Aggrieved libertarians

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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305 Responses

  1. Herb says:

    “I’ve heard all of this before. ”

    Well, to be fair, an argument’s validity doesn’t depend on its novelty.

    For my part, I’m glad to see the critique. The Tea Party phenomenon has convinced the Big L Libertarians (the true believers as opposed to those of us who have libertarian tendencies on a few pet issues) that they’re now part of the mainstream.

    And well, they have a long way to go. Just listen to them wax poetic about how free market competition created the internet and Wickard vs Fillburn has set us on a 70 year long slippery slope to serfdom.Report

  2. Tim Kowal says:

    I’m not a frequent Reason reader, but my casual impression is they give relatively even time to fringe and margin issues. At the very least, I get the impression Reason is interested in explaining what libertarianism really is, rather than masking its logical conclusions in order to gain political traction. As a conservative, I disagree with plenty with both libertarians and the left. But if nothing else, I appreciate libertarians a hell of a lot more than leftists because libertarians tend to be more open and honest about where their political philosophy leads.

    The greatest accomplishment of “liberalism” is that it’s taken up the mantel of the socialist Progressivism of turn of the century thinkers like Edward Bellamy and Oliver Wendell Holmes and Margaret Sanger, but got it scrubbed up and presentable. The advantage is that it’s become wildly successful. The terrifying part is we can’t know where that train is headed.

    Progressives used to be honest about its logical conclusions: the end of private enterprise; abolition of property rights; eugenics; conscription into the work force. But now we get things like the Individual Mandate, and when conservatives and libertarians moan that this is one more step down the road to socialist Progressivism, the left doesn’t defend the Mandate in terms of their socialist/Progressive political theory; no, they scoff at the conservatives and libertarians as being silly reactionaries. I find this attitude almost as noxious as the law itself.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Tim Kowal says:

      If I were the type to press like buttons, and if there were a like button here, I would “like” this comment.

      (Note to the Bees that Power: Please do not add like buttons to comments.)Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to Tim Kowal says:

      Liberalism is about people deciding in a community what the laws should be. I am not an expert on libertarianism, but I had always thought it was about seeking as much freedom from government (and other?) interference in one’s affairs as can be achieved. If it’s not about that, I would appreciate being enlightened. But on that understanding, I still fail to see how one of these does not gesture more clearly toward its extreme than the other.Report

      • Tim Kowal in reply to Michael Drew says:

        “Liberalism is about people deciding in a community what the laws should be.”

        This is too vague and incomplete to serve as a working definition. The same definition could be used to describe conservatism and libertarianism; it’s just that all three might define “law” and “community” and “the people” and “should be” differently. “Freedom,” too, is a homonym for several very different ideas.Report

        • Michael Drew in reply to Tim Kowal says:

          It wasn’t an attempt at a definition. I’m sure there is an entity that you can define that has the characteristics you think I left out there. It is guaranteed to have the characteristics you want it to. It might have a directional logic in its definition that points to the end of private property. That doesn’t make it liberalism. My contention is merely that libertarianism clearly does have such a directional logic, so the question of how far is unavoidable in any theoretical discussion.Report

        • Michael Drew in reply to Tim Kowal says:

          That statement, though not a definition, was my best attempt at summarizing what, at the end of the day I think political liberalism really is all about. And it may well be that it doesn’t end up so much distinguished from libertarianism or conservatism. I would submit that as matter of fact, libertarianism is not primarily about simply an inclusive political process for deciding on laws, combined with certain, though not exhaustive or inflexible, limitations on what majorities can do, and guarantees of certain basic rights. Rather, libertarianism, while in some case perhaps embracing that description (but in others perhaps preferring a far more strictly limiting constitutionalist structure), is really fundamentally about seeking certain very specific outcomes from the political structure in place, whatever it is. (And again, that is just my impression; I am happy to be corrected.) As for conservatism, i personally still can;t speak to what it really is about.

          But to me the description that I contrasted to libertarianism there is really all liberalism really is. (1) A commitment to a consistent process or structure for decision making; (2) an embrace of politics as the animating force driving action in the process/structure, (3) a commitment to certain rights-based limitations on process outcomes, and (4) a broad agnosticism regarding outcomes, or at least a commitment to accept legitimate outcomes, whatever they may be (which is not to say a disavowal of taking strong positions in the political input part of the process). This all may also be perfectly consistent with either libertarianism or conservatism, but I don’t think it;s probably true (though perhaps some might say it is the case) that it is also really all> either of those doctrines are really about. But I say that is the case with liberalism. Now, you (Tim Kowal) might have something far more to say about liberalism than that in terms of ideological history or simply ideology, but I suspect that if you do, it is by way of mixing together with liberalism your understanding of Progressivism or Left-Socialism in the U.S., its history and ideological underpinnings. But in fact Progressivism is an entirely different can of worms from liberalism in the American context, and the only way to freight liberalism here in a public debate with all the meaning you have associated in your head with it thru a misidentification with Progressivism is by a simple act of terminological conflation.Report

          • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

            Should emphasize, because I did not make it at all explicit: that liberalism (in a somewhat recent development in the tradition) includes a commitment that among the outcome limitations in (3) above are the assurance that the laws themselves are non-discriminatory, and that all citizens are assured equal protection by them.Report

        • Michael Drew in reply to Tim Kowal says:

          The above description of political liberalism, which I have held for a number of years now, FWIW is drawn from this article, and is essentially just my attempt to put a bottom line on it, accounting for the various crosscurrents in the history of there term that the article discusses. I’d be interested to hear if folks think I’ve made a horrendous butchery of the ideas contained in the entry in my summary above.Report

    • gregiank in reply to Tim Kowal says:

      Its just adorable how you totally believe in Strawmen as reality. I’m guessing you believe in Santa and the Tooth Fairy also.

      Not that i think this is going anywhere, but i almost never see Libertarians explore where their ideas would lead. It would be fascinating if they did.Report

      • Mike Farmer in reply to gregiank says:

        How much libertarian literature have you read, gregniak?Report

        • Larry M in reply to Mike Farmer says:

          Mike, the sad fact is that a signficant minority – and, perhaps, even a majority – of people calling themselves libertarians probably have as facile an understanding of libertarianism as does greg.

          The simple fact is that libertarians themselves are largely responsible for mistaken impressions such as gregs’. The average person simply can’t be expected to deeply explore libertarian writers. They will take their perceptions from the loudest voices who call themselves libertarians. And IMO those voices largely fit the stereotype.Report

          • Will H. in reply to Larry M says:

            And the Tea Party.
            I’m still not sure if they’re helping or hurting libertarianism.
            It gets more press these days because of them.
            But a lot of those folks seem to be operating on misinformation.
            A mixed bag.Report

          • Mike Farmer in reply to Larry M says:

            Well, we can’t help who calls themselves libetarians. I do my part by maing distinctions when appropriate.Report

          • D.A. Ridgely in reply to Larry M says:

            “They will take their perceptions from the loudest voices who call themselves libertarians. And IMO those voices largely fit the stereotype.”

            Hence, Michael Moore and Rush Limbaugh are respectively stereotypical of liberals and conservatives.

            Suddenly, it all makes more sense to me!Report

            • LarryM in reply to D.A. Ridgely says:

              Well, but people DO take their impressions from those people! Though w/r/t Moore, his audience is a lot smaller than Limbaugh’s, and I’m not sure that he even self identifies as a liberal. Yet … people still DO give an outsized weight to his opinions! Which is what it is … not entirely fair, just as it isn’t entirely fair that the public gives outsized weight to sophomoric Ayn Rand acolytes.

              Of course, libertarians, given that it is (compared to conservatism and liberalism), a much more marginalized political philosophy, your average man on the street is exposed to far fewer libertarian voices. Which just increases the chance of mistaken understandings.

              And you can either spend time complaining about the unfairness of it all, or you can do your best to counter the misinformation. I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine which is more likely to be effective.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to LarryM says:

                It’s not me calling Limbaugh the heart and soul of the conservative movement — it’s Katherine Jean Lopez and the rest of the NR crew. Nor is it me forcing elected officials to apologize when they note that he’s really just an entertainer.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to Tim Kowal says:

      Conservative on libertarians:

      I appreciate libertarians a hell of a lot more than leftists because libertarians tend to be more open and honest about where their political philosophy leads.

      I disagree. I think “I don’t know” is a perfectly defensible answer here, at least at times.
      So… rather than trying to pin us down about a lot of ultimately hypotheticals — quick, in Utopia, are the roads private too? — let’s stop the drug war already. Not only is it something that will do actual good, but we might even learn a thing or two along the way, about people, states, societies, and liberty.

      Liberals: “Meep. We, um, actually don’t want to abolish private property. That we’re taking off the table. Other than that, let’s discuss and vote on laws. Yes, we will have opinions, but in fact we are notorious for disagreeing amongst ourselves and hamstringing our ability to make any of them happen. You can shout us down and vote us out of office if you don;t like what we do. Let’s do this. It should be fun.”Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to Tim Kowal says:

      Just so it is clear: there is no equivalence between this Beck-esque enterprise of attempting to make a given political school’s current incarnation be responsible for all the ideas that historically gave rise to its current thought, and merely asking the question, “Say, you seem to be saying you’re for liberty by calling yourself a libertarian. About how much liberty do you in particular want?” I think you’re suggesting there is an equivalence; there isn’t.Report

      • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Michael Drew says:

        How much liberty do I want? It’s a question easy to answer in the abstract, but it’s difficult to get right as to all the practical matters. Why is this an indictment? It shouldn’t be.

        When we talk about Where I’d Like to Stop, we are discussing what are essentially the technical details of a system of government that has never existed before. I believe there are solid, even compelling moral reasons to move incrementally in the direction of greater individual liberty. What the resulting society will look like, once the libertarian project by my lights is over, is something I’d have to be clairvoyant to know. (Compare: Why do you not complain that the Democratic Party doesn’t know what utopia looks like? Why expect it of us, and not of them?)

        The abstract answer, as I said, is easy. It’s that I want the maximal liberty for every adult that is compatible with a like liberty in all other adults.

        But where does that point of maximal liberty lie? And how do we get from here to there? Both are difficult questions — I’m pretty sure I’d be accused of glibness if I said they were easy. I’d deserve it. Plus no one would believe me anyway.

        What would I take off the table? Anarchy. While I find it difficult to say that anarchy can’t ever work in any possible set of circumstances, I do think it’s very clear that it would never work in circumstances we are likely to encounter.

        What else? Abolishing the welfare state entirely. I don’t actually favor this. The welfare state we have is a mess in all kinds of ways, but that doesn’t mean that no government-granted welfare is ever appropriate.

        As a clear improvement over what we now have, I’d suggest a guaranteed minimum income/negative income tax system, one in which every individual would receive enough of a guaranteed income to make possible the following desiderata:

        No one starves in the streets, unless they really really want to.
        Everyone has enough money to buy health insurance if they want it, but no one is forced to. Ask nicely and I’d even consider allowing a public option.
        In-kind welfare programs could mostly be done away with.
        The minimum wage could be abolished.
        Social Security could be radically scaled back or even eliminated, because the elderly would still receive the guaranteed minimum income.

        Now… all of this would represent a huge improvement over the current system, and it might even be the best we can do, as I see things. But could I get all libertarians to sign onto this program? Not a chance. That’s yet another reason why it’s not a terribly interesting avenue of inquiry.Report

        • mark boggs in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:


          I’d ride that train if you were the conductor.Report

        • Michael Drew in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

          Leaving aside the rhetorically interesting fact that you basically just outlined what Kowal-style liberals have been fighting several lifetimes for, that sounds damn good to me, too. Sign me up. I’d want to reserve a space for some discussion about various kinds of regulations that would be in the interest of the public safety, but I’m willing to listen to ideas about how they might not have to all be government regulations, so we’d probably have room to explore there.Report

        • Michael Drew in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

          Also, again, my expectation of a vision statement is based on how the word libertarian sounds in my conceptual imagination. It just raises the question in a way liberal or conservative don’t. And as for the Democratic Party, well, they’re a corporeal entity (of sorts). They say exactly what they are for on a regular basis. For me, proper names don;t raise any questions of what I should expect the group to be for, even when the same word uncapitalized would. The Libertarian Party is just going to be for whatever it’s for; I really don’t expect it to track with a public understanding of the generic term libertarian. People take words and make them into names all the time: they certainly are trying to co-opt some of the meaning in the generic term, but by removing the word in their particular case from the public understanding of the term’s meaning, it removes any expectation that I think I can have for how they use it in that context. They just are who they are.Report

        • mark boggs in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

          More pointedly, Jason, do you think that you couldn’t get all (or even most) libertarians to sign on to your train ride, because the idea of any social safety net is something they would balk at? And do you think that sort of outlining very specific things starts to pitch the roof in a manner that forces more conservative libertarians onto one side and more liberal libertarians onto the other? And then we end up with those shavings flocking back to the regular, two-party apparatus simply because one or two of “your” proposals have been deal breakers for them? Despite the fact that this may be a better deal than we currently have?Report

          • Jason Kuznicki in reply to mark boggs says:

            More pointedly, Jason, do you think that you couldn’t get all (or even most) libertarians to sign on to your train ride, because the idea of any social safety net is something they would balk at?

            Many of them might balk, yes. But both Milton Friedman and arguably F. A. Hayek would have (or did, in Friedman’s case) support something just like this.

            The key problem with implementing a system like the one I suggest here is that the other welfare programs aren’t just going to go away. They will all have their supporters, and from a public choice standpoint the whole thing is just not politically feasible. Alas.Report

        • Simon K in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

          Here’s the really interesting thing about that – I think you could get very significant numbers of people who identify as either Liberal or Conservative to sign up for it. I’m not actually sure how many hard-line Libertarians you’d get (Mike Farmer – would you vote for Jason’s program?) but you might actually get an overall majority. So why doesn’t this kind of program have far more prominence in national politics?Report

        • You should up this to a full post Jason. I’d certainly like to hear more about the guaranteed income. Seems risky. Think permanent unemployment checks.Report

          • Tim Kowal in reply to E.D. Kain says:

            A young Robert Heinlein proposed this in For Us, The Living. At the time I read that, I didn’t realize that Edward Bellamy had already proposed a similar idea in Looking Backward, the book that spun off “Bellamy Clubs” in the late 1880s and ’90s, where people would dream up ways to implement ideas like guaranteed income provided by the government, the evisceration of property rights and private enterprise in favor of state ownership and state production of all goods and services.

            Heinlein is probably a closer fit to the general disposition here, as Heinlein was not really advocating socialism. (For that reason, however, I think Bellamy was more practical—it’s a bit much to believe people will be productive in the ways that matter if not motivated by some force outside oneself, whether the market or the government.) Heinlein provides a detailed, though a bit convoluted, explanation of how guaranteed income, which he called the “inheritance dividend,” might work.Report

          • Jason Kuznicki in reply to E.D. Kain says:

            On the one hand, it does seem to destroy certain forms of incentive. On the other hand, if we had a GMI/negative income tax system, there would be no welfare traps, ever. This compares favorably to the status quo, in which there are still several.

            I may post more about the GMI at some point in the future, as the benefits seem legion to me. (Here’s another: If we have a GMI and no minimum wage, low-wage jobs would have to be relatively agreeable for people to take them at all. Otherwise, they’d just live off the GMI — never a comfortable living, but you won’t go hungry or homeless.)

            I’d like to post more on the idea, but in the meantime I’ve been drafting a longish post about what I think libertarianism really is. Or perhaps what it should be. I’m trying to give it priority and actually do something productive this vacation.Report

          • James K in reply to E.D. Kain says:

            In principle the incentive effects should be more agreeable than current welfare, this is the reason Milton Friedman favoured it.  Since people get government money whether they work or not, why wouldn’t people try to get some work if they could?  It’s true that some people will be so work-averse that they choose to live on their government stipend indefinitely, but I suspect that will be pretty rare.
            The real difficulty is that this type of system is very expensive.  Still, I’ve seen calculations showing it could be done in New Zealand with reasonable tax rises, so it could well be feasible in the US as well.Report

  3. But honestly, a lot of the important work libertarians are doing is on things that we could change: we could scale back the war on drugs, overseas militarism, SWAT raids on poor people. We could find ways to put better checks on concentrated power. And we should.

    I’m not trying to be snarky here, but it seems that these are all policies that non-libertarians (by which I mean people who do not self-identify as libertarians) might plausibly support, and what would distinguish non-libertarian supporters of these policies from those who self-identify as libertarians is that they see minarchism as the ideal, the target to aim at. They may never achieve it, but they would reform government, etc., to move closer to that ideal.

    To the extent that my characterization of libertarians’ goals is accurate, there is a potential danger here: the ideal might be a good one (at least it is arguably good), but the steps taken to bring government and/or society closer to it might be harmful or might militate against reaching that goal.

    I realize that there are several different brands of libertarianism, most of which I am either ignorant of or know very little. So perhaps I am mistaken to claim that there is a minarchist vision that defines libertarians, especially when your post is at pains to point out (sorry for the alliteration) that accusing libertarians of minarchism is strawmannish. Still, I wonder if there isn’t a minarchist vision by implication that unites people who identify as libertarians.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

      One of the arguments that I have never seen get much traction is the “Liberty Train” concept.

      Let’s say that you don’t want to dismantle the state. All you want to do is get the Feds to stop busting Medicinal Marijuana outlets. Hell, you don’t even want it to be legal to smoke recreationally.

      Well, you just team up with the Libertarians until the train gets to your stop and then you get off the train.

      Yeah, it sucks. Maybe that’s why it doesn’t get any traction, like, ever.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

        Is it a condition of riding that you not ask merely in idle conversation what the last stop is?Report

      • Rufus F. in reply to Jaybird says:

        Jay, I just want to ask- have you ever had a frustrating conversation with a hippie? If so, why? Because I think that might get at the problem here. If not, I’ll elaborate about the frustrating conversations I’ve had with hippies.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Rufus F. says:

          Not counting Maribou?

          Anyway, please elaborate. I imagine that the frustrating conversations I’m remembering (primarily pacifist vegetarians who had ELF moments pop up in the most surprising spots in the conversation) might not be the ones that might best make your point to me.Report

          • Rufus F. in reply to Jaybird says:

            Well, my wife has a lot of hippie friends and they’re good people for the most part, but they can be a bit sanctimonious about their beliefs in a way that gets sort of off-putting. Why don’t more people agree with them? Well, it’s because so many of us are brainwashed by the media, and are terrified of other people so we go to war with them, and hate our bodies and the freedom of women, oh and we’re greedy and materialistic and can’t give up our Hummers, plus we don’t care about how we’re killing the earth. The self-righteousness can get a bit thick. And so I start thinking that I must really disagree with hippies. But then I ask them what it is they believe in and, inevitably, they say at least something that is totally reasonable. So, then, I start thinking, “Why is it I can agree with these people like 50% of the time and still want to strangle them during that 50%?”

            With the Libertarian Train, I could totally see riding along and agreeing about plenty of things with libertarians. In fact, my wife constantly tells me that I’m a libertarian and just don’t know it. But, I think part of the problem is that I’ve had plenty of conversations with libertarians that have gone something like this:
            Me: Oh, I don’t know. I think that public policy X might be a good idea.
            Them: I just… (frustrated sigh)… don’t know what it would be like to not love freedom. Is it that you really want to tell other people what to do? Or that you fear not being told what to do by the state? Can’t you just trust people to make their own decisions?
            Me: So, how about that weather?

            Obviously, I’m trying to be funny here and I realize that this gripe is small beer. But, when you ask why people don’t ride along with libertarians, I don’t know that it’s always the fault of the hitchikers.Report

            • Mike Schilling in reply to Rufus F. says:

              I was at a software developers’ conference recently, where I attended a talk about why the speaker preferred Python ( a typeless scripting language) to Java ( a strongly typed general programming language.) The gist was that Python is less verbose and more flexible (reasonable points), then the speaker went into attack mode. “Do you really need the compiler to check your variable types?” Actually, I do; it saves me from making silly mistakes I’d have to find and correct later, but I wasn’t about to raise my hand and declare that I prefer tools that might be less powerful but protect me from my own fallibility. So I let it go.

              Then it occurred to me: it was *exactly* like being lectured to by a libertarian.Report

            • Simon K in reply to Rufus F. says:

              That’s a very good analogy, Rufus. I have this experience regularly with both hippies and Libertarians. The hectoring tone is much more off-putting than the actual vision.

              I saw a movie recently called “Dirt”, which was very much a hippie propaganda piece. As with all such films it went through three acts – vision of antedeluvian harmony with nature, fall from grace, and redemption. In this case, the first act is about the soil food web (interesting), the middle bit is about the horrors of artificial fertilizer and how its responsible for everything from Indian farmer suicides to deforestation (tendentious, largely baseless and basically very annoying), the the last bit is about organic gardening (interesting again). Why is the middle bit even there?

              I get the same kind of impression reading “Reason” that the middle part of “Dirt” gives me – that they’re very sure that they’re against all sorts of things that are there (from a Liberal viewpoint) to solve very real problems, and utterly convinced that all they have to do is talk more about the evils of coercion and how its terrible to Not Love Freedom, and eventually we’ll get it. I’d much rather read stuff like Jason’s comment above that outline positive solutions.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Rufus F. says:

              There are two responses to that.

              The first is the trite one. “You should have principles that you follow, not a crowd that you follow.” If you honestly believed that the government should (or should not) X, then you should advocate for (or against) the government Xing and not give a rip about whether the Ladies Auxilary of the Knights of Columbus are on the same (or opposite) side!

              As I said, that’s trite. There’s a point in there but…

              This response is, I think, the more accurate one:
              The “feeling uncomfortable” around folks is generally a surrogate for a lot of things bubbling under the surface. Sure, you may agree with that group on X, Y, and Zed and this other group over there may only agree with you on half of Y… but if that group gives you the willies and this other group feels like Home, then your decision has already been made by forces under the surface and whether Y is really important is *OBVIOUSLY* secondary. Communicated “beliefs” are little more than hot air. What you *DO* is what is true. What you shoot for indicates what you honestly wish for despite any protestations to the contrary.

              If the hippies (or the Libertarians, or the Republicans, or the Democrats) make you feel like you’re a tourist despite everybody agreeing loudly? Well, you probably are a tourist.

              But what if no place feels like Home?

              It’s bedtime.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

        Well, you just team up with the Libertarians until the train gets to your stop and then you get off the train.

        That sounds to me exactly like how politics is supposed to work. You form a coalition to get something done, and then you might have to form a different coalition to get something else done.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

      I agree with Pierre. And I’ll go further to say that I personally have a hard time taking seriously anyone who does want to call himself a libertarian, but isn;t interested in being accountable for how far in the direction of liberty he would go if given the chance, or anyone who sets those limits in a place where large numbers of people who do not consider themselves libertarians would also set their limits? What is it that libertarians like that are distinguishing themselves from such others over? But I understand that to some, liberalism has the same kind of propulsive logic to it, whereby if you are not in fact a communist, it make no sense why you would call yourself a liberal. And maybe that’s all that’s really going on here. But honestly, to this moment I don’t understand why I am wrong to naturally understand the word “libertarian” to inherently point to some relative extreme in pursuit of liberty, being that its history is essentially just that of the word “liberal,” but with two meaningless syllables added on the end to emphasize the “liber” part.Report

      • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Michael Drew says:

        I personally have a hard time taking seriously anyone who does want to call himself a libertarian, but isn’t interested in being accountable for how far in the direction of liberty he would go if given the chance

        I disagree. I think “I don’t know” is a perfectly defensible answer here, at least at times. Particularly if we take seriously the Hayekian critique of constructivist rationalism, we’ll have to admit that sooner or later, we don’t have exact prescriptions for how far our preferred changes should go.

        We could always be wrong — and we should be honest enough to admit it. Governing, should it ever fall to us, ought to require no less. (Not that our current crop of leaders is terribly good at admitting it themselves, but our aim is precisely to change how things are done.)

        So… rather than trying to pin us down about a lot of ultimately hypotheticals — quick, in Utopia, are the roads private too? — let’s stop the drug war already. Not only is it something that will do actual good, but we might even learn a thing or two along the way, about people, states, societies, and liberty.Report

        • Scott in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:


          It is exactly that “I don’t know” aspect which in my opinion, gives libertarianism its pie in the sky quality and which also makes folks nervous about advocating/supporting it. Also, not to mention the fact that libertarians always seem to have a presidential candidate but can’t elect someone to be the local dogcatcher which might be a better place to start.Report

          • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Scott says:

            It is exactly that “I don’t know” aspect which in my opinion, gives libertarianism its pie in the sky quality…

            This I find genuinely odd. I’d always thought the problem with a lot of libertarianism was the way it comes off as having a simple solution for everything, a fully detailed schematic for utopia itself. I don’t have one of those, because they are silly, unconvincing, and easily come to grief. (I don’t expect such a schematic of anyone else, either, so that just makes us even.)

            As to running presidential candidates but not local officials, I more or less agree. I don’t really think the educational value of an LP presidential candidate is all that great, certainly not any more, and not in light of the low quality of many of them.Report

            • Put this together with Tim’s top comment:

              “Progressives used to be honest about its logical conclusions: the end of private enterprise; abolition of property rights; eugenics; conscription into the work force.”

              Personally, I think Jason’s attitude is fairly common across the political spectrum. I don’t think most progressives think the “logical conclusions” of their political philosophies wind up anywhere near where Tim says they do, and I don’t think most libertarians think the “logical conclusions” of their political philosophy wind up at miniarchism.

              I agree with Jason, “I don’t know” is a perfectly reasonable stance. “Where we are looks like shit, I think we ought to go that way until it looks less shitty” isn’t a logically bankrupt problem solving method, even if you don’t know where you’re going to stop going “that way” and just stop, or try something else.Report

        • Exactly right. Besides, at some point in time all political ideas have been marginalized. Certainly liberalism wasn’t taken very seriously at first by the monarchists. Just because an idea has not been fully tested does not mean it is somehow invalid or that its proponents are insincere.Report

        • Michael Drew in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

          I first want to amend my statement to say that I have no problem taking the people in question seriously as people – I only have trouble taking this this aspect of their thinking seriously in some cases. To wit:

          It is a fallacy to suggest that because I think the word libertarian suggests a theoretical commitment to at least a position outside of, say the 20-80 range of the bell curve on the questions that it treats (I did not meant to insist on a perfectly precise account of the extent to which various libertarians would take their libertarianism; only a rough if clear statement of the policy vision that the word ought to invoke in my mind if libertarians carried the day for, say, a century), that I therefore argue against or try to deny that many libertarians also know what immediate steps they would like to see taken to move the status quo in the direction they would like to see it move, that would also be not unduly disrptive, sustainable, positive, etc. I know that they have such ideas, and I am glad that they do, and in fact I don’t even join in the critique that these ideas are not offered often or numerously enough.

          But this doesn’t complicate my view that the word libertarian gives a clear suggestion in a way that other political labels in modern use don’t do that the holders of that view believe that the balance that we currently have between the powers of the state and the prerogatives of private life is rather fundamentally (not just marginally!) undesirable, and the question simply follows of what the balance should be according to the view any given libertarian holds. I have already said that I am prepared to be enlightened as to the real meaning of the word itself (though, of course, no one person has the final say on the meaning of words, and I may simply be unable to move beyond the connotation of radicalism I hear in it…). But just to be doubly clear, I don’t believe at all that everyone must prescribe a rightfully desired end-state balance between the powers of the state and private life. “I don’t know” is a wonderful answer: it is mine very very often, but then I am not a libertarian. In fact, I take liberalism to be precisely an agnosticism on this question that takes politics as the process for answering it.

          But I do I hold this view about libertarians (that they should be prepared to offer up a rough sense of the limits of their embrace of what is to me clearly a limit-trending philosophy) simply because I hear the word itself to give the suggestion that I have described. Specifically that for me, wile for a libertarian to give her idea about the right public-private balance that should be struck in her society over the long-long term in the most optimistic (for her) political scenario as, “I don’t know precisely” is just as acceptable as it almost always is in any circumstances, nevertheless to answer it with, “I don’t know at all, even roughly, and further, I don’t believe I need to try to know, but I do have these short-term prescriptions to talk to you about” throws the entire meaning of the enterprise into doubt — again — just for me in my reaction to those statements. Because as someone else has said in the thread, there are many short-term ideas that people of all stripes might very plausibly agree to simply on their own incremental merit. That doesn’t answer the question, “What is libertarianism,” or “How libertarian are you?” I think this is a problem for libertarians who are not game for the theoretical discussion of the limits of their embrace of their philosophy. I think this even in the cases when the individual libertarian in question knows quite clearly what immediate steps she would like to take, and is interested primarily or exclusively in talking, at a maximum, about how I might feel about perhaps implementing some experimental version of one of them. If they describe themselves as a libertarian, I naturally wonder what that means, and think that it doesn’t make much sense for them to use that big fancy word if all that is on their agenda are these few specific proposals that we can probably run down in one friendly door-knocking session.Report

    • “To the extent that my characterization of libertarians’ goals is accurate, there is a potential danger here: the ideal might be a good one (at least it is arguably good), but the steps taken to bring government and/or society closer to it might be harmful or might militate against reaching that goal.”

      How might they be harmful or militate against reaching that goal?Report

      • Larry M in reply to Mike Farmer says:

        Well for starters the fact that many (not all) libertarians and “libertarians” end up in alliances with conservative Republicans that are the strongest supporters of the national security state. “War is the health of the State.” There will be NO significant progress towards a more libertarian nation without the dismantling of the national security state.

        I personally would go even one step further – a sincere libertarian should probably focus MOST of his political enegery on issues surrounding the national security state. Even if one doesn’t believe that it’s direct effects are the most liberty destoying products of the U.S. government (I belivee that but I understand how people can differ on that point), but it’s indirect effects most certainly are.Report

        • Mike Farmer in reply to Larry M says:

          Good lord — libertarians are focused on the national security state — I’m not sure who you consider libertarian and what you’re reading.

          Libertarians and consevatives agree on certan economic issues, but even here the conservative haven’t followed through, and even if some librtarians voted the least of two evils, it appears they were right in light of Obama and the Democrat’s record on civil liberties. It doesn’t matter what the left preaches, it only matters what they do.Report

          • Larry M in reply to Mike Farmer says:

            The problem is largely that we are talking about two different things (here at least). My comment was purely in the realm of the political. Any libertarian who holds their nose and votes for the Republican (who may be good on some issues but is almost always hidesously bad on the national security state) is IMO taking an action ultimately very counterproductive to any kindof libertarian future. Even a Rand Paul, who (maybe) has some libertarian qualms about the national security state is highly unlikely to be a meaningful libertarian voice on those issues. (I hope I’m wrong on this, though.)

            Note that I’m not about to defend the Democrats from a libertarian perspective (except perhaps to the very limited extent that contemporary movement conservatism is SO bad that a hold your nose and vote for the Dem is (from the livertarian perspective) perhaps somewhat justifiable). Obviously abstaining from voting, and/or voting for a libertarian candidate, is the “purer” option, and just as obviously my comment does not apply to libertarians who follow that route.Report

        • Will H. in reply to Larry M says:

          From my view, I believe that libertarianism will naturally supplant our modern-day conservatism.
          I think it would have already if conservatism wasn’t driven so much by corporatism these days.
          But I expect libertarianism to gain ascendancy at the time that corporatism begins to lose its stranglehold on conservatism.
          Meaning, not any time soon.Report

          • Mike Farmer in reply to Will H. says:

            Will H. — I agree.

            To a larger point, much of what is happening in the intellectual realm right now is what happened during the mid 20th century when European intellectuals found themselves defending communism because they were afraid that being seen as anti-communist would associate them with the assorted abhorent groups on the right, neo-fascists and such. Sometimes I consider the libertarian with integrity as a free-thinker with enough self-confidence to accept ideas from both sides if they are in accordance with the free-thinker’s values. The European intellectuals made the mistake of placing supreme value in the Cause and not in actions and principles, thereby justifying the means by the end of the Great Cause.

            But there coud be some libertarian posturing going on, I grant.

            Tony Judt wrote in Post War:

            “Genuinely reactionary intellectuals were thin on the ground in the first decade after the war. Even those, like Jacques Laurent or Roger Nimier in France, who styled themselves as unashamedly of the Right, took a certain pleasure in acknowledging the hopelessness of their cause, fashioning a sort of neo-Bohemian nostalgia for the discredited past and parading their political irrelevance as a badge of honor. If the Left had the wind in its sails and History on its side, then the new generation of Right-wing literati would ake pride in being defiant losers, turning the genuine decadence and death-seeking solipsism of inter-war writers like Drieu la Rochelle and Ernest Junger into a social and sartorial style — thereby anticipating the ‘young fogeys” of Mrs. Thatcher’s Britain.”

            Perhaps more liberals need to call the radical progressives on their statist excesses, and libertarians should drop the defiant loser posture, and both focus on ideas and principles regardless where they originated.Report

            • Will H. in reply to Mike Farmer says:

              Ok, you’ve emboldened me to think this through a bit further.
              I would say that when it becomes apparent that the interests of small businesses are separate and distinct from large cap multi-nationals, then the stranglehold will start to ease up.
              That corporatism resembles a pyramid scheme the more and more I look at it.
              From what I’ve seen, it usually takes something really big to make people notice something really obvious, so I would expect a great deal of suffering on the part of the dupes as a necessary component to any significant shift in fundamentals.Report

  4. Larry M says:

    Fair enough, though I would say that as I’m a fair distance down the same ideological road that you are.

    But that said – the kind of critique that you get from the NYT – doesn’t the garden variety libertarian – and the stuff coming out of the garden variety libertarian think tank – contribute to the problem? That is, if the critique isn’t interesting, maybe part of the problem is that the loudest libertarian voices for the most part aren’t the ones saying much of interest.

    The libertarisan voices calling for “scal[ing] back the war on drugs, overseas militarism, [and] SWAT raids on poor people,” and “framing it in a larger, more compelling narrative about moral hazard and crony capitalism and so forth” and be drwoned out by the voices whining about the welfare state and public education. And that’s the “real” libertarians – forget about self described “libertarians” who (say) actually DEFEND the war on terra, or local land use regulations.

    It’s true that, for someone genuinely INTERESTED in this stuff there is plenty of more interesting work being done – but you can hardly blame the typical NYT reporter who is probably exposed mainly to the more typical libertarian voices – often bought and paid for by corproate America.Report

    • Mike Farmer in reply to Larry M says:

      “The libertarisan voices calling for “scal[ing] back the war on drugs, overseas militarism, [and] SWAT raids on poor people,” and “framing it in a larger, more compelling narrative about moral hazard and crony capitalism and so forth” and be drwoned out by the voices whining about the welfare state and public education. And that’s the “real” libertarians – forget about self described “libertarians” who (say) actually DEFEND the war on terra, or local land use regulations.”

      Can you give me examples of loud libertarian voices drowning out thoughtful liertarians?Report

      • Larry M in reply to Mike Farmer says:

        Well, I could be very obvious and point to the large readership of Glenn Reynolds, compared to more legitimate libertarian voices? Maybe that’s a bit unfair, since I think we can agree that Reynolds is no libertarian by any reasonable use of the word. But he calls himself that, he generally isn’t disowned by legitimate libertarians, and he is percieved as a libertarian voice. I could make a similar argument about the typical tea partier who calles himself a libertarian but thinks that Obama’s biggest problem is that he isn’t killing enough Muslims, and wants to keep the governments hands off his medicare.

        Even confining ourselves to legitimate libertarians … There’s CATO, which does some good work, but the stuff from them that gets publicized tend to be (a) not the positive stuff that Kain highlights, and (b) fitting confortably into the NYT stereotype. Their work on climate change, for example. (Gee, who would have thunk it given their funding sources?) Or their (related) laughable “work” on local planning issues. Reason … is better. Though there is STILL about three times as much of the minarchist, Republican light, crap than the kind of issues Kain rightly prefers. And their comment section – ugh. Espcially on Kain’s pet issues. (Well, except the war on drugs, where their readers generally are on the right side.) Often tending to be soft on militariam, and huge fans of corporate America, downplaying or ignoring issues “about moral hazard and crony capitalism.” And I think that the typical self identified libertarian you tend to met on the street is more like the typical Reason commenter than (say) Radley Balko.

        On the whole, the old fusionism is still quite powerful – partly for tactical reasons, partly for reasons of genuine conviction – you’re MUCH more likely to see a rant about the welfare state, or the school system, or climate change, than a post on crony capitalism, or militariam, or even the drug war. (Though in fairness the drug war is the one area where the “liberal” position is somewhat “loudD among libertarisns.) i.e., the issues closest to the hearts of libertarians polical allies – Republicans – get the loudest voice.

        And you have to think that theReport

        • Mike Farmer in reply to Larry M says:

          I’m sorry, I don’t see this from libertarians, for the most part. I’ve read a few libertarians who call themselves Republican Libertarians, but I don’t consider them serious. For the most part, in places like Cato and Cafe Hayek or from John Stossell , I see serious libertarians criticizing the war, crony capitalism, education policy, over-bearing environmental policy — just about all libertarians with a popular voice have criticized corporate welfare, and I don’t know any who don’t want to end the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. I don’t see Glenn Reynolds as a libertarian — he’s more of a moderate pulled to some libertarian-type ideas in my estimation. The overlapping ideas among conservatives and libertarians regarding limited government are coincidental, because the other libertarian positions regarding pot legalization, ending the wars/non-intervention, gay rights, practically all the social issues, are far different than most conservative positions. Conservatives have historically talked about limited government, but when in power have expanded government power — I wouldn’t mix the two, because it can be misleading. The commenters at Reason have known each other for a long time, and most of their banter is based on inside humor.Report

          • Larry M in reply to Mike Farmer says:

            The first mistake you make is conflating the voices that you read & enjoy with the loudest voices.

            The second mistake is subtler – as someone “inside” the libertarian world, I think you are not sufficiently aware of the extent to which you are blind to what I might call the “center of gravity” of the stuff that’s produced by CATO, Reason and Stossel. It’s not that they don’t talk about the drug war, militarism, crony capitalism, and social issues – but that by and large they talk a lot LESS about that stuff than about climate change, taxes, schools, the welfare state, and other Republican friendly issues. Or constitutional issues – the Reason/CATO position on the commerce clause would result in a massive rolback of the state. Agree or disagree with that position, it fits in perfectly well with the NYT steroetype.

            And finally, there the biggest achilles heel of the contemporary libertarian movement: climate change and related topics. They don’t just criticize “over-bearing environmental policy,” they take an exteme, maximalist position on such issues. And, yes, that is a function of their funding sources. Oh, sure, you can find more reasonable libertarian voices on those issues, but you have to look are for those voices – and they certainly are not at CATO or reason.

            On an ancillary issue – it’s hard to take seriously an institution which publishes Randal O’Toole.

            Stossel I have other problems with, and IMO he also contributes to the sterotype. But this comment is already too long.Report

            • Larry M in reply to Larry M says:

              Okay, can’t resist, on Stossel – I can’t believe that you offer him up in opposition to my point; I think he reinforces it. Looking at his list of pieces on the ABC web site, and on Real Clear Politics. It’s just relentlessly, relentlessly Republican friendly topics – nothing that I could find on militarism/the national security state, nothing really on crony capitalism. Okay, a few (very few) pieces on the drug war.

              Add to that they fact that he is a polemicist with a deserved reputation for playing a little fast and loose with the facts. Ugh. He is a prime example of what is wrong with the face of contemporary libertarianism.

              And, again, it isn’t even that I disagree with a lot of what he writes. The problem is his choice of topics, his extremism, his tone and his lack of accuracy.Report

          • Larry M in reply to Mike Farmer says:

            And a quick look at Hit and Run’s front page confirmed my second points. Lots of interesting posts – many of which I agree with entirely, some of which I agree with partially – but the center of gravity is very much on conservative friendly libertarian issues – tobacco, health care (several of those), climate change, food regulation, etc. There are also a few that are hard to pigeon hole – e.g., a link to a bizzare Cathy Young piece on the “no labels Movement” (a worthy goal in theory, but in practice the worst kind of statist centrism – yet Ms. Young comes out in favor of the movement, albeit with some reservations). And, yes, one or two on the drug war. Nothing on militarism/the national security state, nothing on crony capitalism.

            As for cafe hayek, they are indeed less subject to the “Republicans who like to smoke pot and don’t hate gay people” tendency of CATO and Reason (yes, I exagerate), and you can see more stuff on the drug war, crony capitalism, and the national security state. But (aside from the fact that few non-libertarians are even aware that they exist) they feed the stereotype in another way, in terms of being (by and large) true minarchists.Report

            • Mike Farmer in reply to Larry M says:

              If Republican ideas are closer to libertarian ideas than progressive ideas, then I won’t make the mistake of being untrue to myself out of fear of association — as long as a libertarian states clearly where they differ, then so be it.

              I think the mistake you make is finding what you are looking for and ignoring the rest. But I’m not going to get into this silly gae of score-keeping, and I won’t be intimidated by fear of association.Report

              • Larry M in reply to Mike Farmer says:

                But that wasn’t my point, at all. Let’s see …

                Let’s seperate the political realm from the … intellectual realm. Perhaps somewhat artifical, but …

                A libertarian who takes his or her intelelctual role seriously – and Reason and CATO at least profess to – will take the evidence where it leads, political party aside – as you profess to (and I see no reason to doubt you). And will provide a balanced picture of the idealology – i.e., not one article on the drug war for every 10 articles on health care, and one article on the national security state for every 100 artcles on climate change. I think it’s pretty clear, though, that – in terms of the topics they choose to devote attention to – Reason and CATO AREN’T blind to party. Stossel even less so. Or, maybe more to the point in CATO’s case, aren’t blind to their, uh, funding sources. Which is what it is … I mean, it’s not as if the kind of bias I’m talking about is unique to libertarian institutions – but to get back to my ooriginal point, if part of the stereotype is that libertarians are Republicans who like to smoke pot and don’t hate gay people – pretty clearly Reason and CATO by and large contribute to that perception. And Stossel even more so.

                On the political front – who do you vote for? Let’s go back to one of Mr. Kain’s original points – there are different varities of libertarians. I certainly can see how some types of libertarians could decide that on balance the Republicans are marginally less bad – marginally – and maybe even hold their nose and vote Republican. But that’s a seperate issue.* Its understandable how someone who writes for Reason or works for CATO could let their poltical party preferences (or funding cources) effect what issues are addressed most prominently – but then you can’t turn around and complain that libertarianism is misunderstood, when the primary libertarian outlets don’t provide a balanced picture of what libertarianism is about.**

                *Parenthetically, my own opinion, as stated elsewhere, is because of the salience of the national security state, a libertarian vote for a Republican is counterproductive. But I see how some could disagree.

                **And the fact is that, for many libertarians, property rights are explicitly more important than other rights. Agree or disagree with whether that should be the focus of libertarianism, that reality contributes to the skewed public perception of libertarianism.Report

              • Mike Farmer in reply to Larry M says:

                Property rights are the foundation of all other rights.Report

              • Rufus F. in reply to Mike Farmer says:

                Wait, what? Don’t get me wrong- I’m all for property rights, but aren’t there natural rights that would apply to any living person, even if they didn’t have any property to speak of? Or does “property” include the body?Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Rufus F. says:

                The South’s biggest grievance was that the North wasn’t respecting their property rights (i.e. not returning escaped slaves.)Report

              • Mike Farmer in reply to Rufus F. says:

                I didn’t say ownership of property is the foundation of all rights, but if the right to own property is abolished, this means the government owns the presses, the books, the distribution system, and how can religions be free if all property — Bibles, Korans, etc., and buildings — is owned by the State, and how can we have a right to fully pursue happiness if we can’t own and do what we will with the fruits of our labor. Without the right to own property, the State controls property. I think it’s easy to see how all rights grow out of the right to own property, yes, including our body — we would be dependent on the State for everything, and this is dangerous. If the State owns property, it can take it away, it can place conditions on the use without our consent. How can we be free if we own nothing, always dependent on the permission of the State, not allowed to use property to express our freedom — if freedom can’t be expressed, of what use is it.

                People who don’t own anything to speak of are protected because we have the right to own property and others own property so we are not at the mercy of the State.Report

              • Mike Farmer in reply to Rufus F. says:

                “The South’s biggest grievance was that the North wasn’t respecting their property rights (i.e. not returning escaped slaves.)”

                Of course, this has nothing to do with what I’m talking about, but the comment speaks more to your attitude and bitterness than anything else. You are implying that I support property rights because I would like to own a slave — otherwise the comment has no meaning in this conversation. It’s ludicrous and I don’t appreciate it, but you wouldn’t care about that. I’ve never accused you of such.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Rufus F. says:

                I’m pointing out a situation where property rights and human rights were 180 degrees opposed. I’m disagreeing with you, not attacking you personally.Report

              • gregiank in reply to Mike Farmer says:

                Are property rights the foundation for freedom of speech or religion??? I’m not seeing that.Report

              • Mark Thompson in reply to gregiank says:

                First, I must say that I disagree strongly that property rights are inherently the foundation for other rights – one cannot, a priori, deduce a particular system of property rights, so to say that all other rights are based thereon pretty much destroys any concept of natural rights or inalienable rights.

                However, historically people who lack property rights quickly find that they have no freedom of speech or religion – those freedoms are placed entirely at the mercy of those who do have property rights. And no matter what system of governance or economy one has in place, at least short of a utopian anarchy, there’s always going to be someone with property rights, whether it be Leviathan or your landlord. The best that can be done is to have a system of property rights that is applied equally and consistently and which everyone has the ability to obtain.

                Where we will always wind up with debate is on the meaning of that “ability to obtain” phrase, which is pretty much why it’s wrong to assume that one system of property rights is inherently more just than another. But if you don’t have some system of more or less uniformly (or at least non-arbitrarily and consistently) enforced property rights, those other freedoms quickly turn out to exist in name only. Note, however, that in the absence of a uniform system of property rights, the party doing the infringing can be either Leviathan or a nominally private actor.Report

              • Mike Farmer in reply to gregiank says:

                “Note, however, that in the absence of a uniform system of property rights, the party doing the infringing can be either Leviathan or a nominally private actor.”

                Yes, tyrants can be called many names, but they are tryants the same.Report

              • Larry M in reply to Mike Farmer says:

                Well Mike, certainly that is a common libertarian argument (though not by any means beyond dispute). But the practical consequence of that common belief is that – in practice, at least – most libertarian’s public face ends up … matching to a large extent the typical libertarian stereotype.

                At the risk of beating a dead horse, if libertarians spend 95% of their time talking about property rights and 5% of their time talking about other rights … you can’t really blame the man (or the NYT reporter) on the street for … thinking that the typical libertarian cares more about property rights than they care about other rights.Report

              • Larry M in reply to Larry M says:

                And fwiw, the SUBSTANTIVE response to the “property rights come first” argument is that you can make the same type of argument for political rights – really there is a pretty strong argument that you need the whole panoply of rights to ensure other rights.

                That, and the fact that it’s not all or nothing. Yes, a regime that eliminated property rights entirely would almost certainly be un free in other ways. But it doesn’t follow that small limitations on property right necessarily endanger other rights. Say what you will about the income tax, but it has hardly led to a totalitarian dictatorship (and I would argue that the most egregious limitations on liberty are almost entirely unrelated – the national security state and the war on drugs. I say “almost” only because the income tax does facilitate those outrages.)

                And, finally, we have plenty examples of regimes that grant property rights but restrict other rights. i.e., some type of private property rights MAY well be a necessary condition for other rights, but it certainly isn’t a SUFFICIENT condition.Report

              • Mike Farmer in reply to Larry M says:

                yep, there should be more written on the drug war, civil liberties and corporate welfare — issues which are very important. I agree with that.Report

              • Simon K in reply to Mike Farmer says:

                Unfortunately I think its a huge political error for Libertarians to take this position. I understand the argument that self-ownership and ownership of the products of our labour and fundamental. But unfortunately what most people hear is “property rights AS CURRENTLY FORMULATED AND PROTECTED IN PRACTICE are the foundation of all other rights”, and that’s really an inherently conservative position – one that simply favors the existing structure of society and radically resists any change. Some people who self-label as libertarians but are really, temperamentally, conservatives, want to take that position and to say “property is the foundation of liberty” or anything that heads in that direction makes the libertarian movement objectively, as the comrades used to say, just an adjunct to the conservative movement.Report

              • Mike Farmer in reply to Simon K says:

                All I have to say further about property rights is wait and see what happens without them. There’s no way I’ve found to convince people who believe they aren’t that critical to other rights. Having rights in theory is not all that attractive, since we live in a real world of action — freedom is more than a concept — it’s about the freedom to act. But the main point is that without the right to own property, property isn’t common — that can never work — you will have managers of property making decisions regarding its use, and who thinks the managers will not disallow anything that threatens their power and control? Without the right to own property, all other freedoms are restricted, which means we live by permission from the managers of property — I don’t call this freedom, and I don’t call what’s left rights — there would be no rights, only what’s permitted. Everyone would be trying to please the managers for advantages — what a fun world. Even speech would be strictly limited, because if you needed space to gather peope together to complain about the managers of property, you’d have to get permission from the managers who’d want to know why you need the space — or if you wanted to publish a book calling for property rights, you would be denied the use of the press — I doubt you would get permission. I guess you could go from door to door complaining, but when the managers found out, they could stop you from being on those properties or take away your alotted space, or allot you a space in a Siberia-like place such as North Dakota.Report

              • Mark Thompson in reply to Simon K says:

                Simon: Over the last year and a half, I’ve started probably 6 different posts trying to say exactly this. I’ve finished none of them, because I couldn’t figure out how to explain it. So thank you for this.Report

              • Simon K in reply to Simon K says:

                Mike – I understand, I really do. I’ve been talking to people about this since I was 17 years old, and I get it. Really, I do. You don’t need to tell me again. The reason I appear unconvinced, even though I actually mostly agree, is that there are important caveats that you and almost everyone else who makes this argument are missing. The problem is that property in the sense of “property is freedom” is not the same as property in the sense of “possession is nine tenths of the law”. A great deal of what is currently possessed got that way through coercion, theft, slavery, fraud and conspiracy.

                I’m not arguing that property rights aren’t in principle a foundation of freedom. I’m arguing that actually-existing property is an unfortunately mixture of freely acquired property and downright tyranny that theft, and if you systematically pretend the second component isn’t there while promoting “libertarian” ideas you stand the risk ending up with something that has very little to do with freedom and a great deal to do with preserving the status quo.

                Mark – Thanks. I think you’ve actually said much the same thing quite a few times, but maybe not quite as explicitly.Report

              • Mike Farmer in reply to Simon K says:

                Well, Simon, I agree, any property acquired through coercion is illegitimate but we can’t go trace titles back to the beginning — there hs to be a starting point — I don’t know how to ascertain if proerty handed down through generations or sold many times over is legitimate or not, but if a case can be made, then, yes, justice should prevail. Of course, that’s a different subject than the statement I made, so it doesn’t refue what I said. If you are saying no property ownership can ever be legitimate because of the history of original acquisition, then I don’t know what to say — but, someone will be managing it since the original inhabitants are not around.Report

              • Mike Farmer in reply to Simon K says:

                I meant other than the records we have, as far as ascertaining ownership going back to the beginning.Report

              • Mike Farmer in reply to Simon K says:

                One more thing, what do you think should be done to make the right to own property legitimate so that we’re protected from the State?Report

              • Larry M in reply to Simon K says:


                I’m assuming that you are aware of the extensive thinking on this issue from left-libertarians. Of course, since they tend to be anarchists, your question would hae no meaning, since there WOULD be no state, not even a minimal one.

                I’m not necessarily ENDORSING a left-libertarian approach to property, and I have no idea if that’s where Simon is going, but his comment, knowingly or not, points in that direction.Report

              • Simon K in reply to Simon K says:

                Mike – I certainly don’t think we should go back through generations and of transfers and try to establish justice of both acquistion and transfer. It would be hugely disruptive and massively unfair to people who’ve for the most part not broken the law.

                I don’t have any easy answers here, and really my bigger worry is not historical injustice so much as the impossibility of having a system of property rights that properly protects everyone’s self-ownership and also doesn’t impose intolerable enforcement costs, and the consequent ongoing injustice. Its a problem with property in natural resources that we can’t actually separate the unimproved resource, which no-one really has any fundamental right to, from the labor that’s done on it. Locke tried to solve this with his proviso – saying that it was okay to claim bits of the commons as long as there was plenty left – but of course this doesn’t really work because actually natural resources are scarce. But its an even bigger problem with more complicated derivative property rights. Copyright is problem for exactly the opposite reason – that bits are not scarce, but that we want to protect author’s rights to the product of their labour. As a consequence the enforcement costs are becoming intolerable, or in practice the law in not being enforced. Another example of large enforcement costs is the ongoing fiasco with proving ownership of the note in mortgage foreclosure cares – the very long and complex paper trails obviously exceded the finance industry’s ability to keep up, and as a consequence courts are foreclosing basically just because the bank says it owns the note and on almost no other evidence.

                Which is to say that in many cases our system of property rights either doesn’t really offer full protection, or imposes system-wide costs for benefits that necessarily only go to a few in the first instance. The state, as the entity that protects property, has to step in and decide which costs are acceptable – whether its better for someone to lack protection for their work, or to socialize the cost of paying for that protection. It can’t not decide – and libertarianism as such has nothing really to say about which way it should decide or how, because of course this is a problem where we have to compare benefits that accrue to different people and its therefore inherently political.

                I don’t know how to fix this – I find some variants of anarchism attractive because they’d give us scope to experiment and see what system was least bad, but the practicalities are overwhelming and the end result might well be worse. In the end, in the absence of better options, I come back to something more like the status quo that you’d be happy with – we have to accept that the process of protecting property rights and therefore the actual distribution of property is inherently political and therefore both potentially and actually unjust for unavoidable reasons.

                Given that, we firstly have to guard against powerful actors skewing the system in their favour. In recent years, unfortunately, many such have used “free market” rhetoric to justify doing precisely that. Secondly, we have to accept that many people will be caught out either without proper legal protection to let them profit from their talents, or at least paying the costs for other’s protection without much benefit of their own. Both of these compromises mean relying on the state to act against the powerful and in the interests of the disadvantaged. I know very well that this is a devil’s bargain and that it doesn’t work very well, at least in the US. Possibly with constant vigilence and a better understanding of how its meant to work it could work better, but that’s about as much as I can come up with.Report

              • Mike Farmer in reply to Simon K says:

                I don’t really see a problem with paying for protection of property rights, the top 50% are paying the greatest part for the protection and they have good financial reason to pay for the protection. Plus, the fact that they have property rights helps to protect the property-less from tyranny and gives them the opportunity to own property at some point. The fact that property rights encourage work, entrepreneurship, job creation and wealth creation makes everyone better off, even, like I said, those without property.Report

              • Mike Farmer in reply to Simon K says:

                Larry, even in a Stateless society property rights would still be an issue and protection would be needed — Nozick wrote about how this would probably lead to at least a minimalist government. In this case, you would be protecting your property from thieves and gangs who don’t have official positions.Report

              • Simon K in reply to Simon K says:

                Larry – I agree with the left-libertarian position on property, but I don’t accept their solution. Like all anarchists there’s a “then a miracle occurs” step in the middle of the path from here to their preferred world.

                Mike – Either I’m failing to communicate my point to you, or you don’t really care whether property facilitates justice or not. Which is fine, but an odd position for a someone who cares about liberty to take.Report

              • Mike Farmer in reply to Simon K says:

                Simon, because I disagree doesn’t mean I don’t care about justice — property rights to me are critical to justice. I simply disagree with what you’ve presented.Report

              • Larry M in reply to Simon K says:

                Mike – I don’t disagree with you (I’m more or less in the same place as Simon w/r/t the left libertarian take on property – I think it’s theoretically right, but from an instrumentalist perspective I think we would be in a pretty rough spot, state or no, without SOME sort of protection for property rights, albeit not necessarily what a doctrinaire libertarian would mean by that). However, some (not all) left libertarians WOULD disagree with you, at least w/r/t natural resources.Report

              • Larry M in reply to Simon K says:

                Also Mike, while ageeing with you w/r/t your statement about the necessity of property rights in a stateless society (aside from the pedantic point that I’m not sure the term “rights” has much meaning in a stateless society), I’m more on Simon’s side otherwise.

                Let’s imagine a society where property was historically distributed in a way that we can all agree was unjust – say, Europe in the late middle ages. Would a libertarian suggest that such a society was ripe for a minarchy which enforced then existing property rights? I would hope not.

                And this isn’t JUST a thought experiment. There are clear contemporary examples – see, e.g., post-communist Russia, where “free market” reforms entrenched and even facilitated a very unjust property distribution.

                Of course, in the U.S., many people think the existing distribution of property is the result of injustices. You can even get there from a somewhat libertarian perspective – see crony capitalism, rent seeking, and public choice economics. Now, even in that context there are arguable justifications for strong property rights enforcement. But I think one can at least understand why some people see that as perpetuating injustices.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Simon K says:

                I am not schooled in the theory here, but I have a hard time seeing how we would say that property rights are fundamental to all other rights, when it seems so obvious that if that is so, and the denial of rights can occur as Mike vividly lays out in the comment above beginning, “All I have to say further about property rights is…”, then the same denial can occur to those who do not own property within a system where property is protected, as it can in a system where property is not protected from the state. If this is the fundamental

                And I know that Mark and Simon have an answer to this problem – namely that such arrangements will in practice likely be the result of an unequal system of property protection that we should not make the center of a system of general protection of rights. But there’s is nothing necessary about such a distribution of property in principle that it could only come about by an unequal application of property protection. Certainly in the actually-existing world, that is how such arrangements have come about, but in the actually existing world the entire concept of rights is essentially confounded by the reality of how humans tend to treat one another. If humans by and large act as though other humans don’t have the same rights as they do (and they do act that way), then in the real world we show that we are not a species that in fact recognize fully equal rights in each other. We merely nod in the direction of good treatment in order to push back norms of pure remorseless might, theft, and murder from dominating our behavior. Any discussion of rights is a theoretical one. I don’t see any reason why in theory a fair system of property protection couldn’t result over time in more and more acquisition and stratification in a similar way that the unfair system that did exist yielded. We can’t know that it was only the unfair scheme that yielded the great acquisition of property abutted against great disposession that has been the rule in economic history. In an ideal world, unless they could be defined away, there could always be people without property, even in a fair system of property rights. If all the rest of their rights are dependent on having property, as Mike’s scenario suggests, then in fact other rights besides property would still be in danger. Which they always are in any case, since this is a non-ideal world.Report

              • Mark Thompson in reply to Simon K says:

                Michael- I personally don’t disagree with any of this, and in fact I think what you say actually is just another way of stating my position, which is that there is no fundamentally just system of property rights, even as holding equal legal rights in some system of property rights is necessary for truly fundamental rights to have any meaning.

                The reason I view certain strains of libertarianism as functionally indistinguishable from certain strains of conservatism (albeit the very best strains) is that they are unwilling to question the existing system of property rights, viewing it as either ideal or good enough that it is not worth altering. I disagree with this position, but it has some real merit.Report

              • Mike Farmer in reply to Simon K says:

                I will accept that I could be wrong. I’ve made my argument. When I think about what it would be like without the human right to own property, to own, use and enjoy the products of my labor as I wish as long as it’s not violating the rights of others, thus, all property being managed by the State or some other managing agency, I can imagine any other rights I have at risk of being rendered useless and restricted to the point of having no value. The State has made laws governing property rights, and I will not defend any of these without taking each law on its own merit, but that is largely the point — when the State is involved determining what rights mean and how they can be restricted in certain cases, then all bets are off, and there can certainly be unfair restrictions on some and favors for others. I see rights as human rights prior to the State. I admit it is an ideal view, but it doesn’t change what I believe about property rights supporting all other rights. Yes, we live in a world where the ideal application of rights is not a reality, but lots of injustices have been realities for people in the past, and they were changed. The problem here, I think, is that most are looking at how things are regarding property rights, and I’m looking at how they could and should be — from my perspective, that is — who elses, huh? Thanks for the discussion — peace out.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Simon K says:

                Mark – actually I shouldn’t have suggested you did disagree even in theory. I see now it’s just that you’re making the point that in the present world, the formulation is most certainly flawed, since rights protection (including property rights) is in fact such a dicey, political, non-impartial business here (and likely in any possible world).Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Simon K says:

                And Mike – I actually do find plausible your point that, taking rights for whatever they might be worth after all the doubt about their existence and contingency in their protection, that depriving people of their right to property may degrade their ability to exercise their other rights in a way that achieves all the personal fulfillment they can achieve by their own means, in a way that the deprivation of no other right would degrade their ability to so exercise all their other rights. But I actually think this will tend to be a subjective, personal, and even situational question more than a broad rule. And I think that, since theorizing about rights lends itself to devising the most robust schemes we might arrive at, there is no reason in theory to concede that certain rights will be dependent on any one other right. If we have rights, we have them, and we can construct ways to protect them severally, not merely dependently on each other. The protection of property certainly strengthens those who own property in their ability to exercise their other rights with greater force. But insisting on the protection of property as the foundation of the protection all other rights will look quite a bit different to a person who is poor in terms of real personal property who relies more on the protection of his various other rights such as those to speech, worship, or from unlawful search based solely on his personhood and independent of his ownership of any property.Report

              • Mike Farmer in reply to Simon K says:

                “The protection of property certainly strengthens those who own property in their ability to exercise their other rights with greater force. But insisting on the protection of property as the foundation of the protection all other rights will look quite a bit different to a person who is poor in terms of real personal property who relies more on the protection of his various other rights such as those to speech, worship, or from unlawful search based solely on his personhood and independent of his ownership of any property.”

                You seem to think there is a permanent property-less, poor class that have no need of property rights. They’re other rights would be just as restricted without property rights, even if they don’t yet own property. Because we have the right to own property, it gives the poor hope of advancing and really enjoying their other rights to the fullest — like the rich man. That’s it — no more on this — I’ve exhausted what I can say.Report

              • Simon K in reply to Simon K says:

                Mike – Sorry my last comment was a bit abrupt. I wanted to say something before going away from the internets for the weekend, but I don’t think it was very helpful.

                What I was trying to get at was that you’ve switched tracks in your argument. At the start of this thread, you said “property rights are the foundation of all rights” – that’s an argument I know well that comes from self-ownership and which I think is pretty strong, given an ideal conception as of property rights as always giving enough protection that no-one’s labor is stolen from them and no more protection than that.

                But now you’re saying, in response to the point that real-world property rights are nothing like ideal in that sense and can’t ever be, “well, property rights use useful, the costs of under/over-protection fall mainly on those who benefit”. I also largely agree with this, but its a fundamentally different kind of argument.

                Now we’re allowing that, yes, property rights as enforced aren’t perfect and can’t be perfect, but they’re nonetheless a good idea. That’s true, but it doesn’t let you rhetorically take property rights for granted in the way the idealized natural right argument does. It might better serve justice if some property rights were stronger or weaker than currently, or if the burden of paying for their enforcement fell differently, or even if some property were redistributed (in a non-arbitrary and predictable manner, since the last thing we want to do is create arbitrary powers). You’ve not made any argument as to why this wouldn’t be the case.

                I personally think that it is the case – There are some specific legal rights I can point to that I’d fix, but more generally some redistribution is needed to ensure that those who do get caught up in the unavoidable unfairness of the system don’t find themselves without basic necessities.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Mike Farmer says:

                Property rights are the foundation of all other rights.

                I’ve been chewing on this for a while and hammered down what bugs me about it.

                I would instead say that “Self-ownership” is the foundation of all other rights.

                So, yeah, property has something to do with it… but it’s not property of land or of stuff. It’s property of self. Without that, you ain’t got diddly.

                Greg, down a ways, asks “Are property rights the foundation for freedom of speech or religion??? I’m not seeing that.”

                I would see self-ownership as the foundation for freedom of speech (“you don’t have the right to force me to shut up”) and the foundation for freedom of religion (“my mind is my own and I will use it to worship God as I understand Him and you don’t have the right to force me otherwise”).Report

              • gregiank in reply to Jaybird says:

                Jay-That seems pretty reasonable to me. That, however, does not seem to be the way people usually refer to property rights. Property rights seem to refer to stuff like land.

                I’m not sure i’d say one right is the foundation for all others. Even people who own nothing but the clothes on their back are free to say what they want or have a blog. They may have nobody listen to them. Certainly there have been various dictatorships where some people have a lot of stuff and the power to keep it ( although not as many rights to keep it as the US) but there is little or no freedom of speech. And we all know which famous central european dictatorship did not have any freedom of religion or speech but people still had property.Report

              • Will H. in reply to Mike Farmer says:

                I have to disagree with this, Mike.
                I would say that the right to one’s person is the foundation of all other rights, and property rights are a recognition that property is an extension of the person.
                That is, that property is essentially composed of the sweat of the brow, and the brow retains ownership of that sweat.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Larry M says:

                Larry M.,

                Your critiques are well-written and thoughtful, and I find myself partially in agreement–so far as rejecting the more p0lemical folks like Stossel. But I can’t agree with you in your complaints about thesubject matter issue. It sounds like a complaint that they’re not focusing on the issues that you think are most important, or they’re writing too much on issues that will have conservative, rather than potentially liberal, concurrence. But that’s not really a fair critique. You can’t meaningfully judge people for being interested in different issues and not focusing on the ones you’d prefer them to focus on.Report

              • Larry M in reply to James Hanley says:

                But James, that’s not exactly what I meant, though most likely it was my fault for not communicating better. I wasn’t critisizing libertarians so much as saying that they are to a large extent responsible for the stereotype. Partly because, well, the stereotype has some truth to it (for many or even most self described libertarians), but moreso because you can’t blame non-libertarians for not going deeply beneath the surface. I mean, if the man on the street doesn’t realize that libertarians are deeply critical of corporate welfare & militarism, most of the reason is that, for whatever reason – and it may be an entirely legitimate reason – those topics are not emphasized by libertarians. Or emphasized as much as critiques of the welfare state & other conservative friendly topics.

                Now all THAT said, one could certainly argue that a NYT reporter should be held to a higher standard than they typical man or woman on the street.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Larry M says:

                But the stereotype isn’t just that all they care about is taxes–the stereotype is that they don’t care about people.

                If the man on the street doesn’t understand libertarianism, it’s fair to say that libertarianism shares that blame, but it’s also fair to blame those who persistently misrepresent it. Marxism is also very badly understood by the man on the street–probably more misunderstood than libertarianism–but it’s not just Marxists’ fault. It’s also the fault of media talking-heads who persistently misrepresent Marx’s ideas.

                And to a substantial extent, libertarians are trying to defeat that stereotype, because each time it’s presented, you can count on libertarians (whether angrily or wearily) pointing out the flaws. But then that effort gets discounted, as has been done on this thread (or perhaps it was the other one), as “well, if it wasn’t at least partly true, nobody would be saying it,” or “well, where are the other libertarians who ought to be speaking up?”

                There’s no winning with that type of game. It’s like the conservatives who keep asking where are the moderate Muslims who will condemn terrorism. No matter how many Muslims stand up and condemn terrorism, they either ignore them, pretend they’re lying, or ask for yet more to stand up.

                Let’s face it. Conservatives consistently misrepresent liberals, and liberals consistently misrepresent conservatives. Why would you think that they might accurately portray some other ideological group whose values threaten their own? The misrepresentations drive me crazy, but there is a more plausible explanation for them than you’re recognizing–the human tendency to villify those in opposition.Report

              • Larry M in reply to Larry M says:

                Well now we’re getting somewhere, with more specifics about the type of stereotype we are talking about.

                I’m going to mostly punt, given that I have things to do and have already spent too much time here over the last couple of days. I’d simply say this: your point is well taken, but, as you acknowledge to some extent, I think libertarians do contribute to this stereotype as well. I’m not going to spend too much time detailing just how – heck, it might just feed into your understandable frustrations – but can we at least agree that part of the genesis of the steroetype is the loud minority (?) of doctrinaire Ayn Rand acolytes who argue pretty explicitly that altruism is bad (and yes, the public understanding of Ayn Rand is abysmal, but that, too, is partly a product of the fact that many of her adherents have a distorted view of her views).

                Now, THAT said I agree that libertarians are certainly NOT to blame for those people who have mistaken impressions about libertarians, AND then refuse to listen to attempts to correct those mistaken impressions. ignorance is excusable; persisting in ignorance despite efforts to dispel ignorance, is not.Report

          • Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Farmer says:

            I just ran across this bit of idiocy. The very antithesis of wanting to be taken seriously is (as Cato did) giving a senior position to Tucker Carlson.Report

            • This is what I was talking about earlier– this focus on personalities rather than ideas. On one hand the left says that they prefer a Big Tent and diverse ideas, but when real diversity is introduced you’re smeared by association.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Farmer says:

                I don’t think “diversity” means that you have to hire morons. They’re not technically a protected class (and probably won’t become one, given how they’re overrepresented in many lucrative professions.)Report

              • Larry M in reply to Mike Farmer says:

                I would add, Mike, that the problem is that the personalities don’t present the ideas in an accurate mamner. I mean, do you really think that Mr. Carlson is going to be a good spokesman for libertarian ideas? Really?

                Now, maybe your point is the reasonable one that, while of course a reasonable person will ignore any “contributions” from Mr. Carlson, that shouldn’t negatively reflect on ideas presented by CATO’S more … um, intellectually capable and honest … contributors. Fair enough. But then let me turn it around – isn’t the problem here that CATO is focuing on personalities, not ideas? Mr. Carlson doesn’t have a reputation of a serious thinker of any sort, and certainly not a serious LIBERTARIAN thinker.Report

              • gregiank in reply to Larry M says:

                But Carlson often wears a bow tie, doesn’t that automatically give an air of being intellectual. On the other hand i saw Carlson fomenting “death panel” lies out of his liehole last night so screw em.Report

              • Mike Farmer in reply to Larry M says:

                Why don’t you take a few of Carlson’s positions and refute them rather than smearing him?Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Farmer says:

                Let’s start with the death penalty for dogfighting.Report

              • gregiank in reply to Mike Farmer says:

                “Death panels”= Lie

                Other then that i think he just tries to make outrageous statements, my guess is, just to get publicity. He made some statement about thinking it was just fine for the French to sink a Greenpeace ship with a bomb a few years ago but was against terrorism. Hard to take him seriously.Report

              • Larry M in reply to Mike Farmer says:

                Oh come on Mike – SURELY you aren’t taking the position that Carlson is a serious thinker – libertarian or otherwise – as opposed to a particularly egregiously dishonest political hack?

                I’m not questioning the sincerity of your beliefs – but increasingly I’m at a loss to understand just which part of the NYT article you object to.Report

    • Will H. in reply to Larry M says:

      Being in New York, the poor guy probably had to bribe someone to show him where a libertarian was just so he could write the article.Report

  5. Rufus F. says:

    I do agree with everyone that it’s a lazy path that article treads. But, you know, as much as people hate to hear this, it’s not as if stereotypes come from nowhere. And I’d feel a lot worse for libertarians for being lumped in with the supposed extremes if I hadn’t been in one too many pissing contests with libertariaer-than-thou types about who loves human freedom more- and usually precisely because I’ve pointed out to them that one of those more clearly unfeasable projects is unfeasable.

    Finally, Erik I thought your response was fine and thoughtful, and don’t expect you to answer for libertarians anyway. So it’s nothing personal when I say that I’m still waiting for a substantive response from libertarians, instead of a critique of the prose style and how the article is just so unfair. If people are upset about being compared to teenagers (which is certainly a reasonable thing to be upset about), I’d recommend not writing responses that read like the eternal teenager lament, “They just don’t understand us, man! They just don’t get what we’re all about!”Report

  6. Perhaps I’m projection, but what I see you working your way towards is a sort of understanding of and neefulness of social responsibility most closely associated with conservatives.

    “That which is not forbidden is permitted” is a maxim for law, but not for a functioning society, and if liberals have given up on the idea of mores, conservatives have poisoned it by focusing too much (almost exclusively) on how (their) mores might (be made into law to) govern (other people’s) sexual habits while turning a blind eye to moral outrages and excesses that are far more commonplace and damaging to the social fabric than a little buggery here and there.

    I turn again to that James Fallows filibuster graph. Something valuable was lost, abandoned, thrown away or otherwise misplaced, and we are struggling to find or remake it, even as a transnational algorithmic morality (What is “NSFW”, Alex?) rushes in to fill the vacuum. “China is best understood as a corporation,” is what Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt tells us. I find that disquieting.

    Appendix: Just last night YouTube’s Chief of User Experience tweeted her indignation that the MPAA rated a movie with a surfet of f-bombs as R, declaring that it should be PG13 at most. But when I asked her why YouTube rated a taking heads only passage interview passage (clothed, neck up, talking) from “Damon and Hunter” as NC17 (18+) she fell silent. No doubt she felt caught in a bind because she thinks of Google as a just organization. But it’s not — it’s a moral one.Report

    • Rufus F. in reply to Tony Comstock says:

      Okay, I’m in danger of joining Will in the Guest Post Press Gang here, but here’s why I think you should make this a guest post: 1. I find what you’re talking about here fascinating, but 2. I don’t know enough on the topic and would like to know more. So, just think about it.Report

      • Larry M in reply to Rufus F. says:

        I think functionally – i.e., on a policy level, talking about contemporary movement conservatism as is is, – Mr. Kain is saying almost exactly the opposite of what you are saying. Political philosophy aside, it seems to me the aspects of libertarianism that Mr. Kain finds most attractive are precisely those aspects that contemporary movement conservatism finds LEAST attractive, and vice versa.

        Though I’m not sure you would disagree entirely (“conservatives have poisoned it”).

        Even on a purely philosophical level I would not agree that the concept you are discussing is “most closely associated with conservatives.” Social responsibility is as much a concept of liberalism (in the modern sense) as it is of conservatism – though obviously in both cases (I would say moreso for contemporary conservitism) often honored more in the breach than the observance. And also obviously the nature of those responsibilites are understood differently by liberals and conservatives. It’s certainly true that in certain realms (i.e., sexual morality) liberals are (mostly) fine with the concept of “that which is not forbidden is permitted” – but in other realms not so much. The same is true for conservatives, albeit with different believes about which realms deserve stronger social mores.Report

      • Tony Comstock in reply to Rufus F. says:


        Thanks very much for the vote of confidence. Through my work as a filmmaker I’ve been given a very odd point of view (Alan Jacobs once jokingly said he was passing the King of Odd Cultural Placement crown from himself to me) and in the 6 years that I’ve been writing about my work and how I see things, I’ve come to believe I have some observations that warrant consideration.

        But there is a certain disonence for me. As the years go by I find my self doing more and more writing and less and less doing, which is not entirely satisfying. From almost two years ago:

        [A]fter 15 years of making my films first and foremost for the entertainment of my audience, I feel compelled to pause, and turn my attention towards making explanations for the benefit of critics, theorists, and lawyers.

        I’ve been working on the above as a guest post for LOOG for sometime now, but it keeps spiraling out in ways that I can’t seem contain inside of a blog post; and in fact I actually invited an editor friend of mine to join me in sequester for a few months in the hopes that a book would emerge from the blogging and blog commenting I’ve been doing over the last several years. Unfortunately the timing wasn’t good, so that will have to wait for another time (if ever.)

        I’ve read your comment 5 times now and it still seems like you took what I wrote to mean the exact opposite of what I intended (presuming I have a good grasp of my intentions!)

        No doubt the fault is mine. As alluded to above, though I feel strongly that I’ve had some sharp and useful insights, I’m not nearly at a point of synthesis, and it’s not uncommon even for those who know me well to misunderstand me on the first pass.

        In the hopes of clarity I will say this: What I am alluding to has virtually nothing to do with policy. By it’s very nature, policy must be rooted in justice, and justice lacks the capacity for flexibility and ability to inflict opprobrium, which is to say the filibusters (or those who inflict their polyamorory on others impolitely) go unpunished. The result is a tragedy of the commons and the law of lemons all rolled into one; and my present solution bears an uncomfortable resemblance to The Mosquito Coast.Report

        • Larry M in reply to Tony Comstock says:

          Well Tony I at least partially got it (“Though I’m not sure you would disagree entirely”). To the extent that I didn’t, I think it is at least partially a function of the shifting and sometimes almost contradictory definitions of “conservative.” See my response to Mr. Kain below.

          But I admit that your lastest still leaves me somewhat stumped as to where you are going with all of this.Report

          • Tony Comstock in reply to Larry M says:

            “But I admit that your lastest still leaves me somewhat stumped as to where you are going with all of this.”

            This is probably in large measure because I don’t know where I am going, but again going back to the filibuster graph (which I’m using as a proxy for a wide range of observations) my current belief is that the injustices that were woven into our pre-60s social fabric were so deep that they required nothing sort of a complete unraveling to be excised. I think this was the Right Thing To Do, but came at a yet unreckoned cost, ie a self-reenforcing collapse of morality.

            Morality used to be one of those word/ideas I was deeply mistrustful of because morality cannot function (properly) without injustice, and like many others I was weened on the idea that the greatest crime their can be is injustice.

            But having watched the online world evolve, I’m come to think that society cannot long function without morality, and that right before our eyes a new moral order is being created; one that is algorithmic, crowd-sourced, and hyper-risk averse.Report

    • I think you’re correct at least to some degree. To Larry’s point, I think movement conservatism is the wrong lens to view these questions through as the movement is inherently ideological and reactionary – two very un-conservative qualities. I think I’m trying to find the proper balance between traditionalism, liberty, and progress which can lead to the most natural and organic society possible. I like the term Civil Societarian personally.Report

      • Tim Kowal in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        “I think I’m trying to find the proper balance between traditionalism, liberty, and progress which can lead to the most natural and organic society possible. I like the term Civil Societarian personally.”

        That sounds just terrifying.Report

        • E.D. Kain in reply to Tim Kowal says:

          Forgive me but i can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic or not.Report

          • Tim Kowal in reply to E.D. Kain says:

            With reference to my original comment near the top, as someone who takes political theory seriously, it is very troubling when political movements don’t clearly express their animating ideas. Conservatism has a lot of intellectual literature to explain its propositions as a political ideology. Same with libertarianism. Not so with liberalism; as I mentioned above, it goes out of its way to mask its ideas and divert focus to its beneficent ends.

            So, when you suggest a new movement based on a whole bunch of nice-sounding words that are apparently divorced from their intellectual heritage, it sounds like trouble.Report

            • “as someone who takes political theory seriously”

              Could you expand on this a little bit?Report

            • Larry M in reply to Tim Kowal says:

              Well but really does contempory conservatism (a a movement) take its political theory very seriously? I don’t think so; see other comments in the thread.

              Liberals have a pretty well developed philosophical heritage as well. They TALK about it less, and one could argue that they are as far removed from it in practice as are the conservatives, but the distinction that you are making is meaningless in the contemporary United States.

              Of course the reality is that very few people DO take political theory seriously. Good or bad, it is a reality of a Democratic Republic.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Larry M says:

                Well but really does contemporary conservatism (a a movement) take its political theory very seriously?

                Tax cuts are good, libruls are evil, and all foreign policy issues have military solutions. Oh, and Jesus.

                What else do you need to know?Report

            • E.D. Kain in reply to Tim Kowal says:

              Well then Tim, I suggest you read up on your Burke. These are not merely ‘nice words’ divorced from context or history.Report

              • Tim Kowal in reply to E.D. Kain says:

                Oh, I didn’t mean to suggest those words don’t have context or history. What I meant to convey was quite the opposite: all those words have not only a very rich context and history, but several of them. Much mischief occurs when important words like these are given such drastically different meanings. Liberal constitutional scholars, for example, make deft use of these homonyms in finding new rights or new government powers. “Property” and “liberty” can mean anything or nothing depending on what result a judge wants to reach and what background political theory will get him there.Report

              • Tim Kowal in reply to E.D. Kain says:

                On the other hand, Erik, perhaps I was being hard on you. In fact, I don’t think I would have much difficulty applying the description of your political-ideological objectives to my own. My beef is primarily definitional: I know how I would define the words you use, and the rest of the world does, too, because I hale from a conservative ideology, making qualifications as needed. You, on the other hand, have eschewed conservative ideology, and to my knowledge, have not officially adopted any other. As I noted before, this makes it very difficult to meaningfully evaluate your arguments.Report

            • Simon K in reply to Tim Kowal says:

              Really? John Stuart Mill? John Rawls? Jeremy Bentham? These people don’t exist? Not to mention the thousands of other Liberal writers who are bit more debatably Libertarian.Report

            • Simon K in reply to Tim Kowal says:

              Oh I see. Its not that you really think there are no liberal writers. Its that you think they’re hiding their real intentions. Forget it – if you believe over a third of the American population votes for a political movement that hasn’t explained what its “really” about nothing I say will convince you otherwise.Report

              • Tim Kowal in reply to Simon K says:

                Mill and Bentham were classical liberals, closer to libertarianism than modern liberalism. Rawls I’ve not studied since college, and I’m not clear how his political theory plays out—i.e., what does a Rawlsian constitutional democracy look like?

                In my opinion, both conservatism and libertarianism make compelling claims that the U.S. constitutional system reflects their respective camp’s intellectual heritage. Most liberal constitutional scholars, on the other hand, don’t try particularly hard to devise a theory of their own. Bruce Ackerman, for example, proudly promotes the practice of amending the constitution through judicial decisions. This is a tacit admission that the Constitution, as written, simply doesn’t reflect his camp’s views. Yet, Ackerman and his ilk seem to be on top: though the big-“C” Constitution lines up closer with conservatism or libertarianism, the law that matters anymore is the little-“c” constitution, which liberal constitutional lawyers and judges have decisively captured since the New Deal.Report

              • Simon K in reply to Tim Kowal says:

                Bentham was a utilitarian who’d happily have rendered his own grandmother’s brains in acid if he thought it would produce an increase in the general wellbeing. Mill not quite so much, but along the same lines. There’s nothing very libertarian about that. There was always a split withing liberalism between those who thought you could sum utilities across individuals and those who thought you couldn’t, or more accurately between those who thought you never could and those who thought you absolutely couldn’t and those who thought you sort of could sometimes. Modern liberalism is an outgrowth of the latter, libertarianism of the former.

                Rawls is basically a social contract guy – he devised a particularly novel scheme for outlining the kind of social contract people who agree to in principle, the basic criterion he ends up with being that all inequalities have to be justified on the basis of the welfare of the least well off. He then outlines two schemes that he thinks fulfill this criterion, the most interesting one being a “property owning democracy” in which there is widespread ownership of capital and a minimal social safety net.

                You will now probably tell me that modern liberals are not utilitarians or social contractarians but socialists or leftists or “progressives” or somesuch. I say horseshit. Sorry, but the number of actual socialists in the Democratic party is almost zero. Sure, there are some – they have to go somewhere after all – but in actual position to influence policy? Zero. 80% of the party consists of people trying to push their particular sectional issues to the top of the agenda, 10% consists of people who basically just like holding political office, 5% are loonies, and the remaining 5% who actually hold the deluded belief that politics is about policy mostly believe in something vaguely like Rawls’s property owning democracy as an ideal. In this respect its almost precisely identical to the Republican party.

                I’m not sure why you bring up the US Consistution – its a perfectly fine constitution – both an excellent expression of 18th century liberalism and brilliant political compromise. But other than that there’s not very remarkable about it except that its incredibly difficult to amend and has therefore become a football in various political battles that it doesn’t really have much to do with.Report

        • First we kill all the lawyers.Report

      • Larry M in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        “the movement is inherently ideological and reactionary – two very un-conservative qualities”

        Very true. But given the way that conservatism is functionally defined in the United States – does it advance the argument much to use “conservatism” in a sense which may be historically correct, but which is different than, and even contradictory to, the way it is used by most people in the contemporary U.S.

        I mean, I do understand people who are conservative in the historical sense who don’t want to cede the label to contempory movement conservatism. But maybe we are simply too reliant on such lables, maybe that should be the lesson. I no longer use lables to define myself; most people would call me a liberal, and I did define myself that way once, I’m increasingly libertarian in my outlook, and I am in some respects dispositionally a (Burkean) conservative. But I wouldn’t use any of those labeles to describe myself.Report

  7. Francis says:

    There’s libertarianism as a philosophical ideal, which can be entertaining for political debates on the internet, and then there’s libertarianism as a political force to be reckoned with, which is making some progress (like the Paul family) but still has a long way to go.

    Take a lesson from the environmentalists. Starting back in the 50’s (Rachel Carson), they built political power from the ground up around specific ideas, and lobbied intensively for those ideas, then used those early successes to build a wider movement. So pick 1 or 2 ideas. For example, lobby each state government to turn marijuana possession into an infraction, and lobby at the federal level to remove marijuana from Schedule 1. Or lobby state governments to create state AG oversight over local police department SWAT use. Or, to pick up on one of Balko’s ideas, lobby state governments to mandate that crime labs report neither to the cops nor the prosecutor but to the county/city administrative officer.

    Having done some of it, I’ve gotta admit that lobbying is aggravating and frequently tedious. But until I see sites like this one picking up on a call by Reason for California libertarians to travel to Sacramento on a particular day to lobby for a particular bill, libertarianism will mostly remain an internet fantasy.

    (seasteading? really? C’mon, man.)Report

    • Tony Comstock in reply to Francis says:

      “(seasteading? really? C’mon, man.)”

      On the presumption that this comment is directed at me, I’ll use this as a jumping off point to demonstrate some of what I’m talking about. The nature of this medium will imbue what follows with more sharpness than is intended, but that doesn’t mean none is intended:


      Who are you? Where do you live? What kind of car do you drive? How many kids do you have? How much money do you make? You’ve done some of it? Some of what? Working for whom? Paid for by whom?

      What kinds of clothes do you where? What kind of shoes? How do you wear your hair? Long? Short? Are you bald? Are you fit? Are you fat? Do you have clear skin?

      My point, if it’s not clear, is that we are engaged in a radical revision of what it means to be a part of a community; and it is from these radical new vision of what community means that our new morality must necessarily flow. I am not predicting that it will be better or worse, or even if it will ultimately hold. (Some of the most radical elements may already be locked in, others my simply have to give way to essential elements of the human condition.)

      As far as seasteading goes, no, not seasteading. Something much much more incomprehensible, at least to someone like you, at least as I can understand who you are with the scant clues you’ve provided.Report

      • Larry M in reply to Tony Comstock says:

        Well but what I think you are talking about is HARD, really hard, even for people who share your beliefs. Maybe sea steading is even more realistic? I mean, I GET the Mosquito Coast reference now, but how did THAT turn out after all?

        I’m inclined to think that the answer – in practice – and this is just for me, but I suspect most people – is to work at making the new vision … more human, more sane, whatever that ends up meaning, instead of withdrawing (increasingly unrealistic).

        And that’s coming from someone who (I think) shares at least SOME of your concerns about where we are/where we are heading.Report

        • Tony Comstock in reply to Larry M says:

          Mosquito Coast turned out quite badly, but that’s at least partly because a movie where he build an ice factory and his family lived in a lovely treehouse happily ever after the end wouldn’t have been very interesting. (Filmmakers who want to make films about wonderfully successful, happily ever after sexual relationships face similar challenges, meeting them with greater or lessor success!)

          I agree, withdrawing is not the answer, or at least it is not the answer for me. Partly that’s because, like the Harrison Ford character in M. Coast, I have megalomaniacal, narcissistic, and messianic personality traits that require an audience to be adequately sated; and partly because I am a modern man, and too many of the things that I need, want, and enjoy are made possible only by a modern, highly connected society.

          About ten years ago I picked up a copy of James Glick’s Faster: The Acceleration of Almost Everything which I read and enjoyed very much.

          I was particularly taken with his explanation of how computerized airline routing/scheduling had made airlines usage of equipment and crews more efficient, but had also made them far less able to deal with disruption. This point was hammered home six years later when I found myself stuck in the SW hub in Baltimore for eight hours, with my 6 year old and 6 month old daughters, because the weather over the entire United States was “too good”. The system was so tightly coupled (Glick’s phrase) that it presumed a certain number of delayed/cancelled flights due to bad weather, and since the weather was so good that day that no flights were delayed/cancelled, there were too many planes in the air, and no room in the system for the flight we were supposed to be on. So there we sat, no meal ticket or other consideration of our sad state, because the delay was weather related!

          Conversely, it’s fascinating to me that New York’s airports were up and running faster than any other of New York’s public transport systems. It’s a lot easier to clear two airports than 6000 miles of streets choked with all manner of vehicles. (We spend the last few days trapped on E19th in Flatbush. Plows couldn’t come down the street because an ambulance was snowbound and blocking the exit. Finally people simply took to the streets with their shovels and we dug ourselves out. You don’t have to go to Nicaragua to find your Mosquito Coast glory!)Report

  8. Freddie says:

    The fact that Beam couches it all in a couple of pages of even-handedness doesn’t change the fact. That he goes out of his way to point out that libertarians are a diverse bunch before inexplicably lumping them all into the ‘abolish the welfare state’ camp is hardly egregious – it’s just sort of lazy.

    Agreed, and cosign. 100%.Report

    • E.D. Kain in reply to Freddie says:

      Glad to hear it. Love the Link avatar by the way.Report

      • tom van dyke in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        LINOs. Not much here that doesn’t abide comfortably with mainstream liberalism.

        Drugs. Gay rights. Gitmo. The military-industrial complex. Corporate colonialism-as-foreign policy. Strict separationism of faith and state.

        Hey, that’s cool. It is what it is. Call yourselves what you want. With the utter silence on Obama, Reid, Pelosi, et al., and the actual issues of the day, there’s nothing here that would disturb a faculty lounge at Harvard, or even raise an eyebrow.

        Rock on. Libertarianism is a harmless little fuzzball, no threat to peace at cocktail parties, let alone the prevailing order.Report

        • Not to put too fine a point on it, but what makes you think an over-turning of the prevailing order wouldn’t mean my boot on your neck and my cock up your ass?Report

        • E.D. Kain in reply to tom van dyke says:

          Tom – are you suggesting that nobody here has criticized Obama? For real?Report

          • tom van dyke in reply to E.D. Kain says:

            You’re asking me that question for real, EDK? Obama’s Euroleftism, or let’s call it charitably “communitarianism” or “social democratisma” or whatever label one is obliged to choose to actually be coherent—sits unchallenged hereabouts.

            Not that I accused anyone—my remark could easily have been taken as an address to the present discussion participants—but let the guilty accuse themselves. Admittedly, that was my subtext and bait, though. I don’t want to insult anyone’s intelligence, least of all yours. 😉


            Tony Comstock I like, though I doubt we agree on much. Unlike most of the mugwumpers hereabouts who sweat over the proper language to conceal more than they reveal, I seldom have any doubt about Mr. Comstock stands. This is a man to have a beer with, and even be the one who’s buying. The cock up the ass part is a polite invitation that I must table for now.

            Not that the mugwumpers are all that opaque, EDK. Their weasel-wording reveals more than they think it conceals, at least to the close and careful reader.

            How many Straussians does it take to change a light bulb?
            —None. The light is conspicuous by its absence.

            Cheers, mates. LoOG remains enjoyable. Very smart people here.Report

            • E.D. Kain in reply to tom van dyke says:

              I don’t know – I’ve had plenty of critical things to say about Obama.Report

            • James K in reply to tom van dyke says:

              Well I support free trade, school vouchers and the abolition of the minimum wage.

              That good enough for you Tom?Report

              • tom van dyke in reply to James K says:

                Harmless fuzzball stuff, no eyebrows raised in the Harvard faculty lounge, James K.

                But keep on rockin’ me. Pls forgive if I don’t respond to every flinch from mainstream liberalism. Vouchers and “free” trade—if it’s “fair” trade—are within acceptable limits of cocktail party dissent.

                Some points for abolishing the minimum wage—which I’m not sure I agree with—but JamesK, surely you realize how lame your badges of honor are. You only reinforce my observation about the prevailing flaccidity and orthodoxy. It doesn’t even move the meter.Report

              • James K in reply to tom van dyke says:

                What would you consider a Harvard-eyebrow-raising position to take? I’m not a minarchist so you won’t get abolishing the welfare state from me, and since I’m not American, It’s hard to work out what might be considered controversial. For instance, my support of free trade isn’t controversial here, but my support of nuclear power and genetically modified food is.

                I do support severely restructuring Social Security and implementing Singapore-Style health care reforms, and I can’t imagine either of your major parties supporting those. But then, I can’t imagine either of them supporting free trade either.Report

              • Koz in reply to James K says:

                “What would you consider a Harvard-eyebrow-raising position to take?”

                Vote Republican in every significant contested election for the next, say, 5 years. See how that one flies.Report

              • James K in reply to Koz says:

                Difficult when I’m not an American citizen (or resident, for that matter), surely you’re not advocating [gasp] voter fraud 😉Report

              • James Hanley in reply to James K says:

                JK: I support free trade, school vouchers and the abolition of the minimum wage.

                TVD: no eyebrows raised in the Harvard faculty lounge

                Not that he's ever been in the Harvard faculty lounge to know. Of course I've never been there, either, but I'm rather more familiar with collegiate/university faculty than TVD, and as one who also supports those positions, I can affirm that espousing them does more than simply raise eyebrows. I had a fellow political scientist once rise from the lunch table almost taking a swing at me, I've been berated over beers at the bar, and I had one colleague who took so much offense to my libertarianism that for several years he couldn't resist any opportunity to take a potshot at me in public. Most collegiate faculty are liberal leaning, and they do take serious offense at critique of such liberal policy bastions as public schooling, limits on trade, and minimum wages (which, of course, are never high enough).

                And if TVD doesn’t think free trade doesn’t ruffle feathers, I suspect he’s not been reading the letters to the editor section of his local newspaper (not that anyone could criticize him for skipping that section). And school vouchers have raised huge outcrys, both from liberal activists and teachers’ unions, and eliminating the minimum wage would create a huge public outcry. Congress keeps raising it despite objections from businesses and the fact that minimum-wage workers are not a substantial voting bloc–that suggests widespread public support.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to James Hanley says:

                What is it that you expect would occur if we lowered the minimum wage that garners your support?Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

                sorry, meant if we eliminated it.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Not speaking for James, but I can give my answer:

                Maybe folks will hire citizens than be willing to risk being caught by the Immigration Police.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Michael Drew says:

                There is also a post in the archives (OF COURSE THERE IS!) where we had an argument about this once.

                Sigh. So many memories. (You can see the past as prologue in some of the interactions!)


                We discuss the minimum wage in there a couple of times too.Report

            • Robert Cheeks in reply to tom van dyke says:

              Tom, I believe you’ve hit a nail on the head. I do enjoy these people and this site but I think many (not all by any means) of my highly edumacated interlocutors are closet Obama Men.Report

              • tom van dyke in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

                Oh Robert, I don’t want to start a war or accuse anyone of being a Democrat.

                It’s more the mushiness and mugwumpage, when it’s not PC. It just doesn’t move the peter meter.

                I’m going to take the next number of hours off, so no responses forthcoming, sorry. I just couldn’t take it any more after almost 200 comments spent performing a ballet around the elephant in the room.Report

            • Tom, you either misunderstand me or intentionally flatter yourself or both. I’ve no more interest in raping you than in gargling glass. But that’s here in this prevailing order; overturn it and who knows where the chips may fall. (Put the two of us in a gulaug, and who knows, you might be the best candidate to be my punk. I’ve seen the Joker’s Wild footage — from the plumpness of your face, I bet your haunches are meaty!)

              The broader point is that comment are typical of a sort of imagination-free libertarianism; a cozy-daydream, a drinking game to be enjoyed with friends, but never really considered in full, wide-ranging consequence. (You confusing imagination with psychosis and savant-like gift for trivia are telling details in this respect.)

              So blog banter? Maybe, if you can step up your game from snarky jabs for fellow traveler to real discourse. But beers? I think not.

              Tunneling your bowels in still on the table of course. Any port in a storm, and all that. I’ll be gentle, at least at first.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to tom van dyke says:

          Libertarianism is a harmless little fuzzball, no threat to peace at cocktail parties, let alone the prevailing order.

          I couldn’t possibly agree more.

          And yet, in some circles, the response comes that is so *VISCERAL* that one wonders “where the hell did that come from?”

          My theory is that the discussion is really a religious one masquerading as a political one. The only arguments I’ve seen that have about as much vitriol are ones over Biblical Inerrancy or Abortion or Israel.Report

          • tom van dyke in reply to Jaybird says:

            EDK—LINOs. Not much here that doesn’t abide comfortably with mainstream liberalism.

            Drugs. Gay rights. Gitmo. The military-industrial complex. Corporate colonialism-as-foreign policy. Strict separationism of faith and state.

            I didn’t accuse you, specifically. It was just an observation from someone with no stake or place here. I’m amused, not disgusted. This is par for the libertarian course.

            Nothing that would be discordant in a Harvard faculty lounge. “Edgy” but with a blunt point.

            Pls do refudiate. The only “edge” here was borderline psychotic, and I agreed with yr decision to let him go and stop embarrassing the blog any further. But it was fun, we must admit.Report

          • Mike Farmer in reply to Jaybird says:

            “Libertarianism is a harmless little fuzzball, no threat to peace at cocktail parties, let alone the prevailing order”

            Libertarianism isn’t a thing. In my opinion, libertarian ideas are simply classical liberal ideas before liberalism was taken over by those opposing a free market. European ideas regarding American enterprise and how it corrupts culture filtered into American politics and the name “liberal” was taken to express this anti-capitalist, anti-consumerist European mindset. Many libertarians have come up with ideas how to avoid government over-reach and separate the State from the economy, because this was part of the classical liberal philosophy. Classical liberalism was a reaction to the ancien regime, control of the few over the many. In the 20th century, classical liberalism was split into crony capitalism on the right and socialist/labor influence on the left — both sides were a “conservative” reaction to what was considered the chaos of the free market — powerful business interests wanted to control the threat of competition, and powerful interests on the left wanted to promote social change, egalitarianism, workers, culture against the threat of a chaotic and unfair free market.

            I disagree that libertarian ideas are harmless, because they threaten the status quo which has become a two party system growing closer together in reality even if not in rhetoric. Big Government Republicans and progressive Democrats are both invested in a powerful State, and a free market is the last thing they want. Look at the effort to destroy or co-opt even a superficial “libertarian” effort like the Tea Party — how do you think the two parties will react when valid libertarian ideas become a serious alternative?Report

            • Rufus F. in reply to Mike Farmer says:

              I think this is really interesting Mike. This is another topic that would make an interesting post. I’d add a note here that doesn’t really change what you’re saying at all:
              “European ideas regarding American enterprise and how it corrupts culture filtered into American politics and the name “liberal” was taken to express this anti-capitalist, anti-consumerist European mindset. “
              It’s always seemed to me that this distinction (that was made in America) was a bit arbitrary. Certainly, when you hear European writers and critics make this argument, it’s just as likely that they’re on the right as the left; and conversely there are left-wing writers (Bernard-Henri Lévy is an example) who make a habit of puncturing and ridiculing this idea. And a big part of it is that believing that the culture is in decline due to mass-produced crap doesn’t really peg you as a left-winger or right-winger over there. (In times past it did though.)

              In America, the idea that mass consumer culture is coarsening and vulgarizing the society as a whole probably enters with the Marxists (the Frankfurt school of cultural theory is who I’m thinking of), and so is pretty much “political” from the beginning. Marx himself sounds like a cultural conservative when he gets going, and probably was to some extent, but the real target is the “economic substructure”, which is supposedly revealed in the culture. Of course, the Frankfurters were never that important in America anyway, and all of that flips in the 60s, so that raging against cultural decline means you vote Republican and celebrating cultural liberation means you vote Democrat. This is pretty much in a nutshell why the 70s sucked.

              Because the cultural decline argument is not inherently political. There’s something really random about making aesthetic/cultural values into signs of political affiliation, and what happens is that politically-affiliated people tie themselves into knots trying to make the cultural argument fit their political loyalties. So, you have right-wingers who believe that mass culture is making Western society more vulgar and stupid, but they make a point of saying that the root cause is not capitalism or consumer culture; it’s that the heads of those media conglomerates are elitist liberal Mandarins pushing their values on an unwilling public (Theodore Dalrymple comes to mind). (Of course, there have been cultural conservatives on the right who were anti-capitalist, but they’re pretty hard to find after 1980 or so.)

              Conversely, you have left-wingers who either: A. Pretend that the most vulgar and stupid cultural artifacts are positive things that we should be broadminded enough to accept (the middle-aged professor trying to get into gangster rap), or B. Pretend that the vulgarization of culture is solely the result of capitalism- sort of the flipside of the cultural conservative argument- and the masses have been brainwashed/ dumbed down by scheming capitalists. You should read the Frankfurt school on Mickey Mouse sometime.

              At any rate, I think this is the cultural equivalent of both parties finding ways to express unease about a free market. But my whole feeling (as I’ve expressed here ad nauseum) is that there’s nothing especially political about the cultural decline argument; nor should the ways people struggle against cultural decline be political programs at all. In fact, it’s much worse when they are political programs because the instruments of culture then become beholden to a poltical party (which, of course, has happened too); but that’s a whole other topic.Report

              • Mike Farmer in reply to Rufus F. says:


                I think the European influence took form in the communist combination of culture-focus, anti-capitalism and proletariat power — France became the center of this cultural/political influence — Camus finally rejected communism because he horrors were too great — this filtered into the American left as the little guy against the Robber Barons. Hollywood put out films of the underdog against the capitalist system, but with reason, because capitalism was preverted by cronyism in an American Merchant-State. But it was definitely a “conservative” reaction to the free market from both sides. Neither set of power players wanted to leave the direction of America to chance in a fre market — somebody had to conrol it, so they thought, and so they’ve done. I’ve always thought that communism was an understandable reaction to the plight of workers, then facism and the American Merchant-State with the abuses protected by a government/big business collusion. Workers needed to make progress and push back, and communism did push businesses to pay attention to worker conditions — however, communism developed into something horrible under its leaders like Stalin.
                I propose the free market was lost in all this, and now needs to be revisited, sans cronyism and corporate welfare.Report

        • Larry M in reply to tom van dyke says:

          Okay … I think that your critique is laughable regarding at least some of the posters here. See, e.g., Mr. Farmer. And it’s not even clear to me what your main beef is (maybe it would be clearer if I had been exposed to your comments before – sometimes regular commenters engage in a kind of shorthand). Libertarians shouldn’t be concerned about the drug war, corporate welfare, and the national security state? Mr. Kain (and many of his readers), not being a minarchist, is insufficiently radical? There isn’t enough Obama bashing (in a post where … I don’t even see how it would fit)?

          If there is anyone in this thread that your critique could apply to, it’s me. But then, as I said, I don’t identify libertarian (though having libertarian tendencies), and heck, if it were up to me Obama would be tried as a war criminal. So if I’m an Obama apologist, I’m not a very good one.

          There is, of course, plenty to criticize Obama about on libertrian grounds. And if you want to call him a socialist, go aheads, though if you define the term that broadly, every preseident from FDR on, Republicans included, was a socialist. But what gets me about the libertraian and conservitive critique – and, I think your critique, if I understand you – is the notion that Obama is some sort of radical. This particular criticism is not simply wrong, but almost the antithesis of the truth. Obama is very much an establishment centrist – left centrist, sure, but as far from radical as you can get. Now, of course the system, for better or worse (worse IMO) tends to produce these kinds of establishment presidents – have we had a real radical president since Andrew Jackson? But even by that standard, Obama may be the most establishment president since Eisenhower. Well, okay, maybe Bush Sr. was more of an establishment guy.

          Now, for those of us who DO have some real problems with the establishment consensus, that’s a bad thing. What can you do about it? Withdraw to the extent possible – the Comstock solution. Or try to nudge the system in a desirable direction? The Kain solution.

          Or … work for radical change. And, yeah, the crew here – probably even Mr. Farmer – isn’t on board with that option. And, well, maybe we should be. But as Mr. Comstock said – rather colorfully, I thought – sometimes you go down that road and you reap the whirlwind.Report

          • Mike Farmer in reply to Larry M says:

            Even Mr. Farmer?

            Uh, I could be working harder for radical change than most here — I don’t know how hard anyone works for change. I ain’t no steenkin’ conservative. It’s just that the change I fight for might not be to your liking.Report

            • Larry M in reply to Mike Farmer says:

              Well, Mike, I did “probably.” But there are different kinds of radicalism … not just in terms of ideology, but in terms of means. And obviously Mr. van dyke doesn’t find your specific brand of radicialism … radical enough.

              And for what little it’s worth, the change you’re fighting for, while probably not quite to “my liking,” is maybe in some respects closer than you might think.Report

          • Tony Comstock in reply to Larry M says:

            I think the Comstock Solution and the Kain Solution are not as far apart as you might imagine.

            My chief concern is slack. Passage-making will teach you the best route is rarely a straight line and overdriving the boat yields useless, uncomfortable short-term gains at a longterm cost. Fine if you’re racing, but no way to live a life.

            Or to take it in a Lanierian direction, I think we’d do well to be more libertarian and more conservative and more liberal; which is to say we’d do well to be a little more human, especially as the world we’ve made for ourselves nudges us ever further from being persons towards being something else.

            Howard Chapelle’s critique of the much celebrated but (in his view) ultimately unsuccessful windjammers is particularly instructive on this count.Report

          • Larry M in reply to Larry M says:

            Can someone enlighten me, not a regular (though I’ve been an occassional reader), about what exactly van dyke is going on about, since he doesn’t seem to want to explain? I assumed he is an example of the tired “wake up! Obama is a dangerous radical bent on destoying America!” conservative, who not only thinks that this discussion of militarism/the drug war/corporate welfare is … a distraction from the danger of creeping – or, I should say, galloping – socialism, but that those things are positive goods. Am I right?Report

            • James Hanley in reply to Larry M says:

              Larry M.,

              Nobody can enlighten you to what Van Dyke is trying to say. He is a troll, although of a rather more intelligent kind than the average troll. Rather than simple ranting, his m.o. is obscurantism. He’s smart enough and well-read enough to give the appearance of having some meaning behind his vagueness, but I’ve been stuck with him through three blogs now, and it’s become clear to me that he very rarely does (although, again unlike the average troll, he occasionally does). He ought to be banned, but this isn’t a banning blog.Report

            • Mike Farmer in reply to Larry M says:

              I think what he’s saying is that most subjects here are about the flaws on the right — even the converstations about libertarians are about how close they get with Republicans, and the people here who claim some sympathy with libertarianism are really cocktail party liberals with some libertarian leanings, nothing that would threaten the status quo liberal establishment. He probably believes that our biggest problems now are being caused by progressives, but the majority of the criticism is aimed at the right. I suppose that can be judged by the readers.Report

              • Larry M in reply to Mike Farmer says:

                “nothing that would threaten the status quo liberal establishment”

                The interesting thing about THAT … is that ending the war on drugs, and (to a much greater extent) dismantling the national security state, would MASSIVELY threaten the status quo establisment, liberal and otherwise. I mean, one reason I DON’T self identify as liberal is that the typical liberal may be opposed to, say, the Iraq war specifically, or criminalization of pot, but confront them with a true critique of the national security state or the drug war and they shy away. The typical liberal favors a … kind of kinder, gentler hegemonism.

                Of course, it is true that the few true leftists in the United States will join in with a radical critique of the national security state. But say what you will of our relatively small “radical” left – they sure as heck aren’t part of the “liberal establishment” in any meaningful sense.Report

              • Mike Farmer in reply to Rufus F. says:

                That’s why I’m turning you in

                I loved that.Report

              • Thank you, Mr. Farmer, bullseye.

                I get the heat not because I’m too obscure, but because I’m understood all too well.

                Best to all. Rock on.Report

              • Heidegger in reply to tom van dyke says:

                Happy New Year to ya, Tom! All the best, and keep on truckin’ against the sycophants!


                Heidegger December 30, 2010 at 3:27 pm
                Rufus, if anything, it seems Libertarians are sheep in wolves clothing (this is not a mistake–I am purposely inverting this maxim) who desperately cling to their ideological “safety” zones. A sort of refuge, an oasis. It’s very important for them to have their few fawning, drooling sycophants petting them, patting them on the back, always giving them constant reassurance of their intellectual superiority, and their splendid, creative, new ideas to save humanity. It also gives them the luxury of witnessing life from an impervious libertarian vantage point, with no hard, messy ties to Republicans, Democrats, liberals, conservatives, anarchists, progressives, etc. The most important, essential aspect of this school of thought, is you can always, continually reinvent yourself! Into anything, anyone, anytime. Which also makes it just another silly, tired, impotent, ineffectual, thought exercise. Utopian? Hardly. Much too soporific and languorous for that island of thought.Report

              • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Heidegger says:

                I wasn’t aware that I had any sycophants. You’ll have to introduce me to them sometime.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to tom van dyke says:

                Perhaps there’s a place where you express yourself clearly, but if so I’ve not found it. In the threads I have seen, you seem to be saying “The whole system is evil, man. Blow it up and rebuild it from scratch, or better yet, let it stay in pieces. You got to stick it to The Man!”

                Are you waiting for a “Right on!”?Report

  9. Freddie says:

    This is probably too late in the thread to be worth noticing, but– utopianism is a red herring. Usually when someone accuses someone else of utopianism, it’s just a hand-wave, a disagreement that is made to seem like more than it is. Chris Beam, or whoever, doesn’t agree with some aspect of libertarian philosophy, and so he calls it utopian. Who would want a politics where we don’t consider ideal theory? I don’t think much of that.

    No, the failure isn’t in libertarians’ utopianism. The failure is in the uneven application of who gets to engage in ideal theory/utopianism. Look at the last thread. Jaybird, continuing his primary hobby of proving me right by trying to prove me wrong, accused me of murder. Go look. Because I believe what I believe, I’m guilty of genocide. Now, that’s categorically different from any old disagreement. Saying that someone has committed murder is a far sight from even angry denunciation. In fact, I would call it censorious. And that’s not unusual: while I of course am not condemning all libertarians or all of libertarianism, within the culture of libertarianism there is a deep and passionate desire to silence the socialist left. Jaybird is just one example of that.

    This is unfortunate as a matter of free discourse; it’s particularly unfortunate that a movement that is supposed to be devoted to liberty has that thread of censoriousness running through it. But what makes it really galling is the tendency for libertarians to be concerned with ideal theory and distant, for-the-moment unrealistic futures, but to forbid exactly that on the left. It’s a consistent dynamic in our discourse: those on the right are allowed to drift towards an idealistic minarchist future, but any left-wing drifting is immediately called sympathy for genocide. That’s unfair, and it happens to be contrary to elementary rules of logic and debate; I’m not a Bolshevik, Maoist or Stalinist, and I shouldn’t have to defend myself from the charge.

    Now, if it was just me, who cares, right. I’m a big boy, and I don’t care what Jaybird thinks. But imagine some impressionable young leftist comes around here and likes the blog and likes the conversation. Then he sees that if you’re too far to the left, you aren’t met just with disagreement (as anyone should expect) but with accusations of murder. That’s a bridge too far; it’s not a part of respectful conversation. And if that’s the case here, can you imagine how it is at or Instapundit?

    So that’s my beef– not that libertarianism on the whole is too utopian. It’s that too many libertarians fight for their own right to imagine a distant idealized future while denying those on the left exactly that.Report

    • Mike Farmer in reply to Freddie says:

      I have to call bullshit on this. Just because Jaybird said this doesn’t mean that you can accuse libertarianism of trying to censor the left — good God man, that’s so far from reality, it’s really weird. Libertarians usually criticize the left for promoting policies and government actions which they believe will reduce freedom and violate rights — that’s not censorship, that’s disagreement.Report

      • One more thing — tell me exactly how libertarians are denying you the right to imagine a distant idealized future? This is truly an odd thing to say.

        I don’t know of any libertarian, any libertarian, who doesn’t promote the free market of ideas — but that doesn’t mean that anyone has to agree with your ideas or not fight against those ideas entering politics and becoming coercive policies.Report

        • Herb in reply to Mike Farmer says:

          A couple things:

          A) Though they share the same root, “censorious” and “censorship” are not synonyms. Do not confuse one for the other unless you want to lose shades of meaning.

          B) Freddie is not complaining that libertarians disagree with him. It seems that he’s complaining that they’re the type of jerks who will disagree with him and then accuse him of genocide. I think he was pretty clear on that.

          C) My last comment, did you guys not get it? Did I format it wrong? Are you censoring me or just being censorious?Report

          • E.D. Kain in reply to Herb says:

            Sorry, the spam filter got it.Report

            • Herb in reply to E.D. Kain says:

              I knew it! Censorship! (I keed, I keed.)

              Actually, my mistake is obvious in hindsight. Note to self: Don’t leave the “website” field populated with links that can confuse a spam filter.Report

          • Mike Farmer in reply to Herb says:

            I wasn’t cunfusing words, Herb, but responding to this —

            ” It’s that too many libertarians fight for their own right to imagine a distant idealized future while denying those on the left exactly that.”

            I don’t need an explanation — I understood what he said.Report

            • In other words, who is denying Freddie the right to express his vision? He hasn’t even expressed a vision in this thread, but no one is stopping him, no one is censoring his expressing.Report

            • Herb in reply to Mike Farmer says:

              I feel bad saying this, Mike, but I think it’s pretty obvious you confused “censorious” (which means harshly critical) for some for of “censorship.”

              You even said this: “doesn’t mean that you can accuse libertarianism of trying to censor the left”

              But Freddie wasn’t accusing libertarianism of trying to censor the left. He was accusing libertarians of being “harshly critical” to the left. If you understood that, you did a poor job demonstrating it.Report

              • Mike Farmer in reply to Herb says:

                Herb, you didn’t read very well — if anyone was confusing the terms it was Freddie, and this is why I made the distinction between criticism and denial of expression.

                Freddie wrote:

                In fact, I would call it censorious. And that’s not unusual: while I of course am not condemning all libertarians or all of libertarianism, within the culture of libertarianism there is a deep and passionate desire to silence the socialist left. Jaybird is just one example of that.

                “This is unfortunate as a matter of free discourse; it’s particularly unfortunate that a movement that is supposed to be devoted to liberty has that thread of censoriousness running through it. But what makes it really galling is the tendency for libertarians to be concerned with ideal theory and distant, for-the-moment unrealistic futures, but to forbid exactly that on the left.”

                The he wrote:

                “It’s that too many libertarians fight for their own right to imagine a distant idealized future while denying those on the left exactly that”

                Forbid, deny, silence — these are the words he used. This is censorship — I made the distinction between disagreement and censorship. I was makng the point that bein highly critical and denying expression are two very different things, but for some reason you miss Freddie’s confusion of the terms.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Herb says:

                So let’s do a little word substitution, Herb.

                Saying that someone has committed murder is a far sight from even angry denunciation. In fact, I would call it censorious.

                This becomes: Saying that someone has committed murder is a far sight from even angry denunciation. In fact, I would call it harshly critical.

                For what it’s worth, I don’t think that anyone would have a problem with Freddie having said this… but what does Freddie say a few seconds later?

                within the culture of libertarianism there is a deep and passionate desire to silence the socialist left.

                I don’t think it’s necessarily a wrong reading of the use of “censorious” to assume it goes further than mere harsh criticism.Report

    • Mark Thompson in reply to Freddie says:

      1. Regarding accusations as censoriousness – I get your point, and I’m not necessarily going to defend it, except to say that it tends to be a tactic that is characteristic of humans writ large. I don’t think people even know when they’re doing it (myself included).

      2. I actually agree with the rest of your comment. For me, personally, my biggest gripe with modern liberalism – and conversely, believe it or not, one of the main reasons why I still enjoy everything you write, no matter how harshly worded – is its refusal to articulate or even acknowledge any kind of ends, any kind of moral vision; this is despite the fact that I know it has ultimate ends and moral visions (and they are not the ends and moral visions alleged by opponents of liberalism). My gripe with modern conservatism is the opposite – it claims to have a moral vision and an end but in reality does not.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        There have been claims made previously in this thread about what the “real” ends of modern liberalism are – and that modern liberals (intentionally?) obscure them. Perhaps it would be productive to hear your account of these ends.Report

        • I think there are several possibilities depending on how broadly one wishes to define “ends” while keeping in mind that the nature of political coalitions is such that preferred means often don’t well suit the ends.

          At the most abstract level (which I consider default preferences), it’s simply “err on the side of the less powerful individual.”

          At the narrowest level, it would be indistinguishable from the classical liberal strain of libertarianism (which I think has different ends from paleolibertarianism). This may be too narrow a level as a practical matter because there are myriad strains of modern liberalism that would not fit this description, but I think this definition would fit more liberals than any other description at this narrow level. In this respect, Tom Van Dyke’s comment about libertarians on this site saying nothing that would outrage a Harvard professor has quite bit of truth to it.

          I struggle more at the intermediate level definitions, which are the most important since they would be broad enough to encapsulate all or almost all liberals but specific enough to still present some kind of view of the proper relationship between the individual and the state. Even if I could articulate a good definition here though it would certainly be wrong for the simple reason that I am not involved enough in liberal politics. But logically it cannot be inherently contradictory of classical liberalism if my argument above is correct, in which case it cannot be simply “statism.”. So with all that in mind, if I was absolutely forced to articulate it, it would be something akin to “laFollette progressivism.”. One important note with that definition, btw: even to the (highly unlikely) extent it is a good definition, it is specific to liberals and does not apply to the Democratic Party, of which self-identified liberals are a mere plurality.

    • Jaybird in reply to Freddie says:

      In my defense, I’d like to think that my comment was funny.

      I would think that it be patently obvious that Freddie hasn’t killed “all those people” and the accusation itself was so over the top that OF COURSE it isn’t an accurate representation of the state of affairs.

      I do think that Marxism is analogous to Naziism and, for that matter, the Confederacy insofar as it was directly responsible for atrocities… while, somehow, it still has pockets of defenders despite its recent, ugly history.

      But Freddie is not a murderer and for me to keep up the appearance that I thought that he was for a second after I realized that he thought that the sentence was made in all seriousness was wrong on my part.

      I apologize.Report

      • Larry M in reply to Jaybird says:

        Wow, I like the civility on this site – really I do. And politically I am probably a bit closer to Freddie than you are. Though not THAT close. At all.

        But as gracious as your apology is, and as over the top as your original comment was, I DON’T think we should shy too far away from pointing out to people the possible (unintended) consequences of their belief systems. And I think it’s fair to point out that prior attempts to implement marxist beliefs have led to uniformly horrible results.

        Just as it’s fair to argue that full-on minarchism could lead to some pretty horrible consequences as well (even if unintended by its advocates).

        And finally, somewhat tangentially, when one is confronted with people arguing explicity for horrible policies – i.e., someone who defends invading other nations on egregious grounds (i.e., the “invade them and take their oil” or “convert them to Christianity” crowd) … well, in THOSE cases, IMO, civility goes out the window.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Larry M says:

          But as gracious as your apology is, and as over the top as your original comment was, I DON’T think we should shy too far away from pointing out to people the possible (unintended) consequences of their belief systems. And I think it’s fair to point out that prior attempts to implement marxist beliefs have led to uniformly horrible results.

          If I knew then what I know now, I would have had that conversation instead of making the assumption that my joke would have been obvious (and then getting all uptight rather than apologetic when I saw that it wasn’t being taken as the joke I thought it was going to be taken as).Report

        • Rufus F. in reply to Larry M says:

          Okay this might sound a bit airy-fairy, but could we maybe suggest that this happens to a lot of fairly reasonable beliefs when they become belief systems? The consequences of that happening tend to be pretty dreadful.Report

          • Mike Farmer in reply to Rufus F. says:

            I’m not sure I give any credence at all to what Freddie is claiming, unless he backs off the part bout denying his right of expression. We all still have the right to express our visions of the futue, but others have the right to denounce the vision, even harshly, then there’s the right to counter, and the right to counter back, with counter arguments lasting until someone gets tired. But the responses to the vision are not what’s important, if the vision has been expressed, then it’s there for everyone to consider — as long as no one is preventing the expression, then I don’t see a problem. Sometimes I’m too concernd about the harsh responses to things I express, but then I catch myself and say — well, it’s out there and this is what I believe — it’s on record.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Mike Farmer says:

              It’s not about Freddie. As he’s pointed out, he’s a big boy and can handle such things.

              This is about, of course, “the children”.

              But imagine some impressionable young leftist comes around here and likes the blog and likes the conversation. Then he sees that if you’re too far to the left, you aren’t met just with disagreement (as anyone should expect) but with accusations of murder. That’s a bridge too far; it’s not a part of respectful conversation.

              This isn’t about Freddie, Mike.

              It’s about future young Marxists.Report

          • Heidegger in reply to Rufus F. says:

            Rufus, if anything, it seems Libertarians are sheep in wolves clothing (this is not a mistake–I am purposely inverting this maxim) who desperately cling to their ideological “safety” zones. A sort of refuge, an oasis. It’s very important for them to have their few fawning, drooling sycophants petting them, patting them on the back, always giving them constant reassurance of their intellectual superiority, and their splendid, creative, new ideas to save humanity. It also gives them the luxury of witnessing life from an impervious libertarian vantage point, with no hard, messy ties to Republicans, Democrats, liberals, conservatives, anarchists, progressives, etc. The most important, essential aspect of this school of thought, is you can always, continually reinvent yourself! Into anything, anyone, anytime. Which also makes it just another silly, tired, impotent, ineffectual, thought exercise. Utopian? Hardly. Much too soporific and languorous for that island of thought.Report

        • gregiank in reply to Larry M says:

          The possible unintended consequences of everything are terrible and horrible. Everybody can saddle up a slippery slope fallacy and come up with some story about any idea leading to hell. Human history is filled with enough horror that any idea can be , in some way, tied to it. But where does that get us.

          What are reasonably predictable or likely consequences of a certain policy, that is what matters more.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

        “Marxism is analogous to Nazism”(m.i.)? What does that mean?Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Michael Drew says:

          Showing an analogy or a likeness that permits one to draw an analogy.Report

          • Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

            So you want to draw an analogy? It is customary to say what the relationship is then. It could be, “Marxism : Nazism :: Up : Down.” Or it could be, “Marxism : Nazism :: Cat : Kitten.” Or anything else. Or are you just trying to say they are similar? There is Marxism and there is Nazism, and there are probably about a million things one could say about the comparative relationship between them. Saying that there is an analogy is saying nothing about what you think about that relationship.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Michael Drew says:

              The sentence *DID* continue for a handful of words after I said the part you quoted. Look for the words “insofar as” and read after those if you want to get to the analogy itself.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

                You’re right. My bad. It was the “and” that threw me off. I still think what you are describing is simply a commonality that you see between these phenomena, not an analogy per se. And Nazism, of course, made killing a direct part of its program, while the intermediate steps of Stalinism and Maoism, among others, were necessary for Marxism being arguably responsible for mass killings. Ultimately, people kill people, and that’s who is “directly” responsible, not any -isms that may or may not have driven their actions.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Ultimately, people kill people, and that’s who is “directly” responsible, not any -isms that may or may not have driven their actions.

                Absolutely. 100%.

                But when a particular “ism” has been tried over and over again and the same thing tends to happen, that (for me, anyway) is a warning sign.

                I mean, let’s say that a country out there (NOT GERMANY) said “well, we want to try Naziism again, just try it.” Maybe they think that they can make it work right this time or something.

                If it results, again, in a ton of Jews, Gypsies, and Homosexuals being killed, would anyone be surprised? Could we not jump to the conclusion that there might be something intrinsic to the embrace of Nazi ideology that will pretty much guarantee a pile of dead bodies?

                How about if that happens a third time? A fourth?Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Michael Drew says:

              Here, I’ll quote the entire sentence again:

              I do think that Marxism is analogous to Naziism and, for that matter, the Confederacy insofar as it was directly responsible for atrocities… while, somehow, it still has pockets of defenders despite its recent, ugly history.

              I don’t think that Naziism is the same as Marxism or the same as the Confederacy when it comes to, oh, how women are treated.

              I do think that history has vindicated, more or less, the opponents of all of those and that those who continue to support those philosophies are, at best, very good at compartmentalization.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

                Compartmentalization. That would be the perverse willingness to consider the idea that a thing might not be simply identical with everything that it can arguably be associated with.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Michael Drew says:

                I think it goes beyond mere willingness.

                You have to actively disassociate yourself from a lot of things to feel pride when you look at the Stars and Bars.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

                Or the Swastika. But this is where it becomes important to look at what things actually were in history, not just what people did in their names. The Confederacy was founded to preserve chattel slavery; the Nazi party was founded to advance the true German race and expand Germany’s rule in Europe, and the use of murder of undesirables to achieve these ends was adopted shortly thereupon by the exact same people. Marxism, on the other hand, was invented largely in cafes in Paris and a library in London in the mid 1800s, whereupon decades later people who wanted to take over their and other countries adopted the ideology in order to do so. This is not to say that they didn’t sincerely hold Marxist political and economic views, but it is to say that not everything they did in taking and keeping control of their societies sprung from Marxism directly, or even ultimately.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Sure. And in 1880, why *WOULDN’T* you be a Communist? Hey, the Spectre is haunting Europe and Asia, after all.

                It’s that it’s 2010 now.

                That Spectre haunted the fuck out of Europe and Asia. In Russia, the Gulags were used as a way to force people into labor… either in the gulag itself or the threat of the gulag to the people outside of it. In China, they’ve recently admitted that they’ve found a whole new pile of bodies. North Korea? North Vietnam? Cuba?

                I understand that those folks in 1880 had *NO IDEA* that it would be used thusly.

                At this point we get to ask “how much do intentions really matter?” and “in the face of available evidence, do we get to say that they even matter *THAT* much?”

                I mean, I’m fine, I guess, with the argument that it, in its “pure” form has never really been applied. Hey! The same is true for Libertarianism!

                But it’s also true that sincere and honest attempts to follow the template have also been made.

                The US, for example, was an attempt at something close enough to Libertarianism at its founding. Yes, it had slavery (and had a Civil War that ended up resolving that particular issue and amended the Constitution with the 13th and 14th Amendments to make up for lost time). Yes, it had horrible Jim Crow problems. Yes, it wasn’t until even recently that it was possible to imagine a black President… but, at the end of the day, if you count people voting with their feet and compare the state of the bottom quintile against the bottom quintile of the countries that tried to apply something close enough to Marxism?

                Look at the countries that tried to apply something close enough to Marxism! Look at the pile of bodies! Look at the guard towers! THEY ARE FACING IN!!!

                Sure, it’s never been attempted in its pure form.

                Out of the “close enough to (philosophy)” choices, still choosing Marxism despite what we know happened over the last 100 years?Report

              • Rufus F. in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Jay, I’ve been trying to figure out why I mostly agree with you, while responding very differently to Nazis from how I respond to Marxists. I’m going to try to articulate this, but it might get choppy.

                With Marxism, I agree that the problems are there from the beginning. Specifically, I have an issue with the historicism- maybe just the historical inevitability idea- in Marxism, which is pretty much bred in the bone. I think that it’s pretty damn hard to apply the theory without deciding that certain individuals, who are standing at odds with the ‘direction of history’, are ultimately responsible for their own liquidation. (Marx called it sewing the seeds of their own demise) And I think the history has demonstrated that flaw with the theory pretty amply. So I get just as irritated and angry as you do with Marxists who deny the entire history of Communism in practice.

                However, I guess I can understand the underlying beliefs that led them to Marxism- capitalismhas facilitated some pretty gross inequalities and thinking persons might well find those inequalities unjust. It’s possible for me to imagine yearning to find some solution to that problem, even if I wouldn’t have chosen Marxism. That is I can understand the motivations, and at least respect them on some level, even if I’m pretty damn sure of where the theory they came to has led throughout history.

                With Nazism, the race theory is right at the center and it’s pretty goddamn monstrous. So, it’s not just that the application of the ideas was terrible- it’s that an underlying belief that led that person to Nazism is that they believe that certain races are genetically inferior and should be oppressed by superior races. I can’t even begin to understand the starting point there.

                I don’t know if that makes sense, but it’s how I understand that some kid in a hammer and sickle tee-shirt makes me angry at his obliviousness to history, while a kid in a swastika tee-shirt makes me angry that he’s a fucking racist. At least with the former I think maybe I can talk to him about the history and get him to change some of his opinions. But, with the latter, we’re just not in the same world.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Rufus, to some degree, I can understand that.

                Hell, I’ve met a handful of self-identified Marxists who I would be pleased to share dinner with. I’ve yet to meet a self-identified Nazi that I am able to say that about.

                Perhaps the stronger comparison is not to Nazism but to the Confederacy.Report

    • James Hanley in reply to Freddie says:

      if you’re too far to the left, you aren’t met just with disagreement (as anyone should expect) but with accusations of murder. That’s a bridge too far; it’s not a part of respectful conversation. And if that’s the case here, can you imagine how it is at or Instapundit?

      Yeah, I can imagine it, because that’s pretty much the response I get when I dare to post at a liberal or conservative blog. Try posting something non-leftwing at P.Z. Myers’ blog, for example. I once made one of my mildest libertarian arguments there was immediately roasted by a number of commenters who had little more substantive to say than, “go away, you fucking libertarian fucker.” It’s certainly not a behavior that’s unique to libertarians, or even noticeably unusual in its frequency.Report

      • ppnl in reply to James Hanley says:

        Actually I think libertarians are substantially less likely to engage in this kind of over the top hyperpartisan crap. I have many problems with libertarians but this isn’t one of them.Report

      • Will H. in reply to James Hanley says:

        I find the Left to be rather closed.
        At least the Right can be reasoned with.
        I’ve done it before; and time and again with cap & trade, that it effectively increases the productive output of facilities, and the only negatives are for those companies with substandard maintenance or are mismanaged.
        Even Tea Partiers can be swayed with reason.
        Not so with the Left.Report

        • Mike Schilling in reply to Will H. says:

          Try to convince Tea Partiers that Obama was born here.Report

        • ppnl in reply to Will H. says:

          Dude? You seem to have missed the whole epistemic closure thing.

          Tea party can be reasoned with? Tell that to Delaware republicans. They would be in better shape if Christian O’Donnell really was a witch.

          The problem that republicans face isn’t “the left”. The problem is that republicans have sacrificed any long term principle for short term gains and thus have lost any claim to moral or intellectual authority.

          And cap and trade is a bad idea in the general case. It is government heavy, expensive, easily gamed and redirects large amounts of assets to achieve marginal gains.

          If you are interested in reducing carbon emissions job one is shutting down coal plants. There is no path to lower carbon that lets you continue to burn coal.Report

          • Will H. in reply to ppnl says:

            Sorry, but you happen to be wrong on every point.
            And by ‘wrong,’ I mean ‘factually incorrect.’
            Now, I’ve only worked on the air quality control systems for two coal-burning power plants; and granted, neither one of them was what you would consider ordinary.
            The first one was the second one of its type built in North America (the first one was built in Alberta), and that one is one of the most efficient around; mainly because the engineers took advantage of modern telecommunications equipment to include a lot more sensors.
            The other one has 0 particulate emissions, and is one of the 10 cleanest coal-burning plants in operation in the US.
            So, neither one of them is what you would call an ordinary coal-burner.
            But due to my background in this, I see the outcome as fairly predictable. There will be a piping system where a catalyst is introduced to render the target emissions into an inert substance. That’s it.
            And I might remind you that before the XONON system came along, people were saying the same thing about gas-burners.

            My concerns with cap & trade are 1) that it requires a hard time-out date, and 2) targeted output, which is a really bad deal all the way around.Report

            • ppnl in reply to Will H. says:

              I may be wrong on all counts but you don’t seem to have explained any of them.

              I agree that particulate and Nox emissions can be handled. I don’t even really see that it will need anything like cap and trade.Report

            • ppnl in reply to Will H. says:

              Sorry, premature post.

              Anyway the big problem is carbon. You are basically vaporizing cubic miles of carbon while multiplying it’s mass by >3. There is no solution for sequestering this much co2. It there were it would still be a good idea to shut down coal plants and use the technology to sequester atmospheric co2.

              And you didn’t even mention the epistemic closure problem or the point about the “reasonable” tea party.Report

              • Will H. in reply to ppnl says:

                Sequestration is not at issue. Again, it will be rendered into an inert material, same as everything else.
                And there’s been plenty of papers published on various tsil’s to accomplish just that.
                Fortunately, carbon is one of the more reactive of elements, and can be combined with practically anything.
                From my end, knowing that this is tsil based, I know exactly how to design a system that renews the catalyst when needed.
                And we already know that it’s (more likely than not) going to run through an 8″ heavy wall carbon steel piping system.
                And we know about the (current) maximum distance for the separator system.
                It’s no big deal really.
                Can’t be done to control atmospheric CO2. It has to be within a closed system to begin with.
                I don’t really care to go through all that again, but I will if you want me to. But the end results of cap & trade are far different from targeted outputs.
                Again, cap & trade effectively increases the productive output. They have a new product that they can sell.
                Think about it for a minute.

                As for those other things, I think I’ve proved my point already just by going this far.Report

              • Will H. in reply to Will H. says:

                I want to go through this because it illustrates my point.
                That first power plant I mentioned has a rotating water cannon in the boiler area to knock out the slag.
                I put in a 10-hour day on start-up running tests on that thing.
                That very same day, after I got back to my room, I’m sitting there eating my hamburger helper and I see some wacko Left-wing nutjob there telling me that water cannons cannot go in the boiler area. She was insistent that the lime slurry (that I supplied an entire revision to) was to remove slag from the boiler (it’s to remove sulfur from the stack).
                But being married to an operator for 20 years, she firmly believed that she knew everything about everything.
                And really, the post I had written was fairly clear that I was talking about developing technologies for use in coal-fired power plants. We’re in the process of catching up to the Japanese right now, and it’s not likely to ever happen.
                The Tea Party people that I hang with aren’t like that. They can be irritating, yes, but they can also accept new information.
                The Left is just so damned smart they can’t even receive new information. If you believe one thing out of line with their orthodoxy, then they sling the whole barrel of mud.
                To their minds, it makes perfect sense that I am all for species depletion. After all, I like to cast a line in the water every once in a while. Such a person must necessarily be unconcerned with species depletion, in their minds. They’re just too smart to be able to think of anything else.Report

              • ppnl in reply to Will H. says:

                You have not given me a clue as to how you are going to deal with co2.

                There can be no catalyst that by itself reduces it to a solid state. Yes carbon is reactive and even carbon dioxide is reasonably reactive. But there is no chemical that can be made from carbon dioxide alone that reduces it to a solid state. (And if there were that would be termed sequestration of the co2.)

                There are elements that can absorb co2 and reduce it to a solid state. Calcium for example. But this cannot be a closed system as the calcium is used up in the process. You can recover it only by releasing the co2.

                There are in fact large deposits of minerals capable of absorbing co2. But for every cubic mile of carbon you burn you will have to mine at least a cubic mile of minerals to absorb it. And it is only absorbed at a rapid rate at high temp. Sorry but basic rules of chemistry make it effectively impossible to absorb all that co2.

                It has been suggested that the mineral can be powdered and spread over agricultural ground or even sprinkled into the sea. Then you can allow the reaction to proceed slowly, think months. It isn’t clear if even this will be economical or practical. But even if it is it is still a good idea to shut down coal plants.

                The problem with cap and trade is not that cannot work in principle. The problem is that it involves complex regulations that are ripe for regulatory capture. It is a government heavy blunt instrument. I think simpler more directed regulations would work far better.Report

              • Will H. in reply to ppnl says:

                No, sequestration refers to separation and capture in its native state. To introduce a catalyst negates the concept of sequestration.
                Look, there have been papers published in the American Chemical Society’s quarterly journal dating back to 2003 from the University of Beijing concerning the use of tsil’s. If you want to look for American papers, you can go back to 1998 or beyond.
                And that’s just the tsil’s.
                All of the rules of chemistry say that this has been done before, time and time again. New flavor, and that’s all.
                Cap & trade works fairly well in Europe. The regulations really aren’t that complex– you establish a market.
                Cap & trade is really a financing tool that companies will use to build. That’s it, and nothing more.
                The companies that keep up with their maintenance and are well-managed will be better off. The ones that suffer will be the ones that are way off on their maintenance schedules or have been mismanaged.
                Targeted output rewards companies which are unable to compete on the open market– it creates an artificial demand.Report

              • ppnl in reply to Will H. says:

                No sequestration just means separating it from the atmosphere. Carbon capture and storage attempts to capture it and inject it into deep salt water resonators. It eventually is converted to carbonate minerals. Deep sea sequestration is dissolving the co2 into the ocean at great depths. I think there is a project in Europe to do this. Bio sequestration refers to things like reforestation, seeding the ocean and starting new peat bogs. Enhanced weathering sequesters the co2 by grinding up co2 absorbing minerals and spreading them around.

                Sorry but all I see is references to removing sulfur and nitrogen. Worse I cannot imagine what you think a catalyst will turn the co2 into. There are no chemical options.

                The total weight of co2 emissions will be like three times the mass of the coal before they burn it. Where does it go after your magic catalyst gets finished with it? For every box car of coal entering the power plant you will need up to three box cars leaving. What is it and where will you dump it?Report

              • Will H. in reply to Will H. says:


              • ppnl in reply to Will H. says:

                Can someone explain why the reply button goes away sometimes?

                Anyway if anyone is still reading down here it is interesting that Will H. started out claiming that the right is somehow more reasonable than the left and after my failure to get him to understand high school level chemistry he ends with a simple statement of bullshit.

                This is epistemic closure writ really really small.

                And as for “The Left is just so damned smart they can’t even receive new information.” , maybe I’m just a “left-wing nut job” but someone who cannot parse simple chemistry should maybe be careful here.

                The problem isn’t that we disagree but that one of us isn’t even trying to understand where we differ.

                All of the carbon atoms that existed before it was burned still exist after it is burned but because it is combined with two oxygen atoms it weighs three times as much. No catalyst can change that.

                Ask yourself where the carbon goes after the catalyst is finished. find out what form it is in. Don’t try to tell me what the answer is. Find out for yourself because you want to know.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Will H. says:

                Can someone explain why the reply button goes away sometimes?

                There’s a maximum indentation level.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Will H. says:



              • Will H. in reply to Will H. says:

                No, it really is bullshit.
                You’re claiming that volume is unchanged in a change of state, and that’s just simple bullshit.
                And yes, you proved every bit of what I was trying to say. The whole cap & trade issue is an illustration, and not the main point.
                You can go through all that “art imitates life” crap if you want to, but I say it’s bullshit.Report

              • Will H. in reply to Will H. says:

                From the numbers I’m looking at, it’s 2312:1, the change of volume involved in the change of state from air to solid.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Will H. says:

                I’ve tried following this conversation, despite being uneducated on the issue being discussed.  For a while it looked to me as though Will H. was making more sense than ppnl, but in this last set of responses, Will H. utterly ignores the specific claims ppnl made @5:31 p.m. on Jan. 1, which makes me suspicious of Will H.’s position.  I would like to see Will H.’s response to the specific claims ppnl made in that comment–what does happen in those chemical reactions Will?  Do powerplants really turn C02 into carbon and oxygen, or would that take too much energy input, as ppnl claims?  It appears you dodged that issue, and I’d like to see you address it.Report

              • Will H. in reply to Will H. says:

                Were that true, none of the other emissions systems would work either.  The chemical reaction takes less energy than combustion.  That’s math error #1.  The other is volume.
                And I really can’t tell you the specifics for this particular system.  It’s still being developed.  There are a number of alternatives, each of which works a bit differently.  There isn’t any agreement as of yet.
                Now, those other emissions systems do remove carbon, but only a little of it.  They can’t help but to do so.
                But the carbon atom is easy to target.  What exactly happens after that occurs poses some issues.
                So, no, I can’t show you the chemical process step-by-step.  I’m still waiting to find out myself.  But I can see they’re working on it.
                From what I’ve seen, I know the bulk of the research has been into target-specific ionic liquids.  I know that system.  Same as the others.Report

              • ppnl in reply to Will H. says:

                Maybe you do know what conservation of energy is but so far you have not addressed the issue. That’s not really surprising given that it took like a dozen messages before you made it clear that you think the co2 can be converted back to carbon.
                Carbon produces about 14000 BTUs per pound and this turns into > three pounds of co2. At perfect efficiency it would take14000 BTUs of energy to convert the co2 back into carbon and oxygen. In reality it will take far more. A catalyst may improve the efficiency but nothing can exceed the perfect efficiency.  That is the point of conservation of energy.
                If you think they have a catalyst that can do that then you need to explain why they can’t take the carbon they extracted and burn it again. You need never mine coal again.
                What subject exactly? This is just high school chemistry. The subject of catalysts is vast, wide and deep. But one constant thing is that catalysts cannot change the energy balance of a reaction. It can only change the rate and branching proportions.
                I’m glad you got the problem with conservation of energy. But what else did I say that you did not get?

              • Will H. in reply to Will H. says:

                Back to the original point, there are two things I would like to note.
                There’s a cute little water cannon sitting in a boiler chamber spinning around like its own little Death Star, zapping out slag on the fly where ever it might form along that waterwall.  It’s been going five years now, but it was the first one of its type in the US.
                They had already had them in Japan for over 12 years by the time the first one went into service in the US.
                And this just strikes me as odd, because it was about 12 years ago that I remember I started to hear talk of tsil’s for carbon emissions.  And I knew all this time they were just waiting for some specific regulation, just a target, to roll out a bit of this stuff they’ve been playing with for the past few years.
                Now, this idea that there won’t be enough Filipinos to sprinkle the magic yoghurt through the Dakotas in time to save the Gorgons from cornholing the Planet–  that sort of thing is something I hear only from the Left.
                And the sequestration I hear speak of is only from political types, never the company men nor the engineering staff.  There’s a general agreement that the whole architecture is questionable.
                That’s the Left.
                They don’t understand that most of that entire shift has already been determined.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Will H. says:


                I’m glad you got the problem with conservation of energy. But what else did I say that you did not get?

                Um, like everything? The only chem class I ever had was in 8th grade. If I’m going to fake it in a science discussion, it’s going to have to be geology or bio. I was out of my depth from the beginning, and was contemplating having my chemistry colleague read through this and try to clarify it for me. Or at least to tell me who’s wrong and who’s right.Report

              • Will H. in reply to ppnl says:

                Pardon me, but that previous ratio was for the change of state from a vapor to a liquid.
                Still have to convert the liquid into a solid.Report

              • ppnl in reply to Will H. says:

                I’m not sure where the misunderstanding is.

                You start with with a large volume of more or less pure carbon in the form of solid coal. Good as a first approximation.

                You burn it multiplying it’s mass by >3 (Due to the addition of oxygen.) and its volume as it turns to gas is multiplied by thousands depending on temperature.

                Now you want to keep the co2 out of the atmosphere. You convert it to some kind of solid with a catalyst. This is what I presume your catalyst does. You don’t seem to want to say.

                If you reduce it to a solid it will still weigh at least three times as much as the coal you started with. If your box cars are weight limited then for every box car of coal that enters the power plant three must leave with some waste whatever it is. Its volume will depend on its density.

                Where in the world did I ever claim that the volume was constant?

                Anyway the problems do not stop here. There is no solid phase for carbon dioxide at room temp. There is nothing your catalyst can do to return the co2 to a solid state. The best you can do is combine the co2 chemically with some other substance that forms a solid compound. I gave calcium as an example. But the calcium is used up in the process. Now you have a mass > 5 times the original coal.

                In principle you could do this. There are large deposits of co2 absorbing minerals that can be mined. But that would be very expensive and it is very very doubtful that you could get the reaction going fast enough in any practical way.

                As I said before it is much cheaper to just spread the minerals out and let the reaction go more slowly. It isn’t clear if even this will be economical. Even if it is it is still a good idea to shut down the coal plants.

                And my objection to cap and trade is not with its application to coal plants. I object to it as an overarching strategy to handle every industry that produces co2. This includes vast numbers on industrial processes. It lays a thick layer of regulation, monitoring and record keeping on a large number of industries.

                I don’t object to cap and trade in principle. I just think there are simpler solutions. If it turns out that there are no simpler solutions then cap and trade it is.

                So where are we misunderstanding each other?Report

              • Will H. in reply to Will H. says:

                I know exactly where the misunderstanding is.
                A specific chemical has properties specific to it (sort of like the difference between lime and chalk). And you’re dealing with elements there, not even concerned with the fact that another molecule will be produced.
                If I take a pound of coal and separate every carbon atom from it, the total weight of those carbon atoms will be significantly less than a pound. I’m not even concerned about the oxygen; it’s free to go it’s way. I’m only interested in removing the oxygen from the carbon.
                And for that purpose, CO and CO2 are essentially the same thing. It is very unlikely that the catalyst will recognize them as being different.
                And you’re telling me that if I cut the bone from the ham and throw it to the dog, that bone will weigh five times what the ham weighs. And I know that’s not true.
                You keep saying calcium, but I can assure you that is not a proper catalyst. It has to be a molecule of at least two elements.
                The only instances of a single element being used as a catalyst in industrial process that I know of tend to be rather caustic materials, such as chlorine, bromine, ammonia. Not going to be using any of those for this application.
                But even then, it’s not just chlorine in general, or bromine in general. It’s a specific molecule, like Br2 or Br3.
                Now, if you had stated that freeing that oxygen in the stack could lead to explosive conditions in the stack, I take that as a legitimate concern. I wonder about that one myself, and I’m a whole lot closer to being blown up than you are. (A lot of that oxygen will be converted into water)
                But to say that you’re afraid that the carbon is going to swell up to five times its size is not a legitimate concern. It’s still going to be the same old carbon. It’s just going to be in a powder with a few chunks in it.
                You seem concerned that I have yet to give a definition of what exactly a catalyst is. That’s the first time I’ve ever heard that. Anywhere. So I can’t even talk to you on the level of, “Let’s get something done.” If they tell me, “Be here by 7 o’clock,” and I ask, “Which clock?” then I would be identifying myself as a dumbass. You’re welcome to go around about that one if you want to, but I see it as inconsequential.
                No, I don’t care to explain what a catalyst is. I don’t want to go into what gravity is, or what constitutes ‘a pump.’ If you don’t have that level of understanding already, then I’m just talking to the wrong person. And I can accept that.Report

              • ppnl in reply to Will H. says:

                Nope, still misunderstanding.

                The lowest grade of coal used is like 70% carbon. High grades of coal can be 98% carbon. This does not affect may analysis at all. To a first approximation we can consider it pure carbon.

                You seem to be suggesting that the catalyst converts CO2 back into carbon and free oxygen. But again you aren’t very clear. If this is what you are suggesting then I agree it would not increase the weight of the carbon. But now your problem is that you are proposing a perpetual motion machine. Just take the carbon you have liberated and burn it again.

                Theoretically it takes at least as much energy to separate the carbon from the oxygen as you got from combining them in the first place. In reality it is going to take several times more. A catalyst is not going to change this.

                I never said calcium was a catalyst and in fact I said that calcium was used up in the reaction and catalysts by their nature are not. What I said is that calcium can be used to combine with co2 to form a solid substance that effectively sequesters the co2. It forms calcium carbonate which is CaCO3. Now for every atom of carbon you start with you end up with one molecule of CaCO3. This molecule contains five atoms each of which is at least as heavy as carbon. That makes the mass of CaCO3 at least five times as heavy as the carbon alone.

                I never asked you what a catalyst was. I asked you what reaction it was driving. I asked you what it was turning the co2 in to. You seem to be saying that it turns it back into free carbon and oxygen. Without huge inputs of energy this is just not possible.

                It really never occurred to me that you were thinking the co2 gets converted back to carbon and oxygen. I’m still having trouble believing that you believe this.Report

              • Will H. in reply to Will H. says:

                It really never occurred to me that you were thinking the co2 gets converted back to carbon and oxygen. I’m still having trouble believing that you believe this.
                I don’t see why. Each and every other emissions system involves the very same process.
                Lucky us, we already have a surplus of energy in the stack.
                I’m not proposing to turn it into one thing or another. I’ll go by the specs they give me. I’m not an R&D guy.
                If that’s what you need, then get busy.Report

              • ppnl in reply to Will H. says:

                But dude that violates conservation of energy. The plant would consume far more power than it generated if it attempted to convert co2 back to carbon. You would need to build a nuke plant just to have the energy to run the coal plant.

                The catalytic converter in your car converts co into co2. This is an exothermic reaction delivering more energy than it consumes. Modern catalytic converters also convert no2 into nitrogen and oxygen. This is endothermic as it consumes energy. You can only do it because there is only a tiny trace of no2. Otherwise it would consume far more energy than you get from burning fuel.

                There is a catalytic process that converts co2 and h2o into methane. But it again requires the input of a huge amount of energy far in excess of what you get from burning coal to get co2.

                There was a recent breakthrough with a solar powered catalyst that converts co2 into methane and other industrial useful chemicals. This looks like it may be far more efficient than solar electric cells. But again you need a large input of solar power to drive it.

                But converting all the co2 from a coal plant back into carbon in a closed system? Sorry, no. You have to balance the energy equation.Report

              • Will H. in reply to Will H. says:

                Which pretty much brings us back to testing the rotating water cannon.Report

              • ppnl in reply to Will H. says:

                No, it gets us back to the issue of epistemic closure and who can or cannot learn.

                There are lots of very good science forums around the internet. Many of them have active participants from all branches of science. You could go and see if you could find any chemist, physicist or scientist of any kind that would support you.

                But here is the deal. There is a psychological mechanism that drives people to actively avoid checking sources of information that may show them to be wrong. Part of it is just ego but I think a bigger part is fear of uncertainty. It is more comfortable to be certain even if it is a false certainty. In reality we should be more happy to be proved wrong since it means we have learned something new. Its sad that humans often just don’t work that way.

                Anyway if I’m correct you will not go find a professional science forum to explain basic high school chemistry to you and you will not be much bothered by that. And that makes me sad.

                That is epistemic closure.Report

              • Will H. in reply to Will H. says:

                I go with the experts in the field, and not some internet forum.
                I have every reason to.
                When you publish in ACS quarterly, I would be happy to read the article.
                No, I’m not going to pass the word up the chain of command that we need to rethink this whole emissions thing because of what some guy told me on the internet.
                They already took out a loan for the crappy system I made for them, and I’m not sure if the bank would want them buying another one until they’ve got that one paid off.
                Now, there are places you can go to find serious discussions of such things, and I’m thinking the internet probably doesn’t top the list.
                I’m not the chemist.  I work with the chemist.  I did not steal samples from the lab.  I did not make copies of his notes.  I do see what they’re doing though.
                I do work with these systems though.  I ensure their proper operation.  I do have the background to make an educated guess on my end as a trajectory of the work I see going on the other end.
                I don’t need to be the chemist.  That’s not my work.
                I just need to learn the chemical.  That’s my work.

              • ppnl in reply to Will H. says:

                As I said you find an excuse not to even check. You don’t need an expert you need high school chemistry. Conservation of energy isn’t some obscure hard to understand principle. In an age where access to knowledge is so cheap and easy it is discounted. Epistemic closure is so easily cured and yet by its nature people choose not to be cured. It is always the other guy who is a nut job liberal/conservative/communist/libertarian who cannot learn.

              • Will H. in reply to Will H. says:

                Actually, I understand conservation of energy very well.  I believe that’s the second law of thermodynamics.
                Now we are talking my field.
                And I’m sure the people working on those tsil’s are familiar with the concept.
                Do you think I should put in a memo to inform them?Report

              • Mike Farmer in reply to Will H. says:

                Is there a book on this subject that either of you recommend?Report

              • Will H. in reply to Will H. says:

                Vaclav Smil’s <i>Energy at the Crossroads</i> is a good introduction to the topic, but it’s a bit sketchy and sometimes dated.
                He does have a way of asking the right questions though.
                The tsil literature that I know of is in professional publications.  I’ll open my old laptop after awhile and see if I can come up with some links.Report

  10. ppnl says:

    The system is screwing up the order of posts making it hard to keep up. I hope starting a new top level reply will help.
    Anyway will H.– conservation of energy is not second law it is first law. The second law is about entropy.
    The first law tells us that we cannot decompose CO2 to carbon and oxygen with less energy than we got from combining them. The second law tells us that not only will we not use less but we will generally use far more.Report

    • Will H. in reply to ppnl says:

      You’re running equations at 100% efficiency.  The most efficient emissions system of all if the removal of ash.  You don’t even have to pull that stuff out of the air.  You’re making an assumption that the idea is to burn in back in place, and that is not the case.
      It’s when you put in the 100%s & the 0s that don’t belong there that it doesn’t make sense.Report

      • ppnl in reply to Will H. says:

        Again, your clarity leaves a lot to be desired.
        Running equations to 100% is a problem? That is in your favor. If the efficiency is only 50% then it takes twice as much energy to reduce co2 to carbon and oxygen as you got from burning it. I have no idea what you are trying to say.
        And Os that don’t belong? You mean oxygen? As in the co2? Only a tiny portion of the carbon in the coal comes out as anything other than co2. And yes you do use a lot of systems, catalytic and otherwise, to make that fraction as small as possible. The purpose of those systems is to convert as much of the carbon into co2 as possible. After all that is where you get your energy. So again I have no clue what you are trying to say.
        Maybe you are thinking that a lot of vaporized atomic carbon is going into the atmosphere and the catalyst can remove that? Or powdered carbon? Really I’m just trying to cast a large net here to figure out what you are saying.
        Co2 isn’t some trace pollutant. It is by a large margin the largest product of burning coal. It is the only desired reaction and it is as close to 100% conversion of carbon to co2 as they can make it. They do very well. Is this the equation you are talking about?Report

      • Will H. in reply to Will H. says:

        Do you understand what a bong does?Report

        • ppnl in reply to Will H. says:

          Man, again with the lack of clarity. You do know that you are allowed to say things rather than just hint at them? But ok lets play your guessing game.
          The first effect of a “bong” would be to cool the combustion product stream. I don’t see any direct relevance here.
          The second thing is that the water would remove particulates. I think coal plants use electrostatics to do this but I can see it being used to increase efficiency. Most of this would silicates. Still no direct relevance.
          Third you may use water to remove some toxic gasses from the combustion gas stream. Do they? I dunno but it is in principle doable. You could even use a catalyst here to reduce them to a harmless form. CO could become co2, Nox becomes nitrogen and oxygen, PAH becomes co2 and water and so on.
          Could the water absorb co2? Absolutely. You could even use a catalyst to increase the rate that it absorbed co2. What you have then is carbonic acid. That’s the stuff that makes your coke fizz. If you leave it like that the co2 will just fizz off the same way your coke goes flat it you leave it unsealed. So it buys you no bacon.
          Now what you can do is precipitate out the co2 as a salt of carbonic acid. In chemistry a salt is an ionic compound formed when you mix an acid with a base. For example copper sulfate is a salt formed by combining copper oxide with sulfuric acid.
          So what can we use to precipitate out the co2 as a salt? I dunno, maybe…calcium? More specifically calcium oxide or calcium hydroxide. But you would need a huge amount of it and again you would have a waste stream > five times the mass of the coal you started with. And we arrive back where we started.
          Go google up an image of the white cliffs of Dover. That white material is calcium carbonate. It is formed when falling rain absorbs co2 in the atmosphere becoming a weak carbonic acid solution. That reacts with minerals in the soil forming calcium carbonate. This is washed into the sea and forms a thick chalk layer over geological time. When that was lifted it became the white cliffs of Dover. That is how nature removes co2 from the atmosphere. It happens very slowly just reaching a balance with the production of co2 from volcanoes. We are producing co2 at a rate hundreds of times as fast as all the worlds volcanoes combined. In order to counter that we would need to use a mass of calcium hundreds of times the mass of all the co2 that comes from volcanoes.Report

          • Will H. in reply to ppnl says:

            You got me.
            I’m still wondering how I can crap out a piece of meat loaf five times bigger than the piece of meat loaf I just ate.
            Putting salt on it never occurred to me.Report

            • ppnl in reply to Will H. says:

              Putting salt on it? No. You would do it by converting the meatloaf into an acid and dissolving enough of a metal into it to neutralize it. The extra weight comes from the metal. That is if you were trying to limit co2 emissions.
              Otherwise you just pass part of it directly through and breath the rest out as carbon dioxide. I recommend this method even if it is a bit messy.

              • Will H. in reply to ppnl says:

                Here you go, Mr. Chemist:
                Performance of nitrile-containing anions in task-specific ionic liquids for improved CO2/N2 separation

                Mahurin, S. M. Lee, J. S. Baker, G. A. Luo, H. Dai, S. 2010-01-01

                This work explores the performance of a series of ionic liquids that incorporate a nitrile-containing anion paired to 1-alkyl-3-methylimidazolium cations in tailoring the selectivity and permeance of supported ionic liquid membranes for CO2/N2 separations. The permeance and selectivity of three ionic liquids, each with an increasing number of nitrile groups in the anion (i.e., two, three, and four), were measured using a non-steady-state permeation method. By predictably varying the molar volume and viscosity of the ionic liquids, we show that the solubility, selectivity, and permeance can be optimized for CO2/N2 separation through controlled introduction of the nitrile functionality into the anion. Of the three nitrile-based ionic liquids studied, 1-ethyl-3-methylimidazolium tetracyanobor…
                Go learn some chemistry and get back with me.Report

              • Will H. in reply to ppnl says:

                Note the date on this one.
                Design and Evaluation of Ionic Liquids as Novel CO2 Absorbents

                Maginn, Edward 2007-07-15

                This is the final report for project DE-FG26-04NT42122 ‘Design and Evaluation of Ionic Liquids as Novel CO{sub 2} Absorbents’. The objective of this ‘breakthrough concepts’ project was to investigate the feasibility of using ionic liquids for post-combustion CO{sub 2} capture and obtain a fundamental understanding of the solubility of CO{sub 2} and other components present in flue gas in ionic liquids. Our plan was to obtain information on how composition and structure of ionic liquid molecules affected solubility and other important physical properties via two major efforts: synthesis and experimental measurements and molecular simulation. We also planned to perform preliminary systems modeling study to assess the economic viability of a process based on ionic liquids. We accomplished all the milestones and tasks specified in the original proposal. Specifically, we carried out extensive quantum and classical atomistic-level simulations of a range of ionic liquids. These calculations provided detailed information on how the chemical composition of ionic liquids affects physical properties. We also learned important factors that govern CO{sub 2} solubility. Using this information, we synthesized or acquired 33 new ionic liquids. Many of these had never been made before. We carried out preliminary tests on all of these compounds, and more extensive tests on those that looked most promising for CO{sub 2} capture. We measured CO{sub 2} solubility in ten of these ionic liquids. Through our efforts, we developed an ionic liquid that has a CO{sub 2} solubility 2.6 times greater than the ‘best’ ionic liquid available to us at the start of the project. Moreover, we demonstrated that SO{sub 2} is also extremely soluble in ionic liquids, opening up the possibility of using ionic liquids to remove both SO{sub 2} and CO{sub 2} from flue gas. In collaboration with Trimeric Inc., a preliminary systems analysis was conducted and the results used to help identify physical properties that must be optimized to enable ionic liquids to be cost-competitive for CO{sub 2} capture. It was found that increasing the capacity of the ionic liquids for CO{sub 2} would be important, and that doing so could potentially make ionic liquids more effective than conventional amine solvents.Report

              • Heidegger in reply to Will H. says:

                This is fun!   I love watching Will H and ppnl going at it. Sort of like watching the Kentucky Derby and it looks like Will H just went ahead by a couple of lengths. Too close to call at this point…

                The shamefulness of Climategate pretty much sealed the deal for me.  Climate Change Warming Cooling, whatever the hell you want to call it,  is probably the biggest hoax and fraud ever perpetuated in the history of science–it really is that big.  And it was big, to the tune of 1079 e-mails and 72 official documents that clearly shows a handful of the most influential UN scientists deliberately lying and manipulating statistics and facts to conceal so many dirty, messy, inconvenient little truths that just didn’t jibe with the mantra, that were headed into either a new Ice Age or Global Sauna. 

                Conspiracy, collusion in exaggerating warming data, possibly illegal destruction of embarrassing information, organised resistance to disclosure, manipulation of data, private admissions of flaws in their public claims and much more.

                The truth seekers in action:

                “I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline.”

                This, just delicious! 

                The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t. The CERES data published in the August BAMS 09 supplement on 2008 shows there should be even more warming: but the data are surely wrong. Our observing system is inadequate”

                There’s more:

                “This was the danger of always criticising the skeptics for not publishing in the “peer-reviewed literature”. Obviously, they found a solution to that–take over a journal! So what do we do about this? I think we have to stop considering “Climate Research” as a legitimate peer-reviewed journal. Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal.”

                And this attempt to hide the Medieval Warming Period-MWP:

                “I think that trying to adopt a timeframe of 2K, rather than the usual 1K, addresses a good earlier point that Peck made w/ regard to the memo, that it would be nice to try to “contain” the putative “MWP”, even if we don’t yet have a hemispheric mean reconstruction available that far back.”

                You get the point.  And it’s pretty simple–there are billions of $$$$ to be made in the global warming industry by perpetuating this hoax.

                BREAKING NEWS!!!  New evidence shows earth’s climate has been changing for 5 billion years!!


              • Heidegger in reply to Heidegger says:

                I forgot to ask—how can I extract enough N2O from my car to get a really great laugh about Global Warming?   That is laughing gas, isn’t it?  William James couldn’t say enough good things about it.  He even saw God on/with it.   Thanks.Report

              • ppnl in reply to Heidegger says:

                Dude, no significant amounts of n20 are produced. What you get is NO and NO2. When mixed with water you get nitric acid. That should give you a clue to the quality of the high you will get.
                Yes climate change has been happening all the time. The problem is the rate you are forcing it to happen.
                Yes you can have your own science journal to publish what you want. Creationists did that. How did that work out?

              • Will H. in reply to Heidegger says:

                I prefer to take the view that both sides might have something to offer. It could well be a natural phenomenon, but that doesn’t alleviate us from our responsibility to act.
                Part man-made, part natural occurrence. Doesn’t matter who’s to blame so much as who’s going to do something about it.
                Now, if I pick up a girl at a bar, and she tells me she’s 30, and I find out later that she’s really 40, was it still good at 40?
                I see that as inconsequential.
                Now, if she tells me that she’s divorced when she really means, “I just left my husband outside in the parking lot,” that’s a different story.Report

              • Heidegger in reply to Will H. says:

                Will H, the problem with your analysis is the global warming cultists—High Priest Al Gore, chief among them, are offering remedies that would likely plummet the United States and Europe into severe depressions with energy taxes increasing by 60%. And the main contributors to environmental pollution (which is entirely different for global warming) India and China are, for the most part, let off the hook. Hey, remember when the High Priest Nobel Laureate Android was screaming like a madman about the need to subsidize growing corn for ethanol, to the tune of about 8 billion a year? Whoops. Even he says it was a bad mistake. As it turns out, it takes more energy to process it than the energy it produces. And you, and every other tax payer is paying for this multi-billion dollar mistake. And yeah, he was the tie breaking vote in the Senate in 1994 that mandated this idiocy. That’s just for starters. The measures advocated will have zero effect on “global warming”, and in the process, bankrupt 1st World countries. In a rush…great debate you and ppnl are having!Report

              • ppnl in reply to Will H. says:

                Hey, cool. Details. But you do see that it is a method of capturing the co2? You still have to figure out where to put it once you have it. It’s like a bucket to catch the co2. Once the bucket is full you still need to find a place to empty it.
                Ionic liquids have been explored for many applications. Life support on a spaceship or submarine, removal of co2 from natural gas and yes capturing co2 from burning coal. But it does not separate the coal back into carbon and oxygen. It is part of a carbon sequestration program.
                One of the problems with IL is that it can take a substantial amount of energy to reform it. You have to heat it up to drive off the co2. This means you will need about a third of the energy of you coal plant just to capture the co2. Now more efficient catalysts would certainly help here but there is going to be a linkage between how fast and how much it absorbs and the energy needed to reform the IL.
                Still, yes you can do this.
                But you still have the problem of sequestration. Again your options are limited to geological sequestration, biological sequestration, oceanic sequestration or reducing to a salt of carbonic acid. World coal production is over seven trillion tons. That gives 21 trillion tones of co2 that you need to dispose of. That comes out to well over 3000 tons for every man, woman and child on the planet. Every year. There are much cheaper options for our energy.
                Still there may be some applications on a smaller scale.
                I think coal gasification has a future for production of transportation fuels. First there is a smaller amount of co2 produced. Second you can build the plant next to a geological formation that facilitates co2 sequestration. Third you can substitute biomass carbon such as whip grass, waste paper or crop remnants whenever available.  Forth you usually burn with pure oxygen in these plants solving some problems with the catalyst they use. And finally you are producing a premium energy product that people will be willing to pay a good price for.
                Also the solar powered catalyst I mentioned before can maybe increase yield and even convert some atmospheric co2 into fuel.

              • Will H. in reply to ppnl says:

                There’s a few things you’re missing here.
                If you remove the carbon from the CO2, no more CO2. Sequestration is not an option after that. You don’t have to worry about it anymore.
                You do, however, leave a bunch of free oxygen floating about, and if that ever reaches 23.5 ppm in the stack, all hell breaks loose. At 1200F, you don’t even have to wait for an ignition source.
                That’s the real problem.
                As far as conservation on energy goes, you have to keep up with each and every reaction, or it makes no sense. You can’t put 100% or zeros where they do not belong. As soon as anything– and I mean anything under the sun– even if a dead bird falls into the stack– the equation shifts.
                Because the tsil’s will not be entering the chamber at a temperature of absolute zero, more energy is added at that point.
                But it really doesn’t matter. It’s the reactivity of the reductant that consumes and disperses the energy (and typically produces heat in doing so).
                We do have an awful lot of control over what goes on in that stack.Report

              • ppnl in reply to Will H. says:

                Sorry dude but you are just out to lunch on the energy issue. Essentially all the heat of combustion comes from converting the carbon in the coal to co2. That amount of energy is the fundamental limit on the energy needed to convert the co2 back to carbon. You don’t have to keep up with other reactions because every one of them just make the problems worse. I’m doing you a favor by ignoring them.

                The energy content of tsil’s is trivial. Anyway even if it had enough energy somehow to make a difference you would use it up converting co2 to carbon. You would need to recharge that energy from somewhere. We are talking gigawatts here for a large plant dude. Where does that energy come from? And if you have that source of energy why are you burning coal anyway?

                And again you are not saying why you can’t burn the same carbon over and over. If you don’t you are going to have a problem with all that carbon you have separated out. Its a fire hazard for one thing.Report

              • Heidegger in reply to ppnl says:

                ppnl, Well, that’s a shame. And here I thought I was going to have my own little mobile laughing gas machine to experience my own “Varieties of Religious Experience.” Guess I’ll have to get by with those whipped cream cannisters.

                Now ppnl, I’m not anywhere near your level of expertise regarding the science of atmospheric analysis, but it seems a bit unfair and incorrect to characterize scientists, who have jumped off the Al Gore global warming train (if in fact they were ever on it), as somehow being on the same level as creationists. Dr. Arthur Robinson, who is the director of the Oregon Institute for Science and Medicine, has circulated a petition which has been signed by, 31,000 scientists, which pretty much states the science of APW is complete crap. Also, using sunspot activity has proven to accurately predict global temperatures 79% of the time, while using CO2 is at best, around 20% accurate and getting much less accurate as time goes on. What’s more, looking at temperatures over the last 100 years, the vast majority of global warming that has occur ed has happened before 1940. The current CO2 hysteria just doesn’t add up, considering the majority of CO2 emissions from industrial sources has occurred ed after 1940. And for all that, the earth’s temperature has only increased 0.2 Celsius since 1940. Case closed. (?)
                Here’s a copy of the petition,

                Global Warming Petition
                “We urge the United States government to reject the global warming agreement that was written in Kyoto, Japan in December, 1997, and any other similar proposals. The proposed limits on greenhouse gases would harm the environment, hinder the advance of science and technology, and damage the health and welfare of mankind.

                There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth”Report

              • Heidegger in reply to Heidegger says:

                I know the petition is not recent, but the science debunking APW has only strenghtened. And the signing of the 30,000 scientists happened in 2008.

                Watch this–it’s a great take down of the whole APW cult.


              • James Hanley in reply to Heidegger says:

                But what about the dangers of dihydrogen oxide?Report

              • Pat Cahalan in reply to Heidegger says:

                > Dr. Arthur Robinson, who is the director of
                > the Oregon Institute for Science and Medicine,

                This Oregon Institute for Science and Medicine?

                Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine
                2251 Dick George Road
                Cave Junction, Oregon 97523

                It has eight faculty members listed. Two of them are dead. Two of them are the sons of the founder (one is a veterinary doctor). Only one member has a degree in Chemistry. Some Institute. There are several research groups here in the CS department at Caltech that have more PhDs in them.

                > has circulated a petition which has been
                > signed by, 31,000 scientists, which pretty
                > much states the science of APW is
                > complete crap.

                This is actually factually completely incorrect, which Google can tell you all about with a quick search on this supposed petition.Report

              • RTod in reply to Heidegger says:

                That’s an awesome catch, Pat.

                For those that don’t live in Oregon, Cave Junction is a defunct logging town literally in the middle of nowhere. Like, literally in the middle of nowhere. As in, the Institute has got to be this guy’s house, because aside from a diner, a gas station and some abandoned mills and warehouses, there’s nothing else there.Report

              • Pat Cahalan in reply to Heidegger says:

                I’ve followed a ton of supposed “AGW debunking” stories down the rabbit hole, I have a few active skeptics in the family who send me links repeatedly.

                There’s always a pile of shit at the bottom. Never any real science. I send them back copies of the table of contents of the last twelve months of a couple dozen high impact journals in response.Report

              • RTod in reply to Heidegger says:

                Yes, but this one was special. If you had ever driven through Cave Junction you’d know how utterly perfect it is that the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine is from there. It’s like saying it was conducted by a highly respected College located in that old abandoned van in the KMart lot.Report

              • RTod in reply to Heidegger says:

                Yes, the satellite was offices line was great, but what sent me over the edge was the organic, recyclable bullets.

                H-Dude, someday if you’re ever in the PNW we seriously have to have a beer.Report

              • Heidegger in reply to Heidegger says:

                RTod: “H-Dude, someday if you’re ever in the PNW we seriously have to have a beer.”

                The pleasure would be mine, RTod! I’m actually going to visit a friend in Crescent City in a few months. She lives in a tree house–and yes, she’s a bit nuts–Tree house?? Pretty sure she’s an eco- nut job and I’ll do my best and try to deprogram and reprogram her. Not an easy case, though.

                From Pat: “It has eight faculty members listed. Two of them are dead. Two of them are the sons of the founder (one is a veterinary doctor). Only one member has a degree in Chemistry. Some Institute.”

                And you: “As in, the Institute has got to be this guy’s house, because aside from a diner, a gas station and some abandoned mills and warehouses, there’s nothing else there.”

                I’ve been laughing all night over those two comments. In any case, thanks for the heads up–I was planning to go to med school at the Institute for Science and Medicine, next fall. I should have known something was up when told no transcripts or MCATs were necessary. And when I checked out the faculty, and saw that one of those Raelian wack jobs (Birgette Boisselier) was teaching genetics, that was the ultimate red flag warning. She the one who said she had successfully cloned a human being using extraterrestrial DNA.Report

              • stuartl in reply to ppnl says:

                This gives me an idea for a terrific drink. Sell the ionic liquid with dissolved CO2 as a green health drink. A carbonated drink that burns calories (converting CO2 to solid waste) and helps prevent global warming!

                There will need to be a warning not to burp or have other gaseous expulsions after drinking.Report

              • Heidegger in reply to stuartl says:

                Yes, Pat and RTod, what you don’t know is that the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, is an underground bunker and a satellite campus of both MIT and CalTech. These scientists have legitimate concerns about the safety and security of their families as they have been repeatedly threatened and outright assaulted for offering dissenting opinions regarding the AGW (or is it APW?) The Global Climate Change Industry has paid-in the millions–to have any and all scientists who disagree about human-caused global warming, going so far as to have them ostracized, denied tenure, water boarded, and even killed. (RTodd-the two scientists you mentioned who were killed–it turns out they were shot to death with organic, recyclable bullets and then later beheaded. And mercifully, they have been given asylum at this very prestigious, humane, institute, so there. I still have not read or seen a single piece of evidence that has conclusively shown how mankind’s behavior plays a role in global warming. I’m stunned, actually, that you two were members of the Flat Earth Society. Why have you decided to leave your brains at the door, regarding this subject, global warming?Report

              • Chris in reply to stuartl says:

                “A satellite campus of both MIT and CalTech.” Man, you crack me up.Report

  11. E.D. Kain says:

    Dude. This is the 275th comment in this thread. That’s bloody wonderful.


  12. NoPublic says:

    Because we have the right to own property, it gives the poor hope of advancing and really enjoying their other rights to the fullest — like the rich man. That’s it — no more on this — I’ve exhausted what I can say.
    And you wonder why some think libertarians don’t care about people.
    The poor man should be able to enjoy all his rights to the fullest even though he’s poor.
    That’s why they’re rights.Report

  13. Ralph says:

    I would suggest regularly checking out which has a lot of authoritative info.Report