I, Pencil Revisited

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Mark of New Jersey

Mark is a Founding Editor of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, the predecessor of Ordinary Times.

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  1. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    I love me some Radley… and I’d be very interested in seeing the toaster.Report

  2. Avatar greginak
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    says:

    Very interesting fun essay. Well up until the out of place and silly attack at government intervention in the economy since the body of his essay had nothing to do with that. But how does it prove capitalism or free trade are always good or the best solution? Can’t those things be good but also need some moderation and guidance? Few , very few, critics of capitalism or globalization are completely against them and think everything should be centrally planned and there should be no trade. Is it possible there are also problems with globalization and capitalism that might not have been covered in this essay and example?

    Maybe some of the mines where the minerals were extracted had started with government seed money or support. Maybe worker safety at some of those mines was terrible until government regulations protected worker safety. Maybe an efficient road or train network was required to get the raw materials where they could be used. Maybe, most likely, the workers who did all the various jobs got there education in public schools.Report

  3. Avatar Mark Thompson
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    says:

    I don’t think that dig was at all government action – it was a dig at the notion of centralized planning, i.e., the idea that government is capable of knowing how best to distribute resources.

    Nor was he saying that globalization and capitalism are perfect – indeed, he correctly notes that failure is a critical feature of capitalism. His point is that globalization and capitalism inevitably do more good than harm.Report

  4. Avatar Dave
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    says:

    Few , very few, critics of capitalism or globalization are completely against them and think everything should be centrally planned and there should be no trade.

    Few, very few advocates of free markets and capitalism subscribe to the laissez faire/unregulated markets view that our opponents think we have. No one should dispute that regulations that put refs on the field or serve to address negative externalities that arise from the normal course of business are necessary. The differences in opinion should involve the appropriate place to draw the line.Report

  5. Avatar Freddie
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    says:

    it illustrates the way free markets have liberated us. Instead of the day-to-day struggle to stay nourished or to collect wood to fuel the fire that cooks our food so it’s safe to eat, developed economies have food that is plentiful, safe, and mostly delicious

    If you’re lucky….

    Is it possible there are also problems with globalization and capitalism that might not have been covered in this essay and example?

    You mean like the stagnated real wages, utter lack of an unskilled labor market, enormous debt bubble that we have no ability to pay down, and absolutely suicidal codependent enormous trade deficit that will destroy China and America’s economies simultaneously, and which we absolutely, positively will not be able to solve without policies that earn screams of “protectionism” from all over the ideological map? Like that?Report

  6. Avatar Bob
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    says:

    Really Mark, that is so unfair. Localist and Front Porchers aren’t really anti-free trade, anti-capitalist, anti-globalism. They just want…. Well, I don’t know what they want. Perhaps they only want the parts of the toaster/pencil shipped to the village for final assembly.

    I enjoyed reading the linked article. I made the same point to E.D. weeks ago when I described a simple Sunday supper made with ingredients from around the globe. It would be nice to return some simpler time before Marco Polo, no, before Egyptian trade routes. Oh, forget it. Let’s just imagine.

    (And yes, I know there are serious problems associated with unfettered trade and capitalism. That’s why I hope FDA inspects those tomatoes from Mexico.)Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Bob
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      says:

      Were tomatoes really the problem with the 2008 scare? I thought it turned out to be jalapeno peppers.

      This is relevant to the point insofar as whether the $100 million of unsold Florida tomatoes are relevant.

      Which, of course leads to questions regarding damage from false positives compared to damage from false negatives.

      Or, I suppose, the question of whether I am saying that I want children to die of salmonella poisoning just so I can eat cheap tomatoes.Report

      • Avatar Bob in reply to Jaybird
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        says:

        The FDA tomatoes comment was short-hand for regulation. Not a comment on any specific situation. So peppers are equally appropriate.

        All this interconnectedness is neither new nor will it disappear, so regulations of all sorts, environmental, safety, etc. are necessary, IMO. As always the question is how much? I doubt even the most devout libertarian would deny the necessity of some regulation. For example, would libertarians call for the repeal of child labor laws?

        As greginak points out below, where to “draw the line.”Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Bob
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          says:

          The problem for me always comes down to the question of “is this working the way we intended it to, or close enough?”

          Your tomato example was, inadvertently, a good one. The tomatoes weren’t causing salmonella… and people stopped eating them but continued eating peppers for a while. The peppers were, in fact, causing the salmonella.

          Now, this would not be a big deal if everyone knew that the tomatoes were good and the peppers were bad… but you, I presume, are a fairly connected guy. You’re connected to the intertubes, you read news sites, etc… but you (as far as I can tell) didn’t know that the peppers were what caused the problem.

          This is *NOT* me saying that we need to go back to the world described by Upton Sinclair in _The Jungle_ (would it be fair to ask if he was as honest about that world as he was Sacco and Vanzetti? No?) but merely to ask the question:

          Is what we are doing working the way we intended? Or close enough?

          I don’t know that it is. Your tomato example doesn’t convince me otherwise.Report

          • Avatar Bob in reply to Jaybird
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            says:

            I think your question is exactly correct. We arrive at differing answers.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Bob
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              says:

              Different primary assumptions will lead to different places.

              My question would be which of us has primary assumptions more similar to the assumption that the tomatoes were causing salmonella.Report

              • Avatar Bob in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                I’ve already said that the tomato comment was short-hand for FDA inspecting produce or any other item that falls under their supervision. I did not say tomatoes caused salmonella. I’m a FDA fan. You, who knows. We have exchanged enough comments to know where each of us broadly stand. But it’s always a treat.

                You to seem like a fairly connected guy.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Bob
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                says:

                I’m one of the crazies who thinks that the FDA should be opt-in. They should hand out stickers (or authorize packaging) that say something to the effect of “this product meets all standards of the FDA”.

                Stuff that doesn’t won’t have the label.

                And you can do stuff like take causticum to help you homoepathically and know that it hasn’t been FDA approved (or smoke weed, I suppose), or you can do something like take Vioxx and be secure in the knowledge that it has passed through FDA approval unlike that causticum bullcrap.

                When it comes to banning food, well… I’d like to know how many false positives they get. If the tomatoes are representative of stuff, I’d say that whether they help more than they harm remains up in the air. I like the idea of “meets FDA requirements for cleanliness” or whatever markings on packaging and the consumer would know to buy this kind of peanut butter and to avoid the kind where they grind their own at the local Whole Foods.

                But, honestly, I’ve mostly described what we have now… (well, except for the weed) and we still have to deal with regular recalls. I’d have to know how many things fall through the cracks before I’d know whether they’re doing more good than harm… and checking out the official, ahem, “Food Defect Action Levels” makes me wonder.Report

              • Avatar Bob in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                “But, honestly, I’ve mostly described what we have now…” So do you want to get rid of it? What we have now? Oh yeah, you don’t have enough information. Well here the good part, the FDA will continue to gather information, publish it’s findings, issue recalls so someday you might have the information you need to reach your definitive conclusion.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Bob
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                says:

                Vioxx was recalled after getting FDA approval. When it comes to medication, I unequivocally want the FDA’s role to be reduced to “these are the findings we’ve found, take any/everything at your own risk”. This would allow for Vioxx *AND* for weed.

                When it comes to food, you will definitely want to google “Food Defect Action Levels”.Report

  7. Avatar greginak
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    says:

    I agree the debate is about where to draw the lines. If it is a strawman to say free trade advocates are completely against unregulated markets, which I agree is untrue, then it is just as much a strawman to say critics of free trade are completely against it.

    Again, i liked the essay, but i don’t think in any way it showed how central planning is bad. It depends on where you live whether free trade and capitalism does more harm then good. I don’t think it is a stretch to say many places don’t benefit much from free trade unless the government is a democracy and also makes sure everybody gets a cut of the pie.Report

    • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to greginak
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      says:

      Well….there’s a fair amount of evidence that free trade actually promotes democracy remarkably well, if gradually and slowly. Certainly, there’s quite a bit of evidence that an absence of free trade (ie, sanctions) does little more than strengthen the target regime.

      I’ve said it before, and I’ll say again – where globalization has not in some way materially benefitted a country, the evidence tends to show that the culprit is developed-world subsidies and tariffs.

      That said, if a developing country wants to subsidize or protect an industry, it’s not likely to do a lot of harm – it just won’t have enough effect on the global market and even if it does, it will be on a product(s) that is of relatively minor significance to its trading partners. So, I think it’s a bit silly to object to protectionist policies from developing countries. If, on the other hand, a developed country does so, then the effect on developing countries is devastating. This is the big problem with globalization right now – free trade too often means “free trade for me, but not for thee.”

      Anways, the reason I think the conclusion about central planning is supported is that it’s making the somewhat obvious point that free markets and globalization accumulate the knowledge and productive capacity of potentially billions of people across different places and times in a way that government officials, no matter how “expert,” can never hope to achieve.Report

  8. Avatar Freddie
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    No, seriously– our trade deficit is a much bigger problem than our budget deficit, is entirely unsustainable and threatens both the American and Chinese economies on the level of basic functional stability. How do you solve the problem, when our zeal for globalization has gutted our ability to manufacture competitively?Report

  9. Avatar Mark Thompson
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    says:

    Why is the trade deficit a much bigger problem than the budget deficit? You’re right that it’s unsustainable in the long run, but I don’t see how that portends disaster. Services can be exported every bit as easily as manufactured goods – we export about $500 billion in services every year as it is. And while the trade deficit is unsustainable in the long-run, it’s not something that would have to reverse over night. In fact, what will happen is that the dollar will gradually weaken, gradually causing less and less of a trade deficit. As that is going on, if there is no additional demand for exported services, we will gradually see a rebuilding of industrial infrastructure.

    This isn’t to say that there aren’t losers in free trade – I’m coming around to the Paul Krugman viewpoint that free trade with poorly developed economies increases income inequality here at home even as it has significant positive effects on improving quality of life in the developing world. But, as Krugman says, the solution to that isn’t higher tariffs and subsidies – it’s stronger social safety nets. And there, I’ve got no problem with government getting substantially involved, even if I don’t agree with you (or Krugman) on the best means of establishing those safety nets.Report

    • Avatar Freddie in reply to Mark Thompson
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      says:

      Among other things, exported service jobs are overwhelmingly staffed by foreign workers, not Americans, so even if the profit capture favors America, it favors corporate profit and not workers. What’s more, a seriously weakened dollar is precisely the most likely event to send China’s economy into a tailspin, which would drag the world economy into serious danger– including, by the way, our trade sector exports, which would be greatly damaged by a collapsed economy in the huge, previously rapidly growing Chinese economy.

      Also… people told me the exact same things about the housing bubble two or three years ago, that the system would work itself out, and that we had the benefit of time.Report

      • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Freddie
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        says:

        Actually, that’s not what I mean by exporting services. I’m referring to services that are performed in the US for foreigners.

        As for the issue of a seriously weakened dollar – I agree that a dollar that was seriously weakened overnight would cause havoc. But the only way to seriously weaken the dollar in a very short period of time is to drastically increase the national debt. Well, that, or print a ton of money.

        The difference with the housing bubble is that the housing bubble was only one type of market, as opposed to reflecting an amalgam of many, many markets.Report

        • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Mark Thompson
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          says:

          Then again, I suppose you could argue that really we’re only talking about one market here – the market for the dollar, and that the Chinese (and really the developing world as a whole) are overvaluing the dollar. As such, I suppose the argument would go, the relevant “bubble” isn’t the trade imbalance, but the dollar market. This is certainly possible, but if it is true, then the trade imbalance is a symptom, not a cause.Report

        • Avatar Freddie in reply to Mark Thompson
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          says:

          You can understand the frustration that those disinclined to view capitalism as magic feel at this moment, right? We’ve seen for over a year now how incredibly fragile the whole system is. As bad as things have been, they could have been much, much worse. We invested huge sums of government money– you know, enacted piecemeal socialism– in order to save many financial firms. If we hadn’t, we really might have seen a total, complete collapse of the world’s financial system. And yet in the face of that near disaster, we’re treated yet again to more capitalist boosterism. It’s strange timing.
          All of that is in addition to the usual complaints about the odd myopia of this kind of thing, where (for example) permanent high unemployment in France is supposed to be dispositive of socialism’s failure, but a permanent American child poverty rate higher than 15% isn’t proof of anything at all. That’s the most frustrating aspect of arguing about this stuff. Enthusiastic capitalists dismiss every bit of negative evidence as irrelevant or minor, but treat every bit of negative evidence concerning competing systems as proof positive of their failure.
          Even if we pretend that we haven’t seen a series of booms and busts that are ever-escalating in their violence and potential for havoc, there is still the fact that there is a permanent underclass in this and every other capitalist country, and that fact doesn’t change in Democratic administration or Republican, boom or bust, protectionism or globalism, retrenchment or expansion. We’re told again and again to hold on, and wait for the system to deliver us from that predicament; but for how long? It’s not difficult to find families in this country which have lived under poverty for four or five generations. At what point does waiting stop?
          I am neither a capitalist nor a socialist, and I am not particularly in support of any worldwide revolutions. But I can’t understand enthusiasm for a system that leaves many in this country poor, and many more in the world destitute. And no amount of “You can buy an iPod! That’s progress!” stories changes that the question of whether this all works is entirely dependent on who, exactly, you’re asking.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Freddie
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            says:

            “You can understand the frustration that those disinclined to view capitalism as magic feel at this moment, right?”

            Your ability to write such sentences doesn’t confuse me.

            Your ability to get really frustrated when people question your piety doesn’t confuse me.

            Your ability to do both of these things in rapid succession confuses the hell out of me.Report

          • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Freddie
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            says:

            Freddie:

            Where in the developing world has freer trade made people more destitute? There are certainly some countries in Africa where people have been severely hurt by developed-world agriculture subsidies combined with the developed world’s insistence that they eliminate their own tariffs. And that is a big problem – but the best solution is for the developed world to get rid of its subsidies; if the developing world reinstitutes its own protectionist policies, I have little doubt that it will be marginally better off. But if the developed world eliminated its protectionist policies, those countries would be a lot better off.

            As for the financial industry issue, I can’t comment on that for reasons that you are aware of, so unfortunately I can’t give a full response on this.

            As for this: “there is still the fact that there is a permanent underclass in this and every other capitalist country….It’s not difficult to find families in this country which have lived under poverty for four or five generations.” How permanent is this underclass, really? In the US, there is certainly a substantial problem – but how much of that is the lingering effects of racism, on which you and I are (I think) in agreement? But do other nations – e.g., Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden – that are as or more supportive of free trade really have a permanent underclass? Many of them have stronger social safety nets than we do – and again, I’m in favor of stronger social safety nets. But they also don’t seem to have much of a permanent underclass.

            As for boom and bust – this seems to be a problem that has affected successful economies throughout history (unsuccessful economies get little to no growth at all), rather than a problem unique to modern capitalism. That said, there are theorists on all sides who claim to have the explanation for the boom-bust cycle – and they all claim to have predicted the current situation. My guess, though? It’s impossible to have an economy that doesn’t have the cycle, for much the same reason that you can’t have good without bad. Utopias just don’t exist, and probably shouldn’t, either.Report

  10. Avatar Travis
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    says:

    “I, Pencil” breaks down entirely when one realizes that half the things discussed in it (from mining industries to the development of railroads) were extensively subsidized by the U.S. government.

    The major railroad corporations of the West came into being only with the aid of government bonds and the giveaway of 175 million acres of public land. Logging companies came in on the coattails of the U.S. Forest Service, and mining firms could buy public lands for a fraction of their true market value. All of these enterprises were protected from interference (whether by Native Americans or striking workers) by the bayonets of the U.S. Army.

    A libertarian free-market paradise, the U.S. has never been.Report

    • Avatar Bob in reply to Travis
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      says:

      “A libertarian free-market paradise, the U.S. has never been.”

      It’s true, but it does not matter to the libertarians/free-market believers.

      The left, me, has their vision of Utopia. The libertarians also have their vision but they also have some sort of concocted history. A time when government did not pick winners and losers.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Bob
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        says:

        It’s not really a concocted history as much as a confluence of two things:

        1) We are moving on a vector
        2) The vector is headed in the wrong directionReport

        • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Jaybird
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          says:

          Exactly. Few libertarians claim there was some era when we were in free market paradise.Report

          • Avatar Joseph FM in reply to Mark Thompson
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            No, but the “vector” metaphor implies that at some time in the past we were closer to one and we are moving farther and farther away from it, no?Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Joseph FM
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              says:

              I would say that, yes, once upon a time we *WERE* closer to one.

              Prior to PATRIOT, for example. Do you remember when you were able to go to the airport, just give your keys to a security guy, walk through a metal detector, he’d ask you to life your jean cuffs, check out your docs, give you your keys back, and you were able to walk down to your friend’s gate and just sit and wait for him or her at his or her gate?

              Seriously! That’s what we used to do when friends were flying into town!

              At some time in the past, we were closer to one.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Joseph FM
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              says:

              Oh, when it comes to the “free market”, we used to be able to bring our own bottled water onto airplanes and we weren’t forced to only bring the water we could purchase in the gift shop next to the gate.

              At some time in the past, we were closer to one.Report

              • Avatar Joseph FM in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Yes, and airlines used to be chartered monopolies, with government control over who flew which routes. Indeed that was the case for most of the time that you could wait at the gate for arrivals.

                That’s a much weaker answer than I would have expected.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Joseph FM
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                says:

                And, for a bit there, we were on the right vector.

                And then we got off of it.

                When it comes to the market, I could point to the time when you could buy cocaine at the local drug store, or the time when you could drink when you were 18, or the time when you could purchase a handgun without registering with the government first, or the time when you could immigrate here and just sign your name at Ellis Island, or the time when you could fly without the government asking you for your papers.

                I’ve no doubt that you could have come up with 100 examples better than the lame one I gave.

                Didn’t the fact that dozens jumped to mind imply anything about the vector we’re on? At all?Report

              • Avatar Bob in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Jaybird, perhaps this is a meaningless question for a libertarian, I really don’t understand the philosophy. But my question, What do you see as legitimate powers of a government? How does Jaybird distinguish between legitimate regulation and illegitimate regulation. And I’m speaking very broadly when I say government, from school boards, water districts, city governments, state licensing boards, state legislatures, national government. Any rule establishing entity. Do any of these bodies have legitimate power in your view?

                I guess from your comment above you are not favorably disposed to restrictions on the sale of cocaine, or establishing age limits for the consumption of alcohol. You seem to disparage the 21 year old age limit and wouldn’t a libertarian also look with misgiving at setting the age at 18? Both seem rather arbitrary. Or perhaps the line you draw would be between say beer and distilled spirits. Or perhaps you draw no distinction when it comes to consumption of alcohol. Is your position willing seller willing buyer?

                Do cities act legitimately when they outlaw “dangerous” dogs? Or establish leash laws?

                May I have cattle and sheep and other livestock on my small lot with neighbors on two sides of me within 20 or 30 feet?

                Do I have the right to stop paying for sewers? I could haul all my waste a few miles north and dump it in the Kansas River, send it all downstream to Missouri. Or just dump it in the street.

                Does the state act legitimately requiring me to have a drivers license and minimum insurance?

                Do states have the right to license doctors, lawyers, teachers, barbers, hair stylists?

                Should religious institutions operate tax free?

                I have no children, why should I be required to pay taxes for schools?

                When does a government act legally? When does it act illegitimately?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Bob
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                Here is a good first question: Who owns you?
                A good followup question: Do you have any Rights? If so, where do they come from?

                Stuff tends to follow from there, I reckon.

                My focus is on stuff like “the individual”. I’ve seen arguments that have “society” as the foundation… I’m less impressed by those arguments.

                But put together some answers to those questions and I’ll put your questions into a notepad file and try to answer each one to your satisfaction throughout the day.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Bob
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                says:

                “Do any of these bodies have legitimate power in your view?”

                Only the ones that operate with the consent of the governed. If they have power for reasons such as “they were here before you were born and society works so don’t rock the boat”, I don’t see how they could pretend to have legitimacy. For any power they have to coerce anybody, I ask the following question:

                Do I have the right to prevent you from doing this thing?

                If I do not, I’d really need to see an explanation for how The State has the right to prevent you from doing it.

                “I guess from your comment above you are not favorably disposed to restrictions on the sale of cocaine, or establishing age limits for the consumption of alcohol. You seem to disparage the 21 year old age limit and wouldn’t a libertarian also look with misgiving at setting the age at 18? Both seem rather arbitrary. Or perhaps the line you draw would be between say beer and distilled spirits. Or perhaps you draw no distinction when it comes to consumption of alcohol. Is your position willing seller willing buyer?”

                Let’s say that you are married and have a son. You and your best bud and your other best bud go hunting and your kid is 15 and going hunting with you.

                Do you have the right to give him a beer? Or do you think that we, as a society, have established laws to cover issues such as contributing to the delinquency of a minor and you, having broken it, ought to be reported to the authorities?

                For a while, our country said something like “old enough to be drafted, old enough to have a draft beer”. Was this a bad law or do you think that someone at the age of 18 is not old enough to drink beer and we, as a society, have a responsibility to ensure that we keep legal adults under the age of 21 from drinking?

                “Do cities act legitimately when they outlaw “dangerous” dogs? Or establish leash laws?”

                From my perspective, it seems that these laws are, in practice, applied against minorites and not against people who don’t fit in that category. White Folk who have, say, a pit bull are not harassed by the police in Denver for owning one (I have friends who own one, you see). It’s a law that is disproportionately applied in practice. Does a city act legitimately when it passes a law but only applies it to people of a particular color?

                “May I have cattle and sheep and other livestock on my small lot with neighbors on two sides of me within 20 or 30 feet?”

                My attitude is that if you can keep the animals clean (and abuse-free) and you manage to keep their dung off of your neighbor’s yards… I wouldn’t have a problem with, say, keeping chickens. They have webpages devoted to this question now, actually. http://www.urbanchickens.net/

                “Do I have the right to stop paying for sewers? I could haul all my waste a few miles north and dump it in the Kansas River, send it all downstream to Missouri. Or just dump it in the street.”

                See, this is one of those things that I would think that I’d have the right to prevent you from doing. Dumping, I mean. As such, I would think that the government would also, legitimately, have the right to keep you from doing it.

                “Does the state act legitimately requiring me to have a drivers license and minimum insurance?”

                Did the State offer a piece of paper and did you go on to sign it? If so, I’d say that you signed a contract. There are a lot of interesting discussions regarding the requirement to have a license to drive on public roads. I’d say that requirements for a public license to drive on taxpayer roads is on the edge of reasonable. We can discuss “the right to travel” as well, I suppose.

                “Do states have the right to license doctors, lawyers, teachers, barbers, hair stylists?”

                They absolutely have the right to license them. The folk in question should receive a certificate that they can put on their wall that says “I have received a license to braid hair given me by The State of Delaware.”

                I think that the state shouldn’t prevent people from practicing without a license, however. (The State should have the power to prevent fraud, of course… but here is some medical advice for you that is the best medical advice you will receive this year: “Exercise more. Eat home-cooked meals instead of eating out so much. Quit drinking so much. Wear a condom unless you are in a long-term (years and years, not merely years) monogamous relationship. Good lord, don’t smoke.” Now… was I just practicing medicine without a license?)

                “Should religious institutions operate tax free?”

                Dude, don’t get me started on taxation. I see church as one of those things covered by pretty much the entire First Amendment and requiring that the government get a piece whenever money changes hands really, really bugs me. I think that only corporations ought to be taxed. Does that answer your question?

                “I have no children, why should I be required to pay taxes for schools?”

                Because, if you don’t, they’ll become criminals and break into your home, steal your stuff, and rape your wife. How much money is protection worth to you? No, just kidding. “Education” is one of those things that bugs me as well. It strikes me that education as it exists in this country is much more analagous to day care than it is to training people how to be adults. There are kids out there that would benefit from a college-prep education. There are kids out there that would benefit from being yanked out of school entirely around age 14 and becoming an apprentice to a craftsman. Treating all children like they were members of the former group is as morally troublesome as treating all children like they were members of the latter. This question (like most of them) requires an essay in and of itself.

                When does a government act legally? When does it act illegitimately?

                This comes down to the whole “Rights” thing again. If I do not have the right to use force to prevent you from doing X, how does the government get the right to do so?

                I would say that if I do not have the right to prevent you from doing X, then the government preventing you from Xing is illegitimate.Report

              • Avatar Bob in reply to Bob
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                says:

                “‘Do any of these bodies have legitimate power in your view?’

                “Only the ones that operate with the consent of the governed.”

                Jaybird, I believe all the bodies I mentioned are periodically renewed either by direct vote, schools boards, or appointments. So in that sense they operate with the consent of the governed. But you may know of some heredity institutions.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Bob
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                says:

                Then, I’d say, that they have the consent of the governed and would therefore be legitimate.

                As for “heredity institutions”, I can’t say that I see “monarchy” as particularly legitimate beyond how effective it has been, historically.Report

              • Avatar Bob in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                “Then, I’d say, that they have the consent of the governed and would therefore be legitimate.”

                Well Jaybird, I think we have agreement. That was the thrust of my questions. Can legitimately established bodies set rules? My answer, yes. Your answer, yes.

                Now, with regard to your questions, who owns me? Are you using “own” in it’s traditional meaning, possess, hold as personnel property? I can’t conceive of such a question even being contemplated in this country today. I’m left guessing. Might you mean, do I owe some obligation to society by virtue of being a member? Does society own me?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Bob
                Ignored
                says:

                If the consent of the governed is taken into account, I would then say that the only rule that a government cannot set would be “you can’t leave”. Let people who don’t love it, leave it. If enough people leave, maybe the government will say “you know what, we need to attract people” and change accordingly.

                “Might you mean, do I owe some obligation to society by virtue of being a member? Does society own me?”

                Sure. How much of you does society own? How much of your stuff does society have a right to before your rights are being infringed? Is there a point at which you would say “hey, they don’t get *THAT* much…”?Report

    • Avatar Bob in reply to Travis
      Ignored
      says:

      “How much of your stuff does society have a right to before your rights are being infringed?”

      A lot more than they are taking now. I’ve never objected to paying my share of keeping this nation going. I think the Good Ol USA is a country worth supporting. This country is worth more than some of my stuff.

      “Is there a point at which you would say “hey, they don’t get *THAT* much…”?”

      Yes, I would say there is but I’m not sure what that point is. I would not be very happy of government took 51% of my stuff. But I really don’t know. My threshold of pain is probably higher than yours.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Bob
        Ignored
        says:

        “A lot more than they are taking now.”

        Fair enough. Are you of the opinion that society is entitled to more of my stuff than they are taking now? That it is entitled to more of everybody’s stuff?

        Or is this an issue where society is entitled to more of your stuff than it is taking and it doesn’t go much further than that?

        “My threshold of pain is probably higher than yours.”

        I’ve no doubt it is. My question would be how much pain are you entitled to inflict upon me.Report

        • Avatar Bob in reply to Jaybird
          Ignored
          says:

          “That it is entitled to more of everybody’s stuff?”

          I have a strange attitude on this. As long as our elected representatives continue to spend money on wars, CHIPS program, any and all expenditures they should be paid for. If that means taking “more of everybody’s stuff” I’m for taking more. If current expenditures were paid for with current income perhaps that would put the breaks on spending. Voters have a choice every two years regarding their representatives it seems the collective choice results in growing expenditures and an unwillingness to pay for them. But yeah, more stuff is going to be collected.

          “My question would be how much pain are you entitled to inflict upon me.”

          I have the same say when voting as you do. Do you really see me as inflicting pain on you? That is a really unhinged view of representative democracy.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Bob
            Ignored
            says:

            “I have the same say when voting as you do. Do you really see me as inflicting pain on you? That is a really unhinged view of representative democracy.”

            I’ll quote James Bovard. “Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.”

            Look at gay marriage, or women’s reproductive rights, or integrated schools, and on and on and on. Representative democracy can absolutely stomp on faces.Report

            • Avatar Bob in reply to Jaybird
              Ignored
              says:

              “Representative democracy can absolutely stomp on faces.”

              So true, it’s far from perfect. Your alternative?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Bob
                Ignored
                says:

                As much acknowledgement of Rights as humanly possible among as many people as possible and *THEN* voting what we, as a society, are entitled to take from people.Report

              • Avatar Bob in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Voting for limits on taxation would not be workable, an amendment would be necessary for such a thing to have lasting effect. I’m pretty sure I would be opposed. Limiting choice does not seem to be a good idea to me. Look at the situation in California. The minority controls the legislative process when it comes to taxation. On the other hand that is what the voters decided back in the 70’s, Prop. 13.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Bob
                Ignored
                says:

                The wacky thing about my theory of Rights is that “voting” is irrelevant.

                Do you have the Right to assemble peacefully? You either do or you don’t. Me and Bubba here taking a vote has *NOTHING* to do with it.Report

  11. Avatar Consumatopia
    Ignored
    says:

    If hierarchical management always failed, then we wouldn’t have global corporations. But if hierarchical management is sometimes workable, then government management is sometimes workable. It may just be that management of complex systems both public and private is an art rather than a mathematically precise science.

    The problem is not too much or too little government, but too little tolerance for vagueness and too much trust in formal mathematics and deduction. This is a problem both in the Central Planning office and Wall Street–members of the symbol manipulator class “go native” and fall in love with the beautiful symmetries and orders of their analysis, and use them to crowd out the world.Report

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