Politics/Law/Government

Libertarianism doesn't work – but it's still useful

I’ve been searching for a reason why I like libertarians even as they drive me round-the-bend out of my mind sometimes. And on Saturday, Michael Kinsley of the Washington Post provided me that reason.

In his column titled The Church Doctrines of Pope Ron Paul – What’s wrong with libertarianism?, Kinsley described libertarianism as a movement that is so devoted to its principles that it is essentially irrelevant, but that is still vital to our political institutions. Libertarians focus so much on “free markets for everyone and everything” that they lose track of the bigger picture – things like pragmatism, or areas where the idea of personal property simply doesn’t (and can’t) apply. For example, Kinsley points out that fundamentalist libertarians (my term, not his) would reject government taxes for national defense, which is a “public good” issue that no individual should ever be allowed to decide for another. Similarly, pollution leeches across all personal property lines, and so must be addressed by governmental entities instead of nebulous “market forces.” And while I do understand (and even agree with) the right to die arguments that Kinsley rightly attributes to the libertarian impulse, he’s also right that the libertarian right to not wear a seat belt and speed runs smack into the brick wall of reality when the libertarian is involved in a fatal accident that snarls up traffic along a major highway for half the day.

Rights always come along with responsibilities, and it’s the latter part of that truism that libertarians generally forget.

But libertarians are still useful in our culture for one, very important reason – they keep us on our toes. When we’re asked why we don’t privatize the national highway system, we’re forced to answer that, as Kinsley pointed out, the inevitable result is that it’d end up being controlled by a single monopolistic corporation, and that’s functionally equivalent to the government that already owns the highways. When we’re asked why we should all have to pay for a sports stadium if we dislike sports or a major mass transit program if we live outside the metro area, libertarians force us to explain that the economic benefits of a major sports franchise and mass transit will boost the entire region’s growth, reduce pollution throughout the region, etc, so fairness requires that everyone who will benefit should help pay the costs (although sometimes the costs will outweigh the benefits, and in those situations the projects shouldn’t get any public money). And when libertarians ask why there should be regulations barring too much media consolidation in a single market, we’re forced to explain to them why monopolies are bad for them as much as everyone else.

In the process of explaining to the libertarians why they’re wrong on any given issue, the rest of us are forced to reexamine our own assumptions and opinions as they relate to the explanation. In addition, anyone else listening to the discussion learns more about the issue and comes away understanding the ideological objections and the pragmatic reasons those objections have to be rejected.

Both of those are good things.

61 replies »

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  2. I’ve known my share of Libs – everything from personal friends to professional colleagues. By and large, they all have one thing in common: they’re creatures of pure theory.

    This is maybe why I like Whythawk so much – he’s a Lib, but he understands something about the real world.

  3. So Libertarianism is good because it helps to reassure you how right you are? What a steamy heap of buncome!

    Monopoly is bad in everything except the use and initiation of force, i.e. government? Utopianism aside, libertarianism (not quite a political system) or market anarchy are both more moral and efficient at protecting the rights of a society.

    Food for thought: It’s Hard Out Here Without a Pimp
    and
    Scratching By: How Government Creates Poverty as We Know It

  4. >>fundamentalist libertarians (my term, not his) would reject government taxes for national defense
    A red herring since most libertarians don’t agree with this.
    >>pollution leeches across all personal property lines
    Which would make it a property rights issue, to be handled privately via the judicial system, not the government.
    >>libertarian right to not wear a seat belt and speed
    In a fully libertarian world, most roads would probably have speed limits (http://www.theadvocates.org/ruwart/questions_maint.php?id=384)
    >>the inevitable result is that it’d end up being controlled by a single monopolistic corporation
    No other industry is controlled by a _single_ monopolistic corporation (unless there is a government mandate). Why do you believe roads would be any different?
    >>the economic benefits of a major sports franchise
    Except there aren’t any (http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1272/is_n2619_v125/ai_18967454).
    >> mass transit will boost the entire region’s growth
    So did the railroads and they were private. Of course, it’s difficult to see how bad mass transit is when there is no other option. Fortunately, free-market paratransit is changing this. (http://www.amatecon.com/etext/lpls/lpls-ch7.html).

    To see what happens in a very unregulated market, look at the computer industry. The government had no reason/excuse to regulate it. I have a computer on my desk that would have cost millions to create only 10 years ago. Now this might have just been a coincidence, but you have to wonder what might have happened to the cost and quality of medical care if it was unregulated and there was no medicare or medicaid. How many lives would have been saved?

  5. Pint of Stout said “libertarianism… or market anarchy are both more moral and efficient at protecting the rights of a society.”

    Moral by a libertarian definition, not the generally accepted definition in our actual society (thankfully).

    In many respects, libertarianism and communism are two sides of the same coin – radical government control vs. radical personal control. And both suffer from the same fundamental flaw – they work fine in small groups, but fail miserably as a way to run an actual society.

    David – Many things.

    Pollution crosses so many boundaries it’s not even funny. Your right to pollute ends when it hits my property is fine – but what about when your pollution hits my personal health? Or 10,000 people’s health? Or a million? As a matter of pragmatism, those million people will all vote to force you to stop polluting, and ta da! we’re right back to government regulation of pollution. So much for the libertarian ideal.

    As far as speed limits, if all roads were private, then the owner would set the speed limit, and driving on the road would require an actual or implied contract. Breaking that contract by speeding would entail fines – how exactly is that different from a police department enforcing state speeding laws?

    The reason that no other industry is controlled by a single monopolistic corporation is because the government prevents it, not because it wouldn’t happen otherwise. In fact, it has in the past. Your very railroads example is mine as well – railroads had a monopoly on their rails, and while they did boost growth around the tracks, they were also responsible for some of the most egregious abuses of human rights in the history of the U.S. The rail monopolies are a big piece of the reason that the government doesn’t allow monopolies any more.

  6. David: Computer industry? You’re kidding, right? Microsoft played every anti-competitive game it could think of and in the process nearly wiped out superior products (like WordPerfect, for instance). The threat of government smackdown reined them in a little, but without that threat I shudder to think what would have happened.

    So yeah, by ALL MEANS, let’s look at the computer industry.

  7. “In many respects, libertarianism and communism are two sides of the same coin – radical government control vs. radical personal control. And both suffer from the same fundamental flaw – they work fine in small groups, but fail miserably as a way to run an actual society.”

    So it is the collectivization of society that doesn’t work. If left to their own devices, individuals are free to make their associations as large or small as they wish. Libertarianism and collectivization are incompatible because libertarianism is built around the individual. Is there a logical reason why people should be grouped together involuntarily?

    Many of those examples of monopoly in the previous posts were exacerbated or directly caused by government favors or regulation. But the argument here still seems to be that monopoly is bad, just as long as it isn’t the government’s monopoly.

  8. “Is there a logical reason why people should be grouped together involuntarily?”

    …and if the majority of white people in a country decided not to dwell alongside/with their darker brothers and sisters would that mean it was okay to practice separate development?

  9. “…and if the majority of white people in a country decided not to dwell alongside/with their darker brothers and sisters would that mean it was okay to practice separate development?”

    If it’s wrong to force people to live separately, it would be just as wrong to force people to live together – no matter who does the forcing.

  10. Brian said: “process of explaining to the libertarians why they’re wrong on any given issue, the rest of us are forced to reexamine our own assumptions and opinions as they relate to the explanation. In addition, anyone else listening to the discussion learns more about the issue and comes away understanding the ideological objections and the pragmatic reasons those objections have to be rejected.”

    I feel that same way when I have dialogue with liberals. We’re not that far apart:)

    Jeff

  11. I have done a lot of reading thinking and blogging about Libertarian ideology, and reached a basic conclusion, and have noted that Kinsleys inevitable result is not a final result but the result from the start.

    The great gaping hole in Libertarian logic is their equating Power with Government only, and that somehow making personal decisions that affect others (from a few to billions) is somehow not an exercise of power, or if it is then all who it is exercised about agreed to it, unless it is government and then even democracy is no fix.

    Once all exercise of power is recognized as the real definition of government that the Libertarians are using, then the focus shifts from the use of power (it is only shifted but never destroyed) to using power responsibly. That means both consent of the governed and a means of redress if that power is used irresponsibly.

    Apply that math to the libertarian logic and you very quickly arrive at the liberal agenda! That is why actual Government is usually best at running those things that demand either service to the community (where profit works in reverse) or natural monopolies where they are Governments no matter what they are named. The other primary job of Government is to hold all other organizations responsible, both in holding contracts enforceable, but making sure that all relationships are free of duress and exploitation, both reasons to nullify an actual contract when parties have equal standing.

    That is the true socialized society, like a socialized dog, it defends appropriately, and doesn’t leave surprise presents on the carpet, quite the opposite of an unsocialized society, that is likely to bite at any time and always needs cleaning up after, to say nothing of wrecking the furniture.

    The great danger of Libertarians is rarely their thinking, but as a safe frame to destroy any oversight of the Gang Of Pirates, leaving them to pillage in the name of freedom, even as they snoop in your bedroom to give themselves power.

  12. The problem with libertarians is that there are more non-libertarians than there are libertarians. Hence, the obviously superior intellectual thought of libertarians is forever doomed to suffer the blandness and idiocy of the non-libertarian, rendering any hope or even possibility of a just and peaceful society a “utopian pipedream”. Oh, the irony.

  13. Be suspecious of anyone who wants to do away with laws because they “cramp my style”. Examples, toxic polluters, pedophiles, corporate CEOs, gun nuts, animal abusers, forest clearcutters, manufacturerers of whatever (e.g. cars, airplanes, nuke plants, electrical appliances etc, etc), enterprises that involve the health and safety of the public, and on and on. Oh yeah, and Libertarians.

  14. Plebes,

    Please remember that Ron Paul considers himself a Republican, is a member of the Republican party, and is running as a candidate for President as a Republican.

    Ron Paul does not believe in anarchy, as many of the philosophy-challenged commentors here seem to imply. He believes in government, but a vastly smaller form of it that doesn’t get all up in people’s junk for smoking a doob and other shit like that.

    Collectively get a clue and VOTE RON PAUL, BITCHES!

  15. This diatribe is your own exercise in self-aggrandizement, useless to anyone else. You really believe libertarianism doesn’t work? Prove it! You’re fooling yourself if you think you have.

    What’s this got to do with Ron Paul anyway? No one has limited the power of government anywhere on Earth in the 20th century. It’s too big a project for Ron Paul. Ron Paul is one person who has spent half of his life trying to do so. There are many others.

  16. Brian Angliss – “As a matter of pragmatism, those million people will all vote to force you to stop polluting, and ta da! we’re right back to government regulation of pollution. So much for the libertarian ideal.”

    Exactly.

  17. Ron Paul is the only candidate talking about balancing the budget. The only candidate talking about social security being bankrupt (if future obligation are accounted for). One of only two candidates talking about peace and no foreign entanglements. The only candidate talking about the role of the private bank called the so called “federal reserve bank”. Ron Paul is the only candidate talking about money issue. The one topic the powers that be do not want you to think about or talk about or act on.

  18. Has anyone ever met a real libertarian? I haven’t. I’ve met anarchists, and I suppose libertarians must be something different, or they would be anarchists instead of libertarians, wouldn’t they?

    I’ve met a number of people who call themselves libertarians, but they don’t seem to agree with each other on very much. All of them seem to have these areas where they don’t want the gummint to interfere, and other areas where the want the gummint to go after people they don’t like with a meat axe.

    So far, every libertarian I’ve ever met has been a “me” kinda person. Whatever is best for them is what they want, and everyone else be damned.

    Why not just call it the “Me Party” and dispense with all this libertarian nonsense?

  19. I’ve met two kinds of libertarians – the hard-core market theory/freedom is the only morality types and the let me do my own thing with minimal interference types.

    Generally speaking the market theory/freedom type are unwilling to accept that there is any valid reason beyond national defense and enforcing laws that “ensure freedom from force” for a government to exist. They reject the entire idea that allowing injury to occur may be as immoral as actually causing injury, and they usually can’t even see the bend from where they are, ideologically speaking.

    The do my own thing types are usually more grounded in reality and society and pay their taxes willingly if reluctantly and would prefer that social programs go away, but understand that government has more of a role in society than the hard-core theorists accept. They understand that some amount of taxation is necessary to protect their interests from everyone else, and that it’ll cost them more in the long run to shut down government than it will to pay social security, Medicare, and Medicaid taxes. This type are eminently reasonable, because they’re different from liberals and conservatives only by degree and combination of traits (anti-gun control but pro-drug legalization, for example), not by any unproven, untestable, and unrealizable social theories.

  20. “Libertarianism doesn’t work”

    Depends on what you’re trying to achieve. Of course it doesn’t work for you; you’re seeking to employ the coercive power of government to enforce your judgement on the outcome of the interactions of others, displacing the outcome of mutual, freely agreed upon cooperation.

    This illustrates the fundamental metaphysical misconception of all permutations of statism; that somehow, the combination of coercive force and large scale produces a qualitatively superior form of judgement.

    But all determinations are a result of human thought processes. The introduction of coercion leads only to competition over the control of the means of coercion, not to qualitatively superior determinations.

    Much to the contrary, Libertarianism is the only thing that ever works. It is the only political ideology that addresses and is harmonious with human nature.

    The extent to which a society is prosperous; it’s members enjoying a reasonable level of well-being, is the extent to which their economics are subject of free, mutually voluntary exchange.

    As Hernando DeSoto pointed out in “The Mystery of Capital”, the United States achieved it’s unprecedented economic success precisely due to the absence of structured, coerced efforts at pre-planned determinations.

    The very nature of the human organism, with it’s uniquely sophisticated intellect, seated as it is, IN THE INDIVIDUAL, dictates (irony noted) a minimally restrictive social structure. Id est, Libertarianism.

    —The Bikemessenger

  21. Brian:

    I think I understand the tenets of libertarianism, but I’ve just never met anyone who actually stuck by them. Every so-called libertarian I’ve ever met, when questioned closely, seems to find some way to make it all about him or her (mostly hims, in my experience). When pushed, I’ve never had an instance when they didn’t come down hard for government coercion on matters that they decided were important to them.

    Robert:

    What a mish-mash of pseudo-intellectual partially digested horse chow. Libertarians would have allowed the ozone layer to be destroyed by CFCs in order to protect the corporations that made them, or generations of children to contract asbestosis from their fire-proofed schools in order to protect the asbestos miners and distributors.

    Me, me, me.

  22. Anyone actually read any libertarian articles? *crickets*

    Right. Third-hand misinformation and FUD. Try doing some research instead of regurgitation ‘the conventional wisdom’.

  23. J.S.-

    If CFCs were (at the time, or after the fact), shown to damage the ozone layer, then in a libertarian system, you, as part owner-in-common of said layer, would have the right to sue them.

    “…in order to protect “the corporations that made them”.

    …the arguement that Libertarianism is about “protecting evil corporations” is a bit (sarcasm, in case missed) hackneyed.

    We aren’t interested in serving the material interests of anyone in particular. We would only level the playing field.

    Most currently extant large corporations would probably collapse due to lack of popular support, in the absece of government protection from compettition.

    Of course that means your horse can lose the race. What you propose amounts to nothing more than a sactimonious demand to be allowed to cheat at gunpoint.

    Ultimately, if we would have rule of law, then we must allow our selves to be ruled against.

    That for which statists seem to lack the maturity.

    —The Bikemessenger

  24. QUOTE: “And while I do understand (and even agree with) the right to die arguments that Kinsley rightly attributes to the libertarian impulse, he’s also right that the libertarian right to not wear a seat belt and speed runs smack into the brick wall of reality when the libertarian is involved in a fatal accident that snarls up traffic along a major highway for half the day.”

    REPLY: Of course anything can snarl up traffic, but the libertarians are only to blame when the driver wasn’t wearing a seat belt. Actually, if you apply a bit of logic, fatal accidents are much quicker to clean up because you don’t need to worry about the difficulty of extracting the injured person, roadside intensive care and all that slow stuff. Pushing a wreck off the road is really, really fast.

    QUOTE: “When we’re asked why we should all have to pay for a sports stadium if we dislike sports or a major mass transit program if we live outside the metro area, libertarians force us to explain that the economic benefits of a major sports franchise and mass transit will boost the entire region’s growth, reduce pollution throughout the region, etc, so fairness requires that everyone who will benefit should help pay the costs (although sometimes the costs will outweigh the benefits, and in those situations the projects shouldn’t get any public money).”

    REPLY: Note the magic words “fairness requires” but the hidden meaning is that you decide what is fair. You are really telling me that some farmer who could see the city in the distance as a brown blur, can now see it slightly clearer so “fairness requires” that he must pay extra tax for that which is completely useless to him? So now the new transit system brings goods from far and wide so other farmers can flood the local market using that cheap transport paid for by our local farmer who is now out of business. But “fairness requires” it so who could argue with fairness, huh?

    What you are really saying (once all the sneaky cover-up is removed) is that by conveniently sacrificing the needs of the few, then the state as a whole can be better off. There are indeed many situations where this is true. However, let us not wallow in dishonesty by claiming that those few were sacrificed out of “fairness”.

    QUOTE: “And when libertarians ask why there should be regulations barring too much media consolidation in a single market, we’re forced to explain to them why monopolies are bad for them as much as everyone else.”

    REPLY: More often it is libertarians explaning why monopolies are a bad thing. However, libertarians disagree on the best method for discouraging monopolies (which is OK because individuals will often disagree on best methods for achieving a result). Regulations regarding ownership percentages, media types and territory division are all very arbitrary and tend to come down to a handful of people in a dark room make a decision and that’s what everyone is stuck with. Even those diversely owned media do tend to collaborate rather more than would be expected by random chance and neither libertarians nor statists have presented a reliable mechanism for even detecting market collusion let alone a regulation that reliably eliminates it.

    The regulators keep saying “just trust us, this next legislation is the exact thing to fix the problem”. Inevitably it doesn’t fix the problem, and they always say, “oh one more bit of regulation”. As we all know, a business of sufficient size can buy a regulation or two for themselves, and rapidly the regulations become the tool that continues to support monopoly — you only have to look at the medical industry to see the result.

  25. Libertarians worship Ayn Rand, the original heartless, selfish, stingy, I got mine the rest of you orphans and widows can go to hell a-hole.

  26. From Wikipedia (but deleted by Paulites).

    Concern is rising about Paul’s apparent Libertarian http://gadfly.igc.org/papers/liberty.htm ambivalence toward real environmental conservation and protection http://www.thedailygreen.com/environmental-news/latest/Ron-Paul-green-vote-47102512 http://www.grist.org/feature/2007/10/16/paul/. Paul is for the dissolution of the EPA, FDA, Department of the Interior and other government agencies whose mission is to protect citizens and the environment. Paul has also called for the privatizing of the National Park system, a move that would likely have dramatic repercussions. He also wants to allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and increase the use of coal and nuclear power. The League of Conservation Voters has given Paul a score of 30 out of a possible 100 based on his http://presidentialprofiles2008.org/Paul/NA.html lifetime voting record. Republicans for Environmental Protection gave him a score of 17 out of 100 http://www.rep.org/2006_scorecard.pdf. To date he has received $34,102 from the oil and gas industry http://www.opensecrets.org/pres08/select.asp?Ind=F10 and $122,756 from real estate developers http://www.opensecrets.org/pres08/select.asp?Ind=F10 towards his Presidential campaign.

    Protection of the environment is a complex issue going well beyond basic pollution issues, conservationists say, and simplistic solutions based solely on a reliance on free markets and private property rights are naive at best. Leaving the important issue of protection of the environment to the discretion of the unpredictable, even contradictory opinions of tens millions of individual landowners would be a recipe for division and chaos. Rather than the failure that Paul sees in these government institutions, from them has come such notable successes as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Acts. What would stop a logging corporation, for example, which has purchased miles of old growth forest from exercising its private property rights and simply clear cutting it all or developers from destroying endangered species habitat to put in a parking lot or even one’s own neighbors turning their property into toxic dump if government regulations currently protecting and watching over them were simply abolished? Realistically, how easy and affordable would it be for a private citizen who feels he/she has been wronged to take on a large corporation and its teams of lawyers without the aid of governmental agencies and environmental laws? Another area of concern is Paul’s obvious skepticism of global warming science. When asked if he thought that “climate change [is] a major problem” his answer was “No.” http://www.grist.org/feature/2007/10/16/paul/.

    Interestingly although Ron Paul’s official Presidential website states the Paul is “a member of the Congressional Green Scissors Coalition” http://www.ronpaul2008.com/issues/environment/, when questioned on his connection to it he had no idea what the interviewer was talking about http://www.grist.org/feature/2007/10/16/paul/.

    Some statements by Paul concerning the environment follow:

    ””Likewise, promoters of the ‘progressive’ agenda, always hostile to property rights, compete for government power through safety, health, and environmental initiatives. Both groups resort to using government power– and abuse this power– in an effort to serve their narrow interests”” http://www.house.gov/paul/congrec/congrec2006/cr062906.htm.

    To the question ””What environmental achievement are you most proud of?”” Paul answered, ””Nothing really special”” http://www.grist.org/feature/2007/10/16/paul/.

    To the question ””Who is your environmental hero?”” Paul answered, ””Nobody in particular”” http://www.grist.org/feature/2007/10/16/paul/.

    See also http://heatison.org/pages/representative_ron_paul

  27. The one thing I find interesting about any discussion involving Libertarians (and anarchists) is that almost nothing of consequence can be accomplished by one person acting alone. He might inspire an army, but it is the army tat accomplishes the goal. Like a lone sniper he might change history by removing a leader, but the results are hardly predictable much less controllable, and the rest of society will be organized to oppose it, and take retribution for even the attempt.

    So for any normal activity groups and even very large groups must act as a collective, each person doing the part assigned somehow, neither doing what was already done or leaving some portion undone by anyone. Ultimately that means a final decider, even if the job rotates, or merely counts and reports the vote, but someone has to create the unifying vision.

    Some megalomaniacs mistake this “Vision” as actually doing the work and consider contributions that make the vision work and the actual hands on “Doing it” to be of no concern. From such things is Libertarianism born.

    However for such groups of people to work together collectively, each person must share the goal, or have a parallel goal in order to do their part. If the goal is honest and shared each member of that collective enterprise will find ways to improve the outcome. This would be a very socialized enterprise.

    If each member has ulterior goals that are not assisted by the group goal, each person will twist what they do to best achieve their ulterior goals, at least partially subverting or sabotaging the group goals. This would be a very unsocialized enterprise, and unless there was some accountability to the rest, would operate very poorly.

    Since operational power usually resides with the leadership, that leadership usually has few problems holding others accountable, unfortunately the reverse is usually not the case, and the perennial Human problem is how exactly to do that.

    In a Socialized Society, the web of accountability is complex with many small power centers, and the government as the account holder of last resort, and itself accountable through the Democratic process.

    In a fascist or feudal society there are few such complexities, the Government is the accountant of first resort and very class based accountability.

    In an Anarchist/Libertarian society there is no real accountant of last resort. This means that only those with operational control will have power to enforce accountability, and the rest will not, and the situation will revert quickly to the Fascist/ feudal mode, of a failed state, till one warlord dominates and full fascism takes hold

  28. Robert said:

    Most currently extant large corporations would probably collapse due to lack of popular support, in the absece of government protection from competition.

    WTF? You really believe that? I agree that they’d have a harder time without government help, but collapse? They’ve had government support for so long that they’ve built up their financial and market superiority to an almost unassailable position. Because of that, the large corporations that currently exist would be able to become monopolies, and then they’d need to be busted up by government coercion again. And again. And again.

    It is the only political ideology that addresses and is harmonious with human nature.

    Individual human nature is base, mean, selfish, and violent. Yep, that’s what I want my society to look like. Societies exist to control base human nature, not exalt it. And even if I thought that you were right about the implied greatness of individual human nature, like all primates, humans are biologically social animals, not loners. Individuals may be loners, but the species in general is social, which means that collectivism of some form is actually closer to human nature than rampant individualism, ie libertarianism.

    I also agree, to some extent, with your DeSoto paraphrase – pre-planned economies don’t work. That’s why Soviet communism failed, while Chinese communism is rapidly transforming into guided capitalism, and why Venezuela’s socialism will not survive longer than oil prices stay high. But what most libertarians fail to recognize is that there’s a fine line between a planned economy and a market free-for-all. Utterly free markets devolve into tooth-and-claw anarchy or build up into irresponsible corporate monopolies without government regulation. The real question is not whether regulation is good or bad, but rather how much regulation is necessary to guide the economy.

    Oh, and let’s not forget that there’s another fundamental flaw with libertarianism – everything in life cannot be reduced to economic calculations. That we’ve been trying to do that very thing in the U.S. for the last 20-30 years is a huge part of why the country is so screwed up these days.

    We would only level the playing field.

    Fundamentally false. Libertarians want to equality of freedom. But “pure” freedom as understood to libertarians fundamentally means freedom to tilt the playing field if you’re able to do so. Governments exist to provide the counterbalance. The problem is that government has gotten into the tilting game too instead of acting as rulemaker and referee.

    Novista asked

    Anyone actually read any libertarian articles?

    Absolutely. I’ve actually got a number of libertarian friends, and I’ve read a lot of libertarian economic screeds papers. I’ve spent a great deal of time reading the Cato Institute’s output on a whole slew of issues. And everything I’ve read convinces me that libertarian ideology, applied on a national (or even state) scale would flame out, crash, and burn. It’s all theory, no pragmatism, when representative government exists to determine the most pragmatic approach to solving problems.

    Tel now:

    Note the magic words “fairness requires” but the hidden meaning is that you decide what is fair.

    Not at all. Society as a whole decides what’s fair and what isn’t. That’s democracy, not libertarianism or authoritarianism.

    You are really telling me that some farmer who could see the city in the distance as a brown blur, can now see it slightly clearer so “fairness requires” that he must pay extra tax for that which is completely useless to him? So now the new transit system brings goods from far and wide so other farmers can flood the local market using that cheap transport paid for by our local farmer who is now out of business.

    Let’s talk specifics. I live in the Denver metro area. The only time anyone’s required to pay for the new FasTracks mass transit system is when they buy something in the area served by the FasTracks. Therefore the farmer in your example can avoid buying his goods in Denver if he so chooses and thus avoid paying the sales taxes that are paying for new mass transit. Yes, he pays taxes to the federal government, and the feds help subsidize FasTracks using those tax dollars, but given that the growth of the Denver metro area will almost certainly improve the livelihood of the farmer (larger market that’s closer, cheaper transportation for his goods, etc.), the return on the small percentage of his taxes that go to FasTracks will overwhelm the inconvenience of paying them in the first place.

    Furthermore, the use of federal money for FasTracks was determined by the Congress and President working in concert to be a public good – are you saying that democracy is the enemy of libertarianism? And are you complaining that competition is bad for the farmer? After all, the consumer wins if goods are cheaper, and if the farmer cannot compete against imported goods, then he has to adapt.

    Keep in mind I’m a progressive pragmatist – I want the most bang for my buck, so to speak, and I want solutions that create the most good while doing the least bad. Libertarian ideology is all about ideology, and there’s not a single ideology (even pragmatism) that should be given unrestricted control of culture, society, and government. Pragmatists like me like having you folks around because we get good ideas from your theory that we can adapt so they’ll work in the real world.

    And for that I thank you.

  29. MonkeyBoy stated:

    Rather than the failure that Paul sees in these government institutions, from them has come such notable successes as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Acts.

    Yes, the same successes that your buddy W castrated once he got into power. Your problem is that you have too much faith in government. One person can get into power and change everything. Look what happened to our glorious nation during the past 7 years. A small federal government with limited powers (what The Constitution proscribes) could not have wreaked the damage to our nation that one lone idiot has done.

    What would stop a logging corporation, for example, which has purchased miles of old growth forest from exercising its private property rights and simply clear cutting it all or developers from destroying endangered species habitat to put in a parking lot or even one’s own neighbors turning their property into toxic dump if government regulations currently protecting and watching over them were simply abolished?

    Canards, red herrings, and utterances of Chicken Little himself.

  30. abraham – A small federal government with limited powers would not have protected consumers from an AT&T monopoly, or forced Microsoft into a consent decree, or broken up the rail monopolies, or been able to pull us out of the Great Depression, or….

    I think you get my point.

    I notice that you refused to answer Nuh Uh’s questions, though.

  31. Abraham said
    “Collectively get a clue and VOTE RON PAUL, BITCHES!”

    And he also said “Canards, red herrings, and utterances of Chicken Little himself.”

    What he didn’t do was answer direct questions or even attempt to give direct reasoned arguments. How about a bit less ranting and a bit more trying to be convincing, if you do that most of us will at least listen whether we agree or not.

  32. You are either a libertarian or you are not.

    You either believe it is wrong to ever initiate force or fraud on others, or you are pragmatic in your theft, robbery, murder and rape.

    One useful function of libertarians is it gets those who hide behind thugs to carry out their great ideas on all of us the opportunity to write about it.

  33. You either believe it is wrong to ever initiate force or fraud on others…

    And we have here the first admitted example of a fundamentalist libertarian. Welcome!

    Let’s think about this for a moment, shall we? Contracts are a form of force, right? Even if they’re entered into voluntarily, enforcing the terms of the contract if one of the contractees wants out would be a form of force, so that’s “wrong” by your own definitions. Yet voluntary contracts are one of the fundamental mechanisms by which libertarians want to run the country.

    Using the “wrong to ever initiate force” wording means that no government can exist, even in order to provide limited legal structures to enforce the lack of force and fraud because those structures would have be supported via taxation – voluntary donations for a military, police force, judges, and jails wouldn’t cut it.

    Which means that you’re not a libertarian, Fascist Nation – you’re an anarchist.

  34. Dr. Slammy – Wordperfect failed because they got complacent and did not keep up with technology. MS achieved a monopoly position on merit. Then they abused it to retain that position. Lotus 123, Wordperfect and Novell, to use the biggest examples all dug their own graves. They all owned their markets and became arrogant and lazy and let MS steal their customers by providing a better product that took advantage of more advanced technology. Microsoft killed Wordperfect just as Wordperfect killed Wordstar. They built a better product. Now, Netscape…? That was abuse. Brilliant, but grotesque abuse of a monopolistic position.

  35. Jim: Sweet Jesus, you might as well be arguing that Ford outsells Acura because Acura has worse technology. Not only did MS not out-technology WP, WordPerfect remains, to this day, a good three or four years ahead of Word (and I say this as a guy who uses both on a daily basis and has for the last decade or more).

    Microsoft beat WP because they bundled their inferior product with the OS, and as a result WP went from having over 70% of the market to being an afterthought nearly overnight. Without the anti-competitive bundling nobody would use Word today, just like the didn’t back before MS’ monopolistic strategy.

    Oh – and right on cue.

  36. I think the problem with these arguments is that almost anything, worked from a completely fundamental view, is never going to work. While I consider myself Libertarian leaning I dont think fundamental Libertarianism would be the answer. Just as I dont think fundamental Communism, Socialism, or anything else would be either. I think most people agree that no issue is black or white but shades of gray. I think injecting a bit of Libertarian “personal responsibility” would benefit our society greatly. Not to the point where its every man for himself but enough that we arent always relying on someone else to do everything for us (ie. Government).

  37. I’m coming to this late 😉 First response, I’m not entirely certain Ron Paul is my type of libertarian. After all, he proposes the US going back onto the gold standard. If he’s the type of libertarian who assumes that there is such a thing as an objective measure of value, then he’s quite far out.

    The libertarian in me simply asks the following series of questions when anyone asks anything of me: Am I being asked to contribute at my expense, for the other party’s benefit, while they are not expected to contribute? Is my ability to achieve a positive end treated as if I am victimising or exploiting the inability others to achieve the same end?

    If these are true then my ability is being exploited. The simple response is this: I am not a slave.

    As I contemplate the evil that is South Africa’s Black Economic Empowerment project, that would make slaves of everyone, I consider that all I have to say to prevent my exploitation is, “I don’t have to agree.”

    Libertarianism is a personal choice. It seems peculiar to me that real libertarians would ever get angry with people who disagree. If one believes in individual choice then, even if I disagree with you, it is your choice. That doesn’t make you right. But I don’t feel the need to do more than state my case, and move on. Your mind is your own to change.

  38. Justin K – I agree entirely. Our culture has grown too litigious, with everyone wanting to blame someone for their mistakes, oversights, or even outright stupidity. As a parent, all I have to do is look at the bright red and yellow warning labels that are slapped all over infant and toddler stuff to realize that. Every one of those warning labels represents a lawsuit from a parent who was stupid enough to leave their baby bucket on the roof of a car, or who didn’t strap their kid into a car seat, or who was watching the TV when they should have been making sure their infant wasn’t toddling in a walker toward the basement stairs, or….

    Fundamentalisms of all stripes are bad because they’re a form of intentional blindness on the part of the fundamentalist – they’re no different from irrational, unchallenged religious beliefs, and we all know how destructive those can be. It’s the same with any fundamentalist belief. Even my most recent personal ideology of pragmatism needs to be challenged sometimes, because there are occasions when the raw logic of “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one (Spock – StarTrek 2, The Wrath of Kahn)” isn’t any fairer than a libertarian free market would be.

    Which is why, all snarkiness aside, I truly do appreciate libertarians, rabid conservatives, loony environmentalists, and even religious nutcases (like the Westboro Baptist Church). Being exposed to alternatives remind me that sometimes principles must outweigh logic, that religious moderates cannot be allowed to be defined by their nutcases, et al.

  39. Freedem – Sorry dude. I like the start of your comment in analyzing libertarianism but then you got silly when you tried to segue from that into why liberalism is the true faith. Let’s face it Democrats and Republicans are just as bad when it comes to one thing: you both sure love to tell other people what is best for them and try to force them to behave the way you think is best. The only difference between the two of you is each party has a different group of people they wish to oppress, sorry, I mean “help.”. That is, you both just want to tell everyone else how to behave and are willing to use force in doing so yet somehow both groups seem to think they believe in freedom…

  40. Dr. Slammy – Wordperfect lost market share because they took forever to come out with a solid GUI version of their program. MS did not bundle Word with Windows. Not sure where you got that idea. Wordperfect had the best DOS WP. They ignored a GUI interface for too long and when they did implement one they did a poor job of it. When it comes to Word and Excel, MS did not bundle them with the OS. They did not undercut pricing. The first versions of both Word and Excel sucked. But they kept at it. They learned from their mistakes and made better products and took advantage of the stupidity of both Wordperfect and Lotus in giving them such an opening. I’m not saying MS has not abused their position in many areas such as destroying Netscape by giving away IE but I think you just don’t accept that only a small minority of people actually thought Wordperfect was better. You just like it. Nothing wrong with that. However, just because Microsoft has abused their power in some areas does not mean they did not achieve their initial success honestly. After all, what might have happened if Apple had not been so pig headed about trying to lock people into their hardware and instead had licensed their OS to all hardware manufacturers? When you think about it, in some ways Apple is worse than Microsoft. Look at what they are still doing with itunes and the iphone.

    Personally, I like Linux.

  41. Brian Angliss – I agree with Kinsley’s and your apparent main point: that purist libertarianism is ridiculous and unworkable but that libertarian advocates do serve a useful purpose. Of course that statement really doesn’t mean that much. All purist political positions are unworkable and indefensible. In addition, both Kinsley’s and your essays are guilty of much of what you accuse of Ron Paul and his hardcore followers. You are all taking extremist positions that cannot be logically defended. Rather than being satisfied with addressing the libertarian positions that are impractical you seem to insist on claiming they are wrong on everything.

    I don’t understand at all your argument on trains. Government gave them their initial monopolies in the first place. As far as human rights abuse I fail to see your point. All types of companies and people abused workers and anyone they could. Slavery was a constitutional institution.

    The Great Depression? I’m not sure about that. Way before my time but from everything I’ve ever read the government did not pull us out of the depression. WWII did. The economy never really recovered until we had the war and the resulting lucrative and powerful position we found ourselves in afterwards. That and I think the Great Depression was really just a result of our economy changing and growing more complex and us not knowing how to manage it. I really don’t know enough to have an opinion as to whether the government helped mitigate the effects of the economic collapse or just lengthened the time it took us to recover. I lean towards thinking it helped at least by mitigating social collapse but…

    Microsoft consent decree? You’re joking right? The government basically surrendered to Microsoft and settled the case with no real impact on Microsoft’s actions. The only even vaguely successful intervention when it comes to MS monopolistic practices has been that of the EU.

    Sports franchises as economic development? If you believe that, I have a bridge you might be interested in buying. 🙂

    I like your answer to Robert. Completely agreed.

    Disagree with your answer to Novista. Yes, he or she is wrong but again I don’t understand the examples you pick. You’re saying federal pork is smart? Competition for the farmer??? In your example the government subsidizes the transportation of goods below cost that compete against the local farmer.

    And lastly your statement: “And when libertarians ask why there should be regulations barring too much media consolidation in a single market, we’re forced to explain to them why monopolies are bad for them as much as everyone else.” I don’t know what to say. I guess I just have to compliment you on your audacity in making it. Mother knows what is best for you… I assume that statement was just tossed in on your part to stir up the trolls?

    I guess in conclusion, to me you do not come across as near as pragmatic as you seem to think you are. You seem to be saying everything libertarians say is wrong and fundamentalist liberalism, (sorry, forgot the rebranding – progressivism), is right on everything, but gosh darn those libertarians are useful little people who prod you know and then to rethink and reaffirm why you are right and know best…

  42. Jim: Your memory and mine do not coincide. I’ll grant that WP could have been faster on the draw with the GUI, but their first GUI was vastly superior to Word and hit the market well before MS took over the world. As for bundling, I think the only computers I’ve ever bought that didn’t have Office as part of the package included a hellacious pricing deal, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen WP offered as a point-of-purchase option. So at the VERY least we had MS using its considerable market heft to intimidate retailers into behaving a certain way.

    As for my preference for WP being nothing but a case of “I just like it,” there are two ways to evaluate things. On the one end, it’s ALL about opinion, so Truth is a direct function of market share. I guess that’s a clean and convenient way to think about things, but it’s not one I think an intelligent person ought to be comfortable with. The other way is to place some credence in things like informed opinions. I’m a rarity on that front because like I say, I use both every day and have for at least a decade. I think I know one person who uses WordPerfect. And I’m not impressed with the critical evaluations of people who, you know, have never used the product.

    So maybe you’re right – maybe it’s just me feeling warm and fuzzy about WP. But I can also walk through both products in ridiculous detail and tell you WHY I think what I do.

    Maybe I’m wrong, but mine is the only duly informed opinion in this conversation.

  43. Dr. Slammy. I like most people who used Wordperfect switched to Word because I thought it was better. I and most people would not have switched if Word had been only marginally better. Calling yourself the only informed person in this discussion is ludicrous. Your experience seems in fact to be minimal. Word took over in the business world first and in that arena software is usually not bundled with hardware. I sold and installed office systems back then and I guarantee you it was our customers who insisted on Word. over Wordperfect. Wordperfect had a slow and clumsy GUI interface at first. Beyond just the historical facts, my personal experience involved directly working with numerous paralegals and secretaries who could have cared less about Microsoft. They all used Wordperfect 5.1or2 and some used 6.0. If you know anything about people in those jobs you know they would have had no desire to learn a new program if there was not a good reason. In every company I dealt with at the time, management would create a user group or committee to decide on software standards. (This was before IT took it all back over.) In every single company I dealt with, the people involved voted for Word because they did not like the GUI version of Wordperfect. I had no financial incentive to steer them either way. I didn’t care which one they picked. The price was the same and I made the same either way. If anything I was biased for Wordperfect because I knew it. I never even learned Word until I was forced to because our customers insisted upon buying it.

    The problem to me seems to have been that Wordperfect software designers either did not want to or did not know how to take advantage of Windows. They tried at first to just slap a GUI front end on a dos product. In fact their initial GUI version wasn’t even windows compatible and that was the biggest problem. You couldn’t share data with other programs as easily or as well as you could between true Windows programs. Printer drivers were incompatible and so on. Wordperfect did not make the full change to Windows until it was too late. There was no bundling to speak of in the business market and that is where Word took over first. Wordeperfect semmed to have underestimated how much value users would place on Windows. Let’s face it, who wants to have to learn how to cut and paste differently for each program they used.

    As has often happened in the computer industry, technology changed and the then domininent company for a variety of reasons was late making that change. Where the Microsoft abuse started is after this when they successfully prevented other companies such as Netscape and Real Audio from doing to them as they did to Wordperfect and Lotus. Microsoft may have a sinister side but Wordperfect dug their own grave without help from anyone else. Wordperfect just screwed up.

  44. Jim: If I understand correctly, you switched to Word. I use both every day, but somehow that doesn’t mean I have an informed opinion on WP vs. Word. Yes, I’m confused. When was the last time you used WP? Have you even SEEN the latest version?

    An INDUSTRY doesn’t switch because PEOPLE like X better than Y. That happens when large market forces dictate the switch. And I think that’s my argument.

  45. Dr. Slammy – I just somewhat disagreed with your claim that you were the only one of us with an informed opinion on the issue.

    That said I have no problem at all with you thinking it is currently a better program. I just disagree that Word took over because of monopolistic tactics. In my opinion those tactics came afterwards since Microsoft’s monopoly as such consists largely in equal parts of Windows and Office when it comes to their profit.

    I have no opinion as whether Worperfect is a better program nowadays because I have not tried it in years. No incentive or reason for me to do so. Microsoft now has such a huge market share that unless a new technology comes along that totally shifts the paradigm, it doesn’t make sense to change even if another program were slightly better. (Wordperfect was in a similar position prior to Windows) The problem is sharing files with other people or companies. I could see Web based word processors dethroning Word but even then until Microsoft is forced to adopt an open and standard file format that other people can use to ensure 100% compatibility it is going to be tough to make headway against them.

    I guess my opinion is that Microsoft abuses its current power but initially achieved that power fairly through their own hard work and the incompetence of their competitors.

  46. I’m coming to this late 😉 First response, I’m not entirely certain Ron Paul is my type of libertarian. After all, he proposes the US going back onto the gold standard. If he’s the type of libertarian who assumes that there is such a thing as an objective measure of value, then he’s quite far out.

    Ron Paul does NOT believe in an objective measure of value. His preferred school of economic theory is the Austrian theory, from which the Subjective Theory of Value originated. He does, however, prefer commodity based currency to fiat currency. This is because the arguments made by the fiat money people are true … when we have a commodity based currency, rather than pure paper, the government cannot manipulate the money supply. Neither can anybody else. That means that there would be little or no inflation. Gold (or insert your preferred commodity name) is still being produced (or mined), but the amount mined each year is tiny compared to the total aggregate supply currently in existence. This means that at worst, we would experience a tiny mild inflation.

    This does not mean that prices would not change due to a change in the demand for the monetary material(s) for non-monetary purposes, and surely they would change due to changes in demand for consumer goods, changes in production costs, and other factors. But it would not be the constant inflation with which the Fed has crippled our economy since they were created in 1913.

    A small federal government with limited powers would not have protected consumers from an AT&T monopoly,

    A government created and enforced monopoly for decades.

    or forced Microsoft into a consent decree,

    Which was abandoned when Bush took office and had no effect. None the less, my favorite operating system, Linux, is doing better and better each year!

    or broken up the rail monopolies,

    Which raised the costs of transportation for everyone, since the railroads immediately and predictable “captured” the ICC, (Interstate Commerce Commission) and used it to cripple competition from trucks for years and years. Of course, once there were more trucking companies, they captured the ICC, and used it against the Airlines. I’m not sure who controls the ICC these days, but you can rest assured it is neither you nor me.

    or been able to pull us out of the Great Depression, or….

    The Great Depression was caused by the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913. At first, they were pretty slow in their creation of new money. The WWI came along, and they started printing money like lunatics. The resulting inflation did cause illusery prosperity, and was continued throught the Roaring Twenties. This caused a huge runup in the stock market, but since it was a castle built on paper, it eventually blew up. The result of the blowup was the Great Depression. The is exactly the process through which the Federal Reserve caused, among other things, the dot.com bubble and the housing bubble.

  47. Rich Paul – I’m not an economist or even close to it so this may be a stupid question. I just don’t get the whole gold standard fixation thing. I’ve not seen an explanation if it that seems to make sense. I have seen arguments that seem sensible that in fact claim small to moderate inflation is a good thing. You state it has “crippled” our economy. Do you have backup to that? Also, inflation has been a constant throughout history. Long before 1913. On a basic level I have to ask if our population is growing and our productivity is increasing then how can our money supply not need to grow along with that? If you have 10 people who can never share more than $100 amongst them, then what happens when you have 11 people? Seems to me you end up with a smaller piece of the pie for everyone? It just seem suspicious to me that there doesn’t even appear to be a single reputable economist who thinks the gold standard makes sense. They do argue about everything else so I don’t see why one group of them would not be arguing for the gold standard.

    Anyway, can you make a clear explanation as to why the gold standard is such a big deal along with links to back up any claims or at least provide a link you think is good that I can research? Usually I feel like all I get from gold standard fans are religious statements of faith in the power of gold.

  48. Ron Paul has repeatedly stated he wants to return us to a gold standard. What he seems to ignore is that doing so would crash our economy. Nixon removed us from the gold standard because of the huge amount of US currency help by foreign countries gave them the capability of bankrupting the US if they were to demand we backed up our currency and paid out gold as the gold standard required. In fact a number of foreign countries did this and that is what brought the whole ting to a head and made it necessary to remove us from the gold standard. Now a day there is exponentially more outstanding US currency held by foreign investors and countries. If we were to attempt to return to the gold standard our country would become unacceptably vulnerable to economic ruin brought on by any one of a number of countries. We have more currency outstanding than we have gold reserves by over a factor of 1000 according to the Federal Reserve. Does anyone want to guess what would happen to our standard of living if Ron Paul got his way? This would hurt the rich some but the ones who would truly suffer are the middle class and poor. This would be an almost guarantee of the extermination of the middle class like nothing we have seen since before we were a country.

  49. Re Jim @ 43,

    Let’s face it Democrats and Republicans are just as bad when it comes to one thing: you both sure love to tell other people what is best for them and try to force them to behave the way you think is best. The only difference between the two of you is each party has a different group of people they wish to oppress, sorry, I mean “help.”.

    I am continuously amazed that stopping a Gang Of Pirates from using power for theft, fraud, and abuse is somehow abusing the Pirates. It is like Al Capone complaining about Eliot Ness interfering with his free enterprise, and business practices like the St. Valentines day massacre.

    The only oppression a Socialist would institute is the sort of oppression an honest policeman reins on a thief. Having accountability is allowing those without power, to keep that person with power honest in his use of that power.

    It is my own thinking that a simple oversight by a large government bureaucracy, by simple paths and rules, is bad on two points. A simple set of rules cannot account for nuances, and like rule beating in many sports, it leads to avoiding the rule in name with massive violation in spirit.

    By contrast a very complex set of rules and spread out accountability, the only reasonable plan is to be honest, as dishonesty could bring retribution from an unwatched source. Wide transparency, such as having all public data accessible by anyone is a good example of this. With an intense discussion as to what should be private and what public, should clearly define which is which, and then the same rules should apply to everyone, rather than the multi tiered system we have now, that is the worst of both worlds.

    There are many other ways to create that accountability as well and there is a lot of room for honorable people to suggest that one method of doing so might be better than another, but to say that there should be no accountability for the abuse of power, and that the victims of that abuse should be the one further abused for being a victim is not among the positions of honor.

    Just because the inadvertent rise of free speech as found on the internet in the past couple of years has not taken the effect it needs to as yet is no cause to decide that we should revert to a Feudal warlord system to spite imperfect democracy.

  50. No consistent libertarian will argue that actual “enforcement” of a contract via specific performance is *not* force. Of course it is.

    There are voluntary, contractual ways to eliminate the specific performance portion of contract law. One possibility is social ostracism, “black-listing,” or some sort of ratings system like that employed on eBay. A n00b would have a hard time entering into his first several contracts without putting up some collateral, or without a guarantor or co-signer. Once “in the system,” if you will, his performance in existing contracts could be rated. Failure to perform one’s obligations per a contract would result in some sort of demerit. At the most local and informal level, we all know a friend to whom we refuse to lend money, because he has earned a reputation for not paying people back. At a more impersonal and macro-level, various rating systems, black-lists, etc., could be employed, and their accuracy, reliability, and integrity would also be subject to a market test.

    Another idea which is currently in use is the escrow agreement. If I make an offer to buy real estate which is accepted by the seller, and then I decide to back out, there is no recourse to specific performance. The seller can’t force me to buy his house, for a number of reasons. But what he can do is keep my earnest money deposit, which was held in escrow as a safeguard against the small possibility that I’d back out of the deal. If I object, “Taking my EMD is force,” I am clearly incorrect. The money was explicitly escrowed for just such an event. And this is why sellers rarely accept an offer which does not come with an EMD as security against waffling buyers.

    Neither of these suggestions are meant as the be-all, end-all of contracts. But they are far more than the theory you so flippantly besmirch. These are examples of “pragmatism” at its finest: in practice.

  51. Ok, this is very annoying. I have yet to go through the entire thread because frankly the willful ignorance concerning “monopolies” is astounding. One: A monopoly is 100% control of a market, something that has never been recorded to occur without government intervention. The railroads of the 1800’s were a mixture of mostly private companies, emphasis on the plural, with some interventionist policies that became increasingly so as time went on. Most of your beliefs in they’re being monopolies stems directly from a statist indoctrination that has no basis on facts and only repeats a mantra throughout your childhood so now you can repeat it with a smarmy “You should now this already, weren’t you paying attention in school” attitude. Please name one company that EVER had a complete control of the entire market without the aid of government. Even Microsoft has not and though it is a huge portion of the market it is the competitive forces in the market that has kept it innovative and kept it’s prices lower and lower. Because of this computers have gone from being gigantic contraptions that require entire teams of individuals to operate and cost a fortune to small, ultra powerful machines that enable individuals of increasingly lower and lower economic stature to enter a world market of ideas and items.
    You owe all the great things you have to markets. The very fact you’re able to rail against them to someone thousands of miles away or hundreds at the same time is because of markets.
    Two: The big foray, though many smaller were occurring earlier, into government “protecting” against monopoly wasn’t with railroads but with Standard Oil and the Anti-Trust Act. At one time, because of it’s superior refining techniques and efficiency, Standard Oil helped drive down the prices of oil and gas to a mere fraction to what they were previously. But a lax leadership and increasingly capable competitors caused Standard Oil to fall to the low teens of market share by the time the company was shattered due to the Anti-Trust Act. This piece of legislation, hailed in schools from grammar to university as a fatal blow to monopolies, had been pushed for by Standard Oil’s competitors on a company that was plainly not even near a monopoly at the time. The precedent was not set for ending monopolies but rather for the ability of companies to use the government’s force to destroy competitors. Since this time this practice has not just continued but has become a staple of Americana. Why compete when you can just legislate against?
    Three: Using the example of Ron Paul, it is not sufficient to say that he is “anti environment” because he does support legislation that you think is pro environment. You need to look past what the politicians proposing it are saying and at what such legislation actually does. Plus read what the man has to say as to why he is opposing it instead of flippantly ignoring it.

  52. #Jim K, January 15, 2008 at 7:51 pm :

    Rich Paul – I’m not an economist or even close to it so this may be a stupid question. I just don’t get the whole gold standard fixation thing. I’ve not seen an explanation if it that seems to make sense. I have seen arguments that seem sensible that in fact claim small to moderate inflation is a good thing. You state it has “crippled” our economy. Do you have backup to that?

    The first exmpale of how our economy has been crippled by fiat money are the Great Depression, which occurred just after the creation of the Federal Reserve, and was caused by the Federal Reserve. The Federal Reserve, throughout the ‘Roaring Twenties’ was printing money like madmen. This is what caused the insane runup in the stock market. Eventually, they had to stop, in order to avoid hyper-inflation. At that point, the stock market crashed, and the great depression began.

    The same cause led to the ‘dot com bubble’, and the ‘housing bubble’ in the last couple of decades. The last one is interesting, because the Bush Morons have continued to print money like it was going out of style, but shipping it overseas, so we’re getting reduced economic growth as if they had stopped, but still having inflation. This is what’s causing the price of gold to explode, and the value of the dollar to drop.

    Also, inflation has been a constant throughout history. Long before 1913.

    Until 1913, there were periods of inflation and periods of deflation which more or less balanced eachother out. The inflation was caused by banks lending more than they had, in a practice called ‘fractional reserve banking’. The deflation was caused by the customers getting wise to the practice, and pulling their money out of insolvient banks. This caused a bumpy ride, but meant that prices always returned to a (more or less) normal level.

    Fractional reserve should be considered to be fraud (since the bank promises to have your money ‘on demand’, but does not.) What would you do if you put your furniture into a warehouse, and when you returned, the owner said “sorry, you can’t have it now, I’ve lent it to somebody else”? You would call the police, if you have any sense.

    On a basic level I have to ask if our population is growing and our productivity is increasing then how can our money supply not need to grow along with that? If you have 10 people who can never share more than $100 amongst them, then what happens when you have 11 people? Seems to me you end up with a smaller piece of the pie for everyone?

    As Murry Rothbard showed, there is no reason, once a society has settled on a monetary commodity, that any given amount is better or worse than any other given amount. The value of the monetary commodity will adjuct if the amount does not. (in your example, there would be slow, steady deflation). What is disastrous is when a group of people have the ability to create new money at will … whether such people are a government or a gang of counterfeiters. In either case, they appear to be getting something for nothing, and it looks like nobody is getting hurt … until you realize that by creating the money, the are reducing the value of everybody elses money.

    The same is true of gold miners where money is gold, except that they cannot just wish more gold into existence. They actually have to work to get it. Thus there is no ‘something for nothing’, which the laws of economics never allow to go unpunished.

    It just seem suspicious to me that there doesn’t even appear to be a single reputable economist who thinks the gold standard makes sense. They do argue about everything else so I don’t see why one group of them would not be arguing for the gold standard.

    Have a look at the Ludwig von Mises institute (http://mises.org).

    Also, pick up a book called ‘Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal’, and find an acticle on the gold standard by none other than Alan Greenspan, before he sold out.

    And then keep looking around. We’re out there. Many people who support a gold standard do not bother to talk about because they think it’s impossible to sell it. That is not the same as being impossible to implement it.

    Anyway, can you make a clear explanation as to why the gold standard is such a big deal along with links to back up any claims or at least provide a link you think is good that I can research? Usually I feel like all I get from gold standard fans are religious statements of faith in the power of gold.

    There is no particular ‘power of gold’ except that it is a thing of real value. It is a nice monetary material because it’s value-to-weight ratio is high, because it is pretty much immune to chemical damage (being an inert metal). It does need to be alloyed with something (I prefer copper) in order to make durable coins. Keep in mind when you think of coins that a $900 coin is a bit bigger than a quarter. It’s very easy for me to put 4 one-ounce gold coins into the coin pocket on my Levis, which is much more money than I ever carry with me.

    The nice thing about gold is that it’s value is pretty constant. In the Roman Empire, you could walk into a tailor shop and, for one ounce of gold, buy a nice toga, a leather belt, and a fine pair of sandals. In modern America, if I sold one of my Kruggerands, I could use the resulting $900 to buy a nice suit, a leather belt, and a fine pair of shoes.

  53. Scholars and Rogues, eh? Ok.

    All this is useless talk. If libertarians are for the purpose of keeping “us” on our toes, then wouldnt the logical question be how a Libertarian President would function and interact in keeping Washington on its toes? We do have a government and not a dictatorship, correct? Great, so lets stop acting as if that would be the effect of a Libertarian in office.

  54. Some of your criticisms about libertarians are actually about what is RIGHT about libertarianism. They reject pragmatism, and that’s a GOOD thing. In a society where the government is run on pragmatism, nobody would know what is legal to do, and what is criminal, until the act is done, they get arrested, and the judge makes his ruling. This leads to paralysis, as nobody knows what is legal and what is not. Antitrust laws in particular are made vague and loose for pragmatist reasons, and some companies have gotten into trouble with them by doing what their lawyers told them they had to do to avoid an antitrust suit! The meaning of the antitrust laws changes with every ruling. That’s pragmatism in action!

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