly occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan? Glibs didn't just sit on the sidelines, most of them actively cheerled for what basically broke the US, forever. Gay marriage? Funny how quiet they are on this one too. What could be a better example of individual rights needing to overcome government coercion.

The current Libertarian nominee for President was pro-gay marriage before Barack Obama. He supports drastically cutting the military like most Libertarians do. And being out of step with the Republicans on drug law is out of step with the Democrats too and the entire concept of the US police state.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:50 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


He also believes the cure for the health care crisis is tort reform, opposes trade unions, is a constitutional originalist, opposes Roe v Wade, supports school vouchers, opposes public funding for stem cell reasearch, believes the cure for the economy is to slash taxes and slash government, and would continue to support military intervention in Afghanistan but for the fact that he thinks we wiped out Al Qaeda.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:03 PM on July 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Seriously. What could ge scarier, and less free, than questioning a presumption?

It's not a presumption, it's a conclusion. It's always a countdown until the Internet Marxists come in with the usual nonsense -- "Who says it's, like, your stuff, man?" Our most important organizing principle does, and everywhere in the world it doesn't hold is a hellhole.
posted by eugenen at 11:18 PM on July 2, 2012


It's always a countdown until the Internet Marxists come in with the usual nonsense -- "Who says it's, like, your stuff, man?"

It's as much a conclusion as parodying somebody else's viewpoint is a conclusion. Which is to say that it takes a series of unexamined presumptions and creates an unsupported philosphical point unburnded by evidence or history.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:24 PM on July 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


He also believes the cure for the health care crisis is tort reform, opposes trade unions, is a constitutional originalist, opposes Roe v Wade, supports school vouchers, opposes public funding for stem cell reasearch, believes the cure for the economy is to slash taxes and slash government, and would continue to support military intervention in Afghanistan but for the fact that he thinks we wiped out Al Qaeda.

Yes, he is a Libertarian. Thank you for the list of random Libertarian stuff you disagree with!
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:40 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


everywhere in the world it doesn't hold is a hellhole.

You've sort of arrived at the point, here, if possibly from the wrong direction. I think at least some of the people here are saying that the right to personal property isn't a fundamental physical law of the universe, it's an aspect of the society that we humans have collectively put in place.

When society crumbles, natural law reasserts itself, where force trumps property every time. Upkeep of this social system isn't free, or even cheap. Do you expect them to do this for free? That's why we have to pay our civilization bill, the word for which is "taxes".
posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits at 11:40 PM on July 2, 2012 [29 favorites]


When society crumbles, natural law reasserts itself, where force trumps property every time. Upkeep of this social system isn't free, or even cheap. Do you expect them to do this for free? That's why we have to pay our civilization bill, the word for which is "taxes".

I don't disagree at all with this. I don't even identify as libertarian (though I do lean slightly in that direction from my Obama-voting perch). It was just the glib HURF DURF WHO SAYS IT'S YOURS response above that set me off a little -- as if it's some earth-shattering insight or even persuasive rebuke, rather than a recipe for disaster.

I'm happy to pay taxes. I'm happy to pay more than I'm paying now. But I much prefer "you're taking some of my stuff" to "you're letting me keep some stuff out of largesse" as a default position. 'Cause the latter's frightening and wrong and I don't want to live in a society that functions that way.
posted by eugenen at 11:58 PM on July 2, 2012


Yes, he is a Libertarian. Thank you for the list of random Libertarian stuff you disagree with!

I thought it was helpful, since you chose to create a list if Liberal stuff that, hey, isn't it reasonable and don't we all agree with it?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:08 AM on July 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


One thing I've learned from Libertarians is that we ordinary Americans have way too high a standard of living, while people like Bill Gates or the Kochs have way too low a standard of living.
posted by dirigibleman at 12:25 AM on July 3, 2012 [10 favorites]


Unions—their leadership, their membership, their supporters—are capable of significant bullying that easily spills into immoral coercion against outsiders, nonmembers, and dissenters; the charge of “scab” is often an accusation of punishable treason against a cause that the accused never signed up for.

Aww, we better protect the poor Libertarian from being called a name by meanies!
posted by univac at 12:38 AM on July 3, 2012


I thought it was helpful, since you chose to create a list if Liberal stuff that, hey, isn't it reasonable and don't we all agree with it?

No, I responded to the examples in the quoted post. There are plenty of bad libertarian positions, it wasn't those. He is also pro-choice, by the way, in the sense that he thinks it should be legal. He disagrees with Roe and with late term abortion and that would be enough for Liberals/Democrats to not vote for him but he does believe legal abortion is the right position. As for trade unions, "Johnson says his only issue with trade unions, including teachers' unions, is that they require both good and bad workers to be treated the same.[7] He believes businesses should be allowed to reward good workers and fire bad workers, without collective intervention.[7] He views public-sector unions that contribute to political campaigns as "dangerous."[7] I've read plenty of liberals here who agree with him on that, though I am not in agreement on that one.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:38 AM on July 3, 2012


In my defense, Malor dropped "taxes are theft" before I dropped "property is theft".
posted by Jimbob at 1:04 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


It was just the glib HURF DURF WHO SAYS IT'S YOURS response above that set me off a little

Alright, fair enough. I admit, I read the conversation in a bit of a hurry, and forget to check who was responding to who. So I hadn't realized that you weren't the one characterizing taxation and social services as theft.

To be fair about the hurdurfery, though, the glib response you refer to was, itself, in response to this:

Well, since your version adulthood is apparently defined as, "I can steal your stuff, because I know how to use it better than you do", well, let's just say that's not a club that anyone should be joining.

which is trite and reductionist enough to be rather difficult to engage on any sort of intellectual level. Not that I can blame Malor too much for that, since he was responding to a rather nasty and unnecessary snipe, and up until that point he seemed to be arguing in good faith. I know it pisses me off when I'm arguing with somebody and they arbitrarily declare their own opinion to be the "adult" one.
posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits at 1:08 AM on July 3, 2012


"and they arbitrarily declare their own opinion to be the 'adult' one"

"Adult" is perfectly valid. There are reasons that Randian fever dreams of the heroic loner capitalist appeal primarily to 15 year-old boys. The rest of us grow up and realize that much of what we take for granted in civil society -- relative safety, hospitals, doctors, roads, traffic lights, firefighters, teachers, cops, schools, milk and water that don't have poison in them, a military, the internet -- require tax revenue.

The denial of this reality is, at heart, pure adolescent fantasy. And tt defines modern-day Libertarianism.
posted by bardic at 1:16 AM on July 3, 2012 [19 favorites]


it defines, even

Meanwhile here's an actual historian taking down my favorite Glibertarian.

It never gets old.
posted by bardic at 1:18 AM on July 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


You realize "Glibertarian" makes you look just as childish as the "Democrat Party" or "Republicant" types, right?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:25 AM on July 3, 2012 [11 favorites]


Well, yeah. Libertarians are people who haven't thought through the consequences of their beliefs, and expect the world to conform to their own ignorance.

This pretty much describes most ideologues I know, of whatever stripe.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 2:08 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


So I guess the crux of the "my stuff" argument is that contemporary libertarianism takes the statement "taxation without representation is tyranny" and shortens it to just "taxation is tyranny." The first statement is really smart, I think. It embodies the idea that we should all get together (virtually, through our representatives) and decide together what stuff belongs to whom, what stuff is shared, and so forth. The second statement is problematic, though, since the idea behind it is an absolutist version of private property that doesn't exist, has never existed, and really shouldn't exist.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 2:47 AM on July 3, 2012 [7 favorites]


Which has nothing to do with coercion, because the way a boss can deal with an employee is to take away his job, meaning that he cannot eat. While for upper middle class libertarian writers, I completely understand how being jeered as a scab might seem almost as bad as not having enough food to eat and being evicted from your apartment because you can't pay rent, I have very, very little sympathy for this argument.

The idea is that if you don't want to work for one boss and get fired, that you are not guaranteed starvation because of it - that you are perfectly free to take your labor and go to another boss. That a boss, by virtue of having hired you, is not responsible for you for the rest of your life simply because he wanted your labor at some point.

Someone above asked why libertarians were okay with "bad" workplace practices. Well, the idea is that the boss is free to decide what kind of activity he wants to pay for. If that's a continuous twelve hour shift, then that's a continuous twelve hour shift. Then, he offers his money, and you decide whether or not to deal with that as a condition of employment. No one forces you to take the job. If, after you have accepted these conditions of employment, you choose to violate them, you are no longer providing the service the boss hired you for, and he has the right to fire you.

People saying that being jeered as a scab is completely irrelevant and harmless are forgetting the violence which has historically taken place against scabs. The loud crowd jeering and yelling is threatening not because they're saying nasty names (though that is also not great under libertarian theory) but because they contain the implicit threat of violence: we are a mob, and we hate you, and we stand ready to destroy you.

On a side note, I find it really hard to understand the absolute hate here directed against a position that says you're free to live your life as you please, without other people forcing you to do things. Damn you, Libertarians, for...wanting freedom from oppression for me and everyone else...
posted by corb at 4:22 AM on July 3, 2012


Every aspect of contemporary private property is predicated on a millennia-old nightmare of exploitation, outright theft, imperialism, slavery, rape, and murder. Privileged people in the modern West getting moralistic about their property rights might as well just be honest: "We stole it fair and square." Hurf durf.
posted by gerryblog at 4:41 AM on July 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Damn you, Libertarians, for...wanting freedom from oppression for me and everyone else...


One of the most ardent Libertarians I know supports the right of businesses to discriminate absolutely: no blacks, no problem; sexual harassment is overblown; taxes are tyranny and for the weak; gun control should be completely abolished...the problem with his version of freedom is a world where my movements and work choices and pregnancy options -- in short, my freedom-- would be extremely limited. It is hard for me to agree with a political philosophy that believes in rights only for those with the power to force others to agree to onerous and damaging conditions.
posted by jetlagaddict at 4:50 AM on July 3, 2012 [16 favorites]


Incidentally, said millennia-old nightmare is a much more sufficient explanation for why "everywhere in the world [modern capitalism] doesn't hold is a hellhole" than property rights. How do you think all those places got that way?
posted by gerryblog at 4:56 AM on July 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


History shows that human nature abhors a power vacuum, by which I mean if one person or group loses power/control over society, it is because of or closely followed by another person or group taking that power. If this premise is taken to be true (and history provides ample evidence), then it suggests that libertarianism addresses a meaningless question - "should someone be allowed to hold power/control over me?". This question is irrelevant, because in the context of a large interconnected society, there will always be control exerted over you. The important question is who should exert this control? Should it flow from all of us individually in the form of a direct democracy? Should it flow from lobbying organizations, as in a representative democracy? Should it flow from private corporations, as in a deregulated state? When the libertarians call for small government, they imagine that the less control the state is allowed to exert on them, the freer they will be - this is impossible, if you accept the aforementioned premise. If you decrease the amount of power the state has, it merely means the power of private interests (usually corporations) over your life will expand. Given that I must choose between a society ruled by private corporations and a society ruled by a government that is at least intended to be for the people, by the people, I will easily choose the latter.

There are radical philosophies that seek to challenge that premise, for example anarchopacifism, which asks the question, "can we organize our society in a way that actually eliminates those pervasive power hierarchies?". That usually involves a theoretical society that is not so large and interconnected so that true personal liberty is not impossible
posted by Salvor Hardin at 5:32 AM on July 3, 2012 [17 favorites]


On a side note, I find it really hard to understand the absolute hate here directed against a position that says you're free to live your life as you please, without other people forcing you to do things. Damn you, Libertarians, for...wanting freedom from oppression for me and everyone else...
I think "hate" is a strong word, and maybe not quite right. Most people against Libertarianism are realists who care very much about how the world actually works, and understand that such utopian beliefs aren't workable. Rather than try to implement a system that will harm a lot of people before it fails, they're trying to counter your beliefs with real-life problems and historical examples. But it is tiring to point out the same problems time and again, which is why people sometimes get snappy. We would do the same against Communism if somebody seriously came on here claiming that it's going to give us freedom and take away oppression. It's nice stuff, just kinda naive, that's all. Don't take any of this as personal, we know you mean well.
posted by Jehan at 5:48 AM on July 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


The idea is that if you don't want to work for one boss and get fired, that you are not guaranteed starvation because of it - that you are perfectly free to take your labor and go to another boss.

Like most Libertarian tenets, this is great in theory and horribly wrong in the real world.

A. It makes the giant assumption that there is something approaching equality between employers and job seekers. +/- 10% unemployment kinda shoots that in the foot, doesn't it?

B. It completely ignores the possibility (Teddy Roosevelt and I say fact) that capital is organized. Claiming that workers shouldn't be organized is nothing more than piling on.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:24 AM on July 3, 2012 [11 favorites]


capital is organized

Hell, that goes back to Smith. I can't remember the quote, but it's something about how two business men can't get together for lunch without trying to form a monopoly.

That's Smith. From the same book with the magic hand.

(After thirty seconds of exhaustive research)

People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.
posted by Trochanter at 6:40 AM on July 3, 2012 [12 favorites]


People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.

Taken out of context as it is, this observation would appear to apply equally to labor as to "business men." How are public sector unions anything but a conspiracy against the public who employ them?
posted by three blind mice at 6:49 AM on July 3, 2012


Taken out of context as it is, this observation would appear to apply equally to labor as to "business men." How are public sector unions anything but a conspiracy against the public who employ them?
Indeed, the presence of economic conspiracies among all actors suggests the need for some arbiter. Something independent and tasked with upholding the freedoms of all. Thankfully we've invented the state and it works reasonably well.
posted by Jehan at 6:52 AM on July 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


Taken out of context as it is, this observation would appear to apply equally to labor as to "business men." How are public sector unions anything but a conspiracy against the public who employ them?

Assuming that's true, at least it's fair.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:54 AM on July 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's a truth of the market. Jacking the market is a function of the market. There is no free market. They don't spin like a top. They flail about like a garden hose.
posted by Trochanter at 6:59 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Damn you, Libertarians, for...wanting freedom from oppression for me and everyone else...

As a libertarian-sympathetic liberal, I understand where people are coming from when they say this, but the truth is that (any, but in this case specifically American) society is organized to benefit certain people more than others and "freedom from oppression" tends to mean "freedom to oppress"--which ties this thread about coercing workers nicely into the South-bashing thread about regional power elsewhere on the blue.

Also as a woman, I've had a lot of trouble getting behind the Libertarians because Ron Paul is the go-to representative for their philosophy in my part of the world and he's behind using the coercive power of the state to require me to maintain an unwanted pregnancy, which is the least libertarian thing I can think of. It's my own damned body and if I don't have liberty over it, I have none at all.
posted by immlass at 7:41 AM on July 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Teehee. I love threads like this! Nothing boosts self-esteem more than seeing erudite writers be utter nimrods.

Libertarianism is appealing the way children's television is appealing. No matter what drama's happening this week, there are underlying rules and themes which can never, ever, ever be wrong so it's not worth thinking about them. The libertarian essays linked show how fun this is. So many words overthinking simple issues because they refuse to admit personal freedom isn't the endpoint of human existence! Ignoring that "freedom" is defined by context and context means other people unless you live in a mountain cabin. You can't escape other people except by killing them or having enough money that you basically stop counting as a member of the human race.

Those people, with their personal freedoms, will do their best to interfere with yours. They will talk to you, loudly, when you are trying to read. They will decide you loving the wrong person is bad and try to ban that. They will stick shit in the skies and water and plant billboard ad gardens and make things crap for everybody other than themselves.

Live and let live, right? But the key word in that phrase is "let". How do you let others live? Does pollution and advertising and promoted ignorance count as denying somebody freedoms? What about refusing to pay taxes on the money you've been lucky enough to earn? And you ARE lucky, because without a whole lot of nurture and a whole lot of pre-built society, you'd have nothing. Like a bunch of other people who are not bad people but still kind of got shit offers in life. How do you let them live, when the very nature of how you live your life contributes to the culture which denies them all the things you've got?

These people, of course, still affect your life. Even if they have less than you. You live among them. You see them on the streets. They look, often, a lot like you and me. And if their only options are ignorance or protest or violence or crime, their "personal freedom" is going to infringe on yours, big-time. So even if you don't have an ounce of empathy, it just makes hard rational sense to either create a system in which these people are helped, consistently, automatically, or to exterminate them and free up the world for us lucky ones.

Lots of Americans seem to be saying they'd prefer the latter. I think that's a short-term solution, myself, plus genocide leads to depressing TV specials and I find unhappiness cramps my freedoms. Better to find better ways of coexisting, of providing systemic equality so other people can be free to do their own things and get out of my face. Methods for governing lives and relationships – I think "governing" is really quite a poetic way to describe gently shaping the boundaries of the world we live in, so that we can focus on joyful things like movies and Internet bloviation instead of on growing food and learning how to fight with swords (the scary kind with blood, not fencing which is neat). Find ways to provide EVERYONE with basic needs, like food and shelter and larnin's and diversions, without judging them worthy or unworthy or forcing them through misery or freedom-violations because PERSONAL FREEDOM RAHHH. And make providing these things mandatory, rather than basing them entirely on charity, because the freedom to keep our fake currency units is less vital than our freedom to generally not give a shit. I want to help these people but I really don't want to go through the effort of caring about them.

In conclusion there is no such thing as freedom without other people, and our own freedoms can deny other people theirs. So, you need rules for maximizing freedom for EVERYONE or else libertarianism becomes a vast childish circlejerk oh oops too late
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:50 AM on July 3, 2012 [25 favorites]


who says it is your stuff?

The government and the police say it is my stuff. Otherwise anyone could make it theirs. With a big gun, or while I am away at work, or just by numbers.

Who even says the money in the bank is mine? Who says the banker can't just take it to buy some more stuff?
posted by Ayn Rand and God at 7:57 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


In Summary: Your favorite political ideology is wrong.
posted by nTeleKy at 7:58 AM on July 3, 2012


A question I love asking libertarians: What would stop me from pointlessly but intentionally killing every single whale in the world?
posted by Jeff Mangum's Penny-farthing at 8:24 AM on July 3, 2012


A question I love asking libertarians: What would stop me from pointlessly but intentionally killing every single whale in the world?

Greenpeace's private fleet?
posted by gyc at 8:40 AM on July 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Costly occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan? Glibs didn't just sit on the sidelines, most of them actively cheerled for what basically broke the US, forever. Gay marriage? Funny how quiet they are on this one too. What could be a better example of individual rights needing to overcome government coercion.

Play up to the crowd much? What a load of bullshit this is.

From the Wikipedia article on the Cato Institute:

"In 2003, Cato filed an amicus brief in support of the Supreme Court's decision in Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down the few remaining state laws that made private, non-commercial homosexual relations between consenting adults illegal. Cato cited the 14th Amendment, among other things, as the source of their support for the ruling. The amicus brief was cited in Justice Kennedy's majority opinion for the Court.

In 2006, Cato published a Policy Analysis criticising the Federal Marriage Amendment as unnecessary, anti-federalist, and anti-democratic. The amendment would have changed the United States Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage; the amendment failed in both houses of Congress."

From a 2008 Reason article, "Gay Marriage: The Victory After the Defeat" (emphasis mine):

"It does help pro-gay marriage forces to be of good cheer and remember that we have seen remarkably quick shifts in public perception on this issue; it has gone from the kind of fear of a nightmare future a Falwell would use in a fundraising letter 20 years ago to something supported by many courts and near-majorities of state voters. What's happening now is not a wickedly powerful and on-the-grow religious right taking away some fundamental right we've always known, but a matter of the last fading shows of force from a mentality battered and on the ropes, not one vital and getting stronger, electoral victories notwithstanding."

See Reason's coverage of gay and lesbian issues here. Similar to the Cato Institute's position most of the discussion around gay marriage is focused on removing the state's involvement in any marriage.

Iraq? Seriously?

The Cato Institute's director of defense policy studies is Ivan Eland. Below are links to three essays of his from 2002 on whether or not the U.S. should invade Iraq.

Top 10 Reasons Not to "Do" Iraq

Why Attack Iraq?

Declassified CIA Report Undercuts Bush's Desire to Invade Iraq

Again from the Wikipedia article on the Cato Institute (emphasis mine):

"Ted Galen Carpenter, Cato's Vice President for Defense and Foreign Policy Studies, criticized many of the arguments offered to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq. One of the war's earliest critics, Carpenter wrote in January 2002: "Ousting Saddam would make Washington responsible for Iraq's political future and entangle the United States in an endless nation-building mission beset by intractable problems.""

Reason's archives are not organized by topic past 2005, so instead I'll include a link to Ron Paul's December 2001 speech against House Joint Resolution 75, which he opposed on the grounds that it, "moves us closer to conflict with Iraq".

You are also wrong about classical liberalism and its similarity, not identity, to libertarian principles and its stark differences with progressivism. There is so much on the web about this that I'm a bit unsure where to begin. A few web searches on the relevant terms should make it clear.

-----

Which has nothing to do with coercion, because the way a boss can deal with an employee is to take away his job, meaning that he cannot eat. While for upper middle class libertarian writers, I completely understand how being jeered as a scab might seem almost as bad as not having enough food to eat and being evicted from your apartment because you can't pay rent, I have very, very little sympathy for this argument.

I'm sorry, I must be missing something here. A scab (nice epithet!) is willing to reach an agreement with an employer at a lower price, this means that the lower level of pay is his best economic option. And yet when you compare the two, it is the union member with the higher rate of pay who is portrayed as being at risk of starvation, while the only risk faced by the strikebreaker is being called a few name. But doesn't the union want to throw the strikebreaker out of his job? Or is it only the nasty, mean, capitalist employer, whose 'offense' let us remember is to offer money in exchange for labor, who can summon the wolf to the door?

So, please explain. Why isn't the union also shown as aiming to deprive the strikebreaker of his rent and food money? And WTF is up with "upper middle class libertarian writers"? I'm very curious about that because it frankly sounds like some sort of pandering class warfare sophistry to me.

-----

Assuming that's true, at least it's fair.

Except that capital isn't actually organized.

-----

A question I love asking libertarians: What would stop me from pointlessly but intentionally killing every single whale in the world?

Interesting question. I think this does a good job of showing libertarians there are situations that require them to moderate their adherence to their principles. And I'll be the first to admit that many libertarians are far too absolute in their thinking.
posted by BigSky at 8:44 AM on July 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Except that capital isn't actually organized.

Yeah, it's just a total coincidence that all the big companies pay their CEO's several thousand times more than is necessary to hire a competent manager to run the company. Where are the scabs undercutting CEOs in the boardroom?
posted by straight at 8:52 AM on July 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


You realize "Glibertarian" makes you look just as childish as the "Democrat Party" or "Republicant" types, right?

Read the linked article and you'll understand why "Glibertarian" is such an apt description for Megan "the, y’know, massive cartels" McCardle.
posted by longdaysjourney at 9:13 AM on July 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Or McArdle, rather.
posted by longdaysjourney at 9:15 AM on July 3, 2012


The only thing an employer has to threaten you with is firing you. And all of an employers "oppression" can be dismissed with two words "I quit".

This is only true if the labor pool is tight enough that employers have to compete for workers. This is not the case for any but a tiny minority of jobs. Wal-Mart can treat their workers like shit because if you quit, they can always find someone else to fill your job.

Capital doesn't have to be organized if employers realize their workers have no viable options. Wal-Mart doesn't have to collude with the Amazon warehouses if there is a line of hungry people waiting to take the job of any worker who won't eat the shit sandwich.
posted by straight at 9:17 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


The current Libertarian nominee for President was pro-gay marriage before Barack Obama. He supports drastically cutting the military like most Libertarians do. And being out of step with the Republicans on drug law is out of step with the Democrats too and the entire concept of the US police state.

posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:50 AM on July 3


...and he will be lucky if he gets 1% of the popular vote. Most people who call themselves liberaterians are going to vote for Rmoney.
posted by goethean at 9:17 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


"No one forces you to take the job."

No one but your aching stomach, your unsympathetic landlord, your needful children…

"People saying that being jeered as a scab is completely irrelevant and harmless are forgetting the violence which has historically taken place against scabs. The loud crowd jeering and yelling is threatening not because they're saying nasty names (though that is also not great under libertarian theory) but because they contain the implicit threat of violence: we are a mob, and we hate you, and we stand ready to destroy you. "

I'm gonna go out on a limb and assume that you're ignorant of labor history and how the violence was most commonly directed at the strikers, not the scabs. Because if we're going back to a time when violence against scabs was anywhere near common, we're going back to the labor battles of the early to mid-20th century, where private and state armies conspired to murder union workers regularly. From that historical perspective you invoke, it's more than a little disingenuous to pretend that scabs were the ones being coerced.

"On a side note, I find it really hard to understand the absolute hate here directed against a position that says you're free to live your life as you please, without other people forcing you to do things. Damn you, Libertarians, for...wanting freedom from oppression for me and everyone else..."

Well, because it's an inconsistent system that really only appeals to people who are doing well, requires a rejection of both empathy and common sense, and following the advice of libertarians on economic questions almost invariably leads to more people suffering. Because of that, it's pretty easy to dismiss the putative allure of "Freedom from oppression," especially once you realize that it's an incredibly narrow definition of "freedom" and does incredibly little to end oppression qua oppression and more to line the pockets of those who endorse it.
posted by klangklangston at 9:21 AM on July 3, 2012 [14 favorites]


"A scab (nice epithet!) is willing to reach an agreement with an employer at a lower price, this means that the lower level of pay is his best economic option. And yet when you compare the two, it is the union member with the higher rate of pay who is portrayed as being at risk of starvation, while the only risk faced by the strikebreaker is being called a few name. But doesn't the union want to throw the strikebreaker out of his job? Or is it only the nasty, mean, capitalist employer, whose 'offense' let us remember is to offer money in exchange for labor, who can summon the wolf to the door?"

This is again idiotic and assumes a bunch of things not demonstrated.

1) Assumes rational actor, e.g. "best economic option."
2) Assumes scab wage is best economic option, i.e. ignores long-term benefit of organizing.
3) Assumes no coercion upon scab, e.g. your complaint about union starvation. Scabs can be starving too, which would definitely imply that the choice to work for lower wages was not freely made.
4) Yes, the union wants the strikebreaker out — from the view of labor, those jobs are theirs that the scab is filling. There would be no job for the scab without the strike. And it's not like employers have a demonstrated loyalty to strikebreakers either.
5) The most idiotic pronouncement is portraying the employer as only offering money in exchange for labor — you can say the same thing about someone hiring children for mines, requiring workers to labor in dangerous positions, or even someone hiring a hit on their wife. There are plenty of ways to unethically or illegally offer money for labor and this glib disingenuousness does your argument no favors.
posted by klangklangston at 9:41 AM on July 3, 2012 [12 favorites]


BigSky, telling someone to just Google it is never going to get you anything but dismissed. If you actually have something to say, say it.
posted by adamdschneider at 9:59 AM on July 3, 2012


Someone above asked why libertarians were okay with "bad" workplace practices. Well, the idea is that the boss is free to decide what kind of activity he wants to pay for. If that's a continuous twelve hour shift, then that's a continuous twelve hour shift. Then, he offers his money, and you decide whether or not to deal with that as a condition of employment. No one forces you to take the job. If, after you have accepted these conditions of employment, you choose to violate them, you are no longer providing the service the boss hired you for, and he has the right to fire you.

As the FPP points out, employer-employee contracts are extremely vague, and employers often encroach upon employee freedoms in small increments. The "don't like it? leave!" option is essentially a nuclear option that doesn't really provide room for flexible negotiation between employer and employee.
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:59 AM on July 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.

Who else read this in their head in Leonard Nimoy's voice and felt an immediate urge to change their military production to knights?
posted by strangely stunted trees at 10:13 AM on July 3, 2012 [8 favorites]


It seems like both lefties and righties have gone weirdly authoritarian over the last few decades, both of them thinking of state power as the right way to solve everything. The righties want to use it as a tool to kill brown people and suppress the ungodly, the lefties want to use it as a tool to take from those they define as rich and give to those they define as poor. Instead of forming groups to convince people to do this voluntarily, in other words, they want to use the coercive power of the state to confiscate wealth by force.

What? Out of all the many, many wrong things libertarians believe, this is straight-up 100% the wrongest.

1. People do not give up wealth voluntarily. If they did, there would be zero reason to force them. The only people with any reason to oppose the distribution of wealth are the people who have it.

2. "Rich" and "poor" are pretty clearly distinct without "lefties" having to draw a line between them.

3. In what way is taking money from people who don't need it and giving it to people who do even remotely equatable to mass murder?

I'm fairly libertarian


You don't say!
posted by Sys Rq at 10:52 AM on July 3, 2012


This is again idiotic and assumes a bunch of things not demonstrated.

OK. Excuse my reordering of your list.

Please, by all means keep on using your slur for strikebreakers. Show us you're a man of the people! It's an effective signal around these parts.

Yes, the union wants the strikebreaker out — from the view of labor, those jobs are theirs that the scab is filling. There would be no job for the scab without the strike. And it's not like employers have a demonstrated loyalty to strikebreakers either.

This is not an assumption requiring demonstration, but never mind such details. The loyalty of the employers to the strikebreakers, demonstrated or otherwise, is irrelevant, as are the entitlement issues of Big Labor. Of course there would be no job for the strikebreaker without the strike. Many people are hired when the previous employee is no longer satisfied with the compensation they were offered.

The most idiotic pronouncement is portraying the employer as only offering money in exchange for labor — you can say the same thing about someone hiring children for mines, requiring workers to labor in dangerous positions, or even someone hiring a hit on their wife. There are plenty of ways to unethically or illegally offer money for labor and this glib disingenuousness does your argument no favors.

This is also not an assumption requiring demonstration, but whatever. My statement was made in response to another. If it was relevant in that context to characterize the employer's acts as unethical or illegal it would have been. It is reasonable in my reply to assume this is not an issue.

Assumes no coercion upon scab, e.g. your complaint about union starvation. Scabs can be starving too, which would definitely imply that the choice to work for lower wages was not freely made.

Am I assuming coercion upon a scab, or not? I'm not sure what you're thinking here.

For the record, while I wouldn't use the word coercion, I assume the strikebreaker's choices are shaped by necessity, just like the rest of us. By the way, is someone who takes a fast food job freely making that choice? What about someone who's doing seasonal agricultural work, free choice?

Assumes rational actor, e.g. "best economic option."

Assumes scab wage is best economic option, i.e. ignores long-term benefit of organizing.


These are assumptions and they are both reasonable. Criticisms of man not being a rational actor are not really relevant here, but if it pleases you change "best economic option" to "best option". How do we know it's the best option by the chooser's standards? By him taking it. Perhaps there are some other incentives motivating the strikebreakers besides the size of the paychecks, e.g. the working conditions, maybe the extra money to the strikebreaker when he has kids at home is worth more to him than the greater economic benefits he would see from organizing (as if). But who cares? What difference does this make? The only way this is germane is if you're arguing that strikebreakers are acting from a position of wealth, which I'm pretty sure you are not since you also acknowledge that they too may be starving.

The point remains, the union is actively aiming to deprive the strikebreakers of their money for shelter and food. So, no, it's not the case that "upper middle class libertarian writers" think that being jeered as a scab is just as bad as going without food and shelter.

-----

Yeah, it's just a total coincidence that all the big companies pay their CEO's several thousand times more than is necessary to hire a competent manager to run the company. Where are the scabs undercutting CEOs in the boardroom?

No one argues that it's a total coincidence. Salaries for CEOs, like everyone else, are established by the market. If the employers could get them for cheaper, they would. You might not think that CEOs offer sufficient value to justify their salaries, and I would agree, but we're not the ones bidding for their services.

I have no idea what you think is going on in terms of capital (should that be capitalized?) being organized. Prospective CEOs aren't capital, the stockholders are. The company's owners do not benefit by offering more than the minimum necessary to hire a CEO, and I don't see how the granting of large blocks of stock in addition to sizable salaries is somehow proof of capital being guilty of organization (whatever that might mean).

-----

BigSky, telling someone to just Google it is never going to get you anything but dismissed. If you actually have something to say, say it.

What I have to say is that the similarity between the beliefs of most libertarians and "classical liberalism" is widely recognized and that claiming otherwise is simply wrong. Those who are uncertain whether or not this is actually the case should investigate.
posted by BigSky at 12:01 PM on July 3, 2012


I favorited a previous comment of yours n this thread, because it was thoughtful and well written, even though I disagreed with it.

But if you really think CEO salaries are a sign of a well-functioning market- and not a boy's club of mutual boardmembership ensuring sky high salaries even for CEOs that negatively impact the companies they preside over- well that's just silly.
posted by hincandenza at 12:28 PM on July 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


No one argues that it's a total coincidence. Salaries for CEOs, like everyone else, are established by the market.

Not really. At public companies, they're established by compensation committees of boards of directors, who are composed of other corporate executives who have a vested interest in making sure that executive compensation is high across the board since their own pay is determined through a similar process, and a natural bias to over-value the contributions of executives to a company's success.

They are aided in this process by compensation consultants, who, like many other species of strategy consultant, first figure out the answer their clients want to hear and then cherry-pick their data and methodologies to back into that answer.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 12:32 PM on July 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


There is ongoing tension between 'ownership capitalism' and 'management capitalism', and outrageous CEO salaries are part of the latter.
posted by PigAlien at 1:14 PM on July 3, 2012


As the article discusses, there seems to just be a fundamental disagreement about what "coercion" means. For libertarians it appears that anything that is not an actual threat of violence is not coercion, so that anything else is voluntary and free. Many others, myself included, see this is as an exceedingly narrow definition and not really applicable to the actual world.

For the record, while I wouldn't use the word coercion, I assume the strikebreaker's choices are shaped by necessity, just like the rest of us. By the way, is someone who takes a fast food job freely making that choice? What about someone who's doing seasonal agricultural work, free choice?
BigSky

This is the heart of the disagreement. While no one (probably) dragged the agricultural worker into the field and forced him to work at gunpoint, such workers very often have literally no other options than doing that work and starvation/homelessness. It's difficult, at least for me and many others, to call that a "free choice". Why wouldn't you use the word coercion? "You're free to quit if you'd like to sleep on the street and have nothing to eat" sounds like coercion to me.

On a side note, I find it really hard to understand the absolute hate here directed against a position that says you're free to live your life as you please, without other people forcing you to do things. Damn you, Libertarians, for...wanting freedom from oppression for me and everyone else...
corb

Because for the above reasons, there often is really little choice involved in employment. You outline the theoretical way it's supposed to work, but the world simply does not work that way. The imbalance between employee and and employer is too great. Surely even in your own experience you personally or people you've known have been forced to take jobs or put up with conditions at work because they could not afford to lose the job? It's easier to convince ourselves these relationships are all voluntary in developed nations, but in poorer nations you see the reality: you work in terrible conditions or you starve. It's not a choice at all.

Yet libertarians insist that this idealized, theoretical view of the world is the way things should work, and that is frustrating. It's angering when they then try to change policy to reflect these impossible fantasies, and end up hurting many people in their quest for ideology.

Even more infuriating is when they then say what you say, "Hey, what's the matter, we just want freedom!" without seeing how narrow their definitions of freedom and coercion are, how unworkable their ideas actually are, and how harmful their ideas are when put into practice.


It assumes all sorts of false equalities between the two, similar to saying, "Whites should be able to discriminate against blacks just as much as blacks should be able to discriminate against whites!"
posted by Sangermaine at 1:37 PM on July 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


It assumes all sorts of false equalities between the two, similar to saying, "Whites should be able to discriminate against blacks just as much as blacks should be able to discriminate against whites!"

Are you saying that blacks should be able to discriminate against whites?
posted by rr at 1:54 PM on July 3, 2012


It assumes all sorts of false equalities between the two, similar to saying, "Whites should be able to discriminate against blacks just as much as blacks should be able to discriminate against whites!"
Are you saying that blacks should be able to discriminate against whites?


Maybe you should go and read that link about the principle of charity that someone posted above.
posted by palbo at 2:01 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


"These are assumptions and they are both reasonable. Criticisms of man not being a rational actor are not really relevant here, but if it pleases you change "best economic option" to "best option". How do we know it's the best option by the chooser's standards? By him taking it. Perhaps there are some other incentives motivating the strikebreakers besides the size of the paychecks, e.g. the working conditions, maybe the extra money to the strikebreaker when he has kids at home is worth more to him than the greater economic benefits he would see from organizing (as if). But who cares? What difference does this make? The only way this is germane is if you're arguing that strikebreakers are acting from a position of wealth, which I'm pretty sure you are not since you also acknowledge that they too may be starving."

No, that's the very definition of begging the question. We cannot ascertain that someone's best option is determined by the option they take, and it's farcical to argue thus. It is a make believe land to assert that no one ever makes mistakes about their best interests. Further, it is a mistake to believe that people function economically as rational actors, something that even economists admit. People can, but to base an argument on that assumption, especially an argument with public policy implications, is to substitute ideology for thinking.

Further, the point wasn't that the strikebreaker was acting from a position of largess, but rather that his employ represented a race to the bottom, and was indicative of a power imbalance that implies coercion.

"By the way, is someone who takes a fast food job freely making that choice? What about someone who's doing seasonal agricultural work, free choice?"

Not entirely, AND THAT'S WHY COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AND WORKPLACE PROTECTIONS ARE IMPORTANT.

"The loyalty of the employers to the strikebreakers, demonstrated or otherwise, is irrelevant, as are the entitlement issues of Big Labor. Of course there would be no job for the strikebreaker without the strike. Many people are hired when the previous employee is no longer satisfied with the compensation they were offered."

Again, that's a glib and disingenuous recasting of the situation. You were asserting that it was somehow wrong for the strikers to accost or resent the scab. I was pointing out that because the scab is working directly against the interests of the striker, it's pretty reasonable.

" If it was relevant in that context to characterize the employer's acts as unethical or illegal it would have been. It is reasonable in my reply to assume this is not an issue."

Bullshit. You're ignoring that you've essentially granted the right to employers to act unethically without recourse, and then removing the bits of reality that are troubling to your assumptions.

"The point remains, the union is actively aiming to deprive the strikebreakers of their money for shelter and food. So, no, it's not the case that "upper middle class libertarian writers" think that being jeered as a scab is just as bad as going without food and shelter."

No, the point is again bullshit. You either have to go with the premise that the scab has no claim on said money and food, or that the union member has a prior claim. You cannot claim both.

"No one argues that it's a total coincidence. Salaries for CEOs, like everyone else, are established by the market. If the employers could get them for cheaper, they would. You might not think that CEOs offer sufficient value to justify their salaries, and I would agree, but we're not the ones bidding for their services."

This is silly enough that I encourage you to think about ways you might be wrong here instead of reflexively retreating to a market-solves-all fundamentalism.
posted by klangklangston at 2:01 PM on July 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


If the employers could get them for cheaper, they would.

No they wouldn't. It's almost completely irrational. There appears to be a certain prestige to paying as much as possible for your CEO, and, furthermore, to reward bad performance. A fuck-up CEO gets a golden parachute. A worker who takes too long at their toilet break gets fired. There is nothing rational there, nothing legitimately trying to maximise profit and efficiency to be seen.
posted by Jimbob at 2:26 PM on July 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


I don't think I'm ever going to stop being surprised by the level of unreality endorsed by libertarians, or their foes on metafilter.
posted by 2N2222 at 3:01 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


If the employers could get them for cheaper, they would.
No they wouldn't. It's almost completely irrational. There appears to be a certain prestige to paying as much as possible for your CEO, and, furthermore, to reward bad performance. A fuck-up CEO gets a golden parachute. A worker who takes too long at their toilet break gets fired. There is nothing rational there, nothing legitimately trying to maximise profit and efficiency to be seen.


You make it sound like it's some sort of CEO-union wanting to keep salaries from dropping!
posted by palbo at 3:02 PM on July 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


It assumes all sorts of false equalities between the two, similar to saying, "Whites should be able to discriminate against blacks just as much as blacks should be able to discriminate against whites!"

I, uh, actually mean to delete that last paragraph and forgot about it when posting.
posted by Sangermaine at 4:04 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm gonna go out on a limb and assume that you're ignorant of labor history and how the violence was most commonly directed at the strikers, not the scabs. Because if we're going back to a time when violence against scabs was anywhere near common, we're going back to the labor battles of the early to mid-20th century, where private and state armies conspired to murder union workers regularly.

I am far from ignorant of labor history. I believe it's wrong to use the National Guard to break up strikers AND for strikers to intimidate or beat scabs. In modern times, I believe that it's wrong to force strikers to go back to work AND wrong for strikers to intimidate scabs who are going in to accept employment. Again, jobs don't "belong" to strikers. If they voluntarily vacate them, they have no moral right to harm people who wish to take that employment.

Again, that's a glib and disingenuous recasting of the situation. You were asserting that it was somehow wrong for the strikers to accost or resent the scab. I was pointing out that because the scab is working directly against the interests of the striker, it's pretty reasonable.

By those standards, because the strikers are working against the boss's interests, is it likewise reasonable for them to accost or resent the strikers?

No, the point is again bullshit. You either have to go with the premise that the scab has no claim on said money and food, or that the union member has a prior claim. You cannot claim both.


Actually, you can do this: by going with the premise that the person who is voluntarily accepting a contract has a contractual claim to the terms of the contract until such a time as they break the contract. The scab, by voluntarily accepting the terms, thus has a claim until they vacate it. The striker has no such claim, because they have already vacated it.
posted by corb at 5:49 PM on July 3, 2012


But if you really think CEO salaries are a sign of a well-functioning market- and not a boy's club of mutual boardmembership ensuring sky high salaries even for CEOs that negatively impact the companies they preside over- well that's just silly.

and

Not really. At public companies, they're established by compensation committees of boards of directors, who are composed of other corporate executives who have a vested interest in making sure that executive compensation is high across the board since their own pay is determined through a similar process, and a natural bias to over-value the contributions of executives to a company's success.

They are aided in this process by compensation consultants, who, like many other species of strategy consultant, first figure out the answer their clients want to hear and then cherry-pick their data and methodologies to back into that answer.


I can be wrong. My assumption had been that CEO salaries were at their ridiculous levels because of the belief and emotion that we tend to invest in leaders and how we credit them with results even when their lack of control has been clearly established, e.g. POTUS and the U.S. economy. Just because the market is free doesn't mean it's intelligent. Even if the principal stock holders didn't believe there was value I could see them justify spending the money if they thought that a narrative could be built around a well known new hire that would cause the active traders to lean towards buying. Anyways I'm curious about this and I'll look into it.

-----

This is the heart of the disagreement. While no one (probably) dragged the agricultural worker into the field and forced him to work at gunpoint, such workers very often have literally no other options than doing that work and starvation/homelessness. It's difficult, at least for me and many others, to call that a "free choice". Why wouldn't you use the word coercion? "You're free to quit if you'd like to sleep on the street and have nothing to eat" sounds like coercion to me.

In poor, rural counties that's what they have available. Poverty is not the same as coercion, e.g. subsistence farmers have to work or they have nothing to eat. If you see them as equivalent then most of humanity has been the victim of coercion their entire lives as a result of their economic conditions alone and I simply don't believe that. Freedom is not solely the ability of the upper middle class to indulge their desires. For the purposes of this discussion freedom can be having the right of refusal. Coercion doesn't have to be outright violence but it does have to be an extreme act aimed at limiting a specific target's choices. You know, something beyond offering them and others a contract for employment. This is also why I don't use the word "exploited" to refer to Asian sweatshop workers. They're not exploited, someone has come and offered them a possibility that's better than their prior range of choices.

Because for the above reasons, there often is really little choice involved in employment. You outline the theoretical way it's supposed to work, but the world simply does not work that way. The imbalance between employee and and employer is too great. Surely even in your own experience you personally or people you've known have been forced to take jobs or put up with conditions at work because they could not afford to lose the job? It's easier to convince ourselves these relationships are all voluntary in developed nations, but in poorer nations you see the reality: you work in terrible conditions or you starve. It's not a choice at all.

Yet libertarians insist that this idealized, theoretical view of the world is the way things should work, and that is frustrating. It's angering when they then try to change policy to reflect these impossible fantasies, and end up hurting many people in their quest for ideology.

Even more infuriating is when they then say what you say, "Hey, what's the matter, we just want freedom!" without seeing how narrow their definitions of freedom and coercion are, how unworkable their ideas actually are, and how harmful their ideas are when put into practice.


You probably see me and other libertarians as pretty callous individuals, completely disinterested in the welfare of others. Let me reply to that with a quote from this Thomas Sowell piece,

"Back in the days when I was a Marxist, my primary concern was that ordinary people deserved better, and that elites were walking all over them. That is still my primary concern, but the passing decades have taught me that political elites and cultural elites are doing far more damage than the market elites could ever get away with doing.

...

While my desires for a better life for ordinary people have not changed from the days of my youthful Marxism, experience has taught the bitter lesson that the way to get there is the opposite of what I once thought."

That's a bit different from some of the prior depictions of our motives.

Of course I recognize the truth in what you write about people having to put up with conditions they hate because of their circumstances and that this is even more drastic in poorer nations. I would like the goods of the world to be more widely distributed as well and the way to do that is to give people options and create incentives for production. Workers don't have the option to work somewhere else when government limits the incentives to someone starting a factory by putting a high tax on income or investment returns, or by putting expensive regulatory obstacles in their path. Why should anyone risk their money? When there's no competition for workers what incentives does an employer have to treat his employees well? The relationships are all voluntary but some people have much shittier options than others, and part of that has to do with how friendly the government is to business and how respectful they are of private property.

I'm not sure when libertarians are supposed to see how harmful their ideas purportedly are when we are so consistently ignored, e.g. the Drug War and all consensual crimes, the Patriot Act, foreign interventions, the bank bailouts, the housing crisis, and the deficit.

-----

It is a make believe land to assert that no one ever makes mistakes about their best interests.

I avoid telling people what their own best interests are. People make decisions with incomplete information. Sometimes that incomplete information even extends to their own motives. If they make a "mistake", who's the judge of their true best interest? You? Some imaginary future self?

Further, it is a mistake to believe that people function economically as rational actors, something that even economists admit.

I'm not arguing it's perfect model, I acknowledged that it's not. But it happens to be irrelevant in this instance. That you're arguing a strikebreaker is not going after their own best job option given the hurdles they face, makes it difficult to take you seriously. If they're breaking a strike we can pretty safely assume they don't have a plethora of job opportunities.

Bullshit. You're ignoring that you've essentially granted the right to employers to act unethically without recourse, and then removing the bits of reality that are troubling to your assumptions.

No, I haven't. Strikes are not the only barrier holding the wealthy back from feeding on the innards of poor children. Employers live in a community and are subject to those laws and mores.

No, the point is again bullshit. You either have to go with the premise that the scab has no claim on said money and food, or that the union member has a prior claim. You cannot claim both.

But I'm not claiming the strikebreaker has a continuing claim to a job. What I'm comparing is the way threats to the strikers are depicted versus threats to the strikebreakers.
posted by BigSky at 6:00 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I am far from ignorant of labor history. I believe it's wrong to use the National Guard to break up strikers AND for strikers to intimidate or beat scabs. In modern times, I believe that it's wrong to force strikers to go back to work AND wrong for strikers to intimidate scabs who are going in to accept employment. Again, jobs don't "belong" to strikers. If they voluntarily vacate them, they have no moral right to harm people who wish to take that employment. "

I'm totally willing to believe that you're not ignorant of labor history. However, some evidence of such would help me with that. Again, if we're going back to a time in which violence against scabs was anywhere near prevalent, we'd be talking about a time in which private and state apparatuses inflicted regular violence against workers who were within their rights to organize. Disapprobation is the cost suffered by scabs, and it's entirely justified — they're aiding and abetting management in a race to the bottom.

And the strikers aren't vacating their jobs — that's buying into the framing of the employer. Without speaking to any given strike, the workers are withholding their labor until a settlement can be reached and engaging in free speech (and assembly). That's not abandoning or vacating their job — there'd be no point in striking if they were just leaving. And if only the employer has the power to decide whether or not someone is still employed, you're back to that imbalance of power that implies a lack of freedom.

As your other comment was essentially a restatement of your circular management apologia, I hope my prior remarks have been sufficient.
posted by klangklangston at 6:06 PM on July 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


"I avoid telling people what their own best interests are. People make decisions with incomplete information. Sometimes that incomplete information even extends to their own motives. If they make a "mistake", who's the judge of their true best interest? You? Some imaginary future self?"

Yeah, no, this is nonsense. Feel free to google "behavioral economics," which is pretty much all about how people act against their own rational interests.

"I'm not arguing it's perfect model, I acknowledged that it's not. But it happens to be irrelevant in this instance. That you're arguing a strikebreaker is not going after their own best job option given the hurdles they face, makes it difficult to take you seriously. If they're breaking a strike we can pretty safely assume they don't have a plethora of job opportunities."

The prisoner's dilemma is not a coherent labor policy, and that's what advocating against unions leads to.

"No, I haven't. Strikes are not the only barrier holding the wealthy back from feeding on the innards of poor children. Employers live in a community and are subject to those laws and mores."

There's so much fanciful bullshit in this one little statement that it's hard to unpack all of it. First off, employers don't necessarily live where they employ people. Second, the vast, vast, vast, vast, vast — say it with me — vast history of labor shows that, yeah, actually, enough employers will feast on the innards of children to justify restraining all employers. We can talk child labor, we can talk The Jungle, we can talk machine-gunning striking miners, we can talk the history of the Open Shop movement in Los Angeles… Pretty much every opportunity in which an employer can make an extra dollar by being shitty to an employee has been taken often enough to ridicule the blue sky naivete of your "laws and mores," which, hell, not even Smith believed (though he put more faith in faith to restrain abuses). Third, those laws? Yeah, they were earned with the blood of labor. Even things taken for granted like an eight-hour day and forty-hour week got people killed. It's simply idiotic to think that untrammeled capitalism will lead to a better world in any sense.

But I'm not claiming the strikebreaker has a continuing claim to a job. What I'm comparing is the way threats to the strikers are depicted versus threats to the strikebreakers."

Fair enough — I apologize for misreading you. I still think that you're confusing proximate and ancillary harms, but I don't think it's worth arguing with you over.
posted by klangklangston at 6:20 PM on July 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm totally willing to believe that you're not ignorant of labor history. However, some evidence of such would help me with that. Again, if we're going back to a time in which violence against scabs was anywhere near prevalent, we'd be talking about a time in which private and state apparatuses inflicted regular violence against workers who were within their rights to organize.

Oh, god. I don't really feel like giving a labor history dissertation, and anything I could give, could be easily claimed that I'd googled for it, anyway. But you have to understand that I am in no way saying you're incorrect about a time when regular violence against striking (and non-striking) workers took place. I completely agree with you that it took place. But I think that you're ignoring the fact that while the organized violence and violence from bosses towards workers (in the continguous United States) mostly ceased about fifty years ago, sporadic violence of striking workers towards scabs has continued up to the present day. Thus, at any given point of rowdy and vociferous aggression against scabs, the possibility of violence is always present. (The same could also be said of, say, many workers organizing in non-US countries as well, but we're sticking with the US for the present.)


And the strikers aren't vacating their jobs — that's buying into the framing of the employer. Without speaking to any given strike, the workers are withholding their labor until a settlement can be reached and engaging in free speech (and assembly). That's not abandoning or vacating their job — there'd be no point in striking if they were just leaving. And if only the employer has the power to decide whether or not someone is still employed, you're back to that imbalance of power that implies a lack of freedom.

This seems a little bit like those creepy guys in relationships that insist they're not really broken up. "We're still together! I'm just talking to her to get me to take me back!" "Um, dude, you asked for something she didn't want to give, and she left you and found a new boyfriend." "She's not allowed to do that! I'll say whether or not we're broken up!"

Would you go with that? And if not, why not? Would something like that be encouraging of freedom, or prohibitive of it?
posted by corb at 6:49 PM on July 3, 2012


corb, are you seriously suggesting that the relationship between labor and management is like a relationship between an abusive boyfriend and girlfriend? And that management is the helpless girlfriend??
posted by MrBobaFett at 7:18 PM on July 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


There does not seem to be any mention of abuse, and the moral of the story is that the woman did in fact have the power to dump him.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:47 PM on July 3, 2012


"She's not allowed to do that! I'll say whether or not we're broken up!"

Sounds like exactly the sort of thing an abuser would say, even if he was more emotionally abusive than physically abusive.
posted by MrBobaFett at 8:04 PM on July 3, 2012


I indeed made no mention of abuse, though I do find it bad behavior. If you find someone's refusal to be dumped to be abuse, I would find that more illuminating, though.
posted by corb at 8:14 PM on July 3, 2012


My employees aren't allowed to break up with me or they're fired. It helps that I only hire single mothers, who don't always act in their own best interests.
posted by benzenedream at 8:28 PM on July 3, 2012


Lets drop this labor-abuse/lover-abuse analogy. It is a terrible analogy.
posted by tychotesla at 8:33 PM on July 3, 2012


Poverty is not the same as coercion, e.g. subsistence farmers have to work or they have nothing to eat. If you see them as equivalent then most of humanity has been the victim of coercion their entire lives as a result of their economic conditions alone and I simply don't believe that.

The question is whether employers wield enough power over their employees that it is just for a government to step in and mediate (by force, if necessary).

Subsistence farmers own their own land and directly receive the benefits of their work. If they work harder, they can (possibly) get more food or more crops to sell. They may be poor and in danger of starvation, but there is no boss that can force them to obey or starve.

Farmworkers hired to work on someone else's land (or, as has often been the case, hired to work the land taken from them by force, or after they've been forcibly taken from their land) are subject to a boss. Even if they work hard, the boss can refuse to pay them more. The boss can demand they obey any command or be fired and starve. Often there is no other employer they can work for, and if there is, the conditions of work are exactly the same, not because the bosses are organized or colluding, but simply because they know their workers have no other options.

Those two situations are not at all the same.
posted by straight at 8:33 PM on July 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


As the article discusses, there seems to just be a fundamental disagreement about what "coercion" means. For libertarians it appears that anything that is not an actual threat of violence is not coercion

"Coercion" or the other stock phrase "initiation of force" don't have any consistent meaning. They're just slurs that right-libertarians use to describe things they don't like.

To use your example, almost nothing short of actual violence would count as "coercion" or "initiation of force" if it was a boss doing it to an employee, as their discussions of sexual harrassment make clear. If you don't like me groping your breasts, you're free to starve and die instead!

But right-libertarians are always able to find some cockamamie reason why almost anything an employee or other non-boss does (or doesn't do) manages to initiate force against their boss. Here you've seen people claiming picket lines -- in which people stand around and offer arguments to people considering breaking them -- are coercive or initiate force. The logic seems to be that because, at least once in recorded history, a picket line beat a scab, all picket lines are implicit threats of violence. But the fact that at least one employer has murdered people attempting to unionize doesn't bear that generalization, of course.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:50 PM on July 3, 2012 [8 favorites]


I might be a little more sympathetic to Libertarianism if it weren't so trivially easy for situations to arise where self-interested rational actors will end up making choices that make every party to the decision worse off than if they faced outside coercion. I mean, it's not like "Prisioner's Dilemmas" are an obscure part of Game Theory, and it's not even slightly hard to find real world examples of analogous situations. Libertarianism has no solution to Prisoner's Dilemmas other than, as seen on this thread, to loudly proclaim that Defect/Defect is the best of all possible worlds. It's not. That's why I'm not a Libertarian.
posted by Proofs and Refutations at 9:56 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, what IS the solution?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:10 PM on July 3, 2012


The solution to what?
posted by adamdschneider at 11:12 PM on July 3, 2012


Prisoner's dilemmas.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:13 PM on July 3, 2012


Tit for tat, and possibly tit for two tats.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:57 PM on July 3, 2012


To change the game.
posted by jann at 12:33 AM on July 4, 2012


And so...the Democrats do that?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:36 AM on July 4, 2012


IMO, you'd have to ignore history wholesale to make the claim that employers and employees come to the table with anything approaching equality. It's just nonsensical.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:38 AM on July 4, 2012


The central problem with libertarianism is that labor and labor are essentially in a nash equilibrium.

on preview: damn, Proofs and Refutations, you beat me to it.

furiousxgeorge: actually, centralized government that essentially forces the optimal outcome for all participants of the iterated prisoners dilemma between capital and labor is in fact the best means of organizing society. Largely the evolution of politics (social organization) when viewed through the perspective of not allowing one party in the prisoners dilemma to take everything while impoverishing the other is a compelling argument, insofar as the only thing that has consistently improved the lot of huge quantities of humans everywhere is the redistribution of the surplus production of society and the enforcement of the rights of the least powerful members of society. Essentially, if you view capital and labor as participants in a prisoners dilemma, governments role is to ensure that no one walks away with the whole pot. (See slavery, sharecropping, feudalism, etc.)
posted by Freen at 10:13 AM on July 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Here you've seen people claiming picket lines -- in which people stand around and offer arguments to people considering breaking them -- are coercive or initiate force. The logic seems to be that because, at least once in recorded history, a picket line beat a scab, all picket lines are implicit threats of violence.

No, you've seen people claiming that abusive picket lines that scream at people or physically block their way are morally wrong - and that because striking workers have beaten non-striking workers much more recently than "once long ago", in terms of "this year, it's happened," there is indeed a threat of violence.

I also see a lot of people talking about "starvation is not freedom." Well, my question there is: in that case, who must be enslaved to feed the starving - and in what situation is that freedom?
posted by corb at 10:18 AM on July 4, 2012


furiousxgeorge: erf. last bit got cut in the pasting process.

Yes, Democrats do that, to the degree that democrats argue in favor of increasing corporate and capital regulations (forcing the mutually optimal outcome of the prisoners dilemma: cooperation), environmental regulation (once again, the tragedy of the commons is essentially a prisoners dilemma as well), as well increasing the taxes on the wealthiest and corporate profits (essentially redistributing the winnings of the dilemma by those who've chosen to defect. off topic, but a crucial political insight regarding taxes: if you ever hear someone telling you that the US has the highest corporate taxes in the world, they are selling you a bill of goods: we have the highest statutory tax rate but one of the lowest effective tax rates. additionally as a percentage of GDP or a percentage of government income, corporate taxes in the US are some of the lowest in the world.)
posted by Freen at 10:33 AM on July 4, 2012


"This seems a little bit like those creepy guys in relationships that insist they're not really broken up. "We're still together! I'm just talking to her to get me to take me back!" "Um, dude, you asked for something she didn't want to give, and she left you and found a new boyfriend." "She's not allowed to do that! I'll say whether or not we're broken up!"

Would you go with that? And if not, why not? Would something like that be encouraging of freedom, or prohibitive of it?
"

You're not good at analogies, are you? I mean, given that there's a power imbalance between the employer and the employee, it doesn't really make sense to frame it like this unless you're trying to muddy the waters.

"I also see a lot of people talking about "starvation is not freedom." Well, my question there is: in that case, who must be enslaved to feed the starving - and in what situation is that freedom?"

Uh, one in which we aren't defining liberties as solely negative because we're not Randroid idiots?
posted by klangklangston at 10:39 AM on July 4, 2012


corb: "Well, my question there is: in that case, who must be enslaved to feed the starving - and in what situation is that freedom?"

hmm, lets see, how has society dealt with the poorest since the beginning of time? Moreover, how have we as a species consistently improved the lot of the least among us?

It's quite simple really: by organizing so that we give up some portion of the social surplus (hint this is taxation of some sort on the creation of value, and naturally, we take a larger percentage of the surplus as your profits grow, because profit is actually a measure of inefficiency of a marketplace as well as a measure of the degree to which someone benefits from the existence of society as a whole) and apply that to the betterment of society as a whole, which in turn enables an even greater social surplus.

Taxation isn't enslavement, it's the marginal cost of profitability you pay in order to not only have civilization, but to have a civilization that is constantly bettering itself, enabling even greater degrees of individual profitability. This has been how it's worked for millennia. Watch Hans Rosling's Ted talks. What slow, methodical force moves his little societal circles methodically towards the optimum? Compare the modern world with feudalism, city states, warlordism and hunter gather society: in each step what moves society towards a more optimal state of affairs?

The only thing that consistently improves the state of affairs for the greatest number of people is precisely what I have outlined above, which is essentially the antithesis of libertarianism.
posted by Freen at 11:07 AM on July 4, 2012 [9 favorites]


the passing decades have taught me that political elites and cultural elites are doing far more damage than the market elites could ever get away with doing.

Yeah, because there are no connections between the "market elites" and the "political elites."
posted by Saxon Kane at 11:26 AM on July 4, 2012


Dude, that one was just a laugher. Great Recession? Cultural elites are behind this, no doubt!
posted by klangklangston at 11:35 AM on July 4, 2012


No, you've seen people claiming that abusive picket lines that scream at people or physically block their way are morally wrong - and that because striking workers have beaten non-striking workers much more recently than "once long ago", in terms of "this year, it's happened," there is indeed a threat of violence.

Yeah, this is exactly what I'm talking about.

Picket lines are coercive, evil, initiations of force because they might scream at someone. But if a boss comes into an office or down to the shop floor and screams at someone, that's not coercive and doesn't initiate force.

It's coercive for someone on a picket line to stand where someone else wants to walk. But not when a boss stands in the doorway you want to exit through.

When you're on a picket line, the fact that other people on other pickets lines have inflicted violence makes your picket line coercive and so immediate a threat of violence that it effectively initiates force against the boss. But if I claim that the fact that other bosses have murdered or injured people attempting to organize, well, that was unfortunate and wrong but you can't generalize to this case, because this boss hasn't (detectably) tried to injure or kill anyone.

All that "coercion" or "initiation of force" means is "I don't like this behavior" or even "This behavior is unobjectionable, but I don't like the people doing it."
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:54 PM on July 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


who must be enslaved to feed the starving - and in what situation is that freedom?

This is the refined libertarian talking point. Instead of "Taxation is theft!" it's "Taxation is slavery!" The idea is that people are forced to work without compensation, that they're forced to do a certain amount of work that the government takes the pay for.

But this is not true in most progressive systems of taxation. You're only forced to give some of your income to the government if you choose to charge more for your labor than what a lot of workers can get for theirs. You're always free to charge a smaller amount for your labor and pay little or no taxes.

One of the many reasons this is just is that the state of affairs where you can charge 10x more for your labor as a programmer than a farmworker can charge for picking tomatoes is highly dependent upon infrastructure created and supported by the government you're helping to pay for.
posted by straight at 1:26 PM on July 4, 2012 [6 favorites]


My problem with Libertarianism, as expounded by most modern Libertarians I've met, is that if you take it to it's logical conclusion...
I.e. No taxes, no social support, lots of power to 'employers' and landowners, and people succeeding in life by their own *cough*, I mean their parents merits, because if you made it, you can ensure education and pass on the wealth to your kids, and if other's can't, it's because their parents didn't work hard enough, etc etc.

Well, we've already tried it.
Quite a few times in history.
We generally call it 'Feudalism'.
posted by Elysum at 7:31 PM on July 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


who must be enslaved to feed the starving - and in what situation is that freedom

Hee, hee.

Okay.

Let's say that the people who make three times or more the average income are enslaved-- one second out of every ten-- so that they only take home 2.7 times the average income. Of course, they will be able to vote on it. They are freed from the prospect of millions of starving people upending the system which keeps them and their children safe and unmolested in their homes.

Would that be agreeable?
posted by alexei at 3:18 AM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


The only thing that consistently improves the state of affairs for the greatest number of people is precisely what I have outlined above, which is essentially the antithesis of libertarianism.

Perhaps, but that assumes that improving the state of affairs for the greatest number of people is a moral good, which many non-utilitarians do not believe.

Picket lines are coercive, evil, initiations of force because they might scream at someone. But if a boss comes into an office or down to the shop floor and screams at someone, that's not coercive and doesn't initiate force.

No. Picket lines are immoral when they yell at or intimidate people with an actual force, or physically block someone's entry or egress. Bosses are also immoral when they yell at or intimidate people with actual force, or forcibly block someone's entry or egress. Bosses that threaten physical force are also immoral. (I realize I may differ from other libertarians here.) I believe that bosses have the right to set the conditions of their employment, but unless said conditions clearly spell out "And I will have the right to verbally abuse you," then they are acting wrongly in doing so. Bosses who attempt to use physical rather than economic force to restrain someone from acting are wrong. (I have heard this referred to by someone else as putting a bright line between hard and soft power, if it's helpful for you.)

Let's say that the people who make three times or more the average income are enslaved-- one second out of every ten-- so that they only take home 2.7 times the average income. Of course, they will be able to vote on it. They are freed from the prospect of millions of starving people upending the system which keeps them and their children safe and unmolested in their homes.

Would that be agreeable?


When you say they're able to vote on it, do you mean "the people who make three times or more the average income" are able to vote on it, or everyone is able to vote on it, the people who make three times or more the average income included?

If the latter, it is definitely still slavery, because the majority of the people are deciding to enslave a minority for their own profit. The fact that that slavery seems benign, or is only 1/10th of someone's life, does not make it any less slavery than, say, indentured servitude, which was also roughly 1/10th of someone's life, just crammed together.

People say that then the wealthier are freed from the threat of millions of starving people overrunning their home. But honestly, that's a false narrative. Currently, with modern technology and the ability to travel, the wealthy face that threat a lot less than they ever have. If rules against their protecting their home lethally were removed, (ie in a truly libertarian state) they would be in even less danger. With transportation laws against aircraft (And even with them) they could be well equipped to flee at a moment's notice if need be. So there are a lot more effective ways of defending against a mob than throwing food at them.

That said, it also ignores the idea that feeding people just because they will kill you otherwise is a mugging, and many of us are morally opposed to engaging in this transaction. "Millions for defense, but not one penny for tribute," and all that.
posted by corb at 5:16 AM on July 5, 2012


"Perhaps, but that assumes that improving the state of affairs for the greatest number of people is a moral good, which many non-utilitarians do not believe."

Our democracy was designed to be, "of the people, by the people, for the people." If it does not improve the state of affairs for the greatest number of people, then it does not serve democracy.

You are essentially arguing in favor of other political systems that favor selected persons or groups, such as dictatorship, aristocracy, plutocracy.

Libertarians, in the context of democracy, generally purport to believe that libertarianism *is* the best way to ensure the best state of affairs for the greatest number of people. If you take away that fundamental belief, you have no moral leg to stand on as a libertarian in a democracy.
posted by PigAlien at 6:10 AM on July 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


corb: ok, so, many non-utilitarians. sure. I get it. makes sense.

How then do you measure the quantitative and qualitative differences between political philosophies? What is it about libertarianism that makes it superior to, say, anarcho-syndicalism or wester liberal democracies at a practical level? Because if it's purely ideological, about how you should not be forced to share the fruits of labor earned in a society that enables that very labor, well, I'm not going to be impressed because markets aren't perfect, actors aren't rational, the iterated prisoners dilemma devolves to the defect only strategy without outside enforced collusion, and, well, I choose my political perspectives based on what works. Where are the stats best? I mean, shit, do scandinavians feel enslaved? Heck no, but by all the numbers, they are doing it right, and they are taxed out the ying-yang.

Question though is this: would you rather be a random human on planet earth now, 2012, or 3 thousand years ago, and why?

Think of it this way: the state is sort of like a country club that provides civilization, and taxes are the fees you pay for the services provided. States have figured out, a long time ago, because states are first and formost practical, that taking some chunk of the club fees to make sure that everyone in the club is reasonably well fed, educated, and not suffering from some sort of exogenous existential threat is a tremendously good idea, insofar as it enables all of the members of the club, especially the most fortunate, to have a far better country club experience. If you don't like paying the club dues, I sugget you go live in Liberia, because libertarianism only works in some definitions of a perfect world, and unfortunately our world isn't remotely perfect.

Finally, you have to be further right that Hayek to think that societies shouldn't collectively provide against exogenous threats to its members, including health and welfare. Money quote below:

"There is no reason why, in a society which has reached the general level of wealth ours has, the first kind of security should not be guaranteed to all without endangering general freedom; that is: some minimum of food, shelter and clothing, sufficient to preserve health. Nor is there any reason why the state should not help to organize a comprehensive system of social insurance in providing for those common hazards of life against which few can make adequate provision."
The Road to Serfdom,
Frederick Hayek
posted by Freen at 7:05 AM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Libertarians, in the context of democracy, generally purport to believe that libertarianism *is* the best way to ensure the best state of affairs for the greatest number of people. If you take away that fundamental belief, you have no moral leg to stand on as a libertarian in a democracy.

I think there are any number of people who, while existing in the United States in a representative democracy, who do not think that it is the best system of government, and work to change it. Libertarians tend to believe that the best way to ensure freedom is to make most decisions happen on a smaller level, with self-selecting groups. This is not necessarily antithetical to democracy, it is simply antithetical to the idea of a large centralized national democratic government, with no push-back from lower levels.

Think of it this way: the state is sort of like a country club that provides civilization, and taxes are the fees you pay for the services provided. States have figured out, a long time ago, because states are first and formost practical, that taking some chunk of the club fees to make sure that everyone in the club is reasonably well fed, educated, and not suffering from some sort of exogenous existential threat is a tremendously good idea, insofar as it enables all of the members of the club, especially the most fortunate, to have a far better country club experience.

Actually, I think this is a really great analogy, though perhaps in a different way than you were thinking. Country clubs are voluntary associations of individuals. It is not easy to join - generally you must be recommended by at least one person who's already a member of the country club. You can get kicked out of the country club for violating the social norms. So a country club is a self-selecting society with the power to maintain its self-selection.

The current system is not. It's not a voluntary society of people with like minds and ideals. It's an involuntary society that refuses to expel people from its borders. When's the last time a native born citizen of the United States was actually exiled? No, we incarcerate people, removing them temporarily from the society, but we don't actually expel them from the society.

What is it about libertarianism that makes it superior to, say, anarcho-syndicalism or wester liberal democracies at a practical level?

True libertarianism would allow for pockets of anarcho-syndicalism. They just wouldn't believe that anarcho-syndicalism should be forced upon them. (And honestly, there's a lot of mutual ground between anarcho-syndicalists and libertarians, or anarcho-capitalists. Their concepts of how to voluntarily order a society are in fact extremely similar. The only major difference is in how large economic differences are dealt with and handled. I'd be hard pressed to find a libertarian who wouldn't think that people would have the right to buy a property and then join together in a collective and share the profits. They just wouldn't think people would have the right to steal the property and do it.)
posted by corb at 7:23 AM on July 5, 2012


Yes, but what makes libertarianism practically better? Why should I, or anyone else choose it? You seem to have skipped the whole game-theoretical issues with libertarianism that is essential to answering these questions. Why?

Also, at what particular level of hunger does the offer of food in exchange for labor become an exercise of force? If my country club is on an oasis in the middle of the gobi desert hundreds of miles from any other water source, at what point is the threat of kicking someone out of my club a use of force?

As for the club analogy, I doubt anyone will stop you from leaving the US. A non-trivial number of people renounce their American citizenship yearly. Liberia Awaits. I look forward to your reports on the local infant mortality, literacy rates, and other quality of life metrics.
posted by Freen at 7:48 AM on July 5, 2012


So a country club is a self-selecting society with the power to maintain its self-selection.

The current system is not. It's not a voluntary society of people with like minds and ideals. It's an involuntary society that refuses to expel people from its borders.


WTF does this even mean?

Our country is one of the more voluntary societies on the planet; you are free to leave.

You are also free to join a country club, but that's a secondary level - you aren't born into the country club thereby skipping your rights and obligations of citizenship.

Handful of gimme and mouthful of much obliged, as the blues guys say.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:14 AM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, but what makes libertarianism practically better? Why should I, or anyone else choose it? You seem to have skipped the whole game-theoretical issues with libertarianism that is essential to answering these questions. Why?

That's a legitimate question. I would posit (and other people are certainly better at explaining this than me) that it is the one system that allows other systems to flourish, by virtue of not imposing any overarching morality that demands its imposition on the whole. Thus, if you're interested in anarcho-syndicalism, or communism, or straight democracy, or what have you, you are welcome to find a group of people who agree with you, and live on your own property in accordance with the rules that you devise. It's a system that allows the freedom of choice and by virtue of that also allows individuals to really figure themselves out.

It also allows a higher degree of technical, creative, and scientific innovation, by virtue of not being restrained by a laborious process or by the morality of a large swath of the population that believes, among other things, that evolution is a lie and any process that interferes with the natural order of things must be banned. With less surplus resources tied up in maintaining the functions of a large and boated government and a legion of supernumeraries, it also allows more resources to be used for larger and more grandiose projects. Space? Genetic engineering? Cloning? If it's dreamed, it can be done.

Our country is one of the more voluntary societies on the planet; you are free to leave.

You are free to leave, but the laws of the country insist that we are not able to kick people out. Not even the smallest and most voluntary small town has that freedom. Not even most businesses are allowed the freedom to choose who they are going to offer services to. In many areas, you don't even have the right to throw people who are illegally living on your property out. Thus, it is a society that has only one level of freedom- the freedom to run away, but not the freedom to live freely without people forcing others on you and forcing you to suffer by them. It's a race to the bottom.
posted by corb at 9:03 AM on July 5, 2012


I would posit (and other people are certainly better at explaining this than me) that it is the one system that allows other systems to flourish, by virtue of not imposing any overarching morality that demands its imposition on the whole. Thus, if you're interested in anarcho-syndicalism, or communism, or straight democracy, or what have you, you are welcome to find a group of people who agree with you, and live on your own property in accordance with the rules that you devise. It's a system that allows the freedom of choice and by virtue of that also allows individuals to really figure themselves out.

Ever wondered why there aren't any stable libertarian nations? It's because what you just described is tribalism--and it's an impossibly naive utopian version of tribalism, at that.

Such a system would last a matter of days before skirmishes started over resources. Soon, the tribe with the most firepower would win it all and rule with an iron fist to keep it.

Absolute freedom is the quickest route to no freedom at all.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:53 AM on July 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


If the latter, it is definitely still slavery, because the majority of the people are deciding to enslave a minority for their own profit.

It's not slavery because you're always free to sell your labor at the same rate as many of your fellow citizens who don't earn enough to pay taxes.
posted by straight at 10:10 AM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


corb: You are free to leave, but the laws of the country insist that we are not able to kick people out. Not even the smallest and most voluntary small town has that freedom. Not even most businesses are allowed the freedom to choose who they are going to offer services to. In many areas, you don't even have the right to throw people who are illegally living on your property out. Thus, it is a society that has only one level of freedom- the freedom to run away, but not the freedom to live freely without people forcing others on you and forcing you to suffer by them. It's a race to the bottom.

corb: The idea is that if you don't want to work for one boss and get fired, that you are not guaranteed starvation because of it - that you are perfectly free to take your labor and go to another boss. That a boss, by virtue of having hired you, is not responsible for you for the rest of your life simply because he wanted your labor at some point.

Someone above asked why libertarians were okay with "bad" workplace practices. Well, the idea is that the boss is free to decide what kind of activity he wants to pay for. If that's a continuous twelve hour shift, then that's a continuous twelve hour shift. Then, he offers his money, and you decide whether or not to deal with that as a condition of employment. No one forces you to take the job. If, after you have accepted these conditions of employment, you choose to violate them, you are no longer providing the service the boss hired you for, and he has the right to fire you.


tyllwin: I have a strong libertarian streak in me, but the idea, deeply embedded into modern "Libertarianism" that collectivism by corporations and collectivism by governments are somehow as different as night and day has always sounded sounded awfully hollow to me.

Hehe.
posted by palbo at 10:28 AM on July 5, 2012


[Comment removed; arguing's fine, but cool it off a little or give the thread a pass if you can't.]
posted by cortex at 11:10 AM on July 5, 2012


I thought some great points were made in that comment, despite the invective. Please repost the salient responses...
posted by PigAlien at 11:20 AM on July 5, 2012


I have a strong libertarian streak in me, but the idea, deeply embedded into modern "Libertarianism" that collectivism by corporations and collectivism by governments are somehow as different as night and day has always sounded sounded awfully hollow to me.

Exactly; I too have a strong libertarian streak, but I cannot see how libertarians could be against unions. They're the flip-side of corporations: free association that used their economic leverage to contract with another entity. It's a natural consequence of the invisible hand. But what we call "libertarianism" today is merely a radicalization of the Right, a hollowing out of 18th century liberalism and pouring in 18th century conservatism.
posted by spaltavian at 11:50 AM on July 5, 2012


Sys Rq: exactly. That's why the prisoner's dilemma is so problematic for libertarianism.
posted by Freen at 12:12 PM on July 5, 2012


It's not slavery because you're always free to sell your labor at the same rate as many of your fellow citizens who don't earn enough to pay taxes.

Well, in the given question posed to me, it was: would I be willing to accept one second out of every ten as slavery. That said, in what circumstance is it not slavery to force individuals to take less than they could earn so that you can take it for yourself?

Such a system would last a matter of days before skirmishes started over resources. Soon, the tribe with the most firepower would win it all and rule with an iron fist to keep it.

Isn't that what we face now, even with non-libertarian systems?

Exactly; I too have a strong libertarian streak, but I cannot see how libertarians could be against unions. They're the flip-side of corporations: free association that used their economic leverage to contract with another entity. It's a natural consequence of the invisible hand.

I don't know any libertarians who are against unions in their pure form. I think many libertarians are against the labor law that necessitates employers to act in particular ways in regards to unions - either not hiring new workers to replace striking workers, or collecting union dues, etc.
posted by corb at 1:15 PM on July 5, 2012


Isn't that what we face now, even with non-libertarian systems?

Sorta, yeah. But there is one thing keeping it from going all the way: Regulation.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:22 PM on July 5, 2012


Why are libertarians against labor law?

In our clubhouse example, labor law is simply the clubhouse rules, agreed upon by the clubhouse members. If you don't like that particular law, you can either try to change it, or join another clubhouse that doesn't have that particular law, however, most clubhouses have rules and regulations of some sort.

What baffles me is that at some point the collective action turns from being a free choice of members to becoming some sort of coercive evil thing. When does that happen? At what point? the moment that one person doesn't agree with a law? We as a society agreed upon a set of rules. You can leave this society, and join others, but they are going to have their own set of agreed upon rules. If you want to create a brand new society, well, there are the oceans, wildernesses, and the like. Plenty of people live totally off the grid.

"Isn't that what we face now, even with non-libertarian systems?"
Corb, do you violently contend for resources? Really?
posted by Freen at 1:31 PM on July 5, 2012


Crooked Timber follows up (one of many): Infringements on Worker’s Rights: Not Imaginary
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:22 PM on July 5, 2012


What baffles me is that at some point the collective action turns from being a free choice of members to becoming some sort of coercive evil thing. When does that happen? At what point?

Every libertarian has a different answer. For me, it's very complicated. My best toss-off answer is that it's when you start making laws that apply to others, but are not a member of the group you want to make laws about. So, for example: you want to make laws about property taxes, but do not own property. You want to make laws about gay marriage, but are not yourself gay and seeking to get married. You want to make laws about Native Americans not being allowed to smoke peyote in religious rituals, but are not yourself a Native American who belongs to a religious group for which this is a thing. You want to make laws about employers, but are not yourself an employer. You want to make laws about abortions, when you can never have an abortion. It's essentially the tyranny of the majority, where a large majority makes rules for a smaller minority.

Why are libertarians against labor law?

Thus, using the logic above, (though I can't speak for all libertarians), I am opposed to a lot of labor law because it is law created by non-employers about what employers can and can't do to meet their business needs. It is law that forces employers to employ others, created by those who would not be affected to it. I am, however, also opposed to those sections of labor law that prohibit wildcat strikes. I think unions should be entitled to strike as they wish - I just also think that employers should be entitled to fire them.
posted by corb at 2:27 PM on July 5, 2012


People say that then the wealthier are freed from the threat of millions of starving people overrunning their home. But honestly, that's a false narrative. Currently, with modern technology and the ability to travel, the wealthy face that threat a lot less than they ever have. If rules against their protecting their home lethally were removed, (ie in a truly libertarian state) they would be in even less danger. With transportation laws against aircraft (And even with them) they could be well equipped to flee at a moment's notice if need be. So there are a lot more effective ways of defending against a mob than throwing food at them.

I am relieved that someone has provided a case example, of how my above comment is no exaggeration.

You're literally saying, that a fraction of the 1%, would be able to afford private jets to flee their mansion/castles (because no marauding bands would have fighter jets in response),
in the event of their peasants/indentured servants/forced labour (plenty of history on how awful that is), rise up against them,
that is, if the wealthy nobles don't just kill them all with the weapons they'll turn on the starving mob, rather than ensuring they have...
food.

This is preferable?
Really?

It's a feudalist fantasy, with every libertarian as the nobles, and none of them as the serfs (Yes, you'll definitely be free to contract yourself, when under duress, threatened with loss of food or penalties to friends and family, while you have no education, and no legal recourse for abuse of your contract, because who, exactly, will the powerless appeal to?).

No, really - all been done before.
Castles, moats, oil, horses, weaponry that vastly outclasses the barefoot peasants, and it really doesn't matter, because it'll be the castle-servants who let the peasants in.
The moats will not protect you against the various water and airborne diseases the peasants around you WILL be carrying, because they have no access to healthcare.


And... jeeze.
Don't just think about the poor people, who have absolutely no motivation to buy into the collective fantasy that is personal and property rights. And, they are just a collective fantasy - we choose to agree with these arbitrary symbols, because it is more beneficial for us. If it's not, what possible motivation do you have to buy into it, when your children are starving?

Think about all the other rich people! It also makes it impossible for anyone not in the top fraction of a 1% to be comfortable or wealthy. Most people I know, just want to be able to make a comfortable living, in their own property, possibly raising their family.
That level of economic inequality makes it impossible, unless, in your narrative, they can afford private aircraft and defensive fortifications for their house.

And even then, for that fraction of a 1% at the top of your narrative, they still have it much worse than in any modern nation, because they will still suffer from the lack of infrastructure that will hamper their industry (try building a mansion in Somalia, or hiring computer programmers in a 3rd world village), they will forced to live in gated communities with bodyguards at all times (that they hope they can trust), and gated communities cannot protect themselves from the diseases and epidemics that will be widespread.

WTF? I tried to follow that line of reasoning, but my mind, it is boggling.


Seriously. There are plenty of hell-holes places on Earth you can still go be a war-Lord, unfortunately.
If you have the money necessary to hire that private army, aircraft, build those castles, and pay for your own healthcare and sewage systems, you are more than welcome to try it there.
Although, the other War-Lords might have something to 'say' about it.
posted by Elysum at 2:33 PM on July 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


What baffles me is that at some point the collective action turns from being a free choice of members to becoming some sort of coercive evil thing. When does that happen? At what point?
Every libertarian has a different answer. For me, it's very complicated. My best toss-off answer is that it's when you start making laws that apply to others, but are not a member of the group you want to make laws about. So, for example: you want to make laws about property taxes, but do not own property. You want to make laws about gay marriage, but are not yourself gay and seeking to get married. You want to make laws about Native Americans not being allowed to smoke peyote in religious rituals, but are not yourself a Native American who belongs to a religious group for which this is a thing. You want to make laws about employers, but are not yourself an employer. You want to make laws about abortions, when you can never have an abortion. It's essentially the tyranny of the majority, where a large majority makes rules for a smaller minority.


Isn't that precisely one of the biggest problems in the US (in comparison to most non-fully-corrupt first world-ish places)? All the corporation lobbies drafting laws that benefit their side to the detriment of others? (Tobacco, big food, insurance, guns, chemical, oil, fucking monsanto, etc. etc.). I'd argue quickly and ignorantly that that and profits-as-god is what's wrong with the world.

Also, how do you draft laws that only impact yourself and not the whole rest of society, or even other small groups?

It's pretty obvious that you basically say that you should be able to be left alone to live in your small group somewhere and make your own little society, with your own rules. And that's all good and great until the "Axe fanatic society of axe fanatics" next door runs out of wood and starts making googly eyes at yours. To which i repeat what someone asked, "do you violently contend for resources? Really?", or does this marvellous regulated society is doing that work for you?

Liberia/Somalia awaits indeed. And you're surprised people keep calling "nonsense"?
posted by palbo at 3:12 PM on July 5, 2012


Note that i'm, of course, not against having people actually competent in the field of the laws that need drafting, but on the conflict of interests angle.
posted by palbo at 3:19 PM on July 5, 2012


I am opposed to a lot of labor law because it is law created by non-employers about what employers can and can't do to meet their business needs

Who creates laws? Elected representatives. Whose job it is to be elected representatives, not employers, or teachers, or sheet-metal workers, or lawyers, or sex workers. By your logic, the only power politicians should have is to make laws regarding politicians. By your logic, the only way gay marriage should be legalized is if a majority of politicians are gay people who want to get married. Add into the mix the greater opportunity a wealthy person has to be elected, and suddenly things look awfully skewed.

We've had this "direct democracy" debate before, and has constantly shown to be unworkable. It seems libertarians want politicians to make laws to benefit specific interest groups of which they are a part. But there is a broader, fairer expectation, from across the political spectrum, that politicians make laws for the benefit of society as a whole. The aim shouldn't be to say "you shouldn't regulate employers because you aren't an employer!", the aim should be to craft a regulatory framework that helps, on average, everyone.
posted by Jimbob at 4:33 PM on July 5, 2012


Corb: hmm... How do I know when my laws will effect others? Necessarily, am I not effected by the actions of all other members of society? Aren't we all in this boat together? Just because I am not a farmer in kentucky doesn't mean that my actions and the farmers actions happen inside a vacuum where they do not have any effect on each other.

put simply: there are no "groups", there is no "them", only us.

Ideally, "us" is globally inclusive. AFAIK, aside from a couple of asteroids and the sun, the earth is a closed system.

Clean lines of cause and effect cannot be drawn: we are all participants in a complex, highly interrelated system called society. I am an employer now, but perhaps in the future I won't be. I do not have children, but perhaps I will. I do not own land, but I interact regularly with land owned by others, etc. etc. etc. Rights and regulations do not act in a vacuum: their effects propagate out and thus all members in society have the right to have a say in how that society self organizes simply because none of us are outside the causal boundary of any law. To think otherwise is to vastly simplify the nature of human interaction.
posted by Freen at 4:56 PM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


That said, in what circumstance is it not slavery to force individuals to take less than they could earn so that you can take it for yourself?

Farm owners force farm workers to take less than they could earn so they can keep it for themselves. Is that slavery?
posted by straight at 9:21 PM on July 5, 2012


I think unions should be entitled to strike as they wish - I just also think that employers should be entitled to fire them.

Then you have sit down strikes, at which point the employers go whining like crying spoiled children to the police to get them out, at which point I have to pay my money out of my pocket to pay to fulfill the violent wish-fulfillment fantasies of right-wing class warriors. And I'm not going to do that. So I support laws that resolve these disputes in a way that I am willing to pay for.

It is a simple fact of life that many so-called "libertarian" freedoms that they are constantly crying for-- the freedom to discriminate, segregate, retaliate against workers, etc -- are highly dependent on the use of the state to violently enforce their personal prejudices. And that's where I, whether I am an employer, employee, landlord, or tenant, get to have my say on how my people are treated and fare under the system that I live in.
posted by deanc at 6:19 AM on July 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


Brad DeLong has a nice roundup of the various links and discussion on his blog: With Torched and Pitchforks, the Denizens of 'Crooked Timber' Advance on the Fortress of "Contractarian Consent Equals Liberty"
The argument that whatever relationships of subordination and subjection you entered into are ipso facto legitimate ones--that you consented and contracted for them, didn't you, and you did so because they were a good, nay the best, deal open to you, weren't they (for if they weren't, you would have chosen something else)?--has always been subject to two critiques...
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:27 PM on July 8, 2012


It's a bit late to the thread (LOL), but it seems appropriate now to point to this Metafilter thread from a while back about the Southern Aristocracy... It seems to me that many who call themselves libertarian are really just wanna-be plantation owners.
posted by PigAlien at 7:50 AM on July 9, 2012


I am opposed to a lot of labor law because it is law created by non-employers about what employers can and can't do to meet their business needs

This is not a compelling argument in the slightest.

You might just as well say, "I am against armed robbery laws because they're thought up by people who aren't armed robbers and aren't thinking about an armed robber's bottom line." It kind of misses the point by several miles.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:14 PM on July 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


It is, however, quite revealing of the libertarian mindset. Business needs are the needs that matter.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:59 AM on July 10, 2012


naked capitalism : Fifty Shades of Capitalism: Pain and Bondage in the American Workplace
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:59 PM on July 13, 2012


And that's all good and great until the "Axe fanatic society of axe fanatics" next door runs out of wood and starts making googly eyes at yours. To which i repeat what someone asked, "do you violently contend for resources? Really?", or does this marvellous regulated society is doing that work for you?

Again, this is exactly how our current government works, so I'm really confused about this line of reasoning. Resource wars don't require libertarianism. It might not stop them, but it certainly didn't originate the idea.

Then you have sit down strikes, at which point the employers go whining like crying spoiled children to the police to get them out, at which point I have to pay my money out of my pocket to pay to fulfill the violent wish-fulfillment fantasies of right-wing class warriors. And I'm not going to do that. So I support laws that resolve these disputes in a way that I am willing to pay for.

So it's only left-wing class warriors you approve of? But at any rate, the only reason that the employers go to the police to get the people out is because they are not allowed to use their own force to evict them, because the state has a monopoly on violence. If employers were allowed to use their own employees to stop this, you wouldn't have to pay for it. Would you support it then?

It is a simple fact of life that many so-called "libertarian" freedoms that they are constantly crying for-- the freedom to discriminate, segregate, retaliate against workers, etc -- are highly dependent on the use of the state to violently enforce their personal prejudices.

Except this isn't really the case. Most of the time, it is the state that is enforcing their own opinions on these things. You don't need the state to refuse to rent to someone - you simply don't give them keys or let them in the door. You don't need the state to refuse to sell to someone - you simply don't conduct transactions with them. You do, however, need the state if you want to force people to rent to people they don't want in their homes, or to force them to do business with people they don't want to sell to.
posted by corb at 4:57 PM on July 13, 2012


Yeah, like black people.
posted by klangklangston at 11:55 PM on July 13, 2012


Or, say, the Westboro Baptist Church, which would really benefit from a "we don't rent hotel rooms to assholes who picket funerals" ability.
posted by corb at 6:47 AM on July 14, 2012


Except this isn't really the case. Most of the time, it is the state that is enforcing their own opinions on these things. You don't need the state to refuse to rent to someone - you simply don't give them keys or let them in the door. You don't need the state to refuse to sell to someone - you simply don't conduct transactions with them. You do, however, need the state if you want to force people to rent to people they don't want in their homes, or to force them to do business with people they don't want to sell to.

People were talking about the refusers relying on the police power of the state to evict all the undesirables they don't want to do business with from the premises. Which was, in fact, the go-to strategy of these folks back when this was legal.
posted by gerryblog at 6:55 AM on July 14, 2012


Or, say, the Westboro Baptist Church, which would really benefit from a "we don't rent hotel rooms to assholes who picket funerals" ability.

'People who exercise free speech I disagree with should be made homeless' is a funny way to be Libertarian.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:27 AM on July 14, 2012


"Or, say, the Westboro Baptist Church, which would really benefit from a "we don't rent hotel rooms to assholes who picket funerals" ability."

Well, see, that's the difference between libertarian fantasy and reality. We actually did need laws to make sure black people got served by businesses. So that's the way that "liberty" actually functions in practice.
posted by klangklangston at 9:20 AM on July 14, 2012


'People who exercise free speech I disagree with should be made homeless' is a funny way to be Libertarian.

It's not "people who exercise free speech I disagree with should be made homeless." It's, "I shouldn't have to do business with people I find morally reprehensible." Or, alternatively, "They can have all the free speech they want, but I shouldn't have to house them, and should be able to boycott them." Like, you know, we allow purchasers the power to do. How precisely is people not wanting to rent to WBC any different than people lobbying their food co-ops not to buy Israeli?

People were talking about the refusers relying on the police power of the state to evict all the undesirables they don't want to do business with from the premises. Which was, in fact, the go-to strategy of these folks back when this was legal.

Sure, but that wasn't under a libertarian setup, nor would a libertarian setup require police power to operate, was the point I was trying to make. I know how it's worked under the current governmental system, but libertarians argue for a better one.
posted by corb at 9:34 PM on July 15, 2012


How precisely is people not wanting to rent to WBC any different than people lobbying their food co-ops not to buy Israeli?

The power differential and the different kinds of harm represented.

A boycott is a pretty democratic kind of power. It's very hard for that kind of power to be wielded abusively by a handful of people. And the worst thing it can do is threaten the success of a business. Businesses fail all the time for a variety of reasons; we don't usually think a business has a "right" to succeed.

Allowing businesses to discriminate in who they will serve is a much more dangerous kind of power that can easily get concentrated in a few hands and wielded abusively. In many towns, the decisions of two or three people could shut every hotel door in town to black people if it were legal. And denying individuals from renting a room or riding a bus or buying a meal is a much more severe, immediate, and personal harm; it seems more like a violation of individual rights.

Libertarians seem to have a pretty black or white, all or nothing view of state power. I think the rest of us mostly see it as a messy balancing of powers between governments, businesses, and individuals in an attempt to promote the most freedom and protect the most people from abuses of power.
posted by straight at 9:13 AM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


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