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Sunday, July 06, 2008

On Libertarian Bolshevism

Let me ask my libertarian friends, especially the Randites, the Paulites, and their ilk, a simple question: how do you plan to build the society that you imagine? To hear many so-called “libertarians” speak, the creation of a society of liberty requires nothing more complex than the election of Ron Paul – or someone like him – as President. Some libertarians, it would seem, have far more faith in the transformative power of government than I do.

What these people seem to ignore is that, for all that we talk of liberty, most people these days actually care little for either the benefits or the responsibilities that it entails. The average person has little interest in the mechanisms of government. Indeed, barely half of the people eligible bother to even vote for a candidate for the Presidency – and for lesser offices the turnouts are even appallingly lower. The average American (or citizen of most of the West, for that matter) is a non-voter. Nor is the average citizen of the West particularly concerned with individual liberty, except insofar as it relates to their own interests.

That is the situation with which we are confronted. Our enemy is not merely the left, not merely the counter-cultural establishment – apathy is also the enemy of freedom. These are truly inconvenient truths, especially insofar as my libertarian friends are concerned.

So how, then, with half of the population indifferent and more than half of that which cares hostile, does the libertarian propose to construct liberty? Well, predominantly we see two solutions proposed.

The first is a libertarianism, predominant among the more thoughtful of the sort, founded upon indifference to ultimate results or, at least, a sad resignation to final defeat. The Cato Institute is perfectly named – being named for a Roman politician whose stubborn insistence on principle over practically prevented more flexible and able men, such as Cicero, from taking the sort of measures that might have actually saved the Republic. Cato would not compromise and the result is that Cato died by stabbing himself and then, after initially being stitched up, tearing out his stitches and then ripping his own guts out. Like many libertarians today, he stands up as a shining example of the courage of futility – rather than compromise any of his precious principles he helped to lead the Republic to an avoidable disaster. He could have had 75% but he would tolerate only one hundred so he got zero.

These libertarians don’t seem to really care about winning. Indeed, most of them don’t appear to really want to. They, like Cato, merely want to feel themselves to be morally superior to everyone around them.

A second, and much more alarming, trend – once predominant mostly among Randroids and their related fellows but lately becoming pronounced among the supporters of Ron Paul and others like him – is what I like to call “Libertarian Bolshevism.” These fellows are to regular supporters of liberty what Communists are to Social Democrats – extreme in method, rhetoric, and ideal and, ultimately, harmful to the overall cause.

That brings me back to my first question – how do libertarians propose building their society? The first group, as I’ve said, doesn’t bother much with the question because they’re more interested in preserving their own moral integrity than anything else. The answer is the second case is more interesting.

Let’s look at the most revered text of more-extreme libertarians, Ayn Rand’s book Atlas Shrugged. How, in Rand’s world, is liberty ultimately fostered? Not through debate, not through elections – not even through any traditional means of a change of government (a coup or something like that). No. In Rand’s book a libertarian society is created when all of the great minds of the world voluntarily withdraw their services and then, following the inevitable collapse of civilization that follows, take over to run things. The society envisioned by Rand in the final pages of Atlas Shrugged could only be a dictatorship and, given the descriptions of all that preceded it, probably a brutally oppressive one at that. The kind of massive transition from our current society to a libertarian/objectivist one could only, after all, be accomplished by one – since it would require massive and wrenching changes that no present-day population would ever vote for and which no government that attempted to implement could ever survive.

Indeed, one is struck by the similarities between the implied goals of the Paulites and of the Bolsheviks. Both groups are utopians at heart – imagining that the full implementation of their ideas will bring paradise on Earth. Both are, despite their small size, very good at political infighting and the use of clever tactics to make up for small numbers. And, most of all, both are wholly committed to an impractical vision that is entirely at odds with human nature. To the absurd communist ideal of forced communitarianism, the Paulite and the Randite respond with a hilarious vision of compelled liberty.
I ask my Randite and Paulite friends – by what means, short of some dictatorship of the libertariat, do you ever suppose that your ideas might be enacted? And, even if they were enacted, how do your ideas of absolute individual liberty align with your own experience of humanity? Are you not entranced, just as the Bolsheviks of a century ago were, with a false notion of man as a perfectible creature?

This is not to say that I believe that we have sufficient freedom today or that we ought not have more of it. It is to say that I believe that, if too many people follow the prescriptions of those who shout “liberty” the loudest we will have less of it, both because those fanatics will harm advocates of a liberty with a more reasonable chance of success and because their own vision of liberty requires such a wrenching change – a jump from Tuesday to Friday – that it could never be achieved by any means compatible with freedom.

Take drugs, for example. Libertarians want to legalize drugs right away, without any further thought as to what would happen next. They have a misguided belief that most of the people in prison for drug offenses, even “non-violent” ones would, if released, immediately prove to be good citizens.

They don’t make room for the possibility, as I do, that many drug offenders would be habitual criminals in any case and would, if set free, quickly resume committing other crimes. In particular, they ignore the degree to which drug crime and property crime are often closely related, some going so far as to blithely assume that legalizing drugs would bring prices down to such a degree as to make property crime to fund drug habits unnecessary.

They ignore that certain hard drugs, which are physically addictive, would claim more victims in a legal regime since the odds are that more people would try them if they were legal and that some percentage of those people would become addicted.

They ignore the massive civil law nightmare that drugs would be and, in fact, that civil lawsuits would probably prevent anyone from actually marketing a whole range of drugs (after all, what do you think the liability insurance bills would look like for people who sell Crystal Meth?) and thus leaving most of the illegal drug trade still in place (unless, of course, they mean to immunize the drug trade from tort claims, an odd position for a libertarian to take.).

They ignore the human rights claims, workers’ comp claims, and so forth which would emerge from drug users for alleged “discrimination” and other issues.

They ignore the higher welfare costs and health care costs we’d be forced to endure as illegal drug users step out of the shadows and gain more access to and knowledge of public services.

The Cato Libertarians ignore these obstacles because they don’t really expect to ever have to deal with them – they feel free to make themselves feel morally pure without thinking beyond step A. The Libertarian Bolshevik, on the other hand, doesn’t worry about them because they simply intend to sweep everything aside at once, using the magic which can only be accompanied by dictatorship.

I too believe in freedom. I believe that, in many respects, we can restore our old liberties. I sometimes like to call myself a “Reactionary Libertarian” because I believe that we can better understand how liberty may be restored and maintained by looking back at the past, where people were often freer than they are today, and going back to some older social structures and institutions.

Posted by Adam T. Yoshida on July 6, 2008 in International Politics | Permalink

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Comments

I'm guessing this post is partially addressed to me, since I was sympathetic with Ron Paul, and am a libertarian. I'll take a stab at a few of your questions, Adam, but one at a time.

First, a technical point about Cato: The Cato Institute is not named in honour of Cato the Roman, but "Cato" as the nom de plume of a number of different writers who used that pen name to defend individual liberty of the Lockean variety prior to the revolutionary war.

Interestingly, Cato is precisely the opposite of how you describe it, Adam (which is why gung-ho libertarians like those at LewRockwell.com and elsewhere, call them the "Stato Institute"). Cato is interested in practical issues, and produces policy papers that are eminently practical, even if not always persuasive to the beltway crowd. Their approach is utilitarian: Defend individual liberty on the grounds that it is best for most, and try to prove this with inferences from the best available data.

I like to think of liberty as a "guiding star" of sorts. We ought, as best we can, to move in that direction, even if we already know that we can only get so far. As a moral ideal, it is as utopian as any moral ideal is. We don't abandon the thought that people shouldn't murder just because we already know that people will always murder. It is still true that not murdering people is the moral ideal.

Similarly, individual liberty is the moral ideal, even if big government conservatives, socialists, and liberals keep insisting that it ain't.

Re: perfectible nature: I agree, we can't "perfect" human nature. That's why I don't think it's a good idea to give human beings access to the biggest gun of all--government. It's precisely because we're the sorts of creatures that we are that government is a bad idea, not in spite of it. I never understood this objection to libertarianism anyways, since it looks like it hinges on imagining that the people who are "politicians" and "bureaucrats" are somehow a species apart from the rest of us humanoids. That they can be trusted with the big gun, while the rest of us can't.

That's enough for now. More as the thread unfolds.

Posted by: P.M. Jaworski | 2008-07-06 6:46:30 PM


Oh I should also point out that libertarians have more-or-less won the intellectual battle about the benefits of free markets.

Libertarians will, I assure you, win the intellectual battle with respect to drugs, and will, I assure you, win against the war on drugs in the not-too-distant future.

Libertarians will also, I hope, win the free speech battle.

I'm happy when these victories are won, even if the penultimate goal of a free country is nowhere near the horizon.

Posted by: P.M. Jaworski | 2008-07-06 6:50:10 PM


Not to mention the empirical evidence is that free nations prosper. Socialist nations like ours, slowly dwindle and deplete wealth. That's about as simple as I can make it. The American experiment was wildly successful, but has come to an end. Not because socialism is better. Because socialism is more powerful.

Posted by: Dennis | 2008-07-06 8:05:22 PM


I suspect the author has never read Atlas Shrugged. If he has, he's managed to take the misunderstanding of its ideas to an unprecedented level.

Posted by: Mark Wickens | 2008-07-06 9:41:44 PM


Libertarians and Bolhi's and others all leave out the fact that man is born with a sinful nature and no amount changing laws etc is going to chage that.
Look at Somalia with no laws and no state really and its a bunch of warlords and killers running around.
Its true its all idealism and political talk, yet they like the fact they can call 9-11 for help if need be.
Furthermore most libertarians I know support Defamation law in Canada just ask.
We need a state and a police force and laws.

Posted by: Merle | 2008-07-06 9:54:43 PM


Libertarian theology worries me; I wish it's devotees would think critically about it's fundamental doctrines and how out of touch they are with "human nature". The "Atlas Shrugged" model of Utopia seems pure fantasy, right there with Clarke's Foundation, or even Tolkien's Middle Earth. The Randite model seems to blend elements of Plato with Social Darwinism. For heaven's sake, imagine any contact sport with no rules, no limits, no referees, no boundaries and limitless rewards to the victors. (oops, I guess that's called war). The notion that unfettered competition leads to the betterment of all is tragically simplistic. Every human game needs rules, the more competitive the sport, the higher the stakes, the more the rules must be defined and enforced.

I think one of the most misleading elements of the libertarian model is it's reliance on the apparent material success of the American economic model. What seems forgotten is that when the US was first settled by Europeans, it was the largest, most resource-rich piece of temperate zone real estate on the planet. Having been rapidly depopulated of it's aboriginals, the imported European population and technology could exploit the resource base at an unimaginable rate. Natural resource depletion that took millenia in Europe and Asia was accomplished in decades. Must have seemed like a miracle at the time, but the pigeons are coming home to roost now. Socialism evolved in countries where people freeze to death in the winter if they don't get along, share resources and play nice. Check out Scandinavian history, they learned their lessons the hard way. If you're still not convinced, take a look at the list of the world's 10 "happiest nations" http://images.businessweek.com/ss/06/10/happiest_countries/index_01.htm. You'll find countries with a unique blend of enterprise and social services, work ethic coupled with a sense of community and responsibility. It's about time to shelve Rand back into the fantasy section where she belongs.

Posted by: Geoff | 2008-07-06 10:06:09 PM


Geoff and Merle, your knowledge of libertarianism leaves something to be desired...

Writes Geoff: "For heaven's sake, imagine any contact sport with no rules, no limits, no referees, no boundaries and limitless rewards to the victors."

Writes Merle: "We need a state and a police force and laws."

Says the libertarian: Uhm, yup. Check and check. A libertarian is someone who believes that a government should be small, not that it shouldn't exist. That it exists in order to protect life, liberty & property, and nothing else. That a police force, judiciary, and military are all that are necessary.

I think you have anarchism confused with libertarianism, gentlemen. You might take a quick trip over to wikipedia or the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and brush up.

Merle: "Libertarians and Bolhi's and others all leave out the fact that man is born with a sinful nature and no amount changing laws etc is going to chage that."

I thought I already addressed this: It is precisely because man is "born with a sinful nature" (I wouldn't use that expression, but would secularize it with the same upshot in meaning) that we should keep government small. Whatever damage people can do to each other on the market pales in comparison to the damage they can wreak when they get a hold of the levers of government power.

You'll have to explain to me how sinful creatures become angels when they a) get elected, b) join the civil service, c) join the military, and d) become police officers.

Geoff: "What seems forgotten is that when the US was first settled by Europeans, it was the largest, most resource-rich piece of temperate zone real estate on the planet."

What seems to be overlooked from this comment is South Korea and Hong Kong and Singapore. Tell me about these "resource rich" countries, please.

As for your point about happiness: No problems here. Take a look at the work of Will Wilkinson at the Cato Institute, or Ruut Veenhoven (who used to edit the Journal of Happiness Studies), and a host of others. I did my MSc dissertation on the economics of happiness, Geoff, and I've researched the field extensively. I'm still a libertarian.

And I think the literature on happiness better serves the libertarian position than any other. (Notice how the top 23 countries you list are also economically and personally liberal countries in general.) And don't forget the bottom of the list.

Ranking countries on the basis of which is closest to a libertarian country--all things considered!--may correlate better with happiness than any other political philosophy.

As for Rand, I'm happy to shelve her into the fantasy section. But Rand is hardly the only libertarian out there in the world, and her particular version and justification for libertarianism is unappealing and unpersuasive (at least to me).

Cuddles.

Posted by: P.M. Jaworski | 2008-07-06 11:12:33 PM


I second Mark Wickens comment, that the author as set a new precedent in failing to understand Atlas Shrugged. The same appears to be true of every commenter who somehow thinks Rand is a Libertarian.


Rand denounced Libertarians very thoroughly for their unprincipled stand on freedom. Freedom is not a political fundamental; it must stand on a proper morality, and that morality must stand on a proper epistemology and metaphysics.


As for how an objective society could be created, Thomas Jefferson and the main Founders of America made sure they were well educated in the subjects relevant to their speeches, publications and policies. Similar 'due diligence' would be a great practice for the author (Yoshida) and the confused commenters above to adopt. That same suggestion applies as much to the abundant left-leaning academics, news media, and public 'educators', as it does to the religious right. Both sides seek to usurp individual freedoms, to force their ideals down everyone else's throats.


The real world solution to creating a moral (capitalist) society respecting individual rights is through education. That takes time, but ARI has established a number of 'beach-heads' in academia, and many more will be opened in the next few decades.


Check Your Premises.

Posted by: Richard | 2008-07-06 11:16:30 PM


Well, actually I have read Atlas Shrugged - several times. A legacy of a Randite period as a teenager (you can Google it, if you like). Now, I'll address several things separately:

1) Regarding the Cato Institute - I wasn't aware of the history of the name but, as to its purpose, I believe that it isn't practically and that it's self-defeating in that most of its criticism and efforts seem to be directed towards the right, just like the Libertarian Party spends most of its time hurting Conservatives/Republicans. For any form of libertarianism to ever be implemented on a practical level, we must first utterly defeat and destroy the left - what's required is a popular front.

2) I haven't misunderstood Rand at all. My interpretation of the work has a long history, going as far back as Whitaker Chambers who wrote that, from every page of the book a voice could be heard commanding, out of necessity, "you, to a gas chamber - go!"

And Rand may well be worth tossing aside into the fantasy section, but she's both the most prominent libertarian author (by a light year) and the main entry point for countless people into libertarianism, so her ideas do matter.

Re-read Atlas Shrugged and consider the implications of the last chapter. Her small cadre, like the Bolsheviks, wins through the total collapse of society and afterwards it could only rule in the fashion described (the men of the minds ruling by their own will alone) through an absolute dictatorship.

Note here that I'm not absolutely opposed to dictatorship, certainly not in the Roman fashion, where it is necessary. I'm a life-long fan of, for example, Augusto Pinochet. But what a Randian society (and what a Paulite society, for that matter) entails is a form of totalitarianism - a boot stamping on the human face forever that happens to be marked "Liberty."

And my thoughts aren't primarily directed at you, P.M. - for all that I disagree with you, you're plainly as least thoughtful. My feeling on you and some of the others here is that you embraced Paul for the same reasons that I've embraced John McCain - that he represents an imperfect step towards what I'd like to see. It's directed as those who throw around "liberty" like a slogan and imagine that we can jump from Monday to Wednesday without losing our footing.

Posted by: Adam Yoshida | 2008-07-06 11:28:51 PM


I love the ideas of Ayn Rand. I am fiercely independent and self-reliant. I don't like being a member of any groups or organizations. The thought of a committee is worse than a sharp stick in the eye to me.

The free capitalist model works really well with a small population motivated to build a nation and profit in the process. A place where 'anyone' can achieve success. Not everyone can achieve it just as not everyone can play hockey like Wayne or golf like Tiger. We are not created equal but it's a nice thing to tell the losers.

Once a population is large and there are a lot more losers than winners, the losers take over and that is what we have now. The government makes losers feel like winners (for awhile) by stealing money from the winners and giving it to the losers for their votes. The is what we have now. The money will run out.

I don't believe we can go back. We are on a path to a dark age of collectivism where nearly everyone will be a loser except friends of government ... and a close friend at that. However their world won't be the play ground they think it will be.

This new situation will never be acceptable to some and they will become rebels. They will be guerrillas. We will have a new terrorism in the West from those who wish to be free to live as people did back ... say in the fifties. A police state will grow along with repression. A long dark age will ensue. It will last until there is a very large reduction in population by whatever means ... disease, famine, war, asteroid, whatever.

Once the systems and the state are no longer able to wield the power they have had for so long, they too will decay and become irrelevant. A strong, brave and free entrepreneurial warrior class will restart the engine of freedom and self-reliance and rebuild a new society from the ashes of the dead socialist hoards.

The resources that were once available, will not be there anymore, so it will be a very different new world, but true freedom will once again prevail and life will go on. (unless it's the asteroid that came).

We will continue forward. We can NEVER go back.

The struggle is already upon us and things are changing faster than anyone can imagine. These changes are bad for Libertarians and Objectivists, but there is no way to avoid what is coming. There are too many idiots and too much apathy.

Humans, in my opinion don't deserve this planet at all, but here we are.

I am extremely grateful that I was born in 1943 in a free young prosperous country. I have had the privilege of living my life in the best time and place imaginable in the history of human kind.

I have had heat, air conditioning, a lovely home a great working life, great medicine, great music, nice cars, television, movies, friends, travel, and the wonders of the space program etc etc. Kings and emperors in past human history didn't live as well as the average Canadian does today.

I almost feel sorry for those who will live through this century after the socialists are in full bloom globally. The children of todays socialist fools will piss on their parents and grand parents graves when they contrast their lives with what we have now and threw away.

Posted by: John V | 2008-07-06 11:33:51 PM


Rand was a libertarian, even if she and some of her cultists don't like the term. I'm not interested in playing word-games here. Just like I sometimes don't like to call myself a conservative and instead describe myself as being a "reactionary" or whatever else, that doesn't change that I'm situated somewhere on the general right.

Thomas Jefferson didn't build anything. His vision of an Agrarian society of liberty died centuries ago. Alexander Hamilton is the real founder of America as we know it - and one of my personal heroes, I need not add.

I don't misunderstand Rand at all - or a lot of Paulites. They believe, quite simply, that society ought to exist according to their own vision of "liberty" and aim to impose it on people, by force if necessary.

Again, I invite you to read the last chapter of Atlas Shrugged, as they plan the new world and Galt makes the sign of the dollar - there's going to be no room for true freedom and none for dissent in their society.

I'd note that I don't lump Ron Paul himself in with his followers in this sense. He seems clearly to know that his struggle is futile and is in it primarily for himself, his own wealth, and his own sense of moral self-satisfaction. That's why, in nearly two decades in Congress, he's never actually achieved anything of note.

Posted by: Adam Yoshida | 2008-07-06 11:35:19 PM


For the record, as to what I believe, I'm basically a Victorian in many respects.

First of all, I believe that liberty and privacy go hand-in-hand. Vices cannot, as we have today, indefinitely survive sunshine and public display for they will either provoke a public reaction or, once indulged in to such a degree, grow into things that will lead to a society's destruction.

Second, I believe that liberty and empire are intimately connected. The only free society is a secure one. That's why 1950's America, Victorian Britain, and Rome in the Principate were some of the freest societies on record and certainly the freest nations of their day.

Third, I don't think that the public is capable of quitting statism cold turkey. Moving towards liberty is going to require time and some degree of coercion - I think that we need to be realistic about that. No genuinely democratic government, for example, is ever going to be able to do away with Medicare.

Posted by: Adam Yoshida | 2008-07-06 11:41:00 PM


PMJ; "What seems to be overlooked from this comment is South Korea and Hong Kong and Singapore. Tell me about these "resource rich" countries, please."

First off, I'm not sure what your point is. How do these stand out as libertarian success stories? SK's chaebol are corporate oligopolies astride a post-war client state that received massive US cash, HK and Singapore are trade-based city-states straddling the "silk road".

I'm curious about your thesis. Did you incorporate Maslow (or some other scale of human needs)? Happiness is, of course, a relative measure. I know a few miserable millionaires and some very contented people of modest means. Did you equate choice or contentment with happiness?

Thirdly, if libertarianism requires minimal government intervention and maximum individual liberty; how do you define and enforce the rules for the benefit of all? The global fisheries collapse is just one glaring example of the libertarian approach to resource management. I'll trump your Rand with Hardin's "Tragedy of the Commons".

your lead..

Posted by: Geoff | 2008-07-07 12:39:51 AM


People freeze to death in America if they don't get along, Geoff, as anyone who's ever faced a Minnesota winter can attest to. And the gauge on America's natural resources is far from empty. Ironically it is more likely environmental regulations than actual scarcity that will dictate whether new ventures succeed or fail. But I guess the urban liberal yuppies need SOMEWHERE pristine to litter with their Dasani bottles when they spend the weekend motoring through the woods with their mammoth SUVs.

By the way, socialism evolved in German universities, along with the other great 20th-century evils of communism and fascism. Even the original Communist Manifesto reads, "From each according to his ability; to each according to his needs." In other words, you're still expected to contribute. But socialist countries today have a real problem with underemployment and an entire class of perennially (and happily) unemployed layabouts.

Face it, Goeff. Socialism has failed in every country in which it's been tried. Even Europe, hurt by record productivity lows, is now climbing out of its Leftist miasma. But don't despair. There are still a few aging babushkas holding silent vigil outside Lenin's tomb, so you'll never want for company.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2008-07-07 7:22:39 AM


Geoff: Your last comment seems to demonstrate that you either don't know what "libertarianism" means, or don't understand Hardin's "tragedy of the commons" story.

Libertarians plump for property rights partly because of the lessons of the tragedy of the commons. Recall that the story is about a public pasture with no property rights and people having no incentive not to overgraze. Property is an institution that is supposed to overcome the tragedy (people care more for things they own than the same thing unowned). The libertarian solution to fishing stocks is to institute some form of private property rights in fishing.

Second, I don't offer my own definition of happiness. I go with subjective well-being as measured by the questions in the Eurobarometer and the General Social Survey in the U.S. Those measures may be imperfect, but they appear to correlate strongly with fMRIs, accounts of the happiness of people given by their friends, number of times a person smiles during the day, and so on. All together, they appear fairly robust.

And I'm telling you that if you think that happiness is the right goal for a country, and if you use the survey responses as at least strongly indicative of the truth about how happy citizens are, and if you compared that list with a ranked list of countries that are more to less libertarian--all things considered--you would find: the more libertarian a country, the more happy are her citizens.

There are, of course, plenty of complications. No social scientist worth her salt would even think to conclude from this that more liberty equals more happiness (it could be the other way around--the more happy a country's citizens, the more they'll push for liberty). Nevertheless, it is suggestive and interesting and worth pursuing as a research project.

Posted by: P.M. Jaworski | 2008-07-07 9:28:05 AM


SM, I'll leave my points on the table. First off, Socialism <> Communism. They are two distinctly different ways of organizing a nation. Practical socialism is doing very well in Scandinavia. Take a trip and visit Denmark. I recommend Aalborg, safe, clean, kinda boring but everyone has access to good transit, medical care, higher education. The economy is doing very well there, thanks. On the other hand, contemporary US style capitalism was founded on a massive temperate zone resource base exploited by European technology and immigration (and in some cases African and Asian forced labour). and Diamond's "Guns, Germs, and Steel" simplifies the Temperate Zone hypothesis but this does the job as well. http://www.cid.harvard.edu/cidinthenews/articles/Sciam_0301_article.html

As an aside, did you know that along with the ism's you cite, German universities in the Victorian era were responsible for most of the advances in science and medicine at the time. Chances are the med's you take now can be traced back to some pioneering work done by a German biochemist.

Posted by: Geoff | 2008-07-07 9:32:16 AM


Adam: Two things. For one, BRAVO! (re: Rand as a libertarian). You're exactly right. Rand was wrong to say that she didn't count as a libertarian, because she does count as one. She had a particular definition of "libertarian" in mind (maybe), but that definition is not the ordinary, everyday definition of "libertarian." On the ordinary, everyday definition, Rand counts as a libertarian. The end.

For two: My assessment of the practicality of Cato is based on their decision to use empirical data, and to be basically consequentialist. They will say that policy x ought to be pursued because it leads to good outcomes (in general, and most of the time). They will not say that policy x should be pursued because it is consistent with individual liberty (although it will be, but they won't emphasize that).

I suspect that you are operating under a bit of a confirmation bias with respect to Cato. I don't think it's true that they attack the right more often than they attack the left. At least, that's not true of their history. You may only be aware of the studies and policy prescriptions that they issue that attack various Bush policies. Those studies probably get more air time. But that doesn't mean that they issue more studies attacking the right, just that the studies they issue that get the most air-time are studies of that sort.

Posted by: P.M. Jaworski | 2008-07-07 9:34:29 AM


The Cato Institute advocates public policy for practical purposes.Many programs require reform and in this case a move towards market mechanisms, and away from socialism.
This has been done in many countries and is also being undone in some countries.
The permanent move towards a free society requires an underlying philosophy in liberty.
Libertarian is a political description since there is no universal libertarian philosophy.

Posted by: gordo | 2008-07-07 10:12:35 AM


PMJ, Hardin's point in Tragedy of Commons seems to be that mutual coercion is the mechanism to manage overconsumption of a finite resource. I'll grossly oversimplify here but it's my understanding that Libertarians appear to believe that individual freedoms = good, government = bad, private property rights = good, community property = bad. My concern is that there is an entirely different class of individuals on the turf with us. Corporations, in law, are treated as individuals as well. How does a person compete against an organized industrial collective? What is the recourse for an individual when a corporate interest pits itself against the needs, wants, or safety of an individual or group of individuals. Properly managed democratic government is the only recourse in which the playing field is levelled. As such, government power must be greater than that of the corporate interests it is regulating otherwise it is unable to establish and enforce the rules. How is it that just 3 men can control the mayhem of an NFL game? Because there is a massive infrastructure behind the system, with clearly defined rewards and penalties for all involved. And that's just a game.

Posted by: Geoff | 2008-07-07 10:37:15 AM


Rand's ego would not allow her to refer to herself as libertarian because she would no longer be the movement's philosophical dominatrix.

As to the notion of libertarian Bolshevism, Yoshida's argument is flawed as a libertarian society allows pretty much anything as long as contractually or consensually agreed to including the notion of socialist collectives within society doing their own thing to those willing to participate. It's the socialist / fascist / communist societies that permit no such freedom for capitalists. Think of Hutterite colonies.

The overall prospects for liberty are unfortunately, as grim as you have stated. I've always considered libertarian support to have to reach a critical mass of 20 to 25% to take off and be adopted by the unprincipled political class. Until then, all you will see is the continued fringe play of Barr, Paul etc. The first and likely most necessary step would be an accelerated abandonment of the child abuse known as public education.

Posted by: John Chittick | 2008-07-07 10:38:52 AM


I only have a few things to add to the mix here.

1. I don't know about Rand, but Robert Nozick was pretty clear in his view that in his "utopian" libertarian society, people would be free to live in socialist communes, if that is what they wished. They just wouldn't be allowed to coerce people into joining such communes (or, perhaps, prevent people from leaving.) No one is to be forced to live like John Galt.

2. Two more-or-less libertarian thinkers I know of -- John Hasnas and Chandran Kukathas -- develop Nozick's thought. The upshot is that the state's sole role is to guarantee freedom of association (e.g. its sole role is to block commies from forcing you to join their communes and the like.)

3. As for the tragedy of the commons, the typical libertarian response to this issue is to point out that the tragedy would not occur if the commons were sufficiently and effectively privatized.

The problem with the commons is that it is held in common. Since at least the time of Aristotle it's been known that people will be irresponsible in a situation like this since they have insufficient incentive to conserve or preserve common property.

Terrence

Posted by: Terrence Watson | 2008-07-07 10:51:56 AM


Geoff: You need to look up the tragedy of the commons. Here's the original article: http://www.dieoff.org/page95.htm

And here's the wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragedy_of_the_commons

The upshot: Common property may be overused because each individual has an incentive to overuse it, and insufficient disincentive not to overuse it.

The remedy: Multiple remedies are possible. The one I subscribe to is clearly defined and enforced private property rights. This is the libertarian view. Other remedies are also possible, but I don't think they have as much going for them as the private property option.

Then you discuss a wholly separate point about corporations. I agree that a corporation has more money than me. I agree that there is a potential for worrisome outcomes when corporations decide they don't like me much.

Here's what I'll say: For one, I don't think that a free market leads to big corporations (contrary to what, I agree, most people think, but I can argue for it, if you care to hear the argument).

For two, even though coercion isn't just limited to physical coercion, it's still true that, in libertaria, the corporations can't put a gun to my head and force me to do what they want. So that's a limit, anyways.

Posted by: P.M. Jaworski | 2008-07-07 11:09:28 AM


The real world solution to creating a moral (capitalist) society respecting individual rights is through education. That takes time, but ARI has established a number of 'beach-heads' in academia, and many more will be opened in the next few decades.


Check Your Premises.

Posted by: Richard | 6-Jul-08 11:16:30 PM

The problem with an educated public is that it asks questions, tends to be less inclined to lean towards ideology and thus is not easily controllable.

As such, the goal of any large institution (and this is not limited to Government) will be to create sheep that can be exploited one way or the other.

These days, with multinational companies that control basics of life (e.g. Food), the threat to individual freedom (and prosperity) has gone way beyond the Government.

That most Conservatives don't want to see this makes sense, as they are usually deeply steeped in the business community (at least the leaders), that self professed Liberitarians don't see this (or want to) makes sense too, because they are spoonfed the idea that "Free markets work".

So far, nobody has been able to explain to me how a "Free Market", a human construct, is any better than a democratic Government in being "fair and open" and guranteeing freedom and liberty.

Posted by: Snowrunner | 2008-07-07 11:25:25 AM


Face it, Goeff. Socialism has failed in every country in which it's been tried. Even Europe, hurt by record productivity lows, is now climbing out of its Leftist miasma. But don't despair. There are still a few aging babushkas holding silent vigil outside Lenin's tomb, so you'll never want for company.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 7-Jul-08 7:22:39 AM

I am not quite sure where you get your news from when it comes to Europe, but the overall tone I get from the news there and speaking with friends back in Europe is quite a different picture painted, they are turning mostly away from the right and further to the left. It has actually gotten to the point that Germany got a party that formed itself further left to the Socialist party and seems to have a shot at sitting in the next Bundestag.

The American economic model has worked because the US managed to get the USD as the "world currency" out there. The richness that America has amassed is based on the rest of the world paying for it, just look at the trade deficit.

Posted by: Snowrunner | 2008-07-07 11:32:56 AM


"So far, nobody has been able to explain to me how a "Free Market", a human construct, is any better than a democratic Government in being "fair and open" and guranteeing freedom and liberty."

Snowrunner,

Has anyone really claimed that a free market itself guarantees freedom? Rather, I thought the claim is that the free market is what you get when freedom and property rights are properly guaranteed (i.e. by a functioning legal system.)

However, you don't need democracy in order to have a functioning legal system. In fact, rule of law and democracy seem in tension with one another.

Best,

Terrence

Posted by: Terrence Watson | 2008-07-07 11:33:56 AM


Snowrunner,

Most business leaders may personally believe in free markets but in practice will always do what gives them an advantage. That includes government handouts, legislation that hurts a competitor, etc.

A truly free market always fsavors the consumer. Companies are interested in profit. The more they sell the more they make. A free market protects the consumer by allowing competition. Governments do more to limit competition than anything in the free market.

I doubt you will get anyone on this blog able to explain how a truly free market is better than a democratic government, in a few paragraphs. Have a look at sites like www.fee.org and www.cafehayek.typepad.com.

This article http://www.fee.org/publications/the-Freeman/article.asp?aid=8264 goes in to some detail as to why this is not easily understood or taught.

In the end though, a willingness to change your mind in the face of new information is required. This is after all, not religion.

Posted by: TM | 2008-07-07 11:43:51 AM


PMJ, You've ducked the question of corporate accountability a little too blithely. Can a truly libertarian society ensure corporate "individuals" will not abuse individual persons? The Industrial Revolution in England was rife with appalling conditions, which continue on up to contemporary sweat shop labor. I recall working in the construction industry years ago where the prevailing model of labor relations was "if you don't like the way I do things here, I can always crack another barrel of men". The checks and balances we have constructed in government are in place for good reason. The key is to keep them clear, flexible and fair. I guess that's where the politicians and the judiciary step in..

cheers

Posted by: Geoff | 2008-07-07 12:09:12 PM


Has anyone really claimed that a free market itself guarantees freedom? Rather, I thought the claim is that the free market is what you get when freedom and property rights are properly guaranteed (i.e. by a functioning legal system.)

However, you don't need democracy in order to have a functioning legal system. In fact, rule of law and democracy seem in tension with one another.

Best,

Terrence

Posted by: Terrence Watson | 7-Jul-08 11:33:56 AM

Hi Terry,

that's not quite the way a lot of people are trying to sell "Free Market". They argue exactly the other way around. A la: "If you build it, they will come".

This never made sense to me, the way you see it though does, but again, I do not think a Free Market can truly exists because of the way humans are: Human Greed trumps everything, even Freedom.

Posted by: Snowrunner | 2008-07-07 12:27:03 PM


In the end though, a willingness to change your mind in the face of new information is required. This is after all, not religion.

Posted by: TM | 7-Jul-08 11:43:51 AM

So what comes first in your estimation? Free Market, or personal Freedom? And if there is a personal Freedom, how does the consumer / individual protect himself from companies riding roughshot over him without banding together (e.g. a Government) to control the larger entity called an Enterprise?

I do think that a free market can work, as long as all the players in the market are of roughly equal size, but like you said yourself: Greed will lead to consoldiation.

So what's your solution to this? Enact a law that once you have x amount of revenue / profit you are being broken up? Hoping that in the end the markets will sort it out?

Posted by: Snowrunner | 2008-07-07 12:30:10 PM


Everyone seems to forget what it is that makes government different from any other private organization. There is only one thing... Force.

We need government to protect individual liberties and enforce laws. We, however, accept that in those cases, when an individual's rights are being violated, is the right to use force on another citizen warranted. Except for that, why would anyone think that force is good when it is used to allow one group of people to use it on another when they are doing nothing but living their lives how they themselves see fit? Where does that right come? Where does that morality fit in?

Posted by: Rhinehold | 2008-07-07 12:40:00 PM


Note here that I'm not absolutely opposed to dictatorship, certainly not in the Roman fashion, where it is necessary. I'm a life-long fan of, for example, Augusto Pinochet.

Posted by: Adam Yoshida | 6-Jul-08 11:28:51 PM

Question to the editor of this blog / magazine whatever you want to call it. Is this the kind of writer you want on your staff who seems to be standing pretty much against some of the basic ideas that this site is supposed to promote?

"From the beginning of the military regime he implemented harsh measures against his political opponents which included systematic violations of civil liberties and human rights and for which he faced several criminal processes until his death in 2006."

I would just like to see some clarification what the exact position of the Western Standard is in regards to civil liberties, human rights, democracy etc. Considering that one of your writers seems to believe in the exact opposit of these values.

Posted by: Snowrunner | 2008-07-07 12:40:02 PM


"Can a truly libertarian society ensure corporate "individuals" will not abuse individual persons? The Industrial Revolution in England was rife with appalling conditions, which continue on up to contemporary sweat shop labor. I recall working in the construction industry years ago where the prevailing model of labor relations was "if you don't like the way I do things here, I can always crack another barrel of men". The checks and balances we have constructed in government are in place for good reason. The key is to keep them clear, flexible and fair. I guess that's where the politicians and the judiciary step in.."

See my above comment.

But first, who can 'ensure' that no individual will ever abuse the rights of another individual? Only a true facist state. BUT, the libertarian society does state quite clearly that violating another's individual rights should be the only real legitimate use of the force of government. So if that is what you are looking for, perhaps you should be embracing it instead of denouncing it, especially in favor of other 'principles' (I use the term lightly because the left and right in this country whouldn't know what a prinicple was if it sat in their lap and called them 'mama') that expand the role of government into so may other areas of our lives that it can't do a good job at what it should be doing and often, becaues of those expanses, violates those rights itself.

Posted by: Rhinehold | 2008-07-07 12:44:16 PM


Don't get confused, Snowrunner: The Shotgun is a group blog featuring writers who fit in the conservative and libertarian pigeonholes. Broadly. The purpose of the blog is partly to disseminate news that is relevant to conservatives and libertarians, and partly to serve as your one-stop shop for debates between libertarians and conservatives, as well as debates between one variant of libertarianism and another, as well as one variant of conservatism against another.

Now I know that usually what you get with blogs is a bunch of people who share a set of beliefs. This is not the case with the Shotgun. Each of our bloggers have their own position.

So please don't confuse any of the bloggers here as speaking for the Western Standard. They speak for themselves.

Posted by: P.M. Jaworski | 2008-07-07 12:50:02 PM


Snowrunner,

Freedom comes first in my opinion. You can't really have a free market without personal freedom.

Government monopolies, or governmnet created/assisted monopolies, are the real problem. Not the free market. As companies grow larger and swallow up their competitors, they will only stay large and successful in a free market if they are truly providing a competitive product/service. If they are a monopoly it will only be because they are a state corporation, or they are protected by the state. If they are an oligopoly, it is only a matter of time before some competitor shows up.

Human capital is our greatest asset. Human creativity and greed will quickly find a niche to compete with a large multi national.

If the government protects the monoploy, then we have a problem. But we can't blame the market for that.

The markets will in fact sort it out if there is freedom. That is becuase you and I will make the choices with our money that gives us the best advantage.

Posted by: TM | 2008-07-07 12:52:48 PM


So please don't confuse any of the bloggers here as speaking for the Western Standard. They speak for themselves.

Posted by: P.M. Jaworski | 7-Jul-08 12:50:02 PM

In this case, why not do away with the blog and open up a forum? This way you don't have a few "elites" voicing their opinion while the rest of the net can only pipe in from the peanut gallery?

The whole idea of a "control valve" is usually to exercise some editorial control over what is being printed / posted and as such whoever posts on the Shotgun (as an editor) also reflects back onto the publication as a whole.

Posted by: Snowrunner | 2008-07-07 12:54:06 PM


Thanks for the constructive criticism, Snowrunner. We think a blog is a better way of fulfilling our mission than a forum.

Posted by: P.M. Jaworski | 2008-07-07 12:59:51 PM


First, Geoff, the only difference between communists and socialists is communists try to own everything and socialists try to run everything. They are both predicated on the assumption that a free market, regulated or unregulated, is inherently abusive and that the teeming millions can’t be trusted to spend their own money wisely. They are both the product of rank paternalism—or maternalism, perhaps, given that both produce “nanny states.”

Secondly, Denmark is not Scandinavia—and even the land of Hans Christian Andersen has its problems. The carbon tax didn’t do a thing to keep vehicles off the road, but it did result in a lot of shuttered factories. Good transit and medical care is easy to deliver in a densely populated country. Only the very best students have access to higher education; “B” and “C” students need not apply. Also, the economy in Denmark is far more flexible than in much of socialist Europe; employers actually have the right (horrors!) to hire and fire at will. Oh yes, and taxes in Denmark are the highest in the world—a level that Canadians would not tolerate and Americans would go to war over.

Also, you make it sound like the Americans invented capitalism. Horseshit. Throughout much of the early modern era the consummate merchants have been the Dutch. And Europe was doing very well until at least the Second World War, even with their “paltry” resource holdings. Resources can always be purchased, and in fact it’s cheaper on the West Coast to import bricks from China than to buy them from Quebec, owing to the cost of labour.

By the way. The medical advances discovered by German universities were discovered by bona fide scientists, men who study the real world. The –isms were the product of political students and professors with no time for reality and, apparently, far too much time on their hands. That wasn’t so much a jab at universities in general as the liberal arts in particular, a degree in which qualifies you to flip burgers at McDonald’s.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2008-07-07 1:10:44 PM


Geoff wrote: “PMJ, Hardin's point in Tragedy of Commons seems to be that mutual coercion is the mechanism to manage overconsumption of a finite resource.”

The free market does that more effectively than any government could.

Geoff wrote: “I'll grossly oversimplify here but it's my understanding that Libertarians appear to believe that individual freedoms = good, government = bad, private property rights = good, community property = bad.”

Within certain limits, yup. Government’s role is to protect the citizens, not run their lives. Their function is administrative, not activist.

Geoff wrote: “My concern is that there is an entirely different class of individuals on the turf with us. Corporations, in law, are treated as individuals as well. How does a person compete against an organized industrial collective?”

By supporting the competition. Monopolies, including state monopolies, produce tyrants. Competition breeds excellence.

Geoff wrote: “What is the recourse for an individual when a corporate interest pits itself against the needs, wants, or safety of an individual or group of individuals.”

Property rights are a big part of that solution. You’ve got it, they want it, let them cough up. The more they want it, the more they’ll pay.

Geoff wrote: “Properly managed democratic government is the only recourse in which the playing field is levelled. As such, government power must be greater than that of the corporate interests it is regulating otherwise it is unable to establish and enforce the rules.”

And if the rules are activist instead of administrative, then what? Government has soldiers. What do the corporations have?

Geoff wrote: “How is it that just 3 men can control the mayhem of an NFL game? Because there is a massive infrastructure behind the system, with clearly defined rewards and penalties for all involved. And that's just a game.”

You’ve just negated all your previous arguments. First of all, the entire infrastructure is in private hands. Secondly, you’ve got just three guys in control, instead of a lot of bureaucracy. Rewards and penalties are present in corporations as well as governments.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2008-07-07 1:17:41 PM


Thanks for the constructive criticism, Snowrunner. We think a blog is a better way of fulfilling our mission than a forum.

Posted by: P.M. Jaworski | 7-Jul-08 12:59:51 PM

That's okay. My point merely is you canot give a soapbox to someone and then later say that this person isn't speaking for you.

As such, I think it is pretty clear which kind of ideas the Western Standard seems to consider worth promoting.

Thanks for the clarification.

Posted by: Snowrunner | 2008-07-07 1:18:16 PM


Human capital is our greatest asset. Human creativity and greed will quickly find a niche to compete with a large multi national.

Posted by: TM | 7-Jul-08 12:52:48 PM

This I would agree with if resources wouldn't be limited on this planet. You can hardly start a new business if the large corporations have tied up all the resources you would need to compete.

-------------

If the government protects the monoploy, then we have a problem. But we can't blame the market for that.

The markets will in fact sort it out if there is freedom. That is becuase you and I will make the choices with our money that gives us the best advantage.

Posted by: TM | 7-Jul-08 12:52:48 PM

Do me a favour TM, next time you're in a supermarket, count the number of brands that you see for any particular product category. Write down their names and when you get home look them up.

Tell me the ratio between the brands that you see on the shelves and the number of companies producing them. You will most likely realize that there isn't as much choice as it seems.

Posted by: Snowrunner | 2008-07-07 1:22:03 PM


Snowrunner wrote: “The real world solution to creating a moral (capitalist) society respecting individual rights is through education. That takes time, but ARI has established a number of 'beach-heads' in academia, and many more will be opened in the next few decades.”

Given that universities are already notoriously Leftist-heavy and are steeped in Sixties-style ideology, and at any rate cannot be even remotely claimed to consist of a free and balanced exchange of ideas, I’m disinclined to look to these fringe-headed freaks for further edification.

Snowrunner wrote: “The problem with an educated public is that it asks questions, tends to be less inclined to lean towards ideology and thus is not easily controllable.”

See above. In my experience university graduates tend to be MORE inclined to ideology, not less. Also more prone to “paralysis through analysis.” They’re not “go-getter” types to whom you turn if you actually want something done.

Snowrunner wrote: “As such, the goal of any large institution (and this is not limited to Government) will be to create sheep that can be exploited one way or the other.”

If the institution’s primary objective is the control of human beings. And this blather about “exploitation” betrays a marked anti-capitalist bias, also frequently found at universities.

Snowrunner wrote: “These days, with multinational companies that control basics of life (e.g. Food), the threat to individual freedom (and prosperity) has gone way beyond the Government.”

Ah, yes, the favourite bogeyman of the veteran street protestor—the “multinational corporation.” I have not seen signs of ANY threat other than out-of-control gas prices which, mark my words, will in the coming months and years be subject to a sharp correction as people buy less.

Snowrunner wrote: “That most Conservatives don't want to see this makes sense, as they are usually deeply steeped in the business community (at least the leaders), that self professed Liberitarians don't see this (or want to) makes sense too, because they are spoonfed the idea that "Free markets work".”

As opposed to those soviet types who naturally have a better system?

Snowrunner wrote: “So far, nobody has been able to explain to me how a "Free Market", a human construct, is any better than a democratic Government in being "fair and open" and guranteeing freedom and liberty.”

Governments are inherently wasteful and inefficient, because they are not required to operate in the black. As such they tend to attract those whose mediocre skill sets would not be an asset in an institution where results are expected. Democratic government, by the way, is also a “human construct.”

You just want "democratic" government to have all the power because they're statistically more likely to listen to street protesters than "multinational corporations."

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2008-07-07 1:26:27 PM


P.S. By my remark, "Denmark is not Scandinavia," I meant that Denmark is but one part of Scandinavia and thus not necessarily indicative of Scandinavia as a whole. I did not mean to say that Denmark was not part of Scandinavia, which it by most definitions is.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2008-07-07 1:29:52 PM


Geopff wrote: “Can a truly libertarian society ensure corporate "individuals" will not abuse individual persons?”

Can you ensure that the government won’t?

Geopff wrote: “The Industrial Revolution in England was rife with appalling conditions, which continue on up to contemporary sweat shop labor.”

That was because the government gave the factory owners, who were rich and often aristocrats, more rights than the factory workers, who were usually dirt farmers. If the government had kept hands completely off both parties the workers would have won better working conditions in short order.

Geoff wrote: “I recall working in the construction industry years ago where the prevailing model of labor relations was "if you don't like the way I do things here, I can always crack another barrel of men".”

They have the right to fire you; you have the right to quit or, for that matter, start your own business. Had you brought to the table a particular skill or set of skills that made you more valuable, you would have had more to bargain with. I was wondering where your anti-capitalist attitude came from!

Geoff wrote: “The checks and balances we have constructed in government are in place for good reason. The key is to keep them clear, flexible and fair. I guess that's where the politicians and the judiciary step in.”

Canada has far fewer checks and balances than the United States, and also the dubious distinction of having a central region that does all it can to trash the economies of the two outlying regions in order to preserve its own power. No other western country has such a top-heavy government, and our judges, like banana-republic caudillos, sit for life. Of course I agree that laws and rules are necessary, but only to protect personal rights and property. Governments that attempt to direct its citizens’ lives or to control their personal wealth are going too far. And that, my friend, is socialism.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2008-07-07 1:37:30 PM


Snowrunner wrote: “The real world solution to creating a moral (capitalist) society respecting individual rights is through education. That takes time, but ARI has established a number of 'beach-heads' in academia, and many more will be opened in the next few decades.”

Umm, no I did not write that.

----------------

See above. In my experience university graduates tend to be MORE inclined to ideology, not less. Also more prone to “paralysis through analysis.” They’re not “go-getter” types to whom you turn if you actually want something done.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 7-Jul-08 1:26:27 PM

Where am I saying that education has to happen in / at a University? Considering that the majority of students graduating are so deep in debt that they will do anything to get out of (quickly followed by a Mortgage) etc. you cannot expect them to quesiton the system out of fear that they are hung out to dry.

------------------

If the institution’s primary objective is the control of human beings. And this blather about “exploitation” betrays a marked anti-capitalist bias, also frequently found at universities.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 7-Jul-08 1:26:27 PM

EVERYTHING is about control Shane. Ever heard the term "Human Resources"? That should give you a hint on how corporations consider individuals. Be they consumers or employees.

-----------------

Ah, yes, the favourite bogeyman of the veteran street protestor—the “multinational corporation.” I have not seen signs of ANY threat other than out-of-control gas prices which, mark my words, will in the coming months and years be subject to a sharp correction as people buy less.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 7-Jul-08 1:26:27 PM

Really? So how do people get to work? They just don't? Hands up here, how many are only driving around for leisure and could park their car RIGHT NOW? Nobody? Figured.

There are certain products that are inelstatic and as such people are willing to pay any price they can afford, things like Gas is one of them in North America.

-----------

As opposed to those soviet types who naturally have a better system?

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 7-Jul-08 1:26:27 PM

We are talking about Liberitarians here, not about other systems. So why don't you stop trying to deflect?

--------------------

Governments are inherently wasteful and inefficient, because they are not required to operate in the black. As such they tend to attract those whose mediocre skill sets would not be an asset in an institution where results are expected. Democratic government, by the way, is also a “human construct.”

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 7-Jul-08 1:26:27 PM

Yes, a Governments role is not to operate in the black, a Governments role is it to enable it's CITIZENS to make a living and gurantee their security. If that requires the Government to go in the red in some aspects that end up benefitting the country / society as a whole it is justified.

And btw, I'd be careful with throwing rocks here, the entire consumer spending in much of the western world has been financed by debt, where is the "fiscal responsiblity" there? I recommend reading some of the news coming out of the banking system at the moment and the fear that even the higher ups now clearly start showing because they are on the verge of losing their lines of credit.

There is not ONE company out there that does not have a line of credit, and I would bet that over 90% of the people on this blog have a line of credit of one kind or the other.

-------------------

You just want "democratic" government to have all the power because they're statistically more likely to listen to street protesters than "multinational corporations."

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 7-Jul-08 1:26:27 PM

Right Shane. Corportions, Shane's understanding of Democracy in Action, while people taking to the streets are just rabble that should be locked up.

Sorry, I subscribe to the idea that the Founding Fathers of the United States had: A Government BY the people FOR the people.

In your case I guess we can replace people with corporations.

Posted by: Snowrunner | 2008-07-07 1:40:22 PM


Snowrunner,

I could be wrong, but has anyone (I mean, besides Adam, maybe) mentioned locking up protesters?

"A Government BY the people FOR the people."

Hm, but a cynic (like me) would say that there's no such thing as a government for the people. Always, it's a government for some people, and against others. The democratic process just does a better job of dressing up the exploitation.

Terrence

Posted by: Terrence Watson | 2008-07-07 3:02:57 PM


I could be wrong, but has anyone (I mean, besides Adam, maybe) mentioned locking up protesters?

Posted by: Terrence Watson | 7-Jul-08 3:02:57 PM

Adam is more into putting them up against the wall while a Military Junta is cleaning out any opposition.

Shane is a bit more moderate, he just thinks people shouldn't take to the streets.

-------------------

"A Government BY the people FOR the people."

Hm, but a cynic (like me) would say that there's no such thing as a government for the people. Always, it's a government for some people, and against others. The democratic process just does a better job of dressing up the exploitation.

Posted by: Terrence Watson | 7-Jul-08 3:02:57 PM

Democracy is not a peferct solution, it is a tool of approxmimation. if the majority is not involved in the democratic process then democracy doesn't buy you anything.

A "dumbed down" society, one that is only interested in the next shiny thing or trying to figure out where to take the money for their mortgage is not a society that will participate in Democracy.

People, like Shane, who seem to think that the only legitament form of protest in a Democracy is at the ballot box ignore / forget that the ballot casting is just the last step in the entire process.

And yes, our systems are broken, not because Democracy can't work, but because the majority of people is happy with the illusion of democracy, after all there are Playstations to buy, movies to watch and games to play.

Posted by: Snowrunner | 2008-07-07 3:10:00 PM


1. If everything is about control, Snowrunner, what makes governments—or for that matter, activists—somehow exempt, or nobler? Just because companies consider people to be a resource (their most precious resource, actually), doesn’t mean they’re considered chattel, any more than the corporate “war room” is where evil executives meet to decide which working-class neighbourhood they’re going to carpet-bomb next.

2. I drive 1,000 km per month and pay a whopping $20-$30 more a month on gasoline over this time last year. Boo-hoo. By contrast, if I want to cross the new Port Mann bridge, I have to pay an additional five dollars PER DAY.

3. No, we’re talking about free-market economics as opposed to the alternatives. It is the idea that is important, not he who advocates for it.

4. I really don’t see how taxing ninety percent of a country to death for the benefit of the other, non-working ten percent can lead to a better country. Isn’t that what they had just before the French Revolution—peasants paying through the nose to support the opulence of an aristocracy that paid no tax at all?

5. Deficit spending is a risky proposition, I agree. But it is generally understood that consumers will pay back all of the debt they owe, and indeed almost all do so. Canada hasn’t been debt-free since Trudeau took power, and the average Canadian today is born $70,000 in debt to pay for programs that primarily benefited Canadians who will be dead by the time he’s old enough to start paying any of it back.

6. Democracy is not synonymous with street disorders, Snowrunner, nor is the only way to change the world for the better via in-your-face activism. This quaint little attitude is a holdover from the protest-minded Sixties that infects our silver-maned elites even today. In fact, neither Canada nor the U.S. are democracies at all. The U.S. is a constitutional republic, and Canada is a constitutional monarchy. In a true democracy the citizens are actively involved in law-making via referendum. While workable on a small scale, it has never been practical on a large scale. In any case, protestors actually circumvent the democratic process, because they hope to make their influence greater than the sum of their votes by making a lot of noise. They’re not democratic, they’re anti-democratic, seeking to rule by intimidation rather than the ballot box.

Cut the drama, okay, Snowrunner? You just plain don’t do it well, and it pegs you as an immature malcontent in the bargain.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2008-07-07 5:18:26 PM


1. If everything is about control, Snowrunner, what makes governments—or for that matter, activists—somehow exempt, or nobler? Just because companies consider people to be a resource (their most precious resource, actually), doesn’t mean they’re considered chattel, any more than the corporate “war room” is where evil executives meet to decide which working-class neighbourhood they’re going to carpet-bomb next.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 7-Jul-08 5:18:26 PM

Thanks for proving once again that you have no idea what a democracy is or how it works.

I guess your beloved Executives call a war room a war room just because it sounded cool, not because there are similarities.

Take a thinking break Shane, and maybe put down your wine glass full of Scotch for a while.

-----------------

2. I drive 1,000 km per month and pay a whopping $20-$30 more a month on gasoline over this time last year. Boo-hoo. By contrast, if I want to cross the new Port Mann bridge, I have to pay an additional five dollars PER DAY.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 7-Jul-08 5:18:26 PM

And the point being? Since when is the Port Mann bridge a toll bridge anyway? Last I checked it was still part of the Trans Canada.

Or did you get your bridges mixed up?

Even IF there is a road toll on that bridge, I wager a guess that this is due to this being a "public / private partnership", which usually means the tax payer gets to pay for the bridge and the private enterprise gets to take the revenue.

I am sure in your book that's the ideal solution.

--------------

4. I really don’t see how taxing ninety percent of a country to death for the benefit of the other, non-working ten percent can lead to a better country. Isn’t that what they had just before the French Revolution—peasants paying through the nose to support the opulence of an aristocracy that paid no tax at all?

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 7-Jul-08 5:18:26 PM

Mind showing actually some statistics that suppor this claim or are you just being overly dramatic because as usual you don't seem to have anything to really back up your opinions?

-------------------------
5. Deficit spending is a risky proposition, I agree. But it is generally understood that consumers will pay back all of the debt they owe, and indeed almost all do so. Canada hasn’t been debt-free since Trudeau took power, and the average Canadian today is born $70,000 in debt to pay for programs that primarily benefited Canadians who will be dead by the time he’s old enough to start paying any of it back.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 7-Jul-08 5:18:26 PM

Uhuuu, you do know where you get your info from, but I would guess it was sometime in 1970s, because clearly in the 2000's your idea about "paying back personal debt" is far from true:

"As never before, Canada is a nation in debt. In fact, we’ve reached the point where the average Canadian family owes more than it earns.

In 1984, Canadians owed about $187 billion in personal debt. Today we owe more than $801 billion.

Personal bankruptcies are near record highs. In 2003, for the first time ever, the average Canadian household owed more than its annual take-home pay.

We carry 74 million credit cards – three for every Canadian over the age of 18. Credit counselling agencies say they're busier than ever. Students are often graduating with accumulated debt of $25,000 or more. Consumer debt levels are rising much faster than incomes and have been for years. Savings rates are at record lows. "

http://www.cbc.ca/consumers/market/files/money/debt/index.html

So yeah, all honky dory. We're really good in managing our personal debt.

-------------------
6. Democracy is not synonymous with street disorders, Snowrunner, nor is the only way to change the world for the better via in-your-face activism.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 7-Jul-08 5:18:26 PM

No, but it is PART of it, a public discours about the things people care about. If you dont' have a discours you do not have a democracy.

-----------

This quaint little attitude is a holdover from the protest-minded Sixties that infects our silver-maned elites even today. In fact, neither Canada nor the U.S. are democracies at all. The U.S. is a constitutional republic, and Canada is a constitutional monarchy. In a true democracy the citizens are actively involved in law-making via referendum. While workable on a small scale, it has never been practical on a large scale

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 7-Jul-08 5:18:26 PM

Right, so let's crown Harper our Emperor for life (I am sure Adam is going to be all for it) and let's just get rid of all those pesky political parties and these elections every four to five years, it's just not really worth it and shouldn't even have been tried in the first place Shane.

-----------------

In any case, protestors actually circumvent the democratic process, because they hope to make their influence greater than the sum of their votes by making a lot of noise. They’re not democratic, they’re anti-democratic, seeking to rule by intimidation rather than the ballot box.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 7-Jul-08 5:18:26 PM

That's rich. We have special interest groups that buy airtime on TV to promote that "CO2 is life" and similar things and that "sponsor" politicians for re-election to convince the sheeple that THEY are doing the right thing, but you consider people taking their grievances out into public undemocratic.

Impressive really. I guess in a twisted way with you that all makes sense, do you want to share how a "good citizen" of Canada should behave? In your opinion, what should they be allowed to do to partake in daily public (e.g. political) life and when do they cross they line, and why?

---------------
Cut the drama, okay, Snowrunner? You just plain don’t do it well, and it pegs you as an immature malcontent in the bargain.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 7-Jul-08 5:18:26 PM

And that coming from you Shane.

Posted by: Snowrunner | 2008-07-07 5:38:16 PM


First rule of Libertarian/Objectivist free governments, the private business sector can do it better.

First rule of business, don't kill your customers.

First rule of leftist fascist government, kill the opposition.

Take you pick.

Posted by: John V | 2008-07-07 8:01:22 PM


Adam,

I understand where you are coming from, I think I could answer the question given the time, and engaging in the dialectic. The problem we have, is that your conceptualization of the libertarian paradigm is mired down by preconception.

Pulling from Aristotle: It would take rational discourse to describe to anyone why the shapes on the cave wall are shadows. You have to work past your fear of the unknown. You would have to work past your insistence that I want to extinguish the fire and plunge the cave into darkness. Most of all we would have to work past your abject denial of the chains that binds your narrow perception.

The fuzzy, shifting, shapes on the wall are not the whole truth.

Libertarian philosophy is premised on equality and justice. You cannot go very far explaining justice to someone that thinks that justice is equivalent to punishment. You cannot cannot discuss equality wholly when one is stuck thinking that equality means special treatment for the "less equal".

Our culture is now full of contradictory definitions: Peace through war; Price stability through inflation; Equality through bias; Healthcare funded by a gun.

Pulling from another source, Orwell didn't write 1984 as a projection of the future. He was satirizing his own present day (and even still it is relevant for us) when he coined the Ministry of Love for a machine to destroy souls and the Ministry of Peace to wage war. These contradictions exist poignantly in fiction because they exist in fact.

In our minds, mnemes are formed and rarely do we filter them for truth. If it is said enough times, with enough authority, our minds will equate love with the hate, war with peace and liberty with statism.

With enough repetition, and with enough fear to make the impression strong:

"They don’t make room for the possibility, as I do, that many drug offenders would be habitual criminals in any case and would, if set free, quickly resume committing other crimes."

You are a well programmed robot. Drugs are bad, people who use them are bad. If they are not doing drugs, they would be raping women or stealing old people's pensions.

You are a slave to irrational fear and in this case you are willing to destroy others lives to maintain that illusion... that shadow on the wall.

Which leads me to the answer to your thematic question:

I would attain the libertarian society, by slowly, painstakingly and deliberately absolving you, and others of their irrational fears.

-I would encourage you to get to know your neighbors and the people down the street.

-I would get you to play games like "find the positive aspect of every person you meet."
-or-
-"Avoid using 'no', 'not' or negative modifiers (including contractions) for a day."

-I would remove 12ft high fences, metal detectors, police dogs and armed patrols from our high schools.

-I would challenge you, the curious, to question the shadows, to look at the chains of fear that bind you to the cave, and to realize that all that holds you there, is your own misshapen and abused will.

-I would point out to people critical as you are that your criticism is, in fact, interest and challenge you to restate your question, without following it up with a long diatribe of irrational Orwellian fear mongering.

Alive - Free - Happy
Libertarian

Posted by: AFH | 2008-07-07 8:05:09 PM



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