do nothing


Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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20 Responses

  1. Avatar Tim says:

    I feel the same way. Your comments tell me that limbo is perhaps a more crowded place than the polite quietness of it’s inhabitants reveal. Russ Roberts of the economics interview show podcast “EconTalk” is apparently a fellow inhabitant. My recommended strategy of dealing with limbohood is to focus on what we know and to be agnostic about what we don’t know. For example when bailouts and stimuli are proposed, limbonauts don’t have to buy into or buy out of the debate. We can be neutral on the economic theory whist being positive or negative on the non-economic aspects of the proposal according to our usual lights. For example ‘normal’ rules of fiscal probity and the need for the public to derive value for their dollar (even stimulated dollars) do not go out the window because the stimulators are in town. Similarly bailouts need to be conducted with extreme care being given to the needs of openness, public accountability and equity. These values have nothing to do with the economic crisis du jour, they are foundational values for the best of our political order, nor should not be steamrolled in the rush. The desire by the stimulators to bypass or undercut these values in order to “do it now” reminds me of the Bush administration, WMDs and Iraq. And we all know how that worked out.Report

  2. So, I just finished writing a long post on PEG’s post, scheduled it for Monday, and then I see you’ve already linked it. Bastard! I’m not changing anything, though.

    Anyhow, this all sounds like much of what I go through, although I’ve not found any new philosophies for me to push too far. I tend more to just stick with the old one and modify it as I see fit. Whether this works or not, I have no idea.Report

  3. Avatar Sycophant of the Bourgeois says:

    The piece you linked has some serious errors. Despite the authors best intentions to prove the opposite, markets were here before “governments.”

    Now at some level or another any property ownership and control of land leads to government like entities. The classic “if i own an island and make all the rules for it’s immigrants, am I government?” question that gets asked to budding libertarians is a great thought experiment in what government is exactly.

    The conclusion I have come to, along with many anarcho-capitalist (Rothbard, Hayek, probbaly Mises given more thought) is that governments are not inherently evil, only involuntary governments. Governments you have no chance to leave or veto.Report

  4. Avatar mike farmer says:

    I would trust these arguments more, from people like PEG, if they weren’t based on premises which fall apart when poked. The fact is that most people, even most libertarians, have accepted the need for government to protect rights so that coercion is not in the hands of bullies, thieves, gangs, the powerful rich, etc. The only real question is how much power do we want to give the state, and would we be better off with a limited government, limited to protecting negative rights, and allowing the private sector to work out the rest. Once you give the state the power to implement positive rights, then rights move from individual to groups — and the strongest groups, the majority alliances, win at the expense of the weaker groups, the minority alliance. That’s good if you are part of the majority alliance, but it’s no so good if you are in the minority alliance. I personally can’t give my moral blessing to majoritarianism, even if I was in the majority — I would want all inviduals to have the same rights, and only a limited government, limited to protecting basic individual rights of life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness, can accomplish this type of fairness. Everything else is social engineering, violation of individual rights (the individuals chosen for violation), based on the state’s ideas of fairness and justice.Report

    • The trouble with this approach is that it doesn’t recognize that property rights are themselves effectively positive liberties. Pace Rothbard, you can’t devise a uniform system of property rights a priori. You need a state to define what those rights actually are, not just to protect them.

      Beyond that, as I’ll explain in my post on Monday, this argument ignores that fewer rules and less government intervention is not necessarily a more limited government or a freer, more competitive market. Sometimes what’s needed is more rules, often times fewer rules, and still other times just completely different rules.Report

      • Avatar mike farmer says:

        The amount of rules necessary to clarify contract law has nothing to do with limited government, as I am speaking of limited government — the limits I’m talking about have to do with the power of the government to violate individual rights. If we establish laws defining property and the rights to own and dispose of that property, then the government should be limited so as not to violate these laws. You are right, we might need more rules clearly defining the limits. I don’t see the number of rules having any bearing on limited government — the nature of the rules is another thing. I guess that is what you are talking about.Report

        • Avatar mike farmer says:

          There are also those who believe, and I am one of them, that the rights to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness are rights regardless of what the state says or does. The state may take away my liberty, but they do so by violating my right to liberty. The state may take my property, what I have worked for, what I own, but they do so by violating my rights. The state doesn’t hand out rights, its legitimate purpose is to protect these rights. As a society we may choose to make rules in order to more clearly understand these rights, and to punish violations of these rights, but they don’t originate from the state. My life is my life, and I have a right to live my life freely as long as I don’t violate the rights of others to live their lives freely. This is the simple deal that statists have a difficult time understanding. The say that the state is necessary to define the rights is not correct. Any group of people establishing a community could get together and agree on these rights and establish a protection organization — only the state, or some coercive force, could prevent this from happening.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            Yes. The weird thing about this, for me, is that “rights”, being universal, are also timeless. Life, liberty, TPoH and such are rights that existed in 1776, 1066, 400, 70, and 2000 B.C. (or B.C.E., if you’re one of those people).

            This colors my opinion of positive rights significantly as one cannot have a right to a thing that does not exist… and so claims to a right to prescription drugs, for example, strikes me as absurd. How can you have a right, a human right, that someone else would not have had? If you have it and he or she does not, it is not a human right! It’s something else entirely. A firmly held feeling of entitlement, maybe.Report

            • Avatar Travis says:

              “How can you have a right, a human right, that someone else would not have had?”

              Nonsense. If you assume that the right to health is encompassed in the right to life (and if not, the “right to life” is meaningless) then the addition of means used to sustain health are no different than the application of rights to any other technological or societal change.

              “If you have it and he or she does not, it is not a human right.”

              Whazzat? So having food to eat and water to drink aren’t human rights?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                For how much of human history had humans been plagued with unclean water?

                Were these people having their rights violated?

                Lucy wandering the plain with her fellow Australopithecii was having her rights violated by wildebeests drinking and god knows what else in the water before her?Report

              • Avatar Travis says:

                That makes no sense. I’m not sure how you can analogize small-scale natural water contamination with industrial-scale dumping of toxic wastes. There’s not remotely a comparison to be made.

                Our bodies have immune systems which make low levels of bacterial contamination mostly a non-issue. Our bodies are not similarly equipped to deal with contamination from heavy metals, petrochemicals and other industrial effluents not naturally found in water.

                Humans (and other animals) avoid water sources which are naturally contaminated – mineral springs with heavy metal, for example. When industries are dumping their byproducts in every river and aquifer to be found, it’s rather more difficult to avoid.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                “I’m not sure how you can analogize small-scale natural water contamination with industrial-scale dumping of toxic wastes.”

                Oh that’s what I did, did I?

                Because I’m under the impression that I was going to move from “water that wasn’t clean” to “me figuring out how to boil water” and “now I have clean water” while “Lucy doesn’t”. Am I now violating Lucy’s rights?

                Because, you may recall, you asked “So having food to eat and water to drink aren’t human rights?”

                This is not the same thing as asserting that water to drink is a human right, of course… but I’m going to assume that you believe that clean water to drink is a human right. I’m wondering how far that right extends.

                (For the record, it is *NOT* my position that a corporation has the right to dump in a stream. I mean, nobody was even talking about dumping until your last comment.)Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      And that tends to morph into seeing people as representatives of any particular group they may happen to fit into… or even oneself. Accumulated sins for others, accumulated accomplishments for oneself.

      And “rights” go out the window in service to “obligations”.Report

  5. Avatar Bob Cheeks says:

    Bravo Mike, again well said! I really like Randolph, Calhoun, anti-Feds mind your own business central gov’t and people acting like human beings in the hinterlands.Report

    • Avatar Travis says:

      Ah yes, Calhoun, that noted defender of the government-sanctioned status of human beings as property. Slavery certainly was a libertarian virtue. Mind your own business.Report

      • Avatar Travis says:

        …and quit telling us that our heritage and culture of treating African-Americans as subhuman is something perverse and backward.Report

  6. Avatar Joseph FM says:

    Meh, I see the comments have degenerated into a libertarian-leftist bickering match. Too bad. I’m not going to be baited into joining.

    And that’s partly because, like you E.D., I am pretty much at a point where I don’t really have a strongly ideological outlook, where my es views are in a degree of flux. But unlike you, in me this essentially makes regular blogging difficult or impossible. In my real life I get carried away far to easily, and tend to say contrary things just for the heck of it, so I am wary of misrepresenting own my own opinions, which may not be all that solid anyway. It’s sort of a double bind of cautiousness.

    I like this blog because it really does usually feel like a conversation, of the kind that I don’t really cand can’t really have face to face with anyone. But I admit that I have way too much doubt in myself to sustain something like it. So take this as a thank you.Report