Attack of the Village Voice


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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43 Responses

  1. Avatar Mike Schilling says:


    ITYM soy-pissant analysis.Report

  2. Avatar Trumwill says:

    For whatever it’s worth, I thought your post was pitch-perfect and agreed with your point entirely.

    Also, “Libertarian Bad! Must SMASH libertarian!” made me laugh.Report

  3. Avatar Aaron W says:

    soy-analysis? At least when you eat soy you know what you’re getting…Report

  4. Avatar North says:

    If they’d read it then how’d they have worked themselves up into a suitable lather for writing screeds?Report

  5. Avatar MFarmer says:

    Sadly, this is the nature of progressivism. I’ve yet to read an intelligent rebuttal of libertarianism — they usually resort to hyperbolic claims that libertarians want a heartless world where if you can’t make it, then tough shit — even people sympathetic with libertarian principles write it off as idealistic and utopian, yet the implementation is far more realistic than the methods of progressives, which are illiberal and coercive and lead to collapse — and even if the progressive goals were achieved, its not a world in which I’d want to live, being managed by a faux-elite, propped up by a powerful State, who don’t know how to poor piss out of a boot.Report

    • Avatar North says:

      @MFarmer, So you respond to the liberal rag’s baseless blanket condemnation of libertarians with… a blanket baseless condemnation of progressives? /slowclap.Report

      • Avatar MFarmer says:

        No, I’m responding to libertarian criticisms which don’t address the principles and ideas of libertarianism and aren’t based in facts — Many libertarians have written about the flaws inherent in progressive ideas. The progressives are proving over and over that my criticism above is true. I don’t buy this middle road where there is good and bad on both sides — libertarian ideas are more solid and well established than the flawed ideology which backs progressivism, and progressives are proving to be about smear campaigns and baseless accusations rather than valid political philosophy.Report

        • Avatar MFarmer says:

          I meant critiques of libertarianism, not “libertarian” criticisms.Report

          • Avatar MFarmer says:

            Progressivism has proven to be abhorable — the ideology is responsible for practically every economic problem we face, and if we don’t face the truth, we’re headed for financial disaster and the risk of authoritarian control. So, North, you can be snarky and pretend that the two reactions are comparable, or you can wake up and resist disaster — it’s your choice. You don’t have to decide right now, sleep on it.Report

            • Avatar North says:

              @MFarmer, Mike, you’ve failed to answer principled and logical objections to pure libertarianism on this very site. I understand you love making hyperbolic statements (I respect it, hyperbole is awesome!) But pretending that the only objection to libertarianism is far left liberals accusations of “heartlessness” or that you’ve never heard an intelligent objection to it before is over the top especially when announcing it on the very venue where such objections were raised. In addition to William Brafford’s very able point below; the commons remain an intractable tragedy that libertarianism has had no answer to as far as I’ve .

              I’m certainly not claiming that libertarianism is horrible. I wish we had a lot more of it in politics right now (being a centrist myself I think many elements of the government are skewed unproductively in the “statist” direction), but it doesn’t have all the answers, not even close.Report

        • @MFarmer, if you’re looking for “valid political philosophy,” I don’t think you’re going to find much of it in pundits. My own objections to libertarianism have a lot more to do with what I take to be the implausibility of its core assumptions about rights and obligations, and less to do with “heartlessness.” Admittedly, I haven’t written much about this recently.

          But, yeah, when you talk about implementing a libertarian policies across the board, I do think that’s wildly unrealistic. Given our political system, I don’t think you could avoid massive regulatory capture: the interests favored by the state will fight to keep the state from shrinking in any way that harms them. What’s your plan for avoiding this?Report

          • Avatar MFarmer says:

            @William Brafford,
            Our political system is the problem, yes, I agree. We have to change the political system and amend the Constitution to remove the loopholes, so that it truly limits government to prevent giving favors to corporations. To say this is impossible shuts down all discourse on reform and accepts the fatalistic prospect that statism is permanent and unchangeable. It will likely take collapse of the State — but I think the key to preparing for this collapse is an understanding of the great difference between State and limited government. The present State is, indeed powerful, but it can be dismantled when the citizens gain enough knowledge to understand the State is anti-social and that a free market can handle social concerns, and that a limited government can protect us from the reemergence of the State — it will require vigilance, but we’re all evolving and as knowledge is gained and as the communication age informs the American people, anything is possible.Report

            • @MFarmer,

              I definitely don’t want to take the State as permanent and fundamentally necessary; as I understand it, the idea of the state is something we use to mark the difference between the Middle Ages and modernity. I don’t want to return to feudalism, but I do think there’s some lessons there.

              In particular, I think your account so far glosses over some of the big questions about what motivates human beings. I hope we can agree that the profit motive is the major engine of free market capitalism: that in fact the success of capitalism is due in large part to finding ways to harness the profit motive for the common good without the profit-seeking agents even aiming larger goods. (I’m not being sarcastic: I’m pretty awed by how invisible-hand systems work so much better than planning.)

              But this reliance on the profit motive also drives the evolution of the state. Or, to look at your scenario, a free-market-oriented society that embraced profit-seeking would produce the sorts of individuals who would seek a State that could bestow upon them monopoly powers.

              I am not sure that vigilance will be enough. Of course, you’re right that in the meantime we could evolve, but as a believer in original sin, I’m not sure it’s a good idea to bet on that.

              But this is where the middle ages come in, perhaps. Because it looks to me like certain kinds of loyalty, if cultivated, might be strong enough to counterbalance the profit motive. (This is really, really speculative!) However, the kinds of loyalty — the mutual but unequal loyalties between peasants and lords, for example — we see in the middle ages are just the kinds that egalitarian modern moral systems do away with.

              So I guess, in summary, I’m skeptical that an ideological commitment to libertarian philosophy will be strong enough to counterbalance the state-oriented side of the profit motive in a state-free free-market scenario.

              So I actually end up looking for some kind of modern localism as a counterbalance to the modern state. I haven’t quite found a position I’m comfortable expounding in public, though.Report

            • Avatar MFarmer says:

              If you reduce a society in which a free market is a reality to “profit motive” then you have ignored the richness of a free society. The establishment of a free market doesn’t necessitate a feudal-state — it brings down the Merchant-State and breaks the alliance between government and corporations. The limited government established protects the individual from aggression and coercion, and that’s the end of its responsibilities. I don’t believe in the natural sinfulness of humans — sin exists, but so does justice, charity, creativity, co-operation and desires for community. A prosperous society given the responsibility of freedom, after experiencing the collapse of a corrupt State, will not take that responsibility lightly, and those that do and violate the rights of others will be punished for their aggression. The next stage in human developement is freedom, peace and charity, although we have a long way to go. We are getting close to the realization that war and powerful nation-states are the remnants of illiberality and the historical forms of domination that must be abolished if we are to advance forward in freedom. The switch from feudal-state to merchant-state was a step forward away from heriditary domination, but it’s still the same domination of State, just democratized. A free market is advancement, not a different kind of domination. I don’t believe that protection from coercion is impossible — if I believed that, then I’d just give up and find a nice cabin Montana.Report

            • Avatar JosephFM says:


              You can at least understand how this:

              The next stage in human developement is freedom, peace and charity, although we have a long way to go. We are getting close to the realization that war and powerful nation-states are the remnants of illiberality and the historical forms of domination that must be abolished if we are to advance forward in freedom.

              does indeed sound rather utopian to someone who does “believe in the natural sinfulness of humans”, yes?

              I mean, good luck, if you’re right I wish you the best.Report

        • Avatar MFarmer says:

          Yes, I can understand, but I disagree all the same. Even if people are born sinful, which is an odd view of humanity, enough in society can maturely maintain a limited government and free market, and it’s not like they will asked to behave with no law to punish bad behavior. People are also born with the capacity for reason and the ability to cooperate voluntarily in doing what’s best for society, like creating laws to prevent coercion. This idea that the wealthy will always collude with government to oppress the citizens of a country is a small, sad philosophy that reeks of submissiveness and defeatism. It’s not utopian to expect that people can prevent Plutocracies.Report

    • Avatar MFarmer says:

      A utopia is not a a society or form of government that’s difficult to implement — it’s a society or form of government, like progressivism, that even if implemented cannot work in reality.Report

  6. Avatar Sonny Bunch says:


  7. I thought about responding to that piece, and maybe I still should have, but I decided that it was about as worthy of response as anything that Mr. Straw Man has ever written about us. The notion of you as a “rightblogger” at this point had me in stitches, and I’m quite certain there are at least some folks here who would find the notion of me as a “rightblogger” almost as preposterous. The thing is that as totally incoherent and exhibitive of perhaps intentionally poor reading comprehension as it was as applied to you and I, it was even worse as applied to some of the others it attacked. Pointing out that people from the big cities are “often shocked” to learn that people in rural areas (where fire coverage has an entirely different set of costs and benefits) is now “class warfare”? Puh-lease!

    And, well, it takes a lot for someone to make me think they’re treating Tom Maguire ‘s arguments unfairly.

    And, well, it’s kind of amusing to me that Mr. Edroso was incapable of finding anyone outside of NRO (and Bryan Fischer at AFA, but no one disputes that he’s insane) who actually agreed with the fire department’s actions here, even as he insists that almost everyone on what he views as “the Right” (which apparently means “anyone to the right of Noam Chomsky) defended the fire department’s actions.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew says:

      @Mark Thompson, I just wish that those who wish to use this as an example of a libertarian policy approach would locate the libertarian policy where it would ostensibly exist – in the county’s approach to its residents who live outside a fire jurisdiction. No one is saying the FDPs were acting out of libertarian principle (until Mr. Erdoso) – even the much-derided Think Progress pieces directed their criticisms at the county policy. To the same end, however, it doesn’t speak to the critique of the county’s policy (whether it stems from libertarian ideology at all – and likely it is non-ideological in genesis, though that doesn’t mean it isn’t couldn’t be an example of a libertarian approach to this question, though certainly it’s not the one many libertarians would devise) to say that one doesn’t support the firefighters’ actions. The firefighters were wrong n what they did, but at the same time, choosing to fight the fire would have helped prop up the county’s defective laissez-faire policy through one more iteration of the insurance free-rider policy.Report

  8. Avatar rj says:

    Edroso had the kernel of a legitimate article wrapped up in all that hyperbole. Simply switching the party you have to pay for mandatory fire coverage from the government (in the form of a tax) to insurers (in the form of mandates from lenders) is either a distinction without a difference or a distinction leading to undemocratic control of public services. The assumption is that somebody pays something, instead of the patchwork system that failed in Obion County.

    When it comes to the rest of the Village Voice post, the other links tend to reflect how he quotes them and the tone he describes. There are a lot of glib attacks on the unfortunate guy at the center of this story and some snickering about how he got what he deserved for being a freeloader, etc. Most posts end in explicit partisan attacks.

    Not that it means you’re a glibertarian or a rightblogger, mind you. Nobody with their head screwed on straight likes being lumped in with some of the other characters linked in that post. Your struck me more as a thought experiment than an opportunity to spew hate for the poor, liberal or unlucky.Report

  9. Avatar MFarmer says:

    ” never mind that it was a government agency operating on libertarian principles.”

    He drove off the road with this comment,Report

  10. Avatar Simon K says:

    “Attack of the Village Voice” reminds me of “Savaged by a dead sheep”.Report

  11. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    And yet, Eric, you think the county policy should be changed, correct? So other than getting your position wrong, and thinking that it is the local FDs who have a libertarian policy rather than the county, Erdoso is not entirely out of step with your view, is he? Or would you deny that for the county, instituting a tax or a subscription mandate would be a move from a more to a less libertarian policy? And if libertarianism is a vector, then…Report

  12. @MFarmer,

    If you reduce a society in which a free market is a reality to “profit motive” then you have ignored the richness of a free society.

    I’m trying not to be reductive! What I am saying is that in capitalism the profit motive is harnessed and encouraged under constraint, not that it’s the only thing in social life. And it’s certainly not denigrated as a vice. Do you disagree?

    A prosperous society given the responsibility of freedom, after experiencing the collapse of a corrupt State, will not take that responsibility lightly, and those that do and violate the rights of others will be punished for their aggression.

    This idea that the wealthy will always collude with government to oppress the citizens of a country is a small, sad philosophy that reeks of submissiveness and defeatism.

    I see it as more of an observation than a philosophy: as long as there’s some individual advantage to colluding with the state, people will tend to want to do it. I don’t believe that there are no circumstances under which this might be prevented. But you’re relying on a giant shift in human consciousness: an evolutionary leap in our ability to act aggressively for the common good in defense of a certain social order. Sure, this could happen, but I’ve got no reason to think that it will; until then, it’s easier not to be vigilant.

    (And my position above is basically that, absent such an evolutionary shift, libertarian ideology, or ideology in general, is not sufficient for a vigilant society, given the power of the collusion motive.)Report

    • Avatar MFarmer says:

      @William Brafford, The collusion is on a relatively small scale, a relative handful of power players who have rigged the game for a long time. Vigilance is needed for the majority, who do not benefit from this collusion, to put an end to the collusion. It’s not a leap — we are there — it just takes the public will to do it.

      No, profit in a free market is a signal that the consumer’s needs and demands are being met. Profit in the Merchant-State by government-favored rent-seekers is theft.Report

      • Avatar MFarmer says:

        @MFarmer, When I say — we are there — I mean we are ready to begin the process of turning back the State and starting the process of limiting government — the momentum for this has been started, and it will require vigilance to keep it going — it will take the sustained will of the people — this can happen, and I believe it’s the sign of the beginning of the next stage. War-weary, Government-control weary, we’re like hummingbirds struggling in the drizzling rain of government interventions — it’s time to go forward and out of this rut.Report

        • @MFarmer, but you’re not explaining where the sustained public will to dismantle the state comes from. So, yeah, if suddenly everyone with a net worth below $200,000 decided that they just weren’t going to countenance big government, no matter the short-term pain, then it wouldn’t be hard to get to a limited-government scenario. But too many people don’t want the short-term pain. And rightly so: you’ve already granted that getting what you take to be a good society would likely “take collapse of the State,” which would be catastrophic.

          The alternative is a more tragic and complicated view of politics, one that tries to balance powerful institutions against each other: a powerful state at least sometimes checks powerful corporations (which are only as powerful as they are because of state power in the first place). I don’t have an idea of a good society that we can get to, but I also don’t count on people suddenly changing and becoming hyper-vigilant about government/industry collusion.

          On the subject of profit, you’re confusing description of an action with motivation for an action. Of course profit in a fair market is different from collusion, but the motive could be the same in both cases, viz., to make money. The reason firms compete in the first place — that they seek new and better ways of meeting consumer needs — is that they want profit. That’s a big motive. There are others — fame, glory, bragging rights — but I don’t think I’ve ever met an entrepreneur who wasn’t motivated to a significant degree by profit.Report

        • Avatar MFarmer says:

          I have been talking about motivation, and motivation for profit is experienced in at least two essential ways — by seeking government favor, or by competing in a free market. How the motivation for profit affects society is important — if the motivation leads to collusion with government and exploitation of consumers, then it has a negative effect on industry as whole and leads to collapse — if the motivation is generated by creativity and competitive energy, then anyone with a good idea and the spirit of entrepreneurship has a chance. This will likely create decentralization in business and much better working conditions as companies also have to compete for the brains to be successful. I’ve started 3 businesses and I can tell you that the profit motive is mainly to continue in business, to grow and to create something special — yes, also to make a living, but at least for me and many small business owners I know, the independence, the challenge, the creative tension and the fact of giving your all to something you believe in, are all important aspects of running a business. What I’ve really enjoyed is the people in the organization and working on a team effort.

          Statism has made it almost impossible for small business owners to freely pursue these values.

          If you can’t see a movement toward ending the collusion between Big Business and Big Government, then you haven’t been paying attention. When I say collapse, it’s in hope that society will see the collapse coming in time to avoid total disaster — I think that’s what’s happening now — and how pople make this change is through information and self-education — people begin realizing that a free market is better for everyone concerned, even the poor and middle class. I can’t go into all of it here, but I have given my ideas on my blog why this is, over and over, and sometimes in detail, which is always a scary risk, but one I think we need to take — we need to start thinking in terms of private sector empowerment, private education and private assistance to the needy. The potential is intoxicating — it’s the next Big Move, because all political possibilities have been exhausted — protected freedom is all that’s left. We’ve beensold a bill of goods regarding balancing intitutions — the State is anti-social and moves towar power and control unless stopped by a strictly limited government maintained with vigilance by a people who are doing what’s best for their futures and their children’s future.Report

        • @MFarmer, “if the motivation leads to collusion with government and exploitation of consumers, then it has a negative effect on industry as whole and leads to collapse”

          A motivation generates an action, but it’s not defined by the form that the action takes. So there will be people who are motivated by a desire to do creative work and collaborate with interesting people, and that’s all to the good. But there will also be people who want to be rich — let’s just go ahead and say they’re motivated by greed. Some greedy people will see advantage in playing by the rules, and it’ll work out. Some greedy people won’t. Either way, it’s this motive that would make your ideal society slide back into what you call statism, unless you have some way of counterbalancing it.

          As for the stuff in your last paragraph, I can tell that you believe it. But to me, it reads like a series of assertions grounded in a wild optimism about human nature. If you want to convince me, you’ve got to figure out how to engage with my pessimism. And telling me that my way of seeing the world is a “bill of goods” that I’ve been sold isn’t going to do the trick.Report

  13. Avatar MFarmer says:

    Neither is your pessimism convincing me. You’re describing a picture of a dirt road and bemoaning the fact that the county hasn’t paved it, but out of range of the picture are the road machines and workers.

    You talk about greedy businesspeople, and there are greedy people, both in government and in industry, but limitations prevent fraud and coercion. A free market and limited government don’t create a perfect society but they punish bad actors and failure, and allow the values I listed to blossom. If you are saying that a limited government is impossible because “society” will slip back into a statist form of government, you haven’t explained why this would happen, if limited government is working and preventing a relative few Plutocrats from rigging the game. Doesn’t it make more sense to suppose that if society is freed from the exploitation of Plutocrats, they would vigantly watch their steps and avoid “slipping”? If the free market gives them more than the crumbs doled out by statism, wouldn’t they prevent statism from returning? Or do you think the Plutocrats would form an army and take back control? So, we are down to which is better for society as a whole — a free market or statism? I say a free market, and that people are beginning to realize this, and the American people have the ability to establish a free market and limited government, and when they do, and when their lives are better, they will protect the free market and not allow a relative few Plutocrats to regain control.Report

    • Avatar MFarmer says:

      As I said before, we have exhausted political options, except a strictly limited government. Even in the beginning, Hamiltonianism won and created a Merchant-State, but this has run its course, and now we are faced making the same mistakes over and over alternating between Republican statism and Democrat statism with their various mixtures of controls and freedom, or breaking out of the downward spiraling cycle and creating something new, a protected free society that prevents the collusion of government, media, universities, corporations, military and special interest groups which control the American people through a government which has taken on way too much power. The key is to remove the coercive element by limiting the power of government — then all groups can compete in the free market of ideas, but they won’t be able to force themselves on us against our wills. Again, the evidence for this movement to limit government is seen in protests against too much government intervention, and the fact that this protest hasn’t made it past the reality of Medicare and Social Security is because, like the picture of the dirtroad, it’s all in flux and people are paying attention and soon alternatives will be presented, and people will realize ways to avoid statist collapse. Yes, it hasn’t happened yet, and I can’t prove it, but I can observe it taking formation, and through reason I can predict the movement, just as the Founders gradually moved toward Independence — some people could see it happening, and they helped it happen.Report

    • @MFarmer, it’s OK with me if you’re not convinced by my position. I’m not the one with the project for social change. Anyways, I think I’ve already explained why I think stateward-slipping happens (it’s the series of small compromises, not the Plutocrat Army). Also, it should have been clear that I don’t think limited government (or an asymptotic approach to it) is inherently impossible, only that it’s some ways distant and that I’m skeptical about your ideas on how to get there.Report