Redistribution and the State

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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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103 Responses

  1. Avatar Axel Edgren
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    says:

    Is there any person here who is exposed to a decent portion of current libertarian discussion, blogging and activity, and is ready to argue that libertarians (as widely as that group can be plausibly defined) *do* consider corporatism and politicians that practice it as grave a threat as, say, public employee self-serving behavior?

    I can compare the gallons of sweat and other juices produced when Walker went after public unions with the non-existent gall that was poured on his collusion with corporate backers as they were given tax cuts (I thought Wisconsin had fiscal troubles…), no-bid contracts for infrastructure activities and received a get-go to pour dangerous by-products into a river.

    That episode, together with other examples of certain groups’/classes’ collusion with government power not receiving nearly the same loathing as that of other groups’/classes’, makes me very wary of American libertarianism in general. But maybe I just have a filtered an unfair view (I don’t hang at many libertarian blogs, because whenever the climate change issue comes up many libertarians start acting like animals and I don’t talk to animals. That and I don’t like being called “socialist”, “fascist” or “statist”.). Anyone capable of setting me straight on this?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Axel Edgren
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      says:

      To take on one part of what you’ve said (this part: “his collusion with corporate backers as they were given tax cuts”) I’ll point out my perspective on this and you can take it or leave it.

      Corporations have engaged in so much regulatory capture that it has resulted in a spaghetti tax code that pretty much results in corporations being able to not pay taxes. (See, for example, the recent GE tax brouhaha.) Attempts to “simplify” the tax code are captured within seconds of their committee being formed.

      People pay taxes. Corporations don’t.

      If the corporation is in your state, however, it will hire X people who will all pay taxes. They will buy scrapbooking materials at the local scrapbooking store, they will buy Harley Davidson motorcycles from the local Harley Davidson dealer, and they will buy gas and a candybar from the local gas station. This is good for the local economy.

      “Well, let’s raise taxes on the corporations!”

      The corporation has now moved from your state to another state. The workers who were invited to move along with the corporation are having trouble selling their homes because of the new glut of homes on the market caused by the corporation moving and so now housing values are down. The folks who used to buy stuff at the local stores are now unemployed and they’ve stopped buying motorcycles and candybars. People there are employed and housing prices have gone up due to the influx of people from that first state. Hey, maybe there won’t be a whole lot of money coming in from the corporation itself… but the corporation employs a lot of people who suddenly want to start scrapbooking.

      This is a problem that strikes me as not having a solution… and when you compare it to a new interest group trying to capture the government, it’s more likely to result in pressure against the new interest group rather than in pressure against the problem that we don’t know a solution for.Report

      • Avatar Axel Edgren in reply to Jaybird
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        says:

        I get all that. Corporations will shop around for the lowest state tax levels – I can’t blame them.

        Would you agree that corporations’ total tax burden should be less dependent on state tax levels and that the tax code should thus leave them less room to optimize things for themselves?

        Can you see republicans creating a less insane tax code that closes the loopholes for corporations? Heck, can you see democrats daring to stand for it beyond speeches? Me neither.

        This is another problem that won’t be solved proactively, apparently. Hoo boyReport

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Axel Edgren
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          says:

          Would you agree that corporations’ total tax burden should be less dependent on state tax levels and that the tax code should thus leave them less room to optimize things for themselves?

          It seems to me that a Federalization of the tax burden will result in companies moving overseas… again, killing the goose that lays these eggs.

          Can you see republicans creating a less insane tax code that closes the loopholes for corporations? Heck, can you see democrats daring to stand for it beyond speeches? Me neither.

          The response to “simplification” will always be “but what about the mortgage deduction!” followed by “but what about charitable deductions!” and, at that point, the discussion is scuttled. Discussions that start with “well, we should close loopholes!” generally make it to committee. The committee, of course, has been captured.Report

          • Avatar Barry in reply to Jaybird
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            says:

            “It seems to me that a Federalization of the tax burden will result in companies moving overseas… again, killing the goose that lays these eggs.”

            Well, no. But thanks for playing.

            And Axel, here’s the anecdote to answer your question – for practical purposes, most self-professed libertarians fall under Kevin Carson’s characterization that “It’s another example of the general rule that statism that helps the rich is kinda sorta bad, maybe, I guess, but statism that helps the poor is flaming red ruin on wheels.”

            And Jim Henley’s view: “But which shackles and which crutches when? The “liberal” “libertarian” answer is: first take the crutches from those best able to bear their own weight, and remove the shackles from the weak before the strong. So: corporate welfare before Social Security before Aid to Families with Dependent Children. Drug prohibition before marginal income tax rates.”

            They all have excuses, as Jaybird does, but those excuses *always* line up with pulling the shackles off of the strong and the crutches from under the weak first, and then, later, at some magical mysterious day (the first of Never), pulling the crutches from under the strong and the shackles from the weak.

            Or, in final summary – the problem with libertarianism in the USA is that the left-wing roots are atrophied, while the right-wing roots are strong (and ‘right-wing’ here does not mean populist)Report

  2. Avatar brs
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    says:

    “The finance sector strikes me as an example of the road to free markets gone badly wrong.”

    This is seriously misguided. What about todays finance sector looks at all like a free market? The fact that the industry has been consolidated into essentially four major banks? Or that the government and the finance sector are in bed together? If the finance sector is a free market, its a fugazi free market, one which relies on infusions of government cash and self serving regulation to cartelize the industry.

    The finance sector is an example not of free markets gone wrong, but of the inherent ills of a corporatist/monopolistic system. The banking system basically wrote the reform bill that passed, ditto for the health insurance companies and the healthcare bill. Regulations are put into place at the consultation and behest of these oligopolies, which only stifles the entry of new capital into these markets and cartelizes the market. JP Morgan and Chase used to be their own banks. Same with Solomon Brothers and Smith Barney. The government allowed these banks to merge and consolidate when there was no reason for it. The finance sector is really no different than any other major US industry – oil, telecom, etc. These are industries where there used to be choices, but no longer. The finance sector as well as the oil and telecom industries are run by oligopolies who fear competition and competitive pricing. Moreover, free markets are about loss and gain, and in a true free market system there are no bailouts for bankrupt companies. Nothing could be further from a true free market system.

    Is todays finance sector an example of free markets gone bad, or a self serving, inherently corrupt, corporatist system dressed up as a free market?Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to brs
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      says:

      But this isn’t at all what I said, is it? I said it was the road to a freed market gone badly wrong – not a free market already. This is exactly my point, too: industry will take advantage of deregulation, and politicians will rarely have the political fortitude to let major companies fail. If a monopoly is unsustainable in a truly free market, then there needs to be the political will to not bail out monopolies (or oligopolies) when they crumble.Report

      • Avatar brs in reply to E.D. Kain
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        says:

        Thanks for clarifying. I’ve re-read what you wrote, and I think on this were pretty much in agreement.Report

      • Avatar mark boggs in reply to E.D. Kain
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        says:

        Again, I’m pretty much an idiot on these things, but isn’t part of the problem that, with the size of some of these behemoths and the fact that with too little or improper oversight (corrupt?) these behemoths take immense risks that sometimes pay huge short term benefits but the long term consequences (losses) really suck and up being socialized because, well, you can’t let two or three of your major banks fail because of the even bigger wave that’s likely to cause?

        Somebody on this very sight made a comment to the effect the other day that because so much of the workforce is dependent on corporate America, this makes it something that cannot be allowed to fail.Report

        • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to mark boggs
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          says:

          mark – yes, this pretty well sums up the state of affairs. And it’s a huge obstacle to actually freeing up markets which would, essentially, require the political will to allow for failure, even massive failure, and then the fallout of that.Report

          • Avatar brs in reply to E.D. Kain
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            says:

            Exactly. Now that the government has allowed these industries to consolidate on such an unprecedented scale, they basically have no other option than to prop them up. And your quite right, that a massive failure would do much good for freeing up markets. Unfortunately, I just do not see the political will you talk about in more than a scintilla of elected officials.Report

            • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to brs
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              says:

              And yet there is the political will to slash spending on welfare (and again, not on defense) and to make retirement for future retirees less secure (and more reliant on the very financial sector making us even more wed to that mess) and so forth. This is why I’m really coming around to the position of left-wing libertarian. I am fully behind the dismantling of the state as much as possible, but only in the right order. The alternative is not only unfair, it is also ripe for political-populist backlash. (That being said, I think means-testing is going to be an important part of future reforms to entitlements – we need to curtail all transfers of wealth up the income ladder.)Report

              • Avatar mark boggs in reply to E.D. Kain
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                says:

                Doesn’t this have to do with the myth that all wealth justifies itself? In other words, no matter how unscrupulously you have made your millions and at no matter the consequence to the business, its employees, its investors, if you’re wealthy in business you are necessarily a successful business person. Conversely, people who are poor, or lose their jobs (sometimes due to the “successful” businessman’s negligence), or have medical problems, are often viewed as ne’er do well’s who made their beds, and thus, are deserving of very little. They are the leeches and the people who benefit from taking the big risks that produce short term bucks at long term expenses are the producers.

                Simplistic, I realize. And I’m certainly not saying that all wealthy people are this way or that most of them are, anymore than all poor people are, by definition, lecherous.Report

              • Avatar Axel Edgren in reply to mark boggs
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                says:

                “Doesn’t this have to do with the myth that all wealth justifies itself?”

                This would be correct if meritocracy was ubiquitous. But luck, inheritance and environmental factors outside of our control until we are free of our custodians play a serious part.

                As such, reducing redistribution too much would mean *less* meritocracy and fairness, not more. Because unless 100% of your income comes from your own merits, you can’t claim it’s all “sweat of your brow”. If all people in your generation had the same upbringing, childhood environment and other factors outside of your average individual’s control, then of course redistribution would be unfair.

                But the fact that meritocratic forces are not the only explanation for wealth disparity means some redistribution is necessary lest wealth disparity and social stratification solidify completely. Being born by the right woman is not a merit.

                I would not have gotten into my good college without government aid *or* the fact that many possible competitors for the spot have been rendered incapable of competing due to not having the same fortunate upbringing I had. As such, I will not be entitled to paying less taxes than my parents did when I start working.

                If libertarians don’t realize and seek to quantify the role luck and factors outside of the individual’s control play in the economical success of the individual, no serious person can bother having a conversation with them. Metaphysics be damned.Report

              • Avatar Murali in reply to Axel Edgren
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                says:

                A few points:

                1. The problem with arguing with (luck) egalitarians about desert/merit is that very quickly things boil down to we dont deserve our character (which is just a product of genes and environment anyway) nor do we deserve our talents. The problem with this line of thought is that the egalitarian ends up claiming that we all are equally deserving of the social product and that therefore we should have some presumptive egalitarian distribution of goods. If our character is just a product of genes and environment, then we cannot be responsible for our actions and so, the reasoning goes, notions of desert, merit and its close cousin moral responsibility can be thrown out the window.

                Not only are we not equally deserving, no one is deserving of anything. Also, given that saying that we ought to x instead of not-x presumes that that the choice of x or not-x is within our control, the view that our character is not within our control (at the least in such a way as to negate desert claims) contradicts this view. If we have no control over our character, speaking of ought in relation to us is incoherent.

                Note also that any compatibalist view that preserve the ought in the face of determinism would also at the same time preserve moral responsibility and desert.

                2. Arguments made by most libertarians for private property rights (and a libertarian order in general) does not hinge on us morally deserving our wealth. (even though in a free(d) market what people get in return for their work does seem, at first blush, like the value of their marginal social product) Check out the distinction between deserving our wealth and being entitled to it.

                We are entitled to our wealth iff we acquire the wealth by a certain set of rules of entitlement. These rules of entitlement are justified in different ways. The rules could be justified because it maximises the position of the worst off, it reduces inequality or some other morally salient feature (including, possibly moral deseert. But looking at moral desert is often too intrusive to be useful to a political conception of justice)Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Murali
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                Check out the distinction between deserving our wealth and being entitled to it.

                I very much understand that I don’t “deserve” to have many of the things that compose privilege that I have had (as the bard said “Use every man after his desert, and who should ‘scape whipping?”). What I don’t get is “you don’t deserve X, therefore I should take some portion of X away from you and redistribute it to others (after taking out a chunk for overhead) who have less than they deserve”. What is the foundation of “I should do this?”

                I understand the argument that we, as a society, have decided that we have a responsibility to provide a baseline for existence for, among others, children. I do not, however, understand this argument if its foundation is what people “deserve”.Report

              • Avatar Axel Edgren in reply to Murali
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                says:

                If you ask me the only problem is that it is impossible to calculate how meritocratic/clean slate/equal opportunity a society is and how much one is hindered or helped by certain factors.

                We have to start in another direction: what should we alleviate? What should we help people with? If there is no communication about this the different sides won’t be able to sympathize with one another on a basic level.

                One reason I am often tired with libertarianism is that it throws metaphysics into the discussion as well. That doesn’t help.Report

              • Avatar Murali in reply to Murali
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                says:

                If you ask me the only problem is that it is impossible to calculate how meritocratic/clean slate/equal opportunity a society is

                We can measure social mobility. i.e. what fraction of people born into the bottom third of society remain in said bottom third? Granted that it would be difficult to overcome the effects of genes and upbringing, so I presume that no society shows an ideal score of 1/3. What could be done though is to gather the score for different countries and see what policies improve mobility and which ones worsen it.

                Or if you think that material inequality is at best secondary to absolute well being, or at worst a red herring, you could try asking which policies maximise the legitimate expectations of the worst off (over their lifetime). All these are legitimate questions. Pace Rawls, these are ways in which we can evaluate the rules that make up the basic structure (i.e. those entitlement rules we were talking about earlier) As a libertarian, of course I think that libertarian rules best improve the well-being of the worst off.

                One reason I am often tired with libertarianism is that it throws metaphysics into the discussion as well. That doesn’t help.

                I think i might be getting what you mean but for clarity’s sake please explain.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Murali
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                says:

                One reason I am often tired with libertarianism is that it throws metaphysics into the discussion as well. That doesn’t help.

                If we’re talking about what society ought do, we’re already talking about metaphysics.Report

              • Avatar Axel Edgren in reply to Murali
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                says:

                Clarification: You say you think libertarianism is best for the worst off in society. But that is an argument based in the physical world.

                Yet to hear some libertarians argue, there is a realm beyond the physical the rules and edicts of which we have to comport with. I can understand the default cynicism towards any growth of government responsibility and activity, but there seems to be a notion that making a country less libertarian or not constantly striving towards some libertarian ideal society is a slight against human dignity. I simply think that a strain of current libertarianism rejects the idea that even if redistribution constitutes an investment (as the recipient pays more taxes and even creates jobs thanks to the “seed money” that allowed him to progress or avoid disaster) it is still unacceptable.

                Take the ridiculous Ryan budget. It somehow manages to not reduce the deficit much even while it brings heavy cuts to those on the margins. But it punishes the welfare dependent and gives the successful even more money, so it is good for the metaphysical moral fiber of the nation. Of course, I know more serious and less herded libertarians look through Ryan of Nazareth’s attempt at being a reasonable national accountant, but to the extent that libertarians support him, I can’t help but think they are more concerned with metaphysical rather than physical matters.Report

              • Avatar Murali in reply to Axel Edgren
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                says:

                To whit, if we are to have this conversation seriously, the egalitarian must at the very least agree that we “deserve” (if he believes in such a beast) the marginal product of our talent and effort. Without this, no reasonable discussion about how much people are deserving of their curent place in the socio-economic distribution can take place.Report

              • Avatar brs in reply to E.D. Kain
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                says:

                I’m extremely sympathetic to this position. As a liberaltarian I think social insurance programs should be left alone until serious cuts and changes are made to the warfare policies (both overseas and drug) as well as other government functions. Its real easy to look courageous by cutting social insurance programs because unlike the military and prison industrial complexes, the vast majority who are on or need social insurance programs don’t have lobbyists defending their interests. Moreover, politicians are so paranoid of looking weak/soft on defense and crime that they’ll do anything to cover themselves in the event of a new terrorist attack.

                I also agree completely that changes are needed to entitlement programs. Welfare programs should be designed to help those in actual need rather than the entire citizenry. I’m all for an overhaul of social insurance programs and understand that even the most targeted welfare program might incorporate people who don’t exactly need welfare, however, I’m willing to live with the fact that some might reap the benefits of social insurance when in fact they do not actually need it.Report

              • Avatar brs in reply to E.D. Kain
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                says:

                *meant to post this here*

                I’m extremely sympathetic to this position. As a liberaltarian I think social insurance programs should be left alone until serious cuts and changes are made to the warfare policies (both overseas and drug) as well as other government functions. Its real easy to look courageous by cutting social insurance programs because unlike the military and prison industrial complexes, the vast majority who are on or need social insurance programs don’t have lobbyists defending their interests. Moreover, politicians are so paranoid of looking weak/soft on defense and crime that they’ll do anything to cover themselves in the event of a new terrorist attack.

                I also agree completely that changes are needed to entitlement programs. Welfare programs should be designed to help those in actual need rather than the entire citizenry. I’m all for an overhaul of social insurance programs and understand that even the most targeted welfare program might incorporate people who don’t exactly need welfare, however, I’m willing to live with the fact that some might reap the benefits of social insurance when in fact they do not actually need it.Report

    • Avatar Barry in reply to brs
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      says:

      “JP Morgan and Chase used to be their own banks. Same with Solomon Brothers and Smith Barney. The government allowed these banks to merge and consolidate when there was no reason for it. ”

      That’s odd – the government not preventing some corporations from merging is somehow not free market.Report

  3. Avatar E.C. Gach
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    says:

    I think part of why the financial sector appears like a “freed” market gone terribly wrong is just the nature of finance as an industry.

    To do well in finance, it is more important to have a lot of money to do things with than having a lot of creative ways of investing it.

    So a smaller, newer investment firm, even if they come up with new and useful financial tools, will still be at a huge disadvantage if they don’t have as much capital as the big boys.

    Compare that with something like digital software, where creating a new product can create great upheaval and introduce much more competition into that market, even if the creator lacks a lot of capital backing.

    In finance, “wins” accumulate much faster and to greater effect, than the usual advantages of scaling production, branding, etc.

    So finance by it’s very nature is a difficult beast to leave unfettered.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to E.C. Gach
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      says:

      This makes sense to me, and further illustrates the nature of our predicament.Report

    • Avatar 4jkb4ia in reply to E.C. Gach
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      says:

      Almost the only thing in “How Markets Fail” that I didn’t really know was the discussion of how Keynes dealt with the problem. Anyone who wants to make money in the financial markets has to think about how the market is going to value X at time Y, however much that person is relying on the “intrinsic” value of X. Being too contrarian has the risk that others will not believe that your investing strategy is worth anything and that you will lose some of the borrowed money/client money that you used to invest. The power of doing what everyone else is doing is exacerbated by the reputation of the big firms.Report

  4. Avatar BSK
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    says:

    I think many of the information offered here is why I feel that redistribution of wealth through the tax system is justified. Many argue that the rich do not have any greater obligation than others, but the evidence offered here shows that they directly benefit from the social, political, economic, and legal system put in place by the government and, as such, I have no problem taxing them more for that privilege. Of course, I agree that a preferable system would be to eliminate these entrenchments, but I simply doubt we see that happen.

    I also appreciate the discussion of stolen lands and resources. In other libertarian circles I’ve found myself in, I discussed how the libertarian movement will have issues gaining traction with certain people if their emphasis on property rights ignores this massive elephant in the room. It is hard to claim to really care about property rights when you have no issue with one of the great abuses of property rights. As noted, this discuss opens up a certain Pandora’s Box and the practicality of returning the land is an issue, but that doesn’t preclude the morality of it. And while some things can’t be quantified (e.g., are the descendants of slaves entitled to compensation for the stolen labor and lives of their ancestors? how do we determine the ancestral lands of people that did not define their own property in a way consistent with our current mindset?) there are also examples of legal contracts that tribes signed with the government for specific and explicitly described pieces of land that were subsequently ignored. Yet these are rarely touched on and I think the absence of such conversation undermines libertarian movements.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to BSK
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      says:

      Agreed, BSK. And they are thorny, impossible issues really for any political tribe, but certainly stolen-land issues should color any discussion of property rights. Then again, all land is stolen in a sense, so it’s pretty easy to devolve into “Property is theft!” type arguments.Report

      • Avatar BSK in reply to E.D. Kain
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        says:

        Indeed. Which is why I focus on situations like the one involving the Black Hills and the Lakota. The government signed a treaty with the Lakota promising them certain lands, then simply changed their mind and took the lands when gold was discovered there. Ownership was explicitly stated in a legal contract that was simply ignored when doing so was convenient.Report

  5. Avatar Mark Thompson
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    says:

    I’m all hopped up on cold medicine right now, so I reserve the right to change my mind when I’ve achieved coherence again, but I think I liked this post.Report

  6. Avatar tom van dyke
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    says:

    Until one speaks meaningfully of “liberty,” he is merely a leftist.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to tom van dyke
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      Unless one understands the many ways liberty is distorted by poverty one is merely a rightwinger.Report

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

        Not atall, Mr. Kain. One who speaks of liberty could be a libertarian. Or a liberal. [Possibly.]

        Basically, your thesis seems to me to be that as long as the poor are with us, liberty is off the table. But they always will be with us, and therefore it will always be off the table.

        So, fine, that’s leftism. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. But what is new here?

        Yes, the “too big to fail” thing is nauseating, but it’s nauseating to people of any political philosophy. [The Tea Party folks took particular umbrage.] You seem to peg your meta-argument to it, but it’s not particular to your POV.

        As for the poor, the question is mutated into “income inequality,” but that’s a framing from the left. The question isn’t whether the rich have too much, only do the poor have enough. Contrary to caricature, nobody of any political stripe in America wants people dying on the street.

        So, the question remains, is liberty the best dynamic to create plenty, or is redistribution? Libertarians and [some] liberals argue that despite its excesses, liberty creates more wealth than its inequalities destroy, and that redistribution creates no wealth atall. The former is dynamic, the latter static.

        Liberty is at the very heart of the meta-argument, and is not necessarily the province of “the right wing,” as you suggest.

        [Redistribution, however, is indeed the province of the left.]Report

        • Avatar E.C. Gach in reply to tom van dyke
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          says:

          “But they always will be with us, and therefore it will always be off the table.”

          That’s one of the main presuppositions of conservatives/traditionalists (i.e. progress not really possible).

          What argument would prevent me from positing that they will only always be with us because certain inequities in property rights and other legal traditions persist?

          It’s a chicken and the egg situation.Report

          • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to E.C. Gach
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            says:

            Mr. Gach, you reinforce my critique of Mr. Kain’s thesis:

            What argument would prevent me from positing that they will only always be with us because certain inequities in property rights and other legal traditions persist?

            It’s a chicken and the egg situation.

            You think you’ll “solve” the problem of the ages, or posit there are no other reasons for poverty than structural ones?

            The liberal wants to help the poor. The leftist wants to cure poverty.

            [This does not even get into what poverty is; our statistical definition is fairly arbitrary. To be poor in America is to be relatively well-off in many other countries.]Report

            • Avatar E.C. Gach in reply to tom van dyke
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              says:

              Saying that some reasons for poverty are structural is not to say that all of them are.

              You need not do me the disservice of taking the extreme of every contrary position.

              I think the point is that at this current moment, the balance is off.

              I don’t like the medical metaphor. Poverty isn’t something to be cured. And if you want to argue with a leftist, do so, but don’t try to pigeon hole my positions into these other ones.

              One shouldn’t want to help the poor, one should want to make it so that those who do not wish to be poor have the means of not being poor anymore.

              So what if the poor will always be with us. It is still better to reduce their number than to sit on our hands and say that thinks will shake out alright in the end.

              What policies would you advocate in order to “help” the poor?Report

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

          I suggest no such thing. Quite the contrary.Report

        • Avatar E.C. Gach in reply to tom van dyke
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          says:

          Also, part of the problem is that their are deep disputes within the terminology.

          “Liberty” is not such a pure or innocuous concept as you imply.

          Any idea of liberty will have winners and losers attached to it. Just as one idea of property will benefit one group, while another definition of property will benefit another.

          For instance, liberty as enshrined in current common law leaves the homeless tremendously disenfranchised. If you don’t have a track of land to call your own, or enough money to contract with someone else for some, you have no liberty, or at least none that you can exercise.Report

          • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to E.C. Gach
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            says:

            Mr. Gach, you make liberty a zero-sum game, precisely my critique of Mr. Kain’s thesis here.Report

            • Avatar E.C. Gach in reply to tom van dyke
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              says:

              No I don’t. You deal in such simple dichotomies. This or that.

              There can be winners and losers, but still more or less. I’m not saying there will always be equal amounts (zero-sum), just that there will in fact be those that benefit and those that don’t, and we should look for a concept of liberty that benefits the most people in the best way (and this may turn out to be your notion of “liberty”), not just the one that benefits the current seats of power.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to E.C. Gach
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                says:

                Mr. Gach, that’s a definition of utilitarianism, not liberty.

                I don’t mean to be difficult here. Of course we want the laws to equally apply to all; however, once our judgments are utilitarian—outcome-based—it’s not law atall, just social engineering.

                We’ll always be playing catch-up, trying to rectify past injustice with new injustice.

                As for property, real estate in particular, it’s rather sui generis: they’re not making any more of it, and unlike consumer goods, it increases in value rather than depreciates.

                Perhaps the only good thing about finance [as opposed to “capitalism”] is that it makes real estate fungible. And if Hernando de Soto is correct, the problem with real estate in places like Latin America is that it’s not fungible enough. This is why property rights and their defense are fundamental to questions of “economic justice.” It’s not just about greed, haves-vs.-havenots etc. Fungibility is the havenots’ avenue to becoming “haves.”

                So—and this is not to ignore that greed and grift exist—we put up with markets and capital being “free” because they provide the liquidity and thus fungibility that true liberty requires.

                If we agree liberty is good, or even that it exists…Report

              • Avatar E.C. Gach in reply to tom van dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                “Perhaps the only good thing about finance [as opposed to “capitalism”] is that it makes real estate fungible.”

                I agree with you there.

                “Of course we want the laws to equally apply to all; however, once our judgments are utilitarian—outcome-based—it’s not law atall, just social engineering.”

                That part concerns me. Could you clarify what you mean there?Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to E.C. Gach
                Ignored
                says:

                Mr. Gach, Mr. Murali covers some of it above, re “luck” egalitarianism. I also challenge that “income inequality” is a problem atall. Bill Gates does not make me poorer.

                It was your own statement that opened the question;

                Any idea of liberty will have winners and losers attached to it. Just as one idea of property will benefit one group, while another definition of property will benefit another.

                Aside from the unworkable “Labor Theory of Value,” the idea of property is fairly straightforward and unmysterious, or at least should be, independent from cui bono. Any other concept of property is social engineering.Report

              • Avatar E.C. Gach in reply to tom van dyke
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                says:

                Like you said though, property and natural resources have all been divided up. So the only way to secure a living is by indentured servitude, with the later hope of building up savings and a credit score, or government largess.

                But of course, a tide raises all ships and such. But that uses current the current situation as the norm, to say based on that, hey haven’t things gotten better?

                The problem is deciding whether the current norm should guide policy, or it itself is distorted.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to tom van dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                EC, it goes to the “creation of wealth,” dynamism via liberty, which redistributionism seldom addresses.

                The counterargument is always [properly] of “killing the golden goose.”

                It so happens that the current system—for all its flaws, inefficiencies and unfairnesses—is indeed somehow raising the tide for the world’s poor.

                But even if it weren’t [or isn’t], it’s better to be poor in a more affluent society than in a less affluent one.

                I’m thinking of Brazil and India here. I have no doubt they have structural barriers to upward mobility that they need to sort out, and that’s their internal problem. However, I must guess the lot of the poor is better than it was 50 or 100 years ago.

                Now if the “current system” actually were making their lot worse, then yes, the questions and answers would be different.Report

              • Avatar Murali in reply to tom van dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                once our judgments are utilitarian—outcome-based—it’s not law atall, just social engineering.

                Even the natural law approach (that I know that you admire) uses outcomes as an ultimate standard.

                Consider that the natural law consists of the rules and pricniples we have to follow in order to lead the good life (eudaimonia if you will). But if people’s lives are not good, then it follows that the rules they are currently living under are the wrong ones.Report

              • Avatar mark boggs in reply to Murali
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                says:

                Yeah, it struck me that if you live your life doing things that aren’t outcome based, or if we continue to insist on things that are not outcome based and those things keep ending up in a sad shape, have we not just exhibited the definition of insanity?

                And strangely, it seems this might apply to the whole entitlements mess in that we’ve been doing it this way and it doesn’t seem to improve much and arguably has deteriorated.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Murali
                Ignored
                says:

                Yes, Mr. Murali. Again, do the poor have enough? The disagreement comes when it’s argued it’s because the rich have too much.

                And BTW, I like Aquinas’ concept of “Just Wage,” that it’s unjust—contra the natural law—to pay someone less than it takes to provide for himself and his family.

                HOWEVER [deep breath], in our “mixed” economy, what with the Earned Income Credit, “Making Work Pay,” Medicaid, food stamps, free education, etc., a “just wage” is still the object, just achieved by alternate means.

                I recall an article in the Atlantic a few years back,

                The workers were quite obviously exhausted by it. Some, I think, were slowly starving, trapped in that cycle of nutritional deficit all too common in South Asia, by which a man may gradually expend more calories on his job than his wages will allow him to replace.

                http://www.wesjones.com/shipbreakers.htm

                OK, now this is the starting point. This is capitalism at its most immoral and most unacceptable. And this is what Aquinas meant by “just wage.” I think we maybe extrapolate way past that mark in our discussions of America in 2011, where poverty is more a relative term than an absolute one.Report

        • Avatar Barry in reply to tom van dyke
          Ignored
          says:

          “Contrary to caricature, nobody of any political stripe in America wants people dying on the street.”

          No, but many could live with people dying out of sight, not on the streets.

          One of the rules I have is that ‘not as bad as [REDACTED BY GODWIN]’ still leaves lots of room to be horrible.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to tom van dyke
      Ignored
      says:

      Liberty is a weasel word, especially within quotes. Its near relatives in the vocabulum mustelidae are Justice and Fairness.Report

      • Avatar Axel Edgren in reply to BlaiseP
        Ignored
        says:

        Agreed.

        *Liberty* never disappears – one is always free to rise up (and get killed) in the worst dictatorships (the only dictator here is fear of a noble, sacrificial death rather than slow, dishonorable death from old age). You can starve yourself or commit suicide unless you are made captive in truly debilitating ways. Freedom is always total as long as your neurology has not been tampered with to a degree that excuses you.

        *Justice* is completely interchangeable with “revenge”. No one wants “justice” for oneself, only revenge.

        *Fairness* is unfairness. *Unfairness* is fairness.Report

        • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Axel Edgren
          Ignored
          says:

          An incoherent mess, the sophist’s delight. There is no liberty. There is no justice. Move along, nothing to see here, folks.Report

          • Avatar Axel Edgren in reply to tom van dyke
            Ignored
            says:

            “There is no liberty”. I said there was and that it never disappears. Just not liberty as you see it.

            “There is no justice”. Of course there is, but there would be no desire for it if justice did not mean revenge.

            I’m new here. Has Tom always been like this and has he ever contributed anything in any conversation with anyone?Report

            • Avatar RTod in reply to Axel Edgren
              Ignored
              says:

              Be patient. He’s a smart guy and can have threads that are really good at making you look again at your own point of view. He does however tend to see you at the beginnings of conversations as a pre-packaged librul and is arguing pre-made arguments with a cardboard cut out version of what he assumes is you. But my experience is if you explain where you are coming from he will come around.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to RTod
                Ignored
                says:

                Why, thank you, RTod. It’s good to be gotten. My first question is always how my interlocutor is differing from standard-issue leftist sentiment, as I question Mr. Kain here. My greatest delight is being surprised to find there is a difference. [Not often hereabouts.]

                BTW, I liked your bit on the finance/housing crisis very much on the other thread. Clarity rocks.Report

              • Avatar RTod in reply to tom van dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                Kumbaya, Tom, Kumbaya.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to tom van dyke
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                says:

                Standard issue? Pray tell, is there a definitive list for a Leftist’s TO&E?Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to BlaiseP
                Ignored
                says:

                By coincidence and good fortune, Blaise, I posted just such a list on Jason’s “Master’s Voice” thread last night. Enjoy.

                You may choose to associate or disassociate yrself with “Bob’s” list. Although he’s a self-described “San Francisco bay area, unapologetic liberal,” I will not assume he speaks for anyone but himself.

                I hope not, since Jason just tore him up quite effectively.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to tom van dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                Well, drink your unpasteurized milk if you want to, Tom. Brucellosis used to kill children by the thousands: death was as close as the nearest milk pail. You don’t get cured of brucellosis, it’s a lifetime condition.

                You pretty much lost all cred with that bit about unpasteurized milk. It’s always the same: no sooner does regulation (usually written in blood) attenuate a problem like brucellosis than a certain class of Ignorant Persons arise to complain about that regulation. Facts being what they are, Brucellosis abortans is still among us, though you obviously do not believe this to be true.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to tom van dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                Oh, Blaise, and I’d hoped you pick the strongest argument instead of picking off that cripple. [Sorry for the un-PCness there.]

                The milk thing was gratuitous, and indeed the list was more to highlight the differences between libs and libertarians. Still, it applies.

                You realize of course that by claiming I’ve “lost all cred” by including one weak point—for laughs at that—that’s sophistic, a corollary of the straw man fallacy. I let your errors pass by the bushel, as they don’t necessarily mean you have no cred or that your basic theses are wrong.

                As a matter of fact, I lean against raw milk, and would never drink the stuff meself. However, I’m not sure it should be banned. I’ll leave that one for the libertarians.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to tom van dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                Tom, don’t go all wobbly and fecetious on me here. What is true of raw milk is equally true of the other Straw Men on your list. May I presume in my ignorance you are not to be numbered among the Filthy Rich? It is hardly Class Warfare to observe the Libertarian has proven to be a Useful Idiot in this tax debate business.

                Nor is it beyond reason to observe Education has become a political football, with the mouthbreathers loudly damning of teacher’s unions to the exclusion of any other public servants’ union.

                The Useful Idiot takes his talking points from others. Hamstringing American business, eet eez to larf, Tom. Only the most ignorant rube believes American business has been hamstrung and I would not wish to lump you in with such as those.

                As with the Raw Milk Debate, it’s always the same thing with these ignoramii. Like so many contumacious teenagers, seething with rage under Daddy’s rules, they would have us undo entirely necessary legislation to recapitulate perfectly predictable failures.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to tom van dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                Take the list up with the libertarians, if you can find one around here, Blaise. You axed what is de rigeur for lefties, you got it.

                I wrote hamstringing the oil business, BTW. The raw milk thing, I’m fairly agnostic. It’s legal here in California, and the streets are relatively free of dead bodies. So whatever you were on about, take it up with the hippies.

                As for your digression on corruption and self-dealing in politics, well, the sky is blue too, what can I say? I’m sure we’re both with Adam Smith on that, exc when it comes to public sector unions [see list].Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to tom van dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                As a self-described Lefty, having been one for many years, I find your list to be a pack of recycled lies. Clearly you lack any exposure to the Left as it exists in modern times. If you have questions about what the Left believes these days, I’ll tell you. Feel free to ask.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to tom van dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                BlaiseP, nobody needs to ask you what you think to find out.

                😉Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to tom van dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                And nobody needs your outgassing on the subject of what the Left believes, especially when it’s exported from Tom’s Weasel Ranch.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to tom van dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                Sir, you took your best shot with the raw milk rant, which was less than probative since it’s legal in California and we seem to be surviving. Better luck next time.

                And your insults could be funnier. Work on it.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to tom van dyke
                Ignored
                says:

                That’s the dumbest thing you’ve yet said. You know nothing of dairy cattle or brucellosis. The USDA enforces a yearly test for brucellosis on cattle and puts down any infected cattle. Every calf is vaccinated. It’s a problem with elk, bison and other ruminants, and it can cross species to cattle as well.

                Probative, schmobative. You get brucellosis, you’re stuck with it for the rest of your life.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to tom van dyke
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                says:

                Taking Tom seriously? What a concept!Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to BlaiseP
        Ignored
        says:

        Not necessarily, they can always be defined and restricted. Contra Berlin, we dont have to start with so called -ve liberties in order to arrive at libertarian results.

        Same with justice and fairness.Report

  7. Avatar BlaiseP
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    says:

    Does a free market eat the rich? It has never done so.

    Taxation theory is always a troublesome bone of contention for the Libertarian. Too often he seems to take an unduly simplistic view of the problem, and it’s a problem of message, not substance. Allow me to present an alternative in accordance with Hayek.

    In an ideal world, let us stipulate to the principle whereby those who benefit from an economy would bear its costs in direct relation to the benefits thus accrued. Conversely, those who actively benefit the economy should reap those rewards without undue interference. Government’s Gordian knot of monetary costs and benefits, both tangible and intangible, taxes, tax breaks, subsidies and contracts cannot be easily undone: they must be considered as a whole.

    The Welfare State is not limited to the poor: its benefits extend to the very richest. The network of subsidies and exemptions, combined with the gross inefficiencies (indeed outright contradictions) of the taxation process itself have led to a situation where four different tax preparers will produce four different tax returns for the same person. Corporate tax law is its own nightmare: income can be hidden via a hundred perfectly legal routes and more are dreamed up every day.

    Statism is a Straw Man. I weary of repeating myself: government’s power must extend to enforce enough regulation to ensure winners and losers are separated in a market on its shores. If we are to avoid such Free Markets as Enron’s trading floor and AIG’s insurance policies, the hated bureaucrat must put in an appearance. Buys must match sells, trading accounts must be cleared and crooks must be hauled off to jail.

    What shall be done with the Poor and Wretched? Hark, hark, the dogs do bark / the beggars are coming to town. / Some in rags and some in tags / and some in velvet gowns. The first set of unworthy beggars is immensely wealthy: let the corporate welfare system be abolished and half of the defense budget will disappear. A political contribution has the best ROI of any investment: a ten thousand dollar contribution can result in a multimillion dollar government contract.

    The low income types want to work. Their main obstacle to gainful employment is actually getting to work: once someone drops below the level of having a car, they’re screwed. An employment network could handle the logistics of getting them to their jobs, including the establishment of daycare for their children if needed. If we are to refine the process of helping the poor in measurable ways, free health clinics are the most effective route to improving their lot. If we start with the assertion the poor want to work, and they do, any expenditures on their behalf should be untied from any other goal. Money spent on the poor has the additional benefit of entering the economy immediately.

    If ignoring them and blaming them for their plight is stupid, condescending to the poor is worse: it humiliates them. Our goal should be to make taxpayers of them.

    The notion of redistribution is mostly nonsense. The system will always favor those with the power to influence it and twist it to their own ends and there is no point in weeping about that fact. As well-regulated markets separate Winners from Losers, well-run government separate the Regulated from the Regulators. Establish those boundaries and enforce them first: the rest will take care of itself.Report

    • Avatar Axel Edgren in reply to BlaiseP
      Ignored
      says:

      Great clarity there, Blaise. Helpful and serious.

      Another query: Does anyone know of a single republican in congress that even believes it is possible to invest in people and infrastructure and get a positive NPV? And, as a follow-up, would they even make that investment after reaching the conclusion that it would be profitable?

      Seems to me that the biggest and most dominant group in the current right can be summarized as “People who would rather sink aboard the U.S.S. Rand than sail on aboard an ideologically impure vessel.”Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Axel Edgren
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        says:

        Let’s resist the urge to Partify this problem: the Democrats, yea even Rand Paul, for all his fine talk about Earmarks and the like, are up their elbows in the making of political sausages and distributing them to their supporters. It is a filthy business and there is no point to reducing this problem to Donkeys and Elephants. While we heap abuse upon each other like so many lager louts in their team jerseys up in the stands, the politicians are out on the pitch, indistinguishable from each other in their venality.

        The political process, such as it is at present, especially in light of the Citizens United case, is awash in PAC money sewage. Elections cost big money and the process of raising that money has reduced our politicians to street whores. The metaphor goes all the way to the ground, for the politician has a pimp, called a Party Whip to enforce discipline and deliver hoes to where their services are required. In exchange for submitting to these indignities, the politician takes home the bacon to his district. Not even the President is immune to pressure: when Obama wanted his public option, the Insurance Industry told Obama to his face they were prepared to spend a billion dollars on attack ads.

        All this you know and if it is tiresome to hear again, it is even more tiresome to reiterate these facts. The darkest irony of the Libertarian’s opposition to Big Gummint is this simple fact: the Regulated cannot be distinguished from the Regulator any more. Instead of driving a wedge between the two, as the Liberal insists we must, the Libertarian would damn the Regulator, aping the disingenuous whining of the Regulated.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to BlaiseP
          Ignored
          says:

          Instead of driving a wedge between the two, as the Liberal insists we must, the Libertarian would damn the Regulator, aping the disingenuous whining of the Regulated.

          How do you suggest this wedge be applied, given the willingness of the industries to spend ten figures on attack ads?Report

      • Avatar RTod in reply to Axel Edgren
        Ignored
        says:

        Axel: My answer would be yes, most of them. (And no, I am not a GOP member or even fan.)

        A frustrating thing about the post-Rove GOP is it’s very calculated efforts to create simple and effective political messaging that has little or nothing to do with actual policy. Do any Republican congresspeople believe using federal money as an investment n public works is good and proper? Of course, they all vote and lobby for such things every day. Do any Republican congresspeople campaign or go on Fox and say that this is an evil thing to do that they would never, ever consider doing themselves? Yes, again every day.Report

    • Avatar RTod in reply to BlaiseP
      Ignored
      says:

      “Does a free market eat the rich? It has never done so.”

      Two words: Holland. Tulips.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to RTod
        Ignored
        says:

        Ridiculous. If you measure wealth in tulips, those who hold tulips are still wealthy, regardless of how much you might be able to sell them for at present. Bubbletarians, that subspecies of Libertarians who blame everything on bubbles have no fundamental understanding of risk or capital. But it’s nothing a course on Portfolio Management and Forex won’t cure.Report

        • Avatar RTod in reply to BlaiseP
          Ignored
          says:

          No, those tulips were never again seen as having anything other than standard commodity value. Whole families of aristocracy were financially wiped out, and never recovered.

          Not that I disagree with your main argument, I agree for the most part. But when you said it’s never happened ever, well…

          Saying there is no such thing as a person born rich who loses his financial status because the system works perfectly that way is the other side of the coin to there’s never been a poor person who wasn’t poor because he was lazy. It’s nice sounding, but it’s a tad disconnected from reality.Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to RTod
            Ignored
            says:

            The lessons of Tulip Mania are exceedingly well understood. I’ve had to re-teach this lesson to novice traders, this is one lesson I know far too well to let you get by with this simplification.

            The Dutch did not understand how to run a futures market. For one, short sales were prohibited. There was no delivery contract or contract term. Contracts could be voided for a token fee, thus protecting buyers.

            It is true the Wheel of Fortune turns. Today’s rich man may be tomorrow’s pauper. When I say the free market has never eaten the rich, the operative adjective is “free”. When winners and losers cannot be separated, when a buyer can dump his contract for a pittance, yes, the seller will be destroyed. Such a market is not free.Report

            • Avatar RTod in reply to BlaiseP
              Ignored
              says:

              I’m wanting to agree with you, but not following and hoping you’ll expand: how is this argument any different from a libertarian taking any example of an instance of the free market system not working well and saying “well, it wasn’t really a pure free market or it totally would have succeeded?”Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to RTod
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                says:

                Forgive me, for here I must make some obvious points to explain why I cannot be a Libertarian.

                Let us take the case of a perfect financial invention, money. It’s never been improved on through history. What was true of the Roman solidi is true today.

                Let us posit a world without money, a world where barter was the order of the day. We would still need a set of weights and balances to eliminate the Grocer’s Thumb from the scales. Periodically, the Master of the Market would come around to check the weights and balances.

                Take the copper penny or the silver dollar: when the value of its material exceeds the notional value of money, it will be melted down. Markets emerged to manage the ebb and flow of supply and demand.

                Yes, yes, you say. All perfectly obvious. Yet consider, markets are redistribution at their most fundamental. As surely as money conveys value, there is only one route to effective redistribution and that is a free market. All the rules which apply to money must apply to markets. As varies risk, so must vary regulation.

                And here is where I differ from the Libertarian at a fundamental level. Markets can no more exist without effective regulation than money without value. Without the Master of the Market, markets tend to chaos. There is no Invisible Hand and there is no Natural Law. There is only the reality of the margin call and the SEC regs. Where the Libertarian comes out of his shell and admits as much, he varies from his fundamental positions.Report

              • Avatar RTod in reply to BlaiseP
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                says:

                I think you misunderstood my point. My fault.

                I was not suggesting that you were a libertarian. I was wondering how the argument that there has never been an example of a rich person losing his wealth in a free market system because if he did the system was obviously not a free market, is any different from the libertarian argument that if the free market failed, it must not have been a free market to begin with because free markets only flourish.

                I don’t hink both arguments come from the same political philosophy; I think both arguments are circular.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to RTod
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                says:

                Huh? Have I somehow implied everyone wins a kewpie doll in the marketplace, that risk cannot possibly lead to loss? Wealth is merely a function of how it’s defined.Report

              • Avatar RTod in reply to BlaiseP
                Ignored
                says:

                Boy, we are just not getting any traction whatsoever.

                OK, let’s try this: Start over and talk to me like I’m five. When you suggest that free markets never will “eat the rich” and never have in the past, what exactly do you mean?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP
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                says:

                First, you’re not five and I’m seemingly as baffled as you are. In a well-regulated market, there are two distinct aspects of value. First, there’s the money in my trading account, that’s real money. Then there are my open positions in the market. I paid real money to enter them and if things go my way, I will be paid real money when I exit those positions. But while my money is in the market, the value is what I can get for those positions at this moment.

                Thus I can fire up my copy of TradeStation and “buy at market” or “sell at market”. All it takes to make money is to buy low and sell high: it doesn’t matter which comes first.

                In a bad market, nobody gets to eat anyone. The Master of the Market ensures buys match sells, that a kilo here is a kilo there. Let’s go back to the original sentence:

                If libertarians are correct that government intervention tends to benefit the wealthy (I would largely agree) and that the government has entrenched and enriched many of the wealthy that the free market would “eat” if left alone…

                While it is true government has twisted markets to the benefit of the rich, it has been done with deregulation, not regulation.

                Government regulation in markets define a truly free market: markets do not regulate themselves. The free market has never eaten a rich man: if he has lost money, he fed it to the market, he bet wrong, and it will be reflected in his trading account. It just isn’t true that the rich will inevitably eaten by a free market.Report

              • Avatar RTod in reply to BlaiseP
                Ignored
                says:

                Got it. Thanks.Report

            • Avatar BSK in reply to BlaiseP
              Ignored
              says:

              BlaiseP-

              How are you defining a free market? If both parties to a contract agreed to out clauses, allowing the “buyer [to] dump his contract for a pittance” leaving the seller destroyed, that is still a free market. Free markets do not ensure that every contract is wise for all parties. You still have idiots in a free market.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BSK
                Ignored
                says:

                There was no such Out for the seller. Thus endeth the lesson.Report

              • Avatar BSK in reply to BlaiseP
                Ignored
                says:

                But if the seller agreed to that, how is that not a free market? Wouldn’t requiring an out be more of a constriction on the free market than allowing the parties to decide for themselves what the terms of the contract should be?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BSK
                Ignored
                says:

                Take that up with the dealer. See if he’ll let you welch on your bet. As Steely Dan observed

                Your black cards can make you money
                So you hide them when you’re able.
                In the land of milk and honey
                You must put them on the table.Report

              • Avatar BSK in reply to BlaiseP
                Ignored
                says:

                I’m not following.

                Let’s say I sell widgets and you buy widgets. You and I agree to a deal wherein I sell you 500 widgets a month for $5000. The term of the contract is one year. In that time, I notice that the going rate for widgets fluctuates and locking in a rate might be losing me money. When our first contract expires, we negotiate a new one and I insist on a clause that lets me void the contract in exchange for $500. You agree but insist on no such clause for yourself.

                You seem to be arguing that because I negotiated a better deal for myself, which you happily agreed to, we are no longer functioning in a free market. With all due respect, that is utter nonsense.Report

      • Avatar Barry in reply to RTod
        Ignored
        says:

        If you have to go back to 1600’s Holland for an example, you’ve pretty much made BlaiseP’s point.Report

  8. Avatar Sam MacDonald
    Ignored
    says:

    “Existing market structures feature a broad range of privileges that shift resources into the pockets of the wealthy and well connected—whilemaking and keeping others poor.”

    This kind of sounds like a pretty common critique of… unions. There are people in downtown Pittsburgh who would drive a bus for, say, $20 an hour. But the union does not allow the city to hire those people at that rate.Report

    • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Sam MacDonald
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      says:

      Because if you allow that, twenty years later, bus drivers are working for minimum wage and bus crashes are up because bus drivers are working two jobs to pay the rent.

      Yes, do unions cause some small measure of higher unemployment? Of course. But, unions are about 5% of the problem. Unfettered corporate power is 95% of the problem. So, let’s work on that and when that’s fixed, unions won’t be needed.Report

    • Avatar Axel Edgren in reply to Sam MacDonald
      Ignored
      says:

      I agree unions are flawed and can do damage, unless legislation is tuned to limit power abuse while allowing unions to do the work they should do.

      But this isn’t the response to the flaws from republicans or some/most libertarian voices. The flaws of public unions is responded to with a serious vendetta.Report

  9. Avatar Francis
    Ignored
    says:

    Oh dear. It’s Monday morning and another ex-libertarian has discovered that truly free markets cannot exist in a democracy. In other news, water is still wet.

    Come now. The sine qua non of a ‘free’ market is that the government will use its power to enforce the terms of a contract between two parties, regardless of the respective political power of the parties thereto.

    When has this ever been the case? To a first approximation all around the world and all through human history, ‘government’ is the word we use to apply to the system by the strong oppress the weak within their own borders. The US does a better job than most, largely because it is a democracy. But because it is a democracy, the voters and politicians put their thumb on the scales. There’s simply no such thing as a neutral state; it’s bargaining between power groups all the way down. See, eg, the Senate, the Federal Reserve Act, the tension between inflation and median wage growth, labor law, bankruptcy law, contacts against public policy, which externalities have been captured by environmental law vs those ignored, the delegation of corporate law to the States, etc.

    The reason that liberals make snide comments about moving to Somalia is that markets, ‘free’ or otherwise, exist only within the society and government under which they arose. A truly free market so desired by many Internet libertarians exists only in an anarchy. But those contracts are enforced by gunpoint and by a complex set of tribal relationships. Who would want to trade on a stock market established there? No regulations, but who would trust their Somali stockbroker?Report

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