IDEALog Comparison, or Maybe We’re Really All Liberaltarians

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470 Responses

  1. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    I continue to have problems with the taxonomy and methodology in the test used to generate the underlying data, particularly the exclusion of foreign policy from the questions and to a greater extent the transparency of the questions aimed at X axis classification.

    While the distance between the three clusters is statistically significant, all three are healthily to the “left” of the freedom-order X axis. This suggests to me that either there is a broad consensus on the issue of “freedom” versus “order” as reflected in the questions, or that the method used to gather that data was not really aimed at fleshing out the differences that actually do exist regarding the permissible scope of governmental activity. I cannot be confident one way or the other — was the test flawed, or did it accurately demonstrate a broad consensus on this issue?

    The survey did better, both in terms of the questions and in terms of demonstrating a real difference between schools of thought, when it addressed issues of economic and social welfare policy. Seems to me the Y axis data is limited in its reliability only by the sample size and I cannot find a qualitative reason to question Y axis classification. I also agree entirely with your inferences about the differences between liberalism and libertarianism supported by the data.

    ‘Course, it’s been years since college, and polimetrics has no doubt advanced and refined since I dealt with it as an undergraduate. IANAPS.Report

    • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

      Foreign policy is really hard to place on this kind of metric. It doesn’t map onto liberal/libertarian/conservative well at all. I tend to agree with everything else you say here.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        A few years back, I read a funny formula. I don’t know exactly how well it’s aged but it was good for a chuckle.

        If you think we should interfere internationally but not domestically, you’re a conservative.
        If you think we should interfere domestically but not internationally, you’re a liberal.
        If you think we should interfere both domestically and internationally, you’re a moderate.
        If you think we shouldn’t interfere domestically or internationally, you’re an extremist.Report

        • Avatar damon says:

          Funny.

          Altered below for the TRUTH:
          If you think we should interfere internationally but not domestically, you’re a STATIST.
          If you think we should interfere domestically but not internationally, you’re a STATIST.
          If you think we should interfere both domestically and internationally, you’re a STATIST.
          If you think we shouldn’t interfere domestically or internationally, you’re CORRECT.

          🙂Report

  2. Is that communitarian me? I can’t remember if I took the quiz or not.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      You’re not in my data set. Take comfort–you’re not alone in your communitarianism.Report

      • Avatar Marchmaine says:

        I put in a place-holder for the Porch.
        Though you would probably be more comfortable with the “Liberal Communitarian” responses than mine.Report

  3. Avatar Bad-ass Motherfisher says:

    I thought this place smelled of liberals…Report

  4. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    Along with Burt, I find the methodology specious.

    A more-meaningful survey would incorporate a sliding scale for a number of given issues. My Voight-Kampff Test would include a battery of questions of this sort:

    A civil war breaks out in an oil-rich nation in Africa along A/B tribal lines. Armed with existing government weaponry, the B faction gains control. Accusations of genocide surface in the press. What is the appropriate role of the American government in this situation?

    A. Stay out of the conflict.
    B. Advocate for UN intervention.
    C. Send in troops and end B’s campaign of genocide.
    D. Arm the A faction.
    E. A Libya-style limited intervention with air strikes.

    Each answer would be on a sliding scale of preference. I might earnestly wish for some UN intervention, that gets 100%. But knowing that might not work, I’d put up A at 80%, knowing these sorts of conflicts always become Tar Babies and we can never get out of them. E might get 70 percent, seemed to work out reasonably well in the case of Serbian genocide against the Croats, followed up by C at 50 percent, we’d be there for a good long time, as surely a Tar Baby as B.

    Are you getting my drift here? Most people are of at least two minds on this sort of question. Any such issue has no clear answer. A good survey might reflect the quandaries contained in such issues for which no good answer exists.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

      I wouldn’t go so far to say that the methodology was specious, but it was definitely very limited.

      Then again, James was looking for a limited answer to a fairly specific question; he wasn’t attempting a broad comparison of political inclinations, he was trying to tease out a specific point.

      I will say, though – right here, James has an audience that probably *would* be willing to tackle a pretty huge survey instrument…Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        Yeah, but somebody would have to write that huge survey instrument….

        And more to the point, I don’t think anyone could write a survey instrument that wouldn’t have all of us arguing about it. So from that perspective, I don’t really mind that most people are dissatisfied with this one, because there’d be widespread dissatisfaction with any instrument.Report

  5. Avatar North says:

    Fascinating read but the biggest bombshell for me was the revelation that you own a Jack Russel. I knew there was a reason we got along so well, I grew up with a series of those adorable insane psycho puppies!Report

    • Avatar Bad-ass Motherfisher says:

      I have a friend who refers to his Jack Russell as a “thug in a clown suit.” I cannot think of a more apt description.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      Hmm, now I feel bad saying I don’t really like small dogs. I’m a big dog person myself–hounds and labs. But when my beloved hound mix died, the kids wanted a dog and we needed something small enough to travel with. The JR’s a loving dog, no doubt, but…well, you know their somewhat less endearing traits.Report

      • Avatar North says:

        I know well. Not everyone likes small dogs. Big dogs are so sweet in personality compared to little ones but I feel like little ones have more character.Report

  6. Avatar M.A. says:

    I am as yet unconvinced that libertarians really follow the cause of liberty – or at least, they don’t really think it through as far as they should. In my mind, to truly be libertarian, someone should think it through to assess what maximizes liberty for the largest number of people. Similarly, assessments of liberty need to be done not just based on an abstract “government bad” level, but with an eye towards all the different varieties of liberty-restricting entities in society.

    Let’s take a few examples.

    Libertarians ought to be against Homeowner’s Associations. After all, a HOA is a major restriction on the liberty of the homeowner to have their house in the state they want it, paint it the color they want it, remodel the way they want to, mow on their own schedule, plant what they want to plant or even not plant anything at all. Yet Libertarians approach this as a “market solution” and love it, despite the ugly restriction of liberty it sets up – and ironically, since HOA’s were first developed as a “market solution” by the upper percentages in order to ensure that the prices to enter their restricted communities remained high enough to keep the hoi polloi out unless hired as gardeners.

    Libertarians have a hefty dislike for single-payer health care systems, but in my view single-payer increases liberty by freeing people to take risk. Far more people in the USA would be able to start their own businesses if they didn’t have to worry about the health care aspect. Far more people would be able to quit their jobs and look for better ones if they didn’t have to worry about gaps in coverage and preexisting-condition restrictions. I know a number of families who would love to move to single-income status, to have one parent raising the children, but who are unable to due to the cost it would take to ensure health care for the family. Our health care system as it currently exists is a bane of liberty; the cure has not and can not come from market solutions, because “market solutions” created the entire problem.

    Consider the ridiculousness of a job in which your “dress code” requires employees not to have visible tattoos, or grow hair longer than shoulder length – exempting construction or factory jobs where it could be a snag hazard, and even then a simple tie-up and hairnet ought to do the trick in most cases – or make other restrictions to physical appearance. Again, lack of liberty. Sure, you have “liberty” to seek another job – or do you, in today’s economy?

    “Market Solutions” brought us the company town, where all the workers were enslaved by debt as surely as slave plantations enslaved by whips. They were a modern version of feudal cities, where a duke owned the land and everyone else was subservient, and only the aristocracy granted liberty. “Market Solutions” have brought crippling, predatory debt to an amazing number of people today even as company towns and sweatshop labor still exist worldwide.

    It’s amazing that libertarians can’t see this. From where I stand, most libertarian policies pay lip service to liberty but do nothing to advance it.Report

    • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

      I think this somewhat confuses the distinction between what people have the right to do and what they ought to do. Libertarians tend to be pretty good on the former and absolutely useless on the latter (except Kerry Howley).Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        “what they ought to do”…

        Do you mean what they should be forced to do (presumably by people whose job it is to force people to do things) under threat of violence? Or do you just mean “ought” like “God will judge them accordingly”?Report

        • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

          I had a series of responses run through my head. In order of least to most useful:

          1. Oh goodie, we hadn’t had an opening to talk about how paying taxes is the same thing as being shot in the face with a machine gun in a while.

          2. Do you ever get tired of being exhaustingly one-note?

          3. No, I mean what people should do to generally maximize liberty. Not all restrictions on liberty come from the state, and libertarians (other than, as mentioned, Kerry Howley) tend to be not that helpful when the discussion turns to that. I don’t know why that is, and I’m not deeply interested in psychoanalyzing libertarians, but it seems to be, by and large, the case. As M.A. mentions, HOAs really are incredibly squicky from the viewpoint of maximizing human liberty. They are pretty explicitly designed to prevent certain kinds of people from moving to a neighborhood and placing tight controls on the behavior of those who do. Without taking a position on anything the state should or shouldn’t do, it seems like it’s possible to talk about whether that is good, broadly speaking, for liberty. It would be nice, on occasion, for you (and here I mean the specific you, Jaybird) to try examining your positions rather than running into the middle of a conversation to shout them in other people’s faces.Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck says:

            We ought to endorse female circumcision to ensure that women aren’t tempted by hedonistic impulses.

            We ought to rule Africa and Southwest Asia with a ready hand on the whip because those people are basically violent children.

            We ought to ban alcohol because it results in so much social harm.

            There’s all kinds of things we ought to do.

            (ps we ought to avoid words like “squicky” if we want to be taken seriously.)Report

            • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

              I’ll be sure to keep in mind all the ways Density Duck thinks I should behave in order to be taken seriously.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                What I want is for you to stop pretending like “ought” has any meaning outside your own head.

                PS I’m sorry to learn that you hate the thought of placing emphasis on speech. I’ll try to remember that you want the world to exist in an unemotional monotone.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                Is your position total moral relativism then? There is no set of things people ought or ought not do? Presumably you have some sort of detailed moral theory about why the state ought or ought not do certain things, but I guess that stops as soon as we’re done talking about the state? I’d love for you to explain that in some detail, because it’s a really novel way of doing ethics.

                PS I can read emphasis in sentences without you putting it there, to be fair. And I wasn’t telling you to stop; I just think it’s an odd way to write. Feel free, though. You’re quite incapable of saying anything meaningful no matter how you stylize the text.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “Is your position total moral relativism then?”

                It’s kind of funny that you’re crapping on libertarians for being inconsistent hypocrites, and then when I point out some examples of how “ought to behave” is a terrible justification for anything you act like I’m the jerk who’s insisting on pointless consistency in lieu of logical argument.

                “I can read emphasis in sentences without you putting it there, to be fair.”

                No; they’re my sentences, not yours. I’ll put the emphasis where I think it should be. Where it ought, as it were, to go.

                “You’re quite incapable of saying anything meaningful no matter how you stylize the text.”

                And yet you still reply to my posts.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                “Ought to behave” is a terrible justification for certain things, but surely we know that because we actually did some ethics in the background, right? There’s a reason why we, in fact, ought not (stealing your tactic) practice female circumcision, right? If so, then surely it’s meaningful to discuss whether we ought not do other things. Ought can’t be a concept that’s entirely in my head, since you yourself listed a bunch of things you think we ought not do.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “you yourself listed a bunch of things you think we ought not do.”

                The problem is when someone thinks that “ought” implies “must”, and follows with “therefore the government should“. I’m pretty sure that female circumcision is a bad thing. I’m also pretty sure that everyone would agree that if a government made Sharia law or Muslim religious practice illegal, that would be a worse thing. If you’re insisting on an “ought” in there, it would be “the government ought not interfere with personal liberty, even if the result is distasteful to other persons”.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                I don’t think we’re disagreeing all that hard. I have, at no point, advocated government action of any kind w.r.t. the things M.A. mentioned. In fact, I’ve been very careful to say that I think it’s important to talk about these things independently of the state. Where I think libertarians tend to have difficulty, and this thread is providing a surfeit of evidence, is when you ask them to do precisely this. There are tons of little (or even big) ways that non-government entities infringe on liberty all the time, and I would think libertarians would be more critical of them, given their stated preference for more liberty rather than less.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                “Ought to behave” is a terrible justification for certain things

                Bad things?

                If so, then surely it’s meaningful to discuss whether we ought not do other things.

                Good things?

                I live in Colorado Springs. We have a lot of people who are, like, *TOTALLY* certain in their ability to distinguish between the two. Would you be willing to live under their dictates?

                Do you feel that they should live under yours? What about people in Canada? What about people in Mexico? What about people in Saudi?

                Have you examined what your “oughts” entail? Are you comfortable with what they entail?Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                Who is ruling whom here? Why are you and Duck fixated on something no one ever said?Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                The problem is when you define an individual’s action (or a group of individuals’ action) as “infring[ing] on liberty”. The dogmatic libertarian would say that it’s not possible for an individual to infringe on the liberty of another. An individual can refuse to engage in contract with another–but that’s just the flip side of the liberty to form contracts at all.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                Also, I suspect you really, truly believe that freedom of speech is a good thing. Is it your contention that you only support it because it’s already the law, or would you want it to be the law even if it weren’t?

                I feel like I’m working way too hard to make this point (even with Murali’s help), but no one here believes the kind of moral relativism they seem to be advocating. We make all kinds of distinctions about what the state ought or ought not do all the time – you do it more than most around here!Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                Okay, Duck, I don’t want to set you off on a “RACIST DOGWHISTLE” tear, so please understand this is just an example I am choosing because it seems to work really well to illustrate the point I want to make. I am not calling anyone racist.

                Do you believe that racially restrictive covenants or redlining, when done voluntarily by homeowners who collude to keep black people out of their neighborhoods, do not represent any kind of infringement of the liberty of the black people in question? This is a serious question, not a gotcha. It seems straightforwardly obvious to me that this is the kind of thing libertarians should probably oppose on the grounds that it’s bad for human freedom.

                (Please also note: I am not mentioning the state. I don’t want to talk about the state.)Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                I know how at least some libertarians would answer this question, because it’s come up (Note: I’m not saying “this is the libertarian position!” I’ll leave it to the actual libertarians here to say whether it is or isn’t.). The basic gist is that it’s only voluntary if everyone agrees to sign it (an HOA voting to make everyone do it would be “state”) and the likelihood that you would get every last person to sign it is unlikely. And without everyone signing it, those who do would be putting themselves at a market disadvantage when it comes to selling their house. In other words, the only way to get it on paper is by collective coercion.

                This is all a little to neat and pat for me, but it does have a certain logic to it, I suppose.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Who is ruling whom here?

                My assumption is always that I will be ruled.

                I suppose, if I assumed that I’d be the one holding the whip, I’d have a firmer grasp on how people ought to behave.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                Again, who is whipping whom? You are fixated on violence. Are you some kind of troubled youth? Were you not raised by a village?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                What happens if you don’t pay attention to your HOA?

                Let’s say you paint your house green.

                Then what?

                They send a letter.

                You ignore it. Then what?

                They send a fine.

                You refuse to pay. Then what?

                Then what? Then what?

                Will there eventually be someone kicking down my door and shooting my dog?Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                Presumably they will evict (or sue) you, right? And if you refuse to move (or go to court, or pay the amount of the court’s judgment), the police will be called. I guess at some point someone might be carrying a gun, although that’s a lot of steps down the chain. Again, you’re oddly fixated on violence. Things can be good or bad even if no one is ever in danger of getting shot.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                They in certain parts of the country, can put a lein and as a result, forclose on your home.

                But, I understand. Unless a private organization can actually physically harm you (or your dog), it’s not worth regulating.

                Which I guess is sort of the main contention between liberal and libertarians. Liberals want to pass laws that stop cops from shooting dogs _and HOA’s from being assholes, but libertarians insist as long as the laws don’t stop the absolute worst excesses of government power, it’s useless to try to limit private power.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Because, when I examine my views, codified “oughts” tend to result in people kicking down doors and pointing guns at people (indeed, people who are *PAID* to kick down doors and point guns at people).

                I’m surprised that your examination of your views don’t spend more time on this.

                Is it because you’re a white heterosexual male who never really thought about what the law does to people who aren’t playing on the lowest difficulty setting?Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                Any law that passes can result in the guns being pointed at you.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                You’re the one codifying the oughts here.

                I don’t know how many different ways I can say I’m not talking about the state or anyone getting shot before it becomes totally clear that you aren’t even trying to listen to me. It’s much easier to stand on your little box and shout your feelings at the internet.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                Also, you can have a large powerful government that tells private citizens or businesses it can’t do a lot of things without it having a side effect that people get shot indiscriminately. See, Germany, where police shot a total of 85 bullets last year while having regulations that would make some of the heads in this place explode.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Any law that passes can result in the guns being pointed at you.

                Therefore we must be *EXCEPTIONALLY* careful when it comes to the laws we pass. We also not pass laws frivolously in order to address societal matters of taste. Better to not have a law than a bad law. Better to have a bad law than a bad law that is only sporadically enforced against certain people and completely unenforced against others.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                I agree on all that. Of course, I think the ACA was a well-considered law with some unfortunate compromises and you just think it’s just a bad law if I remember correctly. 🙂Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “Do you believe that racially restrictive covenants or redlining, when done voluntarily by homeowners who collude to keep black people out of their neighborhoods, do not represent any kind of infringement of the liberty of the black people in question? ”

                Replace “black” with “christian”. How does your answer change?

                Replace “black” with “non-vegan”. How does your answer change?

                Replace “black” with “not American”. How does your answer change?

                You ask whether I’m okay with the idea that a group of people are racist. And my reply is, are you asking me whether I’m okay with the idea of racism, or whether I’m okay with the idea that a group of people can decide what kind of group it wants to be? Because those are two different questions, and I get the strong sense that you ask the second but mean the first.

                “Why are you and Duck fixated on something no one ever said?”

                What exactly did you mean by “ought”, way back when? That word clearly implies that you have a “right answer” in mind, and that wrong answers represent error which should be corrected. If you think “other people might voluntarily decide to be wrong but there’s nothing anyone can or should do about that” then congratulations, you’re a libertarian, and this whole thread was pointless.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Give it a few years and I’m pretty sure that I’ll have you agreeing it’s a bad law.

                It’s just that (I suspect) you’ll want to amend, broaden, tighten, and otherwise close loopholes for the law… and I’ll want to repeal it.

                And you’ll get your way.

                And, a few years after that, we can have damn near the exact same conversation again.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                then congratulations, you’re a libertarian, and this whole thread was pointless.

                Duck, if I had a major complaint about you, it’d be about how goal-oriented you are when you should be more process-oriented.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                Duck, I don’t think my answer changes much. I’m pretty strongly opposed to covenants that would prevent certain kinds of people (“those people”) from moving into a neighborhood that they can otherwise afford to live in. Now, if we’re talking about some kind of commune based around a certain kind of identity, maybe we can dive into the weeds a little. I do (basically, with some caveats) support the existence of communist/hippie communes or Mormon compounds that are explicitly formed around a certain way of life.

                As for the last, I think you and Jaybird are really hung up on the idea that, if you think someone shouldn’t do something, the only possible way to let him know that is to shoot him (or his dog). This is not the case. There are probably some ways in which I think we should treat HOAs like governments and maybe restrict the kinds of contracts they can enforce, but in general that is not my goal here. Social opprobrium is a not-inconsiderable force, and speaking out against the tinpot tyranny of a lot of HOAs is something I would think lovers of liberty would be more interested in doing than they appear to be.

                I just simply don’t understand why you two seem to think the only action a person can possibly take is to literally kill someone else.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Social opprobrium is a not-inconsiderable force, and speaking out against the tinpot tyranny of a lot of HOAs is something I would think lovers of liberty would be more interested in doing than they appear to be.

                So it *IS* that I don’t spend enough time complaining about drunkenness?Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                More like when other people complain about drunkenness, you accuse us of wanting to shoot people’s dogs.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Only when I interpret what you’re saying as code for the need to pass a law.

                Here, I’ll give you an example of what it may feel like from your side.

                Abortion is morally wrong. Given all of the other options out there available, people ought to bring the baby to term and put it up for adoption. Heck, raising it themselves is something they ought to do instead of killing it in the womb.

                What’s your first inclination when reading that paragraph? What assumptions are you most likely to make when it comes to whether I think a law should be passed?

                If your first thought it “well, he didn’t say anything about a law, therefore I shouldn’t talk about the importance of keeping abortion legal”, you’re a better man than I.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                Bad example. I’m fairly sure abortion is morally wrong. I also think it’s morally wrong on the same level that eating meat is morally wrong, though, so I don’t have strong feelings about outlawing it.

                That said, I understand your point. But I did go out of my way to repeatedly tell you I’m not talking about a law! This goes back to the statement I made in the first place, which is that libertarians are generally good at talking about what people have the right to do (i.e., what things you can’t outlaw) and much worse at talking about what people shouldn’t do (i.e., what things are legal but generally shitty ways to behave).Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Only when I interpret what you’re saying as code for the need to pass a law.

                I give you some props for saying this right out loud. For making it explicit.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I live in Colorado Springs.

                I am surrounded by people who make habits of talking about what people shouldn’t do (but, of course, we’re not talking about passing laws or anything).

                I find that I remind myself of them when I start talking like that.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                So instead of telling the Colorado Springs people that they shouldn’t exert social pressure to control other people’s lives, you… just remain silent? That’s obviously your right, and fighting with people all the time is an exhausting way to live, but it’s probably not ideal for the cause of human freedom.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                So create a meta-HOA that has all of the normal HOAs under it and makes sure that any HOAs have either good rules (no bonfires) or only use social opprobrium but my meta-HOA won’t have force of law behind it, only social opprobrium?Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                Why does everything come back to force of law? Why are you so hung up on the law? Who gives a shit about the law?Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Social opprobrium is to be abolished as well, JB. Don’t judge.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                Here. Let’s put it this way. Say you’re at a restaurant and someone comes up and tells Maribou that she shouldn’t be there because her job is to be at home making babies and dinner. Are the only two acceptable responses from you these ones?

                1. “THAT’S AGAINST THE LAW! SOMEONE SHOOT HIS DOG!”
                2. “Oh well, free country.”

                I should think not.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Why are you so hung up on the law? Who gives a shit about the law?

                Because the law will finally have the force to make people behave the way that we all agree they ought. Once we get tired of them not changing due to our social opprobrium.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Ryan, it seems to me that JB has already admitted that he won’t see the point that you think you’re making: your speaking in code about something else entirely. And if he were to address the point you “think” you’re making (wink, wink) he’d be tacitly supporting the law that you’re really after.

                So it’s better to for JB to talk about the law you’re pushing on him instead of the coded argument you’re trying to trick him into accepting.

                It’s a pretty clever, if you think about it.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “Say you’re at a restaurant and someone comes up and tells Maribou that she shouldn’t be there because her job is to be at home making babies and dinner. Are the only two acceptable responses from you these ones?”

                This is the part where you tell us what the right answer is.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                Well, in which case, it seems as good a time as any to point out that this is why I, and many others, ultimately see libertarianism as a defense of privilege. It is a political philosophy with a studied indifference to the idea of human freedom when that freedom is threatened by anything other than the state. It is, at root, a betrayal of the classical liberalism it pretends to have kept sacred.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Because, of course, we should spend more time acting like the people we wish would stop acting the way that they’re acting.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                libertarianism … is a political philosophy with a studied indifference to the idea of human freedom when that freedom is threatened by anything other than the state.

                Right, Ryan. Libertarians are just totally cool with rape, theft, and murder, just as long as private actors are doing it, not the government.

                When you stop making claims about libertarianism that are just absolutely at odds with what any libertarian actually believes, let me know and we can have a serious conversation.

                HOAs–voluntary. If somebody wants to voluntarily constrain their own options through contract, it’s a bit weird to complain that somebody else is illegitimately constraining their freedom. At the point where you can understand where we’re coming from with that idea, then you’re ready to have a serious talk with a libertarian. But for right now, you’re still stuck at the point of criticizing the internal logic of libertarianism because it doesn’t comport with ideas you’re exporting from external sources.Report

              • Avatar Murali says:

                DD, Ryan’s basic point as far as ought is concerned is that if we are going to think that there are ways that states should be, we cannot deny that oughts are just fairy tales or something. Having some notion of better or worse ways for the state to be means that you presupposed that better oand worse mean something. If you are talking the same language as the rest of us, you are not merely saying that beter means that you want it more. e.g I take it for granted that you are some kind of libertarian leaning conservative and that the state when it is doing libertarian leaning conservative things , it is doing things that are just or morally right. Merely claiming that it is something you would like the state to do leaves us with a so what. The rest of us, when we say right or ought orbetter worse? we are not merely saying I want. We’re talking about objective reasons.Report

            • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

              Also, what’s up with the constant italicizing of words? Are you secretly Dan Brown?Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            For the record, part of the examination of my position involves enforcement. It’s like talking about the Prohibition of Alcohol and all you want to talk about is people who get drunk and beat their wives and you’re asking me if I’ve ever examined my views when it comes to the damage that alcohol causes society in general. This is why I ask questions about stuff like Do you mean what they should be forced to do (presumably by people whose job it is to force people to do things) under threat of violence? Or do you just mean “ought” like “God will judge them accordingly”?

            In Saudi Arabia, there is a group of folks called the something something for the Prevention of Vice and the Preservation of Virtue.

            They go around making sure that vice is prevented and virtue is preserved.

            Is this something that you would generally support? (Let’s assume that they get the questions of what is virtuous and what is vicious correct.)Report

            • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

              How are they going about preventing/preserving? What actions do they take? That seems like it matters somewhat, in that I’m not terribly opposed to pamphlets but I’m pretty skeptical about burnings-at-the-stake. Also, is this group a government thing? Because, if not, it seems to me like they might have something in common with HOAs.

              All that said, why are we talking about enforcement? Did anyone say anything about it? Can we not discuss whether HOAs are good or bad without also talking about whether we should use literal nuclear bombs to get rid of them?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Because, if not, it seems to me like they might have something in common with HOAs.

                I AM SO PLEASED YOU WENT THERE!!!

                I thought it would be ham-handed if I did.

                So you don’t want HOAs, you don’t want people to enforce “ought”… so what’s the difference between our views, again? I don’t spend enough time complaining about drunken wife-beaters?Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                My view, and M.A.’s, is that libertarians tend to do a poor job talking about non-state things that violate people’s liberty. I’m not sure why that started the firestorm it did, if the outcome of this entire discussion is that you don’t like HOAs. You could just say that upfront.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                It was a teachable moment, Ryan. JB can’t pass those up.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                I don’t think anyone taught anyone anything!Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                That’s because, to a libertarian, there’s no such thing as a “non-state thing that violate[s] people’s liberty”. If I don’t want to buy advertisements on Rush Limbaugh’s radio program and I urge people to boycott companies that do–and my urgings are successful and he goes off the air–did I “violate his liberty”?Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                Well, this is why I asked the question above. Racially restrictive covenants and redlining seem like straightforward non-state violations of liberty to me. I’m asking a libertarian to defend the claim that they are not.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

                That’s because, to a libertarian, there’s no such thing as a “non-state thing that violate[s] people’s liberty”.

                I think that may be overstating the case.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                A libertarian wouldn’t defend a claim that they aren’t racist.

                A libertarian would ask, though, exactly why anybody ought to give two tugs of a dead dog’s dick.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                A libertarian would ask, though, exactly why anybody ought to give two tugs of a dead dog’s dick.

                That reminds me of arguments made by the confederacy. “It’s none of the yankees business whether we enslave black people.”Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                I’m not asking you to do anything about racism. I am, however, discovering that a couple people around here have some really bizarre hangups that they are incapable of leaving out of a conversation.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                That’s because, to a libertarian, there’s no such thing as a “non-state thing that violate[s] people’s liberty”.

                Wrong. A rapist violates the victim’s liberty, as does a murder, as does a thief (in all their many varieties, including those who commit fraud).

                Please, Duck, you’re not a good defender of libertarianism, because you don’t really get it.Report

              • Avatar Jeff says:

                JH, here’s the answer to your statement, “Libertarians are just totally cool with rape, theft, and murder, just as long as private actors are doing it, not the government.”:

                [T]o a libertarian, there’s no such thing as a “non-state thing that violate[s] people’s liberty”.

                In DD’s world, rape, theft, and murder don’t exist.Report

              • Avatar Jeff says:

                Sorry, JH — I posted this before I saws your response.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “A rapist violates the victim’s liberty”

                Please note up front that whatever goes on in the weed-addled brains of other posters, I’m in no way suggesting that rape is acceptable when done by anyone.

                That said, how does something done by a person violate the “liberty” of another person?

                Let’s take the lunch counter example. A business owner, for whatever reason, decides that he doesn’t want black people eating there. The government declares that this is illegal and he’s required to allow black people to eat there. Why has the business owner’s liberty not been denied?Report

              • Avatar wardsmith says:

                There is a HUGE difference between an HOA, which exists as a voluntary contract between the home purchaser and the (pre-existing) HOA and anything (and for that matter virtually Everything) a STATE does. I can and do live in an HOA, but I had the OPTION to purchase a home elsewhere that had zero covenants or restrictions. In point of fact, I bought the house I live in in spite of the HOA, which I would have preferred not exist. I wanted the house, the HOA was a necessary evil to get the house, but I could easily enough have said forget the house and waited for what I wanted elsewhere. Also, there are HOA’s and there are HOA’s, and this one is mildly written and mildly enforced. Absent leaving the country, when the USA puts covenants and restrictions on me, I am obligated to follow them. Is this really so confusing?Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                It still seems to me like HOAs are capable of doing things that violate your liberty. I mean, unless your HOA never votes on new bylaws, I guess.

                Not to mention this is a little like saying John Lawrence had no case against Texas because surely he knew when he moved there that sodomy was illegal. He agreed to abide by that law; who cares if it was illegitimate in the first place?Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Ward, how would you differentiate between HOA’s and local governments?Report

              • Avatar wardsmith says:

                Ryan, my HOA hasn’t done a thing to bylaws since 1989. That doesn’t preclude the possibility of course, but adds to the squishy factor of why I’m not as concerned about it in this specific case as I am in principle.

                The list of HOA bylaws is relatively short and relatively sane. The list of gov’t laws is ridiculously long and ridiculously insane. Viz Kimmi’s comment above, if you move into this neighborhood odds are you will be putting up Christmas lights. I happen to know a Jewish gentleman who did precisely that and I said, “What were you thinking moving to Christmas Tree Lane?“. He laughed and said, “No problem, I just put up blue lights”. Someone here would no doubt move there and refuse to put up lights, shit all over an 80 year tradition and hire the gestapo lawyers (there, my own Godwin reference) to shit all over the HOA, “on principle”. Fortunately none of them seem intent on living in Altadena, CA.Report

              • Avatar wardsmith says:

                Damn combox anyway. Missed the closing /b> somehow above.

                @Will, I think it would be an excellent OP to compare and contrast the two. For instance, the OP could mention that in my case, the HOA contracts to do all snow removal, while the county can never be bothered to come into the general neighborhood outside the HOA, ever. The HOA takes care of other things we’re not only paying taxes to receive, but are paying taxes wildly in excess of what the folks who ARE receiving those services are paying. Kind of like the real world in that respect, but the JHG liberals of the world would claim a kind of fairness is at work here. Perhaps they are right, or perhaps the gov’t centric system is broken and corrupt. I know where I stand on that.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Perhaps they are right, or perhaps the gov’t centric system is broken and corrupt. I know where I stand on that.

                Could be both. Government is surely broken according to some pretty generic metrics. And government is surely corrupt. On the other hand, fairness is a goal political systems ought to strive for, it seems to me. I think even the most die-hard There Will Be Blood type capitalist thinks that the purpose of government ought to be fairness.

                And given the corruption and brokenness of govt, it’s not surprising that some people (particularly those who see it more clearly or are on the losing end of it) will think that less government will lead to more fairness. But people obviously disagree on what that word means.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Ward, would you say, then, that the primary difference you see between HOA’s and local governments is efficiency? If city governments were more efficient, would you be less likely to object to banning treehouses?

                It sounds like you have a good HOA. Not only for what they do, but for what they don’t seem to do. The HOA by my childhood home took care of the local pool (yay!), but also forced our neighbors to take down potted plants from their stucco fence to keep it under 7′ (boo!) and passed this ordinance after-the-fact when people complained.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                I think you are referring to the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.

                Their record of “promotion of virtue” and “prevention of vice” isn’t that good. I would not even categorize them as you said of “making sure that vice is prevented and virtue is preserved.” And in the whole of human history, nobody has yet gotten the questions of what is virtuous and vicious completely correct, so I can’t rest on that assumption.Report

        • Avatar Murali says:

          God will judge them accordingly. That pretty much is the standard notion of ought. Its like: we really ought to donate more than we currently do, but we have a right not to do so.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      How should Libertarians feel about leash laws? Third-trimester abortion? Drug-testing of people who work drill-presses? Yoga licenses?Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      “Libertarians ought to be against Homeowner’s Associations. ”

      Considering that a Homeowner’s Association is a perfect example of voluntary association and the right of free citizens to enter into contracts with each other, it’s hardly surprising that libertarians are okay with the idea.Report

      • Avatar M.A. says:

        “Voluntary association” – ah yes, the same terms used to justify “no negroes allowed” signs at lunch counters. Justifying the goal by claiming a “market solution” doesn’t change the result or the real underlying goal – and make no mistake, the underlying goal of HOA’s is to prevent “those people”, whether of differing race or differing background, from existing in a given location.

        “The right of free citizens to enter into contracts with each other” – That depends quite a bit on where you live. Finding an area where homeowners’ associations don’t exist is often difficult, unless you’re independently wealthy and can move into a rural area. The choices for most people are to put up with whatever nonsense comes from the HOA, or to go into even more restrictive rental housing arrangements. There is no real option to choose liberty. What you really meant to say is “the right of a group of citizens to force other citizens into a contract as a condition for an economic transaction wholly unrelated to them“, which is about as far from actual liberty as could be.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck says:

          STATES RIGHTS IS DOGWHISTLE RACISM

          And we’re done.Report

          • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

            I wish we had a quarter jar for every time this exchange takes place.Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck says:

              I just think it’s funny that someone who put themselves on the “freedom/liberal” side of the axis is telling us that people shouldn’t be allowed to form voluntary contracts with each other because they might be racists.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                I’m not sure how that’s funny. If people are colluding to prevent black people from moving into their neighborhood, is there something anti-freedom about opposing that?

                To be fair, I think HOAs are more likely to collude to prevent “trashy” people from moving into their neighborhood, so I wouldn’t tend to call them racist. The objection still seems to stand, though. There is something anti-freedom about groups of people behaving that way.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “There is something anti-freedom about groups of people behaving that way.”

                So the cure to “anti-freedom behaviors” by some citizens is to limit the freedom of all the citizens?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Actually, yes. On one level you agree with that: the codification of rights protections, etc. It’s because some people act in ways that are inconsistent with other people’s freedoms that everyone has their freedom restricted.

                I don’t mean for that to intentionally miss your point. Rather, it’s to highlight that the way you’re making it doesn’t get you where you want to go.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “I don’t mean for that to intentionally miss your point.”

                Actually, you’re getting my point. You’re just looking at it and saying “yes, restriction of freedom is okay so long as it stops bad people from doing things we don’t like.”

                To which, I say “well, it’s more like sometimes it stops some bad people from doing some things we sometimes don’t like and it usually ends up doing a whole bunch of other bad things we didn’t intend.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Well, I’m saying more than that, I think. It’s that a system of law, a moral code, a social compact based on rights, whatever, requires that certain people’s freedom be limited. It’s logically necessary, it seems to me.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                Well, as Stillwater says, sometimes this is what we do, yes. Other times, we don’t. Who said anything about limiting everyone’s freedom? You seem to be the only one bringing that up.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Come on… he’s not saying that at all, DD, and you know it. He’s making a comparison, perhaps a sloppy and inaccurate one, but he’s not calling anyone a racist or implying that anything is inherently racist. If you think his comparison flopped, say so.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                er, what about the part where he writes “the underlying goal of HOA’s is to prevent “those people”, whether of differing race or differing background, from existing in a given location” ?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                I think that is a bit of a stretch, as I’d likely say that is often one of many goals of HOA, most of which are rooted in exclusion. I think offering “other background” makes it clear he is not simply saying it is explicit, Klan-style racism.

                Klan-belt didn’t help though…Report

          • Avatar M.A. says:

            I’m tempted to be done with you. I’m doing my level best to keep a civil tongue in my head as you continually attempt to troll me sounding very much like the people I have spent entirely too much time cataloguing from right-wing talk radio lately.

            “States’ Rights” has indeed been a dogwhistle for racism in the past, and continues to be a dogwhistle for discriminatory practices today in what some call the “Bible Belt” or “Klan Belt” – take your pick as to which you choose to use.

            Iowa’s GOP has just brought it back again, as I linked to yesterday and will also do right here. In that document are rounds of misogyny, rounds of nativism, rounds of racism, and worse sentiments all dressed in “state’s rights” clothing such as the wording in their “Government: State and Local” section, “1.1 We support constitutional state sovereignty including nullification” of what they quaintly and vaguely term “federal oversteps.” One point in their document insists that “1.6 We believe that landlords should have the same rights as other business owners” – this is related to landlords not being allowed to discriminate by race and disallow hispanic renters under your vaunted “freedom of association.”

            So – and I say this fully cognizant that you’re attempting to troll me – I agree with the statement fully. “State’s Rights” is indeed dogwhistle racism much of the time.Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck says:

              Being able to handle the idea that someone doesn’t agree with you is an important life skill.

              If you think that the government should restrict the behavior of private citizens because that behavior is morally distasteful to you then you have no business being anywhere near the “freedom” end of the axis.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                “If you think that the government should restrict the behavior of private citizens because that behavior is morally distasteful to you then you have no business being anywhere near the “freedom” end of the axis.”

                How are we defining government? Is our government any less of a voluntary association than an HOA? A house could have changed hands several times over, with none of those taking possession explicitly agreeing to membership in the HOA outside of it being a precondition of the sale… yet they are still seen as voluntary members of the association who must abide by its rules. Unless you are Native American, an African-American descendent of slaves, or otherwise came to be under the rule of this country against your will, someone along the line voluntarily associated with our government and passed this association down to you. You can opt out by moving away, just as someone can avoid the restrictions of an HOA by moving out (and please don’t read this as a “If you don’t like it, move to Canada/Somalia/where ever” comment, as it is simply not that facile).

                HOA’s work by restricting the behaviors of private citizens, often based on what they find AESTHETICALLY distasteful, all under the guise of being a voluntary association. You seem okay with this. Yet you balk at a government restricting behaviors in much the same manner with much the same justification. Please explain.

                (By the way, this is hardly a new idea of mine, but I’ve never been able to articulate it. Thanks for helping me do so. America is simply one big HOA, set up by the founding fathers who owned all of our land from the getgo as a function of winning the war, and which has been passed down without amendment to the terms of membership in the HOA.)Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “A house could have changed hands several times over, with none of those taking possession explicitly agreeing to membership in the HOA outside of it being a precondition of the sale…”

                er, except for the part where the potential buyer is made aware of the HOA when they look at the property, and is provided with copies of the HOA bylaws and budgets before they sign anything.

                Have you ever actually bought a house? It’s not like the HOA board sneaks up after you close the deal and is all “gotcha by the balls now, boy, hnngh hnngh hnngh!”

                And if you don’t like the way the HOA runs, you’re welcome to–as you point out–move, or not buy the house in the first place. Or maybe you could join the HOA board and work to change the regulations you find distasteful; but to do that you’ll have to convince your neighbors that the regulations are a problem, and if you can’t find anyone that agrees with you, well, maybe the problem is not the HOA board.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                Actually, I think Kazzy’s argument is a little better than that. One of the things HOAs do, once you’re already in them, is establish new bylaws by vote (majority or whatever). In this sense, they are very much like small municipal governments. There are things municipal governments cannot do that HOAs can – like prohibit certain kinds of speech, say – so it’s an interesting comparison to consider.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                I bought a home, but we are HOA free.

                But how is that different than being a citizen of a government? There is a period where you lack the agency to act on your own, but as you approach a point in your life where you will be free to make your own decisions, you are generally informed of your rights and responsibilities as a citizen. Anyone can download the laws they’ll be subject to and determine whether citizenship is for them or not. Just as anyone can read the bylaws of an HOA.

                And if you don’t like a government, seek office to change.

                You still haven’t really pointed out a fundamental difference between an HOA and a government or, more broadly, how a government is not itself a voluntary association.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                I have a loathing of HOAs. I would rather have neighbors park their cars on cinder blocks on the front yard if it means I can paint my house whatever color I want.

                That being said, government at the local level is considerably more voluntary than government at the national level (with state-level being somewhere in between). I can change neighborhoods. It’s harder, but I can change states. Changing countries is a lot more problematic.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                I’m…not sure what argument you’re trying to make?

                If you want to say “well a government is really just like a HOA for the whole country!”, well, I’m not disputing that. And one of the key aspects of governments we generally consider “free” is that you’re allowed to join the government and work to change it, or to emigrate to another country and renounce your citizenship if you choose. Which, in fact, is exactly what I’m saying about the HOA.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                DD-

                My point is that you seem to be fully on board with HOAs but virulently opposed to the state. Unless I am misunderstanding you, this seems quite a contradiction.

                WillT-

                Moving between states is inconvenient, but there really aren’t many hurdles to jump through. No one is going to prevent you from doing so, in the way they might actively try to prevent you moving between countries. So, yes, it is not a perfect analogy, but ideally, no one would prevent folks from moving between countries.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                DD-

                Unless you believe that folks aren’t free to join the government and try to change it… I’d be interested to hear you argue this point.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Kazzy, most people can relatively easily change states (this is a reason why I am a fan of federalism), but not with the ease of changing neighborhoods. A lot of these also apply to moving across a state, though sometimes there are additional hurdles if you’re dealing with state-based licensure.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                And funnily enough, the idea that some basic things like education, health care, or civil rights can be totally screwed up just by moving across an arbitrary line in the ground is why I think federalism is the worst thing possible for any major issues.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                I think that’s a bit overstated, although I’m no great fan of federalism myself.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Jesse and Ryan-

                But doesn’t the same hold true if you move between countries? I mean, EVENTUALLY you are going to change lines and face consequences. Hell, you can move between towns or even WITHIN a town and cross a line that dramatically changes the school your kid goes to.

                We need lines eventually. The lines themselves aren’t the problem. It is the ease, or lackthereof, of moving over and back across those lines that presents a problem. Whether the limits are de facto (licensing, as Will points out), legal (immigration restrictions), or something more nefarious (such as realtors steering blacks or Jews out of certain neighborhoods), they are indeed real and indeed problematic. But unless you want one-world government, you’re going to have lines.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                And funnily enough, the idea that some basic things like education, health care, or civil rights can be totally screwed up just by moving across an arbitrary line in the ground is why I think federalism is the worst thing possible for any major issues.

                On the other hand, go to Massachusetts and you’re allowed to marry even if you’re gay. Go to California and you can smoke pot (medicinally, wink) except when the feds intervene. It’s a mixed bag. There’s not much reason to assume that a truly national government would look like the states of your choosing. It’d probably look a fair bit like Ohio or Florida or Missouri. There are lots of states that shouldn’t be governed like those states.

                On some of the issues you point out, I at least partially agree. Basic civil rights are a federal matter. The arguments in favor of national rather than regional health care are strong (though not decisive). I suppose a federal standard on education that every kid can go to a school that adheres to, though how they go about meeting those standards (or trying to) is a bit of a different matter. And if states want to have a “state school option” that adheres to a different set of standards (provided that it’s not something unconstitutional) I am game for that.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                Go to North Carolina, and your marriage from Massachusetts instantly dissolves if you’re gay until you cross the state line to somewhere else that recognizes it.

                Go to a couple of other states, and you can marry your first cousin but only if you can prove that the two of you are infertile as a couple, or deliberately get surgery to make yourself infertile. Wait a minute – wasn’t the justification against gay marriage that only fertile heterosexual couples should be able to get married because the marriage was about the kids they were going to make?Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                MA,

                I’ve stated elsewhere that I believe that FF&C should apply to all two-party marriages (though that is, sadly, not currently the case). The point remains, though, that there wouldn’t be a marriage to dissolve in North Carolina if Massachusetts didn’t get to decide who they would or would not marry.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                er, except for the part where the potential buyer is made aware of the HOA when they look at the property, and is provided with copies of the HOA bylaws and budgets before they sign anything.

                Inherit a house? Guess you’re fucked there. Oh well. You “agreed to it” by being a combination of your ancestors’ genetic material. Or by not immediately putting your inheritance up to auction. Or something.

                As Ryan mentions below – my HOA has passed new bylaws several times, none of which I agreed to or voted for. One of them denies homeowners the right to dry their laundry in the backyard, and was specifically crafted by a racist old man who lives down the road and drives a truck with a confederate flag bumper sticker. During arguments at the meeting, he argued that there were too many “Mexicans” hanging laundry behind their houses and that it made our neighborhood “look like mexican trash.”

                Here’s my larger point: government, in the interest of giving as much liberty to as many people as possible, should have laws set up that – yes – restrict the “liberty” of those who would deny liberty to others. And that probably means that you, personally, if you are the type of person who wants to have a whites-only lunch counter or a whites-only neighborhood or doesn’t like to have your ears offended by someone speaking with a foreign language or accent, probably will get less liberty than you think you’d like in the name of thousands or millions of other people getting a lot more liberty than you would give them.

                Maximal liberty for only the chosen few is aristocracy.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                MA-

                Would you consider yourself, or your philosophy, utilitarian?Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “Inherit a house? Guess you’re fucked there.”

                How unfortunate it is that when you inherit a house you’re required to move there immediately and live there forever–

                oh wait, that’s right, if I don’t want to live there I can sell it!

                “my HOA has passed new bylaws several times, none of which I agreed to or voted for.”

                So you had the opportunity to vote, and you didn’t take it, and therefore homeowner’s associations are completely incompatible with libertarian theory.

                “that probably means that you, personally, if you are the type of person who wants to have a whites-only lunch counter or a whites-only neighborhood or doesn’t like to have your ears offended by someone speaking with a foreign language or accent”

                STATES RIGHTS ARE DOGWHISTLE RACISM!Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                DensityDuck,

                This will be my last reply to you, ever, for you are a troll and a bane to civil discourse.

                How unfortunate it is that when you inherit a house you’re required to move there immediately and live there forever– oh wait, that’s right, if I don’t want to live there I can sell it!

                And what you’ve missed is the part where in the meantime, you are on the hook for all the HOA requirements in the house’s appearance. If it doesn’t sell right away, you’re stuck. Many HOAs in their “covenants” require that you not lease your house to someone else while retaining ownership, so you can’t try that option if in a bad housing market you’re having difficulty selling the home.

                So you had the opportunity to vote, and you didn’t take it, and therefore homeowner’s associations are completely incompatible with libertarian theory.

                Actually, I did vote. I voted AGAINST. And I spoke up quite passionately against the racist types who would vote for a few of the “covenants” passed by the HOA on slim margins. And I am certain that some of the letters sent me by the HOA regarding “failure to upkeep” my property – none of which had any basis in reality – were the result of my being targeted by people who didn’t like my speaking out against same.

                The point is that the HOA is a restriction on liberty, which ought to be opposed by libertarians but on which point they are strangely silent.

                STATES RIGHTS ARE DOGWHISTLE RACISM!

                Pasting it in all caps does not make it so – but your utter inability to defend the contrary position by doing anything other than shouting tautological nonsense is a strong indication that it IS so.

                To Kazzy:
                I would not necessarily term myself utilitarian. In some senses I might be called liberal – certainly by position – but I approach most topics from the basic premise of maximizing liberty. I’d call myself a true libertarian, in essence different from the pseudo-libertarians who never engage the premise of liberty beyond a first-order, incomplete analysis intended to backfill justifications for minimizing “government” while maximizing pseudo-governmental oligarchies and autocracies that create the immense inequalities and restrictions to liberty seen in modern society today.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                I’m very interested in your outlook and approach. Excited to engage with you more here. Thanks!Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                I hear more liberals talking about how libertarians support HOAs than I do libertarians actually supporting (mandatory, enforceable) HOAs. Am I hanging out with the wrong libertarians?Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                DD ought to be forced to put up a garish christmas display with baby jesus being taken away by a green ufo tracker beam.
                Home Owners Associations are PRONE to hostile takeovers.

                Much lulz will be had.

                Current campaign is to remove the deer from our property. (no homeowners association). We figure the HOA down the hill should do the trick.

                Some people think that I talk about CEOs as being psychopaths without a drop of personal experience. Hostile takeovers ftw.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                Will,
                most local government is essentially a HOA. thing is? they ain’t nearly as snotty about the whole thing, and not likely to give you guff for painting your door purple.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                I consider HOAs to be a (largely unnecessary*) form of local government. Ward approaches HOAs as different from government, but uses the national government for contrast. I am curious what his thoughts are on local government.

                * – When it comes to housing regulation. I can support them when they’re trying to run local parks & neighborhood pools when being neglected by the city government.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                DD, are you ” the type of person who wants to have a whites-only lunch counter or a whites-only neighborhood or doesn’t like to have your ears offended by someone speaking with a foreign language or accent?”

                If you’re not racist, prove it.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Inherit a house? Guess you’re fucked there. Oh well. You “agreed to it” by being a combination of your ancestors’ genetic material. Or by not immediately putting your inheritance up to auction. Or something.

                Sell the motherfucking house, then! Jesus, how goddam hard a solution is that?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                M.A., I’m not a big fan of Density Duck, but it’s pretty whacked for you to imply that he want whites-only lunch counters, then call him a “troll and a bane to civil discourse.” Motes and logs and all that good biblical wisdom, eh?Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                James Hanley,

                I’ve had very few interactions with DensityDuck thus far where I’ve felt he is doing anything but trolling. Certainly, a shouting one line response to a considered answer isn’t helpful to discourse. Especially when I am making a historical point about the term DensityDuck uses, and my considered response is “and make no mistake, the underlying goal of HOA’s is to prevent “those people”, whether of differing race or differing background, from existing in a given location.”

                DensityDuck above has now suggested three substitutions –
                “Do you believe that racially restrictive covenants or redlining, when done voluntarily by homeowners who collude to keep black people out of their neighborhoods, do not represent any kind of infringement of the liberty of the black people in question? ”

                Replace “black” with “christian”. How does your answer change?

                Replace “black” with “non-vegan”. How does your answer change?

                Replace “black” with “not American”. How does your answer change?

                I have yet to hear of any communities trying to keep Christians out currently. But I know of plenty of conservative christian communities trying to do their best to keep out mosques and anyone who is too openly muslim or muslim-looking or of muslim-sounding name. And woe unto the person in my area who admits to being of a non-monotheistic religion. You’re safer faking atheism.

                Likewise I know of many people – in my own community as well, as I mentioned earlier regarding the justification for the “no drying clothes on a clothesline” rule passed by my HOA – who are espousing darkly racist and nativist sentiments of late.

                As for the non-vegan thing, I’ve yet to hear of a no barbequeuing ordinance anywhere in the country.

                One situation is real, exists today and is in need of correction. The other situation exists only in a make-believe fantasyland of some people who are mentally trying to justify some pretty awful sentiments regarding their fellow human beings.

                As to your accusation that I accused DensityDuck of harboring certain sentiment, my exact words were: “And that probably means that you, personally, if you are the type of person who wants to have a whites-only lunch counter or a whites-only neighborhood or doesn’t like to have your ears offended by someone speaking with a foreign language or accent, probably will get less liberty than you think you’d like in the name of thousands or millions of other people getting a lot more liberty than you would give them.

                Emphasis added by me. Now I probably could have worded that better. Maybe shorten it, take the word “personally” out entirely, and just write “And that probably means that the type of person who wants to have a whites-only lunch counter or a whites-only neighborhood or doesn’t like to have their ears offended by someone speaking with a foreign language or accent, probably will get less liberty than they’d like in the name of thousands or millions of other people getting a lot more liberty in the bargain.” But by this point I’d watched DensityDuck descend from a relatively incivil commenter to someone just spewing all-caps nonsensicals “STATES RIGHTS ARE DOGWHISTLE RACISM!” while refusing to defend or debate the position.

                I stand by my key points. First, true libertarianism requires relative maximization of liberty for the widest number of people, not the absolute maximization of liberty for a chosen few whose actions then deny liberty to the majority of the population. Second, there are definitely code words involved. “State’s rights” has been used as a cover for racist intent of laws from before the abolition of slavery and through the modern day with the Arizona SB1070 debate. “Freedom of Association” has been used to justify any number of bigoted policies to deny liberty to others based on gender, race, sexual preference, national origin, primary language, any number of irrational and unjustifiable reasons. “Religious freedom” is the new code word for GOP laws and policy proposals with a net effect destruction of womens’ rights. And we’ve repeated the Birther A/Birther B discussion twice now.

                Now if we can have a reasoned debate, I’m all ears, but I’m not going to dignify a screaming all-caps troll whose chosen debate technique is to deliberately insult anyone who disagrees with him any further.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                MA,
                shtetl, New York State. google it. keeping christians out as much as possible.
                (hell, even a good deal of squirrel hill tries to do the same thing, because theyw atn to be able to walk to shul).Report

      • Avatar Kimmi says:

        banning pickup trucks and SUVs? haha. yeah, you’re in favor of hostile takeovers,alright.
        Mandatory christmas lights?Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      In my experience, most libertarians are opposed to HOA, though they often tend to assume that they are government enforced when most often they are volunteer contracts. I offer nothing as to how representative this is of libertarians in general.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      “Sure, you have “liberty” to seek another job – or do you, in today’s economy?”

      Sure, you have the right to not be subject to unreasonable search and seizure–or do you, in today’s crime-ridden world, with its threats of terrorism and drug violence?Report

    • Avatar Roger says:

      M.A.,

      A few comments on your main comment…

      First, why do progressives keep bringing up Company Towns? Is this some kind of odd proof that “libertarians are stupid” meme that is floating around the progressive blogosphere? Personally, I would warn an employee to never get in a situation that involves such potential duress. I would not prohibit employees from going to them, but a warning would be wise. If an employer is consistently using voluntary choice to ensnare someone in a win lose long term scenario, then I believe well constructed rules would be appropriate to ameliorate the situation. Where liberty and free choice lead to consistently bad results, liberty should be restricted. Even here I would beware unintended consequences though.

      Second, when did Homeowner Associations become libertarian rallying cries? Granted we support subsidiarity (regulations at lowest reasonable level of hierarchy) for obvious reasons — it establishes a degree of choice, competition and benchmarking — but I assure you that libertarians are not fans of excessive regulation at any level.

      On dress standards, the liberty thing goes both ways. Inherent in liberty is the concept that both parties get to freely decide. The employer gets to decide who they employ, the employee gets to decide which employer to go to (or to be self employed). Employment occurs when they both freely agree at the terms. Your comment that this leads to unemployment misses the fact that the competition was always between Mr Tattoo and MR no Tattoo. Someone got the job either way.

      Finally, your suggestion that market solutions created the health care problems in America is like, totally bogus, dude. If you want to weave a tale about how the most interfered with industry in the world is a failure of free enterprise, please be my guest. Be prepared to be challenged though.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck says:

        “Where liberty and free choice lead to consistently bad results, liberty should be restricted. ”

        Which is where the “Roy L. Fuchs Automobile Price Negotiation Consumer Protection Law” came from.

        “when did Homeowner Associations become libertarian rallying cries? ”

        In most cases it turns out to be something like “ever since those assholes told me I painted my fence the wrong color and made me paint it again”.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi says:

        I. Don’t. Like. HOA.
        I would advise anyone to avoid living in one.

        As a liberal, I am not saying they need to be illegal.

        Go sit in your boxes of tiffy taky if you like.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      It’s also funny that we got all this way down an HOA thread and nobody brought up Marin County.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        Why? Marin is largely older homes without HOAs.Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

            I hadn’t heard about Lucas’s last move (to drop the initial project and build affordable housing.) Good for him.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              Heh, building affordable housing in Marin County is a big eff yoo from Lucas to the locals, ain’t it? Still, it’s probably a good thing, assuming it’s possible to keep the housing affordable for any length of time in Marin. I have this image of “affordable” $400,000 homes being quickly resold for $800,000. I hope I’m just being overly cynical.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                I’m not sure they’ll get built at all. There will be the usual problems with water hookups, and Lucas Valley Road (2-lane and twisty) won’t handle a large number of units.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Yeah, the permitting process could be difficult in myriad ways, eh?

                I’ve been in Marin a few times, but I don’t really know the area in question. I can find Sausolito (used to ride my bike across the GGB to there; tough climb back up out of there, though), Muir Woods, and Mt. Tam, and that’s about the limits of my Marin knowledge.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      There’s some real misunderstandings in M.A.’s argument. Libertarians aren’t against HOAs (in principle) because it’s a voluntary contractual agreement. I’m not fond of them myself, but voluntarily agreeing to buy a house in an HOA neighborhood is a free choice; hence a libertarian must support it. Same with workplace dress codes. I worked at a building supply company that forbade facial hair on men, so I shaved my goatee while I worked there. Nobody forced me to take the damn job; it was a choice.

      As to single-payer health care, you’re bringing positive liberty conceptions into the discussion, whereas libertarians tend to focus on negative liberty. You may not like them doing that, but it’s internally consistent.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        I’ll ask you the same question I asked Ward: What would you say is the difference, if any, between an HOA and a local government?Report

        • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

          You can’t vote out an HOA.

          On the other hand, the local government has cops.Report

          • Avatar Will Truman says:

            Though HOAs are often initially set up by the developers, once completed I’m pretty sure that they’re elected.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley says:

            In almost all cases you can vote out the board of an HOA. I imagine there’s even a legal process for completely dissolving one–after all, it’s a contractual agreement, and contracts can usually be negotiated to dissolution.Report

          • Avatar Kimmi says:

            An HOA is much much more vulnerable to hostile takeover from people who don’t live there.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley says:

          Will,

          In some ways it’s not, quite obviously. And that’s why I personally would not want to live in one myself. But undoubtedly it’s easier to change neighborhoods than to change towns, just as it’s easier to change towns (or move out of town into the unincorporated county) than to change states, and just as it’s easier to change states than to change countries (and let’s not even go into the difficulty of changing planets these days…)

          So really it’s the most voluntary of all these arrangements.

          I’m really sorry there’s no absolutely crystal clear distinction between government and non-government, but if we go back to Max Weber’s Politics As a Vocation, where he gives us the classic definition of government as the institution with a monopoly on the legitimate use of force, he explicitly says that there is nothing that government does that has not also been done by private actors. That’s the reality of the world; fuzzy boundaries, just as I said in the OP.

          But that’s not a very serious criticism of libertarianism, and it’s not a reason why libertarians must oppose HOAs, because most libertarians also don’t oppose the existence of local government. I agree it might be a bit weird if a libertarian got gung-ho about HOAs, but not working up a righteous fury against them is a heckuva long way away from being gung-ho for</em< them.

          And let's keep in mind that a person can avoid HOAs entirely if they want to–buying a home in such a neighborhood is a purely voluntary decision. Buying a home in a location without a local government is not possible. So joining an HOA is, again, a much more voluntary decision than placing oneself under the jurisdiction of government.

          I just find the now well-worn, “libertarians really need to be anti-HOA” argument to be really off-target. It’s like saying libertarians ought to be anti S&M clubs, because some people get whipped. Hey, if you’re into that kind of thing, the libertarians will back you all the way. Doesn’t necessarily mean any of us want to join in, though.Report

          • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

            I think the thing that makes HOAs different from S&M clubs is that they’re a layer upon an already existing hierarchy of things like property values, and perhaps more importantly things like public school funding.

            Now, on their own HOAs are relatively harmless, and as they’re the most voluntary units of governance, I don’t have a problem with them.

            Where the critique comes into greater force, is when these associations become a gatekeeper into entry to property that’s desirable for any number of reasons, including things like property value, access to certain public goods/spaces, and the like. If the HOAs are there to let only the “proper” sort of people into the neighborhood, when you combine those with things like how housing values are disproportionately influential in public school funding in the US, you start to get some serious problems about their use.

            Granted, this isn’t to say that HOAs are the main culprit. There’s structural factors that are just as problematic, and I would argue going for those is legitimate (and seems to me, for the most part what libertarians are after)

            But let us consider a world where only members of an S&M club could trade a certain commodity or access. Then that becomes a bigger issue, yeah?Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              Where the critique comes into greater force, is when these associations become a gatekeeper into entry to property that’s desirable for any number of reasons, including things like property value, access to certain public goods/spaces, and the like.

              That’s a dreadful critique. Take away the HOAs and those desirable things don’t suddenly become more prevalent. Making something available that’s not previously available is not a bad thing, even if you can’t do it at a price everyone can afford.

              If the HOAs are there to let only the “proper” sort of people into the neighborhood,
              The HOAs don’t have authority over who can buy a house in the HOA. The only barrier might be home value, and if that’s the case, then it’s a demonstration that HOAs are valuable to lots of people, otherwise values in the HOAs would go down. But their purpose isn’t to “keep the wrong sort out.” Their purpose is to protect the investment of those who have bought in. Hey, my next-door neighbor is planning to retire, move to Florida, and rent out his house. I’m really not happy about that, because he’s a great neighbor and I have no idea what kind of neighbors I’ll get when it’s a rental unit. And having a rental unit next door probably will affect the value of my investment. Now to me it’s not worth joining an HOA to avoid that risk, but it’s a real risk. More so, it’s a goddam externality! If his renters suck and damage my property value by storing trash on the porch and parking dead cars on cinder blocks in the yard, my neighbor isn’t going to compensate me. So I just don’t get moaning and wailing about how terrible a world it is where people can protect themselves from such damaging externalities by making voluntary agreements with each other, just because some people can’t pony up the cash to afford a home in that neighborhood. Hell, there are people who can’t afford a home in my neighborhood, and it’s not that great! And I can’t afford a home in the neighborhood a few blocks away, even though it doesn’t have an HOA, either.

              This line of argumentation just makes no sense at all to me. Where does it lead? Is it a dreadful world unless and until every single person can afford their own McMansion?

              when you combine those with things like how housing values are disproportionately influential in public school funding in the US, you start to get some serious problems about their use.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                What if someone has the cash to live in that neighborhood but the HOA has ordinances forbidding xyz that would keep them from living in or otherwise make their life continually difficult once they do move in?

                Moreover, my point is that because HOAs protect property value, the fact that public services are parceled out by things like property value makes the voluntary association less voluntary than it might appear at a glance.

                And really at that point is it really all that different from zoning ordinances?Report

          • Avatar Will Truman says:

            I associate what you’re talking about more with localism than libertarianism. I guess I think that libertarians really should be HOA and I truly don’t understand why one form of government is to be considered intrusive and another falls under the rubric of voluntary association. When I was a libertarian (or close to it), my view was “It’s my damn house!” and it’s about owning what you own in a way that S&M is not.

            I do get the difference between more localized government and more nationalized, but “We’re going to vote on what we can and cannot do with our property” (unless what we’re doing with our property actually damages what someone else is doing with theirs – and I don’t mean “property values”) just doesn’t strike me as a very libertarian position. At all.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              “We’re going to vote on what we can and cannot do with our property” (unless what we’re doing with our property actually damages what someone else is doing with theirs – and I don’t mean “property values”) just doesn’t strike me as a very libertarian position. At all.

              It’s not, really. But saying “others should be able to do that if they want” is. I think you’re missing the distinction between supporting people’s rights to create HOAs and being a fan of the institutions themselves. It’s quite possible to support people’s rights to do things that we don’t personally think are really hot ideas.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              P.S.
              associate what you’re talking about more with localism than libertarianism.

              My type of libertarianism is very federalistic. I believe in limiting rule-making about particular issues to the level of government that includes all the relevant stakeholders. For example, property use regulations in my town don’t affect people elsewhere in the state, and certainly not elsewhere in the country, so my town should make those rules (if there are going to be any), and no higher level entity should.

              Part of the value of that, besides just keeping decisions at the level of those affected, is it allows different locales to vary, so that potential residents can pick and choose among them. (There’s some classic economics work on this by Charles Tiebout, so the process of nearby communities creating different packages of services and taxes to attract residents is called Tiebout sorting.)

              I’m not positive that libertarians in general tend to be localist in this sense, but I think they tend to be. (Which is not to say being localist necessarily means you’re very libertarian.)Report

    • Avatar Al says:

      I am as yet unconvinced that libertarians really follow the cause of liberty – or at least, they don’t really think it through as far as they should.

      I am glad to see you mention this. I agree that libertarians as defined in this chart and in most US discourse do not, in fact, follow the cause of liberty. One might claim that liberty is partly about economic development of the whole society. Since a typical person’s choices in a developed society are vastly greater than in a subsistence economy, it might be erroneous to call any system libertarian that fails at development. (And I would argue that strict libertarianism would fail.) Even denying that, properly maximizing each actor’s rights individually does not lead, in my opinion, to a very small state because of effects like monopolies, externalities and information asymmetry.

      As a conservative I actually do favor a smaller state but this is not primarily about maximizing liberty but instead about protecting the traditional family and order.Report

      • Avatar Roger says:

        Al,

        The survey really highlights that we need more conservatives here such as yourself. There is a big imbalance in the discussions. Libertarians, progressives and either Tom or one other token conservative.

        I am not entirely sure what to make of your critiques of libertarianism.

        I believe the best use of the state is to enforce clear consistent and simple rules that optimize constructive cooperation and competition. This includes addressing monopolies and externalities and informational asymmetries to the extent that they really need to be addressed. The state can also solve social problems that cannot be solved in a decentralized or voluntary manner. The debate becomes what these are…Report

        • Avatar Al says:

          I believe the best use of the state is to enforce clear consistent and simple rules that optimize constructive cooperation and competition

          Would you say that your goal is to increase social complexity? Human development?

          In any case, I think that tradition has inherent importance. My presumption is that social institutions should reflect the past. This presumption might be overcome with a strong enough reason, like that the institutions are very inefficient, but it remains a presumption.Report

          • Avatar Roger says:

            Al,

            Your emphasis on tradition and stable institutions is a viewpoint that is too rarely represented on these pages.

            My goal? Or societies goals?

            I think people desire to prosper and flourish. I think there are institutional paths that we can take that mutually allow us to flourish and prosper. There are even more paths that lead to conflict, exploitation, misery and impoverishment. The key is to create or discover the former and avoid the latter.Report

            • Avatar Al says:

              It’s interesting that conservatism and traditionalism are so scarcely represented here. I wonder if this is because the intellectual vanguard of those favoring shrinking the state now consists of Libertarians, whether it’s because the internet is unrepresentative, or whether it’s just this site.

              Here I meant what you think society’s goals should be.

              To prosper has a reasonably crisp meaning. Do you have a more specific idea of what flourish means? Is it up to the individual? I am just curious because I think the goals motivating political ideologies are too rarely discussed.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                I think it is just this site.

                Yes, I believe flourishing is something each person defines themselves. I’ve been criticized by the progressives on this site for saying I think our goals should be what peoples goals are. They think I said nothing, and I think I said it all.

                That said, I think we can learn to adapt our goals in ways that permit us to be more successful. Part of maturing both as individuals and as society is learning how adjust ourselves to others.Report

    • Avatar Al says:

      but in my view single-payer increases liberty by freeing people to take risk

      I disagree that this is a reason why single payer could increase liberty. After all, you could argue that a system in which everyone gets $100o/mo. in the mail frees people to take risk too.

      However, it’s not clear to me that single payer would reduce liberty, as many libertarians insist. This is because insurers do not seem able to negotiate effectively with providers in our system and also that consumers just lack enough information to make informed decisions between insurers. I don’t care for single payer as a system but this is because it undermines the need to work for one’s living and support one’s family. I don’t see health care as being a right.Report

  7. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    “Conservative” has, on the internet, become synonymous with “old white rich racist man”. Is it really surprising that so few people would voluntarily take that label for themselves?

    An earlier post asked why there were so many self-described “libertarians” on the internet. I think the reason for that is that, on the internet, “libertarian” has come to mean “conservative but not an old white rich racist man”.Report

    • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

      The test may, as Burt says, be badly flawed, but how do you think your thesis holds up when faced with the results shown in Figure 2? Do those libertarians appear to be conservatives?Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck says:

        So I just took the test, and I’m not sure how I could get into the “conservative” side of the test without answering as though I were Old White Rich Racist Man (oh, and also Homphobic.) So, yes, I think that my thesis holds up (that is, that there are a lot of self-described “libertarians” on the internet because “conservative” has become a shorthand for “all that bad stuff we don’t like”.)Report

        • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

          This makes me want to know who that red circle all the way out there on the right is. We must have an old white rich racist man hanging around here.Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck says:

            I answered “yes” to wiretapping, “no” to taxing the rich, sided with the corporations over the unions, and it still put me solidly in the middle of the “libertarian” box, so I have no idea how the study is calibrated. (Answered “valid” to gay marriage and “legalize” for marijuana, so maybe those are the signifiers. Which, well, see my original post.)Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        I don’t think it’d be *THAT* controversial to say that I’m one of the more conservative people on the board.

        My conservative score on this test?

        *ZERO*.

        This says something.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy says:

          This would be interesting to examine in contrast to the on going conversation about what “mainstream” conservatism/Republicanism is.Report

          • Avatar Chris says:

            This actually hints at something I would ask in that “mainstream Republican” conversation, if the actor(s) were different: what distinguishes the mainstream from the fringe? Is it policy differences, differences in tactics, or differences in what we might call extraneous or secondary political beliefs (like, say, that Obama is Kenyan?).Report

            • Avatar Kazzy says:

              So basically, does having an extreme belief make one decidedly non-mainstream, regardless of how widespread the belief is?Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Right, that’s what I’m wondering. Or rather, I’m wondering if having precisely the same policy goals, but some different “secondary political beliefs” (there is probably a better way of putting it), makes someone non-mainstream.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                I smell a post… by someone smarter than I…Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

                I think part of the problem with discussing “the mainstream right” today is similar to problems discussing “the mainstream left” early and mid-80s. There kind of is and isn’t one, since a big part of what the right is doing (IMO) is attempting to figure out a coherent self-identity. This is why I think there is so much talk about who is and isn’t “really a conservative” amongst themselves.

                They’ll figure it out.Report

  8. Avatar Stillwater says:

    This is why I think Stillwater was on the wrong track when he wrote:

    from my pov, any argument which says government intervention is justified to prevent X where X is above the normal courts and cops threshhold (externalities, say) is a liberal position.

    Let’s assume a set of policy areas P1….Pn such that liberals believe that for any P, government intervention into that area is justified. Let’s contrast this (limited) conception of liberalism with a standard conception of libertarianism (L1) under which it’s not the case that every P is justified. In fact, let’s tighten it up a bit and say that given a minimal conception of the state only a handful of Ps will in fact be justified under L1. In that case, the liberal and the libertarian have radically and probably categorically different conceptions of government and it’s role in political economy.

    Now, lets go to another conception of libertarianism (L2) under which the libertarian concedes that government intervention into P1…Pn is justified (or a majority of them, anyway: remember P1…Pn are arbitrary, or at least idiosyncratic, in some sense anyway)*, but disagrees with the mechanisms employed. In that case, the main liberal position – that government intervention into those areas is justified – is sustained by the libertarian. The difference between the two isms, at this point, is about the mechanisms employed in each area P.

    But, if the liberal position is defined and distinguished from libertarianism by governmental intervention into P rather than (a priori) rejecting it, then L2, policy-area-wise, is more or less identical to liberalism, and the dispute between the two views take place at the edges of things. It’s a dispute about what mechanisms best achieve the policy goals consistently with a bunch of other principles. But it seems to me that the liberal isn’t defined by a preference for a type of mechanism, but rather the necessity of a mechanism.

    But, it could be that I don’t really understand liberalism, or the type of liberalism you’re presuming here.

    *In fact, to make the argument a little clearer, would could just stipulate a set of areas P which both an L2 libertarian and one type of liberal require government intervention of some kind.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      I spent all day building a deck, and need to eat some dinner. This is a more complex issue than the simplistic and silly HOA one, so let me come back to it when I can give it proper thought.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      OK, a night’s sleep and two cups of coffee–now I’m ready to tackle this.

      First, let me emphasize that my post was intended to be part of a conversation, and a clarification on my part, not an attack. I’m sometimes a clumsy writer, so if by chance any of it came across sounding like an attack on you, please accept my apologies and my assurances that it was not intended as such.

      it could be that I don’t really understand liberalism, or the type of liberalism you’re presuming here.
      For purposes here, I was just presuming the type of liberalism you suggested in the comment I quoted–regulations above and beyond regular cops and courts. Or more specifically, since I said libertarians could do that to, a general predisposition toward favoring those types of regulations (as opposed to a general predisposition toward disfavoring them, but recognizing that there are occasional exceptions). It’s tolerably vague, of course, but I think it works well as a basis for the particular question you asked here.

      The difference between the two isms, at this point, is about the mechanisms employed in each area P.

      I think even this represents a fundamentally important distinction between the two groups, even if they both support intervention. Command and control policies create a sharply different world than do market-based mechanisms. (And that has nothing to do with which, if either, actually work better–they’re just based on really distinct views of how the world best functions and result in very different sets of rules, rules that define the structure of the regulatory world in which we operate, and by creating different types of incentives shape our behaviors in very different ways.)

      Granted, this difference between groups is not as big as the difference in your first paragraph. The L1 libertarian is more radically distinct from the liberal than is the L2 libertarian. But I think both types are legitimately defined as libertarian (even though some L1s are likely to “No True Scotsman” the L2s). In a nutshell, that’s a big part of my project in discussions with liberals–to emphasize that the Venn Diagram circle “Libertarian” is not coterminous with the circle “L1.”

      From my perspective, I think command and control is sometimes necessary, but it represents a failure to solve a problem through less coercive means. A turn to regulation at all (assuming, for the moment, the regulation is warranted, and not based on a false belief that a problem exists) means we have failed to solve the problem voluntarily (which I take as the most desirable outcome, if it can be achieved), and a turn to command and control means we have failed to solve it through regulations providing more positive (less punitive) incentives.Report

  9. Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

    These are interesting results, and confirm what I have seen for many years.

    Libertarians talk about liberty a lot, yet are very comfortable with inequality. Conservatives are also very comfortable with inequality, but want more order (control).

    I can never understand the justification used by libertarians for less equality, when large amounts of inequality means less freedom for those that are unequal in the society. However, the inequality is great for those that aren’t in the unequal group, because that means they are in the privileged group.

    But, then, I’m one of those blue circles on the very top-left of the chart.

    I think, mosts of the time, arguments between liberals and libertarians boil down to the fact that libertarians are arguing on the x-axis and liberals are arguing on the y-axis. For me, I see the similarities on the x-axis, and feel it is a waste of time to argue so much about such a small difference. I want to focus on the major differences, which is an Equality Chasm between liberals and libertarians. This is why I tend to lump libertarians with conservatives – because they are much closer together on the y-axis.Report

    • Avatar wardsmith says:

      John, I agree completely with what you’ve written with the caveat that Libertarians are “accepting” of inequality as long as there is a mechanism to achieve equality built into the system. The fact that there are haves and have-nots is not a major concern to Libertarians, so long as have-nots at least have the capability of “having” success. You are “free” to succeed (or fail). If you fail, tough nuts, a system that guarantees “success” is by definition not “free” but “rigged”.

      Liberals look at this dynamic totally differently. They see have-nots, blame the haves (rightly or wrongly, some haves may have earned have-dom legitimately, but they are in the haves bucket so they are guilty by definition), and want the state to redistribute from the haves to the have-nots (coincidentally a lot of liberals happen to be in the soon-to-benefit have-nots category, but we wouldn’t be so crass as to accuse them of acting out of self-interest).

      As Liberals accept a greater and greater government, needed obviously to achieve the redistribution they covet, they don’t seem to notice that they are moving further and further along the X axis towards the “Ordered” state that supposedly is what Conservatives want. The more intrusive a state becomes, the more it is “ordered”, the less Libertarians like it. Therefore the reality is Libertarians are stuck on the left side of the axis arrayed against BOTH Conservatives and Liberals who are lining up on the Ordered side of things, whether they recognize it or not.

      Our happy League is clustered on the disordered side not because we are statistically representative of the world at large, but because we have achieved a sort of like-mindedness towards disorder here, albeit with major policy disagreements.Report

      • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

        Do you think it’s possible to support some amount of income redistribution without blaming anyone for anything?

        Do you think Milton Friedman hated rich people?Report

        • Avatar Roger says:

          Ryan,

          My answer is yes. Income smoothing and catastrophe protection are great ideas. I believe they should be noncoercive. I would voluntarily prefer to join a society that had social insurance for job loss, old age and various calamities. Wouldn’t you?Report

          • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

            No, I believe every person has the right to social insurance for job loss, old age, and the various calamities, even if the people in their local area are bastards who don’t want to provide it.

            The very existence of society is coercion. There is no way to noncoervively destroy severe elderly poverty like we have over the past fifty years. I’ll take the coercive action of taking taxes to fund that every day and twice on Sunday.Report

            • Avatar Roger says:

              I believe there are non coercive ways, and that it is those using and preaching coercion that are the bastards. If there was a non coercive way, would you support it? Would you agree it is superior? Just asking.Report

              • Avatar Rod says:

                Serious question: If those non-coercive ways actually exist then why weren’t they evident prior to adoption of the coercive methods?

                What I always hear is libertarians complaining that coercive, government-based, methods should be the last resort. Fine. They were. There was always — always — a period of time, usually quite lengthy, when a problem was evident before a coercive, government, solution was proposed. The reason the government solution was proposed is precisely because no non-governmental solution had magically appeared.

                That being said, it’s certainly worth debating whether a particular problem merits a coercive solution. And it’s also always the case that a less-coercive solution is preferable to a more-coercive solution. But doing nothing while calling for a “bottom-up” solution is still just doing nothing.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                Yes. Rod.
                However, every single one of those were patchwork solutions, better resolved by redoing it, from the bottom up more intelligently. Gotta tinker with everything to produce the most optimal results.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                What I always hear is libertarians complaining that coercive, government-based, methods should be the last resort. Fine. They were. There was always — always — a period of time, usually quite lengthy, when a problem was evident before a coercive, government, solution was proposed. The reason the government solution was proposed is precisely because no non-governmental solution had magically appeared.

                Eh, that’s a bit facile. Sometimes the problems are newly appeared or newly recognized, and the first response is to turn to government. Other times, people have dawdled on figuring out a non-coercive solution because it takes work, and if we let government handle it, someone else can do the work. Other times, the non-coercive solution requires obvious sacrifice, so people are unwilling to accept that sacrifice–of course the government solution requires sacrifice, too, but it tends to be more hidden and disconnected from the benefit, so it’s easier for people to accept, even if it is in fact an inferior solution. And still other times government comes in and wrecks a satisfactory solution so that they can impose a widespread one-size-fits-all policy.

                Not always, of course. What you claim is absolutely true at times as well. But in the abstract it’s hard to determine relative frequencies. When we dig deeply into individual cases we can often discern which of these has occurred in that case, but in that case only.Report

      • Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

        I have no idea what you self-identify as, Mr. wardsmith, but you seem to be arguing on the x-axis, and write sympathetically of libertarians, so you seem to be a libertarian in this comment. Whether you are or not, is beside the point.

        The point is not that liberals, such as myself, want to redistribute. We want an equal and fair system. If the system were fair, I would not advocate redistribution. Since the system is not fair, I advocate for redistribution to make it more fair.

        The system we have is not fair. It benefits certain groups over other groups. Your statement about “a mechanism to achieve equality built into the system” is a lie. There is no mechanism built into the system that gives everyone a chance at equality. The system benefits certain groups over other groups.

        You are arguing the x-axis, and I want to argue the y-axis. And, you seem to argue that the y-axis can be fixed by doing things on the x-axis. That is not possible, in my experience.

        Your comment concisely demonstrates exactly what I wrote about.Report

        • Avatar Roger says:

          John,

          As a libertarian I agree completely that what we want is a fair system that treats everyone equally. Everyone should have an opportunity to make their own decisions and try their hardest to fulfill their desires as long as they don’t coercively interfere with others doing the same.

          If you point out something that is unfair, that certain privileged groups operate under different, privileged rules than another group, then my guess is I will agree with you that this is wrong and should be changed. What I do not agree with at all is that everyone should achieve equal outcomes. People want different things and choose different paths. Attempting equalize outcomes is the ultimate path to not just to totalitarianism, but impoverishment and unfairness to boot.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            Roger and Ward: I don’t think John ever argued for equality of outcomes. Redistribution isn’t about making sure everyone has the same dollar amount in the bank. It’s based on the idea (well, there are others) that meeting basic needs is a necessary condition for acting on other liberties. What constitutes basic needs is open to dispute, of course. But the idea is that meeting them (being sure that they are met) is necessary for equality of opportunity.Report

            • Avatar Roger says:

              Stillwater,

              As you may recall, I am a big fan of social safety nets. I just differ from progressives in how I would go about creating them. Mine would be much effective and more sustainable. They would even be more fair!Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Yes, I know that. It’s one thing I really appreciate about your views on these topics. Frankly, the more you say, the more I agree with you, FWIW.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Now I feel like I overstated it. This is better: the more you talk about these issues, the more inclined I am to agree with you.

                But that’s still something, right?Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                That is just because you didn’t read what I wrote to Nob at the bottom of this chain of replies. Where it appears almost as if I am blaming the poor. Though I don’t, not really.

                Seriously though, I really do believe in strong yet firm safety nets. I can’t imagine living without them, and don’t think most libertarians would enjoy the world without them.

                Strong, uncomfortable safety nets.Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP says:

            How would a society go about changing such things? If, as you say, everyone should be able to make their own decisions and attempt to fulfil those desires, the very coercive interference you correctly decry seems to appear every time someone proposes such changes. Money talks. It has always talked. The more money, the clearer the message becomes.

            In short, we shall never have positive changes to our privileged structure. Totalitarianism begins with the blurring of the lines separating the regulators from the regulated. Thus arose both fascism and totalitarian communism. When only the powerful make the laws, we have arrived at a state of de-facto totalitarianism.

            Why the reticence about equalization of outcomes? The privileged do not obey the same rules as the rest of us. Confronted with any attempt to restrain their privileges, by definition, they will oppose it, armed with your excellent line of reasoning about Coercion and Interference.

            It is pointless to observe the contradiction contained in wishing for non-interference as any solution. It is a childish fantasy, well, not exactly. It is not the fantasy of the child, but the fantasy of the bad parent who yells at the kids to stop hitting each other and will not intervene to stop it. We know privilege exists and will protect itself at all costs when threatened. We already have impoverishment. Fairness is quite beyond us as a society, the word is a bit silly on its face. If a society is to have truly equal opportunity, there must be some definition of equality. Saying everyone wants something different is only throwing foo-foo dust at the problem of growing inequality in our society.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              I read that and I hear “You are the child. Government is the adult.”Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                If and when you become a parent, it will all make sense, Jaybird. When children fight, a competent parent does more than yell. He does intervene to stop them striking each other.

                All this wishful thinking about how we’re going to have a more just society by stipulating to the abusive behaviour of the privileged but doing nothing about it, well, all I get from that sort of pollyanna blethering is the conclusion “This person knows nothing about the real world, where privilege and power really do make a difference in outcomes.”Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I know that privilege and power really do make a difference in outcomes.

                This is why I don’t call for even more of it.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Heh. The gods answer the prayers of the stupid, first. The laws of gravity take over here, Jaybird. The powerful become ever more powerful and less accountable as their power grows. I would only repeat myself about the pollyanna blethering.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                He and I no longer speak.

                That said, it’s either the Republicans or Democrats who seem to have His ear. Perhaps their working with Him will finally usher in the eschaton.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                The political parties have become irrelevant to any informed observer. Money trumps all other considerations. Despite the continuing CDS cave-ins all over the banking system, the political barons have not yet seen fit to separate banks from insurance companies. JPMorgan is in deep doo-doo. By my estimate, the real face value of their CDS positions is around 8 Bn.

                The moneyed classes have ensured no reforms will ever be enacted. And you wish for more power and privilege. To whom do you think this new power and privilege will accrue? Not to the ordinary mortal. Jamie Dimon remains in charge at JPM and is a good friend of Obama and everyone who pretends to regulates his sorry ass.

                This, it seems to me, lies at the heart of the Libertarian fallacy, that they believe because the angels are powerful, that the powerful are angels.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                If I had as much confidence in my discernment as you, I probably wouldn’t have immediately thought of 2nd Corinthians 11:14.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                the Libertarian fallacy, that they believe because the angels are powerful, that the powerful are angels.

                Can I have some of what you’re smoking, BP? You’ve got that exactly backward–libertarians absolutely distrust the powerful. That’s why they distrust government; it’s based on power. And they don’t trust a guy like Jamie Dimon, they trust the discipline of the market to keep a guy like Dimon in line. Now we can agree that sometimes they overestimate the capacity of the market to do so, certainly. But to say they think the corporate heads are angels is to show that you really have no idea what libertarians actually think.

                The absolute certainty with which you write when you’re wrong frequently remind me of that great quote from Charles Darwin, that “ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.”Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                You distrust the government and therein lies the nub of the Libertarian fallacy. You do not really want any semblance of Equal Justice Under Law, for given half the chance you would eliminate any semblance of market regulation.

                Market discipline? I wish I could take a few Libertarians down to a real market floor and show them the reality of what happens there. You lot would be completely disabused of any further fantasies about how markets actually behave.

                When it comes to any references to Darwin, I am not the one who believes in some simplistic Creation Science world where the market shall right all our wrongs. In the world of Darwin, species not only evolved but co-evolved and developed codependencies. I will not be lectured by someone who thinks the market is the solution. The market is the problem. Disciplined markets, ones where they’re at least as regulated as a craps table in Vegas, will do well enough. Even on the street corner, you must show your money ere you throw the bones.

                I fear the Libertarian is the most dangerous species of idiot alive. He who believes markets have discipline is as dangerous as the communist who would destroy them.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “I wish I could take a few Libertarians down to a real market floor and show them the reality of what happens there.”

                The market is exactly as undisciplined as nuclear fission.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                We may always count on you for some inane metaphor, Duck. Markets only work when a buy actually matches a sell and there’s money to back the position.

                With a credit default swap, neither is true. A bet has been made on whether someone will fail to pay up as advertised. May we also presume you are in favour of deregulating the insurance industry? When the insurance fails to pay off, caveat emptor, eh?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Market discipline? I wish I could take a few Libertarians down to a real market floor and show them the reality of what happens there. You lot would be completely disabused of any further fantasies about how markets actually behave.

                Once again we see that Blaise thinks of markets only in terms of the trading floor. He doesn’t understand that when I go to the pharmacist and she recognizes me, that’s the market, and I keep going back instead of changing pharmacies because I like being recognized.

                He doesn’t understand that Lowes took my returns of excess building materials today with no questions or qualms, because that’s the market, and I’d start buying at Home Depot or Menards if they didn’t.

                No, for Blaise the market is only the trading floor, and even more than that, it’s only credit default swaps. So by cherrypicking what counts as the market or not, he can persuade himself that markets don’t work. And he comforts himself that we libertarians are stupid because we say that the market most often (not always, most often) does work. Because in every way in which it works, he has previously (conveniently) defined those things out of the thing he calls “the market.”Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Once again, we see Hanley acting as if he can put words in folks’ mouths. If only he would take his enormous foot out of his own. Pay a visit to Roger the Surgeon, he’ll get it out for you with his trusty pair of pliers.

                If you go to a market where you know people, well gosh, that’s a little bit of socialising. That’s not buying and selling. If you pay a premium to deal with known entities, perhaps you’ll feel differently if that pharmacist sold you coloured corn syrup instead of your medication. Actual pharmacists are regulated.

                Lowes took your returns because they’re a retail operation who just extracted a substantial markup on your purchases already.

                A cheerful hoist of the old bras d’honneur in your general direction. You know goddamn well every time you idiot Libertarians start rattling on about Deregulation I’m going to bring up the subject of CDSes, precisely because for you morons, it’s not about the trading floor, were billions are lost due to the very Force and Fraud you so loudly decry. You don’t understand the first thing about markets, pedalling furiously along on your Huffy bikes with the training wheels still on, making vroom vroom noises about retail operations as if they were the be-all and end-all of markets. Those bits of lumber you gave back to Lowes? There’s a lumber market on CME. Not that you’d know about it, but there’s a spot market in most grades of lumber. Which is where Lowes took positions so they could sell you a few sheets of plywood.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Blaise,

                Thanks for a reply that demonstrates exactly what kind of person you are. Your inability to sustain a debate without resorting to words like “idiot” sufficiently demonstrates your intellectual inability.

                God bless you, but once again I see that debate with you is an utter waste of time.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Shrug. Go on believing what you want. The world is round, not flat. Markets must be regulated or they will fail, as they have failed, as they will continue to fail. Meanwhile, I observe there is no convincing anyone of the folly of Free Markets. Regulation must vary with Risk. He who believes otherwise is indeed an idiot, Hanley.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Here’s my last comment on the matter, Blaise.

                We are two guys, each of whom thinks he knows better than the others how markets work. So let’s look at our competing Lowes’ stories to help sort this out.

                James H.’s story: Lowes takes returns because they see the prospect of making even more money off me in the future, by keeping me a happy returning customer.

                Blaise P’s story: Lowes takes returns because they’ve already made enough money off me to satisfy them (“just extracted a substantial markup on your purchases already”), not because they want to extract future substantial markups on purchases from me.

                Now which of those stories do you think Lowe’s upper management would be more likely to agree with, the “we’ve already gotten enough of your money” story or the “we want more of your money story”?

                I think you know the truth (I can’t actually bring myself to imagine you believing firms say, “yeah, we already earned enough, we don’t need more”), but you get so emotionally wrapped up in argument that you not only act like a douche, but you say things that you aren’t stupid enough to say when you’re taking a deep breath and writing rationally.

                And by the way, let’s assume that all libertarians oppose all regulation of credit default swaps and that they’re completely wrong about that. Being wrong on that one particular niche in the big broad market doesn’t even begin to demonstrate that they’re wrong about markets in general (which is why I keep pointing out that “the market” means a whole lot more), or that libertarianism as a whole is “idiotic.” The only thing idiotic here is thinking you can demonstrate the complete failure of any particular ideology by pointing to only one thing. I’m afraid, however, that you are, in fact, likely to think that such a thing is possible.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                Once again we see BlaiseP figure that if he didn’t write it then it ain’t worth shit.

                Nuclear fission looks complicated and chaotic. But what actually happens is quite simple. When Mister Wizard throws the ping-pong ball into the box of mousetraps, nothing more complicated happens than a mousetrap going off.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Well, BP is talking about pretty anymous transactions here, or one offs where the risk of losing repeat customers isn’t a huge dis-incentive. I mean, he’s absolutely correct that a CDS isn’t comparable to buying retail wood products at the local lumber yard. I think that’s his point: the damage done from an unregulated CDS market is potentially orders of magnitude higher than the damage done by an unregulated retail lumber market. I certainly agree with James that BP wouldn’t dispute the incentive of Lowe’s in the described scenario. BP’s point is that the markets are relevantly dissimilar that their not apples to apples.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Stillwater,

                And yet you don’t see anybody on here arguing that the market works beautifully every single time in every single niche. So when we say, “the market usually works well, but there are exceptions that we call market failures,” and Blaise says, “the market doesn’t work well here, so you’re wrong!” Well, it’s just odd to say, “here’s one example of something you admit happens, and that proves you’re wrong.”Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Duck’s nuclear fission analogy ought to be continued, for a nuclear reactor must be modulated. Regulated. Controlled.

                James’ Lowes proposition ignores the larger forces at work in his retail encounters at Lowes and the Medicine Shoppe, both of which require regulation.

                But let us return to Duck’s analogy for a moment, for it is the sounder one, more akin to actual markets. Put enough dense matter in one location at one point in time and nuclear fission will begin. As he correctly points out, though the mathematics of randomness are complex, well, insofar as they require statistics and probability to model it, the actual physics is quite simple. The key is to keep the reaction from running away and melting the reactor core. The nuclear bomb analogy will be saved for a later paragraph.

                Markets are no different than reactors. At some point, a buyer will meet a seller and a transaction will take place. Enough such transactions and Duck’s Fission will ensue. Market makers will appear, for the sellers and buyers would like to deal in future delivery contracts, not actual product, especially in physical commodities. We could think of them as reactor builders.

                A futures contract involves a degree of risk, where a third party, the market itself, must put its imprimatur upon the ticket.

                In a straight long position, while a buyer is in possession of a futures contract, he has not made or lost money. He only has a position in that market. He will only make or lose money when he exits his position. To establish a short position, he enters the market with a sell and exits with a buy. Another tier of instruments, puts and calls, exist to fill the need for hedging positions. Even more complex instruments exist in variants of puts and calls but it is enough to say when the delivery contract comes due, it enters the spot market where those parties such as bakers who entered the wheat futures market take delivery at the buy price.

                And no, it’s just an old wives’ tale about being forced to take delivery of freight cars full of wheat or pork bellies. The spot market will take the physical commodity off your hands.

                Without the confidence and backing of a market, regulated from within by market makers and licensed trading firms and regulated from the outside via the CFTC, buyers and sellers will not participate.

                Blaise does not say, “the market doesn’t work well here, so you’re wrong!” Well, it’s just odd to say, “here’s one example of something you admit happens, and that proves you’re wrong.”. I have asked you civilly to stop putting words in my mouth. Now I shall simply resort to the plain truth: markets work well when they earn the confidence of traders. That confidence rises when markets are regulated effectively.

                Would that you Libertarians were serious about Force and Fraud. You are not. You are little Hansels and Gretels in a deep dark forest you clearly do not understand, nibbling at candy cottages. When real Force in the form of huge deals done in the blind erupt into the sunlight, pouring out like so much hot lava onto America’s pleasant green lawns, you would tell us Even Less Regulation would solve that problem. When Fraud appears, you would call it Clever Enterprise. You lie to yourselves and you lie to me. For markets to succeed, for risk to translate to reward, those deals done in the dark must be brought out into the light, where a firm’s exposure to risk is truly exposed.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                When Fraud appears, you would call it Clever Enterprise.

                Well, we could take the word of someone who’s demonstrated deep antipathy toward, and lack of knowledge about, libertarianism, or we could take the word of real libertarians.

                Which source is more reliable? Obviously not the libertarians, because they believe in the goodness of fraud, which proves that the libertarians I’ve linked to are fraudulently claiming to oppose fraud.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Now hath God well and truly delivered you into my clutches, Hanley, for this is what real libertarians believe on this subject:

                Let history show the self-described Libertarians were against regulating credit default swaps. Leon Hadar’s article on Cato Institute says:

                Mr Friedman and other contributors set out to demonstrate that it is not capitalism which has failed – but rather government intrusion into capitalism.

                Similarly, Mark Calabria, the director of Financial Regulation Studies at the Cato Institute, challenges in the Policy Report the current narrative in Washington that ‘a decades-long unravelling of the regulatory system allowed and encouraged Wall Street to excess, resulting in the current financial crisis’.

                Left unchallenged, this narrative will likely form the basis of financial reform measures, he warns, stressing that ‘having such measures built on a flawed foundation will only ensure that future financial crises are more frequent and severe’.The financial crisis was caused by ‘the complex, constantly growing web of regulations designed to constrain and redirect modern capitalism’, Mr Friedman writes in Critical Review. This complexity made investors, bankers and even regulators themselves ignorant of regulations previously promulgated across decades and which interacted with each other to foster the issuance and securitisation of sub-prime mortgages; their rating as AA or AAA; and their concentration on and off the balance sheets of many commercial and investment banks.

                It was impossible ‘to predict the disastrous outcome of these interacting regulations’, he argues.In another article, economics professor John Taylor of Stanford University contends that the financial crisis ‘was in large part caused, prolonged, and worsened by a series of government actions and interventions’.

                Impossible to predict, he says. Government actions and interventions. Nothing about how an interlocking web of crippling interdependencies had developed, unknown and unknowable to the CDS issuers and buyers. It was entirely predictable. Risk can be quantified if it is in the open. Where it is secret, as in over the counter markets, it cannot be quantified, not even between the parties involved.

                Breaking a contract you cannot keep will put you in breach thereof. When nobody can keep their promises, everyone retracts from the market. Banks wouldn’t even loan to each other. The Libertarians are completely, utterly, bass-ackwardly wrong. This had nothing to do with the Fed loosening the money supply. It had everything to do with secret, fraudulent deals done between powerful people.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Blaise,

                Those libertarian authors are not arguing that fraud is OK. They’re arguing that there wasn’t fraud. It’s perfectly fine for you to disagree with them on that, and perhaps you’re right and they’re wrong. But to twist their argument to say they support fraud is fundmentally dishonest.

                It’s a real shame that a bright guy like you has to stoop to being dishonest.Report

            • Avatar Roger says:

              Blaise,
              “How would a society go about changing such things?”

              By creating more choice and using coercion only as a last resort to stop other coercion. Details available on request.

              “In short, we shall never have positive changes to our privileged structure.”

              I think privilege is substantially less of a factor now than in prior centuries. We seem to be on a pretty good post-enlightenment trajectory. I simply want to continue to promote the trend. It is only the powerful who make laws now, and the special interest groups which thrive off getting concentrated benefits while others pay the opaque costs. Rules — in excess — are the path to privilege.

              “Why the reticence about equalization of outcomes? The privileged do not obey the same rules as the rest of us.”

              Because the privileged are the ones writing the rules for themselves and their special interests. I don’t want the rules to try to achieve outcomes. I just want them to be simple, consistent and fair.

              “If a society is to have truly equal opportunity, there must be some definition of equality. ”

              Yeah, based on equal opportunity, not equal outcome. Simple, fair, consistent rules which are set before the game is started, and not changed mid stream to get the answer we want.

              “Saying everyone wants something different is only throwing foo-foo dust at the problem of growing inequality in our society.”

              Absolutely wrong. My wife and I do not want to work any more. Therefore my family income is in the lowest quintile. This is not a problem. It is the outcome my wife and I choose. Looking at inequality without at the same time reviewing the goals and the paths taken is totally absurd. I am not saying that all poor people want to avoid education, work, marriage, investing in the future or such things. I am simply saying that it is insane to look at the problem of outcomes without also looking at effort and goals.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Choice? I find this amusing. The choices presented to us are those enumerated in the Python Cheese Shoppe sketch. If you had any details, Roger, you would have enumerated them. That you have not says about all I need to hear. Libertarians are big on choice, less on making sure actual choices are available. And do spare me the usual Libertarian babble about how we shall all build our fantasy ranches. Anatole France’s park bench is what’s on offer just now. I see no further choices.

                Privilege has never been more obvious than at present. I have pointed out the absence of rules which devastated our economy to the various Libertarians hereabout. It is as if I was showing so many pigs a wristwatch. You lot will never agree with me about the necessity of regulation or how and why deregulation got us into this mess. I simply will not find agreement with any Libertarian on this subject and will continue to believe they are all fiscal ignoramuses for this reason. Their continued hearkening to the long-discredited idiocy of the Austrian economists tells me so.

                The privileged are not writing the rules. They are tearing down the rules and ensuring reasonable regulations are never passed. It is as if you did not read what I wrote about why banks should desist from the practice of issuing insurance in the form of credit default swaps, for that is exactly what a CDS is, a form of insurance. Such instruments ought to be traded on regulated exchanges.

                Your argument about how rules reinforce privilege fly in the face of common sense. Rules must apply to all by definition. Do not trifle with me on this point. What does it say over the door of the Supreme Court? Equal Justice Under Law. Not stupid little simplistic notions about fairness, genuine equality arises from enforced regulations.

                Inequality is not merely a matter of income. Inequality takes many forms, of education, of health care. Most importantly, Nob Akimoto points out below how inequality actually works: everyone knows this instinctively but he’s put forth the data: if you want to end up on top of the heap, it sorta helps to start out on top of the heap.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Blaise, the reaon I have not enumerated them is that I am conserving my time. Ask if interested.

                If the privileged are supposedly tearing down the rules, then why are there a zillion times as many rules now as before? Something in your world view is cock eyed.

                Sorry the issue of rules of privilege escapes you. Here is a “fictional” example.

                To be an interior decorator in your state after July first of 2012 you must complete nine months of training and get a bachelors degree. See? A fair and consistent rule which is designed to limit competition and gain privilege for incumbents.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Zillions, eh? Conserve your time and your fingers both. You know perfectly well the market in credit default swaps ought to be regulated or we shall endure another bloodbath. Your problem lies foursquare in your belief regulation is a very bad idea. This is dangerous nonsense. We regulate lawyers, ensuring they actually know the law in the states where they will practice that law. Electricians ought to be regulated to prevent electrical fires. Pilots ought be certified on the planes they fly. Yes, and interior decorators ought to know a bit of structural engineering before they suspend a half-ton chandelier from a bit of 1/8 plywood placed between two roof beams.

                There is a certain sort of person who lives to find little aggravations in the world at large to point out how the government is a bad idea. If you ever get sick, follow your own advice and try to heal yourself. Clearly, MD and FACS certifications are only limitations upon competition and admitting privileges to hospitals a vast encumbrance upon the same.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Perhaps I am just a moron.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Says the guy who declares my view of the world is cockeyed. I encourage all who would say certification is a limit to competition and a privilege to incumbency to take up dentistry or surgery. Surely among your workbench tools is a good pair of locking pliers which might serve as as a substitute for haemostats and your Exacto knife should prove sharp enough for a scalpel. Hang out a sign at the end of your driveway “Roger the Libertarian Surgeon” and let’s see how it goes.Report

        • Avatar wardsmith says:

          John, I inadvertently replied to you here. I also completely agree with Roger’s post. Equal outcomes is a fool’s errand regardless of the definition.Report

          • Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

            I don’t understand why you (and Roger) insist that I am asking for equal outcomes. I just want everyone to have an equal chance. Presently, they do not.Report

            • Avatar Roger says:

              John,

              Could you clarify how some don’t have an equal chance? I can guess your answers, some of which I agree with, but I would rather hear from you.Report

              • Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

                Oh, my. That is a post, in and of itself. Which I would not want to inflict on my poor brothers (and a few stalwart sisters).

                I consider most of them to be self evident. One’s gender. One’s skin color. One’s general “look”. One’s social or income class. One’s sexual orientation. One’s religion, or lack thereof. These are some of the basic ones. I’m sure you can extrapolate to the rest.

                Does everyone have a right to L, L, and the POH? Certainly. But, some people start on third base, while others only get a couple turns at bat. That’s not equality.

                The system is biased already, despite many fiery concerns about biasing the system further with government coercion. I want to even out some of the bias that already exists. Will there be unknown externalities of correcting that bias? Certainly. Let’s start by dealing with the known externalities, before we start worrying about the unknown externalities, say I. I like the known externalities and am more worried about the unknown externalities, says the libertarian.

                Here is a question I always use to judge the society: what are the demographics of the political class (elected officials, official pundits)?

                Answer that question honestly, and you’ll have your answer about how equal the society is.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                John,

                Oh, we’ll maybe I don’t agree after all.

                I believe that anyone in America can succeed in attaining a prosperous and comfortable life regardless of color, sex, religion and sexual orientation if they are willing to work hard, plan for the future and play by the rules. It has never been easier in the history of the universe than it is for the poor right now, right here. This is as good a it has ever been for those willing to try. We are truly lucky, perhaps even blessed.Report

              • Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

                It has never been easier in the history of the universe than it is for the poor right now, right here.

                This could have been said (and probably was) many times in the past. Should attempts at improving equality have stopped at one of those points in the past?

                “Easier…..for the poor”. That’s quite a statement. Figure out what’s wrong with that statement, and you’ll see the underlying problem, I think.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                John,

                I give up, what is wrong with the statement?

                The path to supporting a family in America is pretty simple. Nothing is 100% (which is why I support good safety nets), but a comfortable lifestyle can be had by just about anyone who works hard, plans for the future, plays by the rules, and doesn’t have kids out of wedlock. The point is that progressives have convinced millions of poor people to not do these things. Instead they should go to progressive run schools and feel bad about being victims and suckle the progressive states teat.

                Progressives sow dependency and then protest the existence of a dependent class.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                You live in a world of pleasant fantasies. Too much television, perhaps. I can’t say. I wish the world was as you think it is. There never was a time when the American life was simple, not even in the heyday of the postwar boom.

                Playing by the rules is for stupid people. Smart people get lobbyists to change the rules for their benefit. They pull apart regulation written in blood, wreck our economy with their busted deals, destroy those lovely folks who’d really like to do nothing but work hard and plan for the future and Daddy and Mommy go to the furniture store to buy a new bassinet for their baby.

                That’s not the real world. In the real world, people work two jobs and live in a trailer park back off the Interstate, on roads you don’t travel. They went to crappy schools. They didn’t have the opportunities afforded other children.

                In the world of the progressive, we’d invest in our children. We’d view them as a national asset, the people who will inherit our country and our world. You lie through your teeth in saying progressives have convinced millions of poor people to live in trailer parks and have kids out of wedlock. No, that would be the fucking idiots who decided they wouldn’t fund the schools and those people never got to take a chemistry course or an AP math course or never got to dissect a frog in biology class

                No, it was the progressives who gave this country the public school system, which raised our country’s educational level to the point where our workers were literate enough to do the work of a growing nation. It was the progressives who gave this country the 40 hour week and child labour laws. I find all this talk about feeling bad about victims a bit heartless and stupid. As you say, planning for the future is important. We’re now reaping the harvest of Starve the Beast and you would starve it further. Once this country did believe in its future enough to invest in that future and it was a progressive vision. The rest of you are cordially invited to pound sand: you want results without investment.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                To any progressive who does not think I am an idiot (yet),

                To create a dependent class of people, Blaise lays the formula out….

                Convince people that “playing by the rules is for stupid people.”
                Convince them that we’ll invest in their kids and treat them like a “national asset” and then lock them into an expensive, unsafe and dysfunctional inner city school owned and operated by the teachers union for the trachers union with no hope of leaving

                The fact is, Blaise, the immobile poor are not trying to work, are not valuing education, are not planning for the future, are not waiting to marry to have kids, and are being massively subsidized by the welfare state to do these very things.

                If you want to know what the problem is with the poor, look in the mirror.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                So basically…it boils down to:
                “The poor are poor because they don’t try hard enough.”?

                I’m trying really hard to find a less offensive reading of what you posted, but I’m having trouble doing so.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Once again, it’s a matter of starving the beast to improve it. You have no proof the poor don’t want to work. I can demonstrate the exact opposite. Not only do the poor want to work, they do work, often at multiple jobs. Every waitress you’ll ever meet in a restaurant is subsidising your lifestyle by providing you with first rate service at less than minimum wage and there is no shortage of applications for such jobs. I maintain a website for one of my g/f’s family friends, a rural medical transport company: I put up an application form for drivers and it’s getting filled out a lot. The owner is completely amazed.

                Saying the poor don’t want to work is simply a lie. You can’t prove it. Nor can you prove a teachers’ union is at fault for the decaying school system. Schools are funded by property taxes. The summa of your argument is that because public schools are bad they should therefore be abandoned. One this position was the status quo and still is in many countries, where the children of the poor are not educated.

                The worst schools are often rural, not in the inner city, where teachers often receive “combat pay”. The quality of a given school varies directly with parental involvement and its ability to provide magnet courses to attract better students. While it is not universally true that more money makes for a better school, less money has never made one better.

                I do look in the mirror, every morning, wet and bleary eyed as I shave my face. I see a man who built 22 lending libraries in rural Guatemala, who put six solar powered schools into Burkina Faso and Niger Republic, where adults and children alike attend in the evenings, after the day’s farming work is done, where refrigerators keep vaccines cold and a water tower is filled with clean water every day by a DC pump at the bottom of a well I dug with my own money and erected with the help of my friends. I will not be lectured by you, who has done none of these things, whose idea of investing in the future is to damn our school teachers for belonging to a union so they can negotiate for their rights. You are a contemptible, selfish little creature, you and your damnation of a Welfare State which keeps the elderly and insane from begging in the streets.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Nob,

                This is from the following link.
                http://www.thefreemanonline.org/features/working-family-gibberish/

                “Focusing on average hours worked per working-age adult actually understates the difference in the amount of work done by families at different income levels. This is because, as shown in the table on the next page, the number of working-age adults differs across families. On average, households in the lowest quintile have less than one working-age adult compared to over two such adults in the top-quintile households. (Evidently two-career couples with teenaged children who work are common in the upper quintile.) Households in the bottom quintile average less than 13 hours of work per week, while families in the top quintile average more than 74 hours of work per week.”

                In other words, the poor work one fifth the hours of the wealthy. I wonder why they are poor?

                The poor work very little hours per week, and did so during a period of full employment. If you dont work you don’t usually make money. This is a pretty simple fact. The solution is not income redistribution. It is setting institutional expectations that they get a job, work hard and get married before having a kid that the state is expected to act as a daddy to.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Blaise, see above. I think I just proved it.

                I do not doubt your intentions. I think you are a great guy. I believe that in a complex world it is possible to give someone terrible advice and believe you are doing them a favor. I think you mean well and accidentally do terribleinjury.

                We need better schools, not progressive ruined schools. We need better institutions, not to convince the poor that the only way to succeed is to cheat.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                All,

                You’re talking past each other because some folks are talking about individuals, while others are talking about aggregates/statistical averages.

                There’s no doubt that there are poor people who work multiple jobs. (Although it’s also true that frequently they’re working multiple part time jobs that may or may not add up to the hours of a full time job.) They’re real, no doubt about that.

                But it’s also undoubtedly true that the poor work fewer hours on average than the non-poor. The data on that don’t lie.

                So what’s the solution in looking at this? If we could sit down around a table and talk about policy in a congenial manner, should our policy be more informed by the troubling cases that are mentioned, or by the statistical data? What are the argument for and against each approach? Can the approaches be combined in a meaningful way to help inform our policy proposals?

                The one thing that’s certain is that you can’t have a productive discussion when one side focuses on individuals and the other side focuses on aggregates. And the one thing neither side’s done is try to explain to the other side why their focus is the better one.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                Roger thinks nobody works in the underground economy, apparently. Meth ring a bell?Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                In other words, the poor work one fifth the hours of the wealthy. I wonder why they are poor?

                Says someone who never had to try to find an “entry level” position when entry-level positions had vanished.

                Says someone who can’t understand why averaging the number of hours of a segment of the population hindered by unemployment numbers and seasonal-work numbers, then comparing to a segment of the population almost uniformly populated with people working salaried positions with full benefits, is trying to compare apples to kumquats.

                About the time you respond to BlaiseP, who is talking about creating schools and libraries and wells and infrastructure in impoverished countries – and then you accuse him, in your words, “I think you mean well and accidentally do terrible injury.” By what? By helping people get an education? Learn to read? Have clean water to drink? I’m going to refrain from actually saying anything about you at all save for the word I echo from BlaiseP: contemptible.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Can’t we all just get along?

                Kimmi, I noted these people as those not playing by the rules. Black market income is not included in mobility data.

                MA, I want better schools and safety nets. Who has run schools and safety nets for the past five decades? Libertarians or progressives? I rest my case. The Christmas we got is the one progressives delivered. You guys had your chance and have proven yourselves incapable. Time for a new direction.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                I believe that anyone in America can succeed in attaining a prosperous and comfortable life regardless of color, sex, religion and sexual orientation if they are willing to work hard, plan for the future and play by the rules.

                The problem is that today working hard, planning for the future and playing by the rules are no longer a guarantee that you will “attain a prosperous and comfortable life”, not in the slightest. I have seen numerous people work hard, plan for the future, play by the rules – and nonetheless be destroyed, chewed up and spit out by the system due to color, sex, religion, sexual orientation, or unlucky chance.

                The American Dream was once that if you worked hard, planned for the future, and played by the rules you could provide a reasonably comfortable life for yourself and a better starting point for your children. Today, the American Dream is to manage to die without leaving your kids inheriting a mountain of debt. Something in the system is broken.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Well done, Brother M.A., and there it all is, folks, chapter and verse. Were I to attempt a good-faith summary of the modern American left’s worldview, I would not change a word.

                What say you, M.A.’s brother leftpersons? This is the vision of America offered by its left, its Democratic Party, and in between evasions, its presidential candidate as I understand it.

                And let’s go all in with the racism thing, “white folks’ greed runs a world in need.” [Its provenance should be unnecessary to explain to even the merest of LoOGites.] It’s a necessary corollary.

                _______________

                “I believe that anyone in America can succeed in attaining a prosperous and comfortable life regardless of color, sex, religion and sexual orientation if they are willing to work hard, plan for the future and play by the rules.”

                The problem is that today working hard, planning for the future and playing by the rules are no longer a guarantee that you will “attain a prosperous and comfortable life”, not in the slightest. I have seen numerous people work hard, plan for the future, play by the rules – and nonetheless be destroyed, chewed up and spit out by the system due to color, sex, religion, sexual orientation, or unlucky chance.

                The American Dream was once that if you worked hard, planned for the future, and played by the rules you could provide a reasonably comfortable life for yourself and a better starting point for your children. Today, the American Dream is to manage to die without leaving your kids inheriting a mountain of debt. Something in the system is broken.

                I guess I should have mainpaged this for comments, and I’m really trying to play M.A. straight. I do think this crystallizes and clarifies the American divide, sans spin and caricature. When I said well done, I meant it, M.A. Rock on. People telling their heart straight is gold, not garbage.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Tom, I think MA is saying that the American dream is corrupted. That’s all. I mean, this idea that hard work and bootstraps were sufficient to achieve success originates in a long gone era of our country, when the government gave out land for free, and we had trade surpluses, and US manufactures were the only game in the world wide town, and offshoring wasn’t the order of the day, etc etc.

                Things have changed. I don’t see anything wrong with saying that the dream is dead, and things need to change to bring it back.

                Or do you think the dream is just as true now as it ever was?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                I think the dream is as true now as it ever was.

                For example, it’s funny that everyone makes such a big deal about how much debt people graduate from college with, and see that as a sign of things getting worse. They forget to recognize that a large number of those people would not have even gone to college two generations ago.

                I’ve been hearing this “American dream is dead” line my whole life, and yet I still see people succeeding; I still spent the last three weekends helping my blue collar neighbor out at his weekend trailer at a campground where damn near every weekend trailer is owned by blue collar folks.

                The American dream has apparently been dying throughout a half century of people buying ever larger houses even as they had ever smaller families–apparently only the white picket fence is the dream, and twice as much square footage per person is evidence of the dream’s death. I can’t follow the logic myself.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                They forget to recognize that a large number of those people would not have even gone to college two generations ago.

                Nor needed to, to get a job that would support a family.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Well, there is that, acourse. 🙂Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                You needed that job. You were the best qualified. But they had to give it to someone in India…Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Nor needed to, to get a job that would support a family

                Since the government obligingly kept their salaries high by prohibiting imported goods, keeping consumers no better off despite their higher salaries.

                Oh, there’s that pesky ol’ money illusion again!Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Mr. StillH2O, I did try to let M.A.’s indictment of the American Dream stand unfiltered—as best I could manage.

                I do honestly believe it’s the left’s vision of our nation and our “system.” If I am wrong, I invited demurrals from our resident leftpersons.

                I do believe that their message is one of

                res·sen·ti·ment (r-sät-mä)
                n.
                A generalized feeling of resentment and often hostility harbored by one individual or group against another, especially chronically and with no means of direct expression.

                and is poisonous to our polity and although not entirely without truth, poisonous to the human spirit as well. I recall FOB Vernon Jordan being interviewed about overcoming the obstacles placed in a black man’s path back in his generation.

                What choice did I have, said he, ruefully and proudly at the same time.

                There’s the American Dream, eh?Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                So the study after study that shows that inter-generational economic mobility has been stagnating and even declining in the last 20 years is an illusion that’s belied by your anecdotal observations?Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                Tom,

                Telling a sick person they’re sick isn’t a vision that said sick person should stay sick. It’s just the diagnosis in correcting that illness.

                And I’m pretty sure that’s what MA is getting at.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                Nob, that’s precisely what I am getting at. The stagnation of the middle and lower classes has happened and as you pointed out it is well documented.

                It’s an illness. The American Dream is indeed corrupted. We’ve been through this before as well – 200 years of history in the USA, of liberty being nigh extinguished and rising again, and we have the histories of other continents to examine as well.

                There’s a class that is insulated from economic upheavals, and a class that’s not insulated, and it’s been that way for a long while now. If you’re a member of that class, then you have all the “liberty” the world can offer.

                Working your way up “by the bootstraps”? Ahh, there’s the rub. No ins. No access. Now it’s not just a little of the family wealth you’re risking. No, now you’re risking your wife’s health insurance. Your parents’ fallback plan. Your childrens’ future. You’re betting it all on a roll of the dice, in hopes that one of those “bad breaks” doesn’t ruin you.

                That’s the reality of America today. Mike Schilling points out that back when “The American Dream” still meant something, finding a job you could support a family on didn’t mean a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. So now you’re out of college. If you worked your way through you’re behind a few years. If you didn’t, you’re sitting on a mound of debt. Start a family. Get a house – and pray the value of the house doesn’t collapse. Or try to raise the kids in apartment living. Mortgage yourself through the nose to try to put your kids through college, try to give them a better start than you got.

                Try not to die with a mountain of debt for them to clean up while they grieve and pray your retirement funds, in a bank or a 401(k) or a pension, aren’t raided by some greedy bastard from wall street.

                The first step in healing is the diagnosis. America is sick, and has been for a long while now, and the symptoms are showing. The cure isn’t to ignore it and just hope “the market” will make it go away.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Nob,

                Most of those studies do not take into account declining costs of goods. They are informed by the money illusion.

                Yes, incomes grew faster in the first couple of decades after WWII. Those were some highly unusual times, and yet we insist on treating them as a norm that would surely have continued if only things hadn’t gone suddenly terribly wrong.

                It’s like that time I won the lottery and was rich for a year. I would have been even richer the next year except the world suddenly turned into this horribly screwed up place where I could no longer win the lottery.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Or try to raise the kids in apartment living.

                You don’t get out much, do you? Do you have any idea how many hundreds of thousands of kids get raised in apartments in major urban areas, and always have? And that most of them turn out just fine?

                It ain’t my cup of tea, but it’s sure as heck not a sign of deep dark desperate times.

                And this is what gets me. This whole line of argument resides on pointing at things that really just aren’t that terribly bad. Income growth has stagnated! Oh, so we’re only as well off as our parents and considerably better off than our grandparents, instead of considerably better off than our parents and phenomenally better off than our grandparents–that means things are much worse for us than they were for our parents and grandparents!

                Really, the basic process behind this line of argumentation is not analysis, but emotionalism and poorly based moralizing.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                I’m torn on the illusion of money question. Inflation adjusted dollars tells us that a dollar buys you fewer staples today than it did 50 years ago, but you can now buy a better car or TV than you could 50 years ago. The inexorable march of technology does make goods cheaper and more features for less. But that doesn’t mean much when it eats into quality of life measures.

                As for the 50s and 60s being some sort of economic golden age that’s non-reproduceable, maybe that’s true.

                But that doesn’t mean the current economic order is ideal, and when compared with other OECD countries, the US definitely has a lower inter-generational mobility measure. There’s something DIFFERENT being done in the US that produces that outcome. And you can’t handwave that away as things being cheaper now than 50 years ago.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                50 years ago, would you say we had more or less legislation and/or regulation? I’m not asking about whites-only lunch counters but let’s say that I wanted to make a manufacturing plant that handled plastics and benzine that could provide jobs to people with little more than high school diplomas.

                Was it easier for me to do this 50 years ago?

                If so, how much harder is it for me to do this today? Like, *SIGNIFICANTLY* harder? (Let’s define “significantly” as it’d be easier for me to outsource the work to some third world craphole.)

                Would that have anything to do with it?Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                Jaybird,

                Your comparison’s kind of inadequate, because the main thing today is that most manufacturing jobs are so highly automated that you have a two-tiered employment structure that doesn’t really need the “supporting blue collar people” in the same way jobs 50 years ago did.

                That said, yes, 50 years ago externalities weren’t accounted for well. On the other hand, there was a whole lot more regulation involving things like zoning, wages and the like.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                there was a whole lot more regulation involving things like zoning, wages and the like

                I’m going to need a little bit of evidence for this. I don’t need enough to agree, mind. I just need enough to believe that someone else could possibly believe this.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                The inexorable march of technology does make goods cheaper and more features for less. But that doesn’t mean much when it eats into quality of life measures.

                Nob, those cheaper goods with more features are quality of life measures. I really am puzzled by how many folks here want to deny that. If you don’t think so, then give up your smart phone and go back to a landline and a camera with film, and just forget about all the other features in it. (Maybe you don’t have one (I don’t), but the “you” here is a stand-in for all the people who have them and would rip your nuts off if you tried to make them go back to those good old days.)

                And I’ll harp again on the issue of houses. The size of new homes in America roughly doubled between 1950 and 2010, while the number of kids per family roughly halved. We’re so worried about people being able to buy homes, but people have been buying ever bigger homes for ever smaller families–that does not suggest people really can’t afford homes, but that they’re over-reaching for homes. (Last year, I think, was the first year ever, or since the Depression perhaps, that the size of newly built homes declined–but they were still about twice as big as homes of half a century ago.)

                Also, when looking at wage stagnation, you have to factor in that the income is supporting smaller families. Halve the number of kids you have, and the same wage is functionally a much higher wage, so you don’t need to earn as much to live as well.

                Heck, my town has an unemployment rate of near double digits still, and I’d hate to guess how high the underemployment rate is. But when my wife and I went out for dinner for my birthday recently, on a Tuesday evening, no less, the parking lots of the first two restaurants we went to were so full we couldn’t find a spot, and we got the only available spot in the parking lot of the third restaurant. It amazes me, really. It could almost fool you into thinking the economy is doing well. But what it means is that those folks who still have jobs (and believe me, in my town there are damned few high paying jobs), have enough money to go out to eat. That’s not the actions of people who are getting worse off.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                Price and wage controls were a feature of the American economy in the early 50s as a result of the Korean War, an artifact that was then resurrected by Nixon in the 1970s. Everything else like utilities and services were tightly regulated in a number of fronts as well.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Jaybird,

                It depends on what kind of regulations. You’d have had almost no environmental regulation, and much less workplace safety regulation. But you might have had much more significant regulation of competition–that is, we had more regulation then that tried to prevent direct competition between firms in the same industry, including a lot of price and output regulation.

                You’d have found it easier to hire, but possibly harder to enter the market.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                James,

                I’m not sure if I’d consider a smart phone to be a quality of life improvement…sometimes it feels like I’m just tethered to more work…

                That said, I think you’re missing the premise of my argument.

                Specifically, it’s not simply growth stagnation, but relative economic mobility that’s my problem. The lines between income classes are becoming more stratified and have done so as a result of conscious choices in the policy sphere. Now I suppose you can say it’s fine so long as the poor aren’t absolutely destitute, but a double-digit unemployment rate does not suggest to me that things are better, certainly for those people who are stuck without employment.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Nob,

                First, a double-digit unemployment rate is bad, but it’s a bit premature to treat it as a generation-defining thing, as it was in the Depression. Yet everyone wants to treat the last three years as the definition of what our future must be. Well, I remember the same thing in the ’70s, and it didn’t quite turn out that way. There’s a natural tendency toward Chicken Littleism in human nature, it seems to me, but folks like us should be able to get beyond that.

                Second, there’s not unanimity on the economic non-mobility argument. It’s too late now and I must get to bed, but if I remember tomorrow I’ll try to find some of the critics of that argument. Off the top of my head, Tyler Cowen or Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution critiques the claims, if you happen to feel like poking around.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Quickly, here and here.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Oh, and one more thought (then, seriously, I’m off to bed): In any discussion of stagnation of economic mobility, we have to take into account the economic effects of divorce. And of course its biggest economic effect is going to be on lower income folks (women, particularly).Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                From what I recall, Winslop’s objections were answered by a number of policy economists, foremost among them Miles Corak. His answer was available at:
                http://milescorak.com/2012/01/17/the-economics-of-the-great-gatsby-curve/

                My inclination has been to lean toward Corak’s side on the particular mobility argument, in so much as he’s done some good work in actually doing comparative studies of mobility measures between anglosphere countries, but I’m also willing to concede the possibility that I find his work to be more congenial to my worldview.

                (Additionally there’s : http://www.freakonomics.com/2012/01/19/is-higher-income-inequality-associated-with-lower-intergenerational-mobility/ but I know Freakonomics is a bit of a contested area for social scientists)

                On the whole this is a subject which I find a bit vexing, because much of the debate is based on normative values or attempts to objectively measure utility (both of which are futile) and not on the actual policy.

                On one hand I don’t think it’s hard to argue that there has, in fact been a widening of the income disparity and that much of the wage growth over the past 15 years has been focused on a very small part of the population. On the other, the overt emphasis on income rather than quality of life measurements probably does overstate the degree of inequality. That is to say an extra billion dollars in your bank account won’t buy you a better iPhone, just more of them.

                But I’m also queasy about what I’ve seen in terms of the drivers of economic growth over the past decade. Financial services for example have taken up a huge chunk of economic activity and enough in some quarters to cause systemic level threats to macroeconomic stability.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                “white folks greed ruins a world in need”
                MOOBS or GTFO.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Nob,

                Thanks for the links, I’ll peruse them. Although let me note that I didn’t intend for Winthrop to be a knockdown proof of anything except that there’s not unanimity on the subject, so I think it’s still open.

                As for Freakonomics, bring it on! I love their approach, because even though they’re not always right, they do a great job of showing how we ought in general to try looking at things. Of course nobody’s always right, but they seem to take a lot more heat for being wrong than most people do. I don’t know if that’s because they come off as impossibly smug or just because their general approach offends lots of folks. Both seem plausible hypotheses.

                On the other, the overt emphasis on income rather than quality of life measurements probably does overstate the degree of inequality.

                I do see an irony in members of the same group who insist that money isn’t everything complaining that some folks have lots more money than others.

                But I do indeed think there’s cause for concern. I’m not pollyanaish about the issue; I’m just not Chicken Littleish about it, either.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                James,
                Are you talking about 3000 square foot houses, or are you talking about 10,000 square foot houses? I walk around my neighborhood, and I see houses all the way from 900 (abnormally small) to 5,000 (abnormally large, but that’s not Tomlin’s house, mmkay?).

                Is my neighborhood that weird?????Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                James,
                you’re right on 3 years does not make a generation. but a Lost Decade, as Krugman et alia are warning about?Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                This is part of the problem of constantly using “averages” for everything as if they were meaningful.

                When you break the numbers down, the “average” home size is lagged by the median quite a bit. What this shows us is that the average is skewed by the upper end’s explosion. Actual, middle-class homes? Grew very modestly in size. There was no such thing as a McMansion in 1970, but now there is. Upper class greed is what brought the skewed average.Report

        • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

          As a liberal, we want equal opportunities, not equal outcomes. And we’re nowhere close to the former to even worry about the latter.Report

          • Avatar Murali says:

            Honest question:

            Do you see opportunities as a zero sum game? If you are talking about relative mobility, then opportunities have to be zero sum. If not, probably not.

            Do you find it problematic that because there is a private education sector, parents with money can always spend more money on their children and give them more opportunities than lower income parents?

            i.e. is it the case that inequalities in wealth necessarily result in unequal opportunities?

            Finally, are you really after equal opportunities, or do you think that maximin is a better criterion? i.e. a system where those with least opportunity have more opportunity than those who have the least opportunity in any other system nomatter how much inequality in opportunity that results inReport

            • Avatar Kimmi says:

              opportunities are very much a positive sum game. Each entrepreneur creates many opportunities for people under him.

              I find it more problematic that we can’t identify the good kids in our poorest places, and get them the training they need to find a cure for cancer.

              Inequalities in wealth don’t need to result in terribly unequal opportunities… if everybody goes to thes ame school, and church, etc, then what’s so different? yeah, maybe someone gets treated “special” (like the rich kid on the simpsons)… but that’s about it.Report

              • Avatar Murali says:

                The private supplementary education sector in Singapore is quite big. Lots of parents sign their kids up for tuition classes so as to give their kids an edge. Given that private tuition can cost up to a few hundred a month per subject, poor parents really cannot afford it. The existence of private tuition compensates for the effects of bad teachers in public schools.

                But the point I was making is that as long as the private education sector exists, rich parents will always be able to and will often tend to leverage their money to give their kid an advantage, whether by sending the kid to a private school or by hiring private tutors.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi says:

        yeah. sure. put entrepreneurs in your have nots pile. *eyeroll* they stand to benefit from middle class gaining more money. And guess who donates to democrats??Report

        • Avatar wardsmith says:

          Kimmi, I cannot keep up with you and your imaginary CEO friends. In my real world with real CEO’s I’ve seen literally penniless immigrants rise to phenomenal peaks. It takes pluck and it takes luck to get there. I’ve also seen Harvard educated silver spoon country club gents have their asses handed to them and take Daddy’s multibillion dollar companies crashing into oblivion. Heisenberg uber alles.Report

          • Avatar Kimmi says:

            Okay, sorry for being confusing.
            Entrepreneurs stand to gain from a more progressive taxation scheme. it’s why they donate to Democrats. Their kids (Scaife, etc, the Waltons, the Kochs) don’t stand to benefit from a more progressive taxation scheme, as they tend to be risk averse people.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      JHG,

      Libertarians talk about liberty a lot, yet are very comfortable with inequality. ..I can never understand the justification used by libertarians for less equality, when large amounts of inequality means less freedom for those that are unequal in the society.

      The premise does not necessarily hold. There is an assumption that inequality necessarily means less liberty for some people–the difference between you and libertarians is that libertarians don’t buy that assumption, at least not in all cases.

      Assume a country where slavery is allowed. There you have inequality, and those with less equality do in fact have their liberty diminished. No libertarian would support that system.

      Assume a country where inequality results from some people being more successful in markets. There you have inequality, but the inequality does not necessarily mean people have less liberty. Libertarians support that system.

      I suspect you disagree that in the second case the inequality doesn’t cause less liberty. But you know, Bill Gate’s billions don’t restrict my liberty in any way whatsoever. Nor yours. I don’t think a claim in opposition to that can be taken seriously.

      I think the really serious issue is whether everyone has a serious chance in that market. And I don’t mean is there an evil corporate 1% holding everyone else down, but whether the kids in South Central L.A. have prospects for success as adults that remotely approach the prospects my kids will probably have. That’s worth talking about, and that’s where I think you can make some really serious criticism of libertarianism. But to treat inequality itself as destructive to liberty is not a serious claim.Report

      • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

        When money is equated with speech and political expression, inequality IMO is actually destructive to liberty, because the more money you have, the more political expression and power of speech you have under such a system.Report

        • Avatar Roger says:

          Nob,

          Our solution of course is to de-emphasize the reach and potential interference sphere of politics. Wealth is a great thing in a positive sum system. The key is to keep the wealth away from rule making. The only reasonable way to do that is to de-emphasize rule making.Report

          • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

            In an era of mass communications, it’s not just politics where speech is more powerful. The airwaves gives you disproportionate power if you control them.Report

            • Avatar Roger says:

              I encourage people to say whatever they want. The only problem occurs when they try to force their views on me. Since the state has a monopoly on force, there is only one way they can do this legitimately. This again takes us back to the libertarian solution. A limited, stable government that sticks to he basics and quits trying to redesign everything using coercion.

              The libertarians win this argument every time.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                I gather you have never seen a hostile takeover. The Libertarians are complete naifs. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.Report

          • Avatar M.A. says:

            De-emphasize rule making and rule making reasserts in pseudo-governmental entities.

            Don’t have a police force? No problem. Now there’s no rule against your private security guards roughing someone up. Just spend your money on private leg-breakers, like in the labor strikes of old.

            Want to keep competition out of a market? No problem. Just buy up all the suppliers. After all, rule-making is deemphasized and the rules are laissez-faire.

            “The Market” causes problems. And you can’t have a market solution to problems caused by market solutions.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck says:

        “the difference between you and libertarians is that libertarians don’t buy that assumption”

        Of course they don’t. They can’t afford to, because rich people took all their money. (bah-DOOMP)Report

      • Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

        Assume a country where inequality results from some people being more successful in markets. There you have inequality, but the inequality does not necessarily mean people have less liberty. Libertarians support that system.

        Why are some more successful in markets? Could the color of their skin play an important role? How about their social or income class? What about their gender? Their religion? Their lack of religion? And, their sexual orientation (or perceived sexual orientation) – does that play a part in their ability to have success in the markets?

        If you don’t believe that any of that plays a role, then Ok. You don’t. I think that’s terribly naive, but hopefully you don’t believe any of that.

        Instead, I think that you don’t focus on The Whole very much. You think everyone can succeed, even those who start out lower on the ladder. But, you don’t focus too much on trying to fix where people start on the ladder, as long as they have a chance to advance on the ladder (maybe less than some, but oh well).

        All this talk of markets always reminds me of The Tragedy of the Commons. It is a basic principle that is ignored often in these discussions. And, when the concept is raised, the response is always: But, the market eventually corrects because of market pressures!

        This would be true if the market was rational and composed of rational beings. It is not and it is not.

        But you know, Bill Gate’s billions don’t restrict my liberty in any way whatsoever.

        This is a common fallacy. Do his billions have an impact on education in the United States (one of his focused areas of influence)? Those impacts may not restrict your liberty, but they restrict the liberty of others. To say that you are not restricted and extrapolate to all others is the basis of this fallacy.

        I think the really serious issue is whether everyone has a serious chance in that market.

        This is, of course, the point. Equality.

        The trouble begins with your first statement:

        The premise [that large amounts of inequality means less freedom for those that are unequal in the society] does not necessarily hold. There is an assumption that inequality necessarily means less liberty for some people

        You are only focusing on one aspect and not the whole. You want to dice up the problem into individual slices, and mark them good and bad. But this misses the holistic approach to The Whole. And, as a result, we end up with The Tragedy of the Commons baked into the system, because one can’t see it (or address it) unless one looks at The Whole and not the individual parts.

        Complex systems require ever more complex solutions to their complex problems. Eventually the complexity overwhelms the system (society) and the complexity begins to break apart at the edges, and wind ever inward. Wealth is concentrated in fewer hands. Power, as well. This is how all empires have declined. Ours is no different. But, I’d like to try to ease the suffering of the masses and work towards more equality in the meantime.Report

        • Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

          Apologies for the missing italics on the top para.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley says:

          All this talk of markets always reminds me of The Tragedy of the Commons. It is a basic principle that is ignored often in these discussions. And, when the concept is raised, the response is always: But, the market eventually corrects because of market pressures!

          Dude, you really don’t know who you’re talking to. You really don’t want to get into a debate about the tragedy of the commons with me. But let me just say these three things. First: I agree that most libertarians don’t take the tragedy of the commons seriously enough, because most of them don’t understand it properly. Second: I take it very seriously, as do most of the libertarians I personally associate with, because we understand the concept of market failures and understand why commons create market failures. Third: Most–or at least many–liberals misuse and overuse the concept of the tragedy of the commons because they don’t understand the proper definition of the commons, and so they apply the concept too broadly, thinking it applies far more often than it really does.

          But most of all, anybody with real understanding gets that commons are problems for markets. Nobody really disputes that, and it’s a strawman to suggest that people do. What I suspect you don’t get is that many libertarians just have a very different solution than you do–privatization/property rights so that the commons is no longer a commons. I don’t ask you to like the solution (I don’t always like it myself); I’m just saying that if you really want to sound like you know what you’re talking about in your critique of libertarians, you need to understand why they propose that solution.

          This would be true if the market was rational and composed of rational beings. It is not and it is not.

          First, are you irrational when you participate in markets? Do you make choices that are not the ones you want to make? Second, if the market is not composed of rational beings, what use is it to turn to government, since it’s composed of the very same beings? There’s a fallacy in thinking that people are more rational in politics/government than in the market. And because in politics we’re aggregating preferences that are disconnected from costs, the group-level irrationality is worse than it is in the market.

          This is a common fallacy. Do [Bill Gates’] billions have an impact on education in the United States (one of his focused areas of influence)? Those impacts may not restrict your liberty, but they restrict the liberty of others. To say that you are not restricted and extrapolate to all others is the basis of this fallacy.

          Wait, Bill Gates’s spending on education is restricting people’s liberty? Are you thinking or are you just typing?

          Complex systems require ever more complex solutions to their complex problems.

          Now that’s a fallacy.Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck says:

            Well, most people define “rational” as “whatever I would do”. Obviously, therefore, anyone who does something else is irrational.Report

          • Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

            Dude, you really don’t know who you’re talking to. You really don’t want to get into a debate about the tragedy of the commons with me.

            Who am I talking to? Why don’t I want to get into a debate about the tragedy of the commons with you?

            You seem to know everything about me, including what I think or might want to do, so please enlighten me.

            the proper definition of the commons

            I’m sure you’ll also educate me on the correct way to define things.

            anybody with real understanding

            Yes, I see what you’re getting at now. Sorry, Dad. You’re much smarter than I am. I just don’t have real understanding. How can I get some?

            commons are problems for markets. Nobody really disputes that

            except for

            I agree that most libertarians don’t take the tragedy of the commons seriously enough

            I like the way you fling your poo around. You do it with style.

            if you really want to sound like you know what you’re talking about

            Yeah, Dad, I get it. You want to put me down, build yourself up. Message received.

            Wait, Bill Gates’s spending on education is restricting people’s liberty? Are you thinking or are you just typing?

            Nope. Just typing. I was doing my best to show how ignorant I am and was basically pleading with you to come in as the strong paternal figure to explain my deficiencies and show how smart and strong you are. Thanks for doing so. It is so obvious to me, now that you’ve belittled me again, that someone spending billions of dollars to change education and the choices available couldn’t possibly have an impact on anyone’s liberty.

            I bet your kids love it when you treat them this way. Are they learning a lot from your patience and understanding? From the behavior you model?

            Now that’s a fallacy.

            Ahh. Thanks for that one. I’m so glad to hear that cars are getting easier to service and maintain as they get more complex. And, our electric infrastructure is just a breeze to deal with now that it’s gotten very complex. And, it’s gotten much simpler to drill for oil now and deliver it to markets, then refine it into useful products, now that all of the processes have gotten so much more complex.

            I will remember to refrain from speaking to such a dizzying intellect as yours in the future. Consider me reprimanded and shamed.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              JHG,

              Okay, seriously. That is, if you’re really willing to be serious, instead of just looking for purchase for further criticism. That is, are you really willing to listen to what a libertarian has to say, ore are you only interested in attacking? If it’s the former, it’s worthwhile to talk to you–not to try to persuade you that libertarianism is correct, but to provide you with a better understanding of it. If it’s the latter, there’s really no value.

              Who am I talking to? Why don’t I want to get into a debate about the tragedy of the commons with you?

              I’m someone with a very extensive education in precisely that topic. It was an important part of my formal studies, I did a post-doc at a research institute that has the commons as a core of their research programs, and I organized a symposium on the 40th anniversary of Garret Hardin’s famous “Tragedy of the Commons” article. I spoke a bit more haughtily than I ought to have last night, but the fact remains, I know more about the research into commons problems than anyone on this blog. It’s probably the only subject on which I can make that claim.

              I’m sure you’ll also educate me on the correct way to define [the commons].

              There is a specific definition of the commons. Most people who’ve heard of the tragedy of the commons and talk about it don’t know that definition, so they make substantial errors. I’m not trying to be nasty about that; it’s simply true that when people talk about concepts without knowing their technical definitions, they tend to make mistakes.

              [JH] commons are problems for markets. Nobody really disputes that
              [JHG] except for
              [JH] I agree that most libertarians don’t take the tragedy of the commons seriously enough

              Those statements are not contradictory. I don’t know why you think they are. It’s quite common for people to recognize that “X” is a problem, but to not take it as seriously as they arguably should. I suppose there are libertarians who don’t believe commons problems can result in market failures, but I’ve never met one, and I’ll be intrigued if you can show me one who really makes that claim. But I know lots of libertarians who downplay the frequency of commons problems or at least downplay the severity of them (thinking that, “yes, they’re a problem, but government regulation will inevitably be even worse.”). So, no contradiction in those two claims.

              It is so obvious to me, now that you’ve belittled me again, that someone spending billions of dollars to change education and the choices available couldn’t possibly have an impact on anyone’s liberty.

              Seriously, explain to me how Bill Gates’ education spending is limiting someone’s liberty. I openly admit that it would be possible to imagine ways in which it could, if his spending plan is badly designed. But you’re claiming it without explaining how it is actually doing so. Don’t expect me to accept vague claims that aren’t backed up.

              [JH] Now that’s a fallacy.
              [JGH] Ahh. Thanks for that one. I’m so glad to hear that cars are getting easier to service and maintain as they get more complex.

              I didn’t say that no complex systems require more complex solutions. I said it’s a fallacy to say that they [necessarily] do. Look at evolutionary theory–the effects on evolution of various species interactions with conspecifics, other species, and their ecology in general are very complex, and yet it needs no top down managing or solution. What’s great about markets is the degree to which they are very analogous to that; a very complex system that functions with surprisingly little top down direction giving solutions–in fact the systems that have tried top down management of this complex system have normally performed more poorly. (Now, let’s be sure to keep this honest, as you suggest: when I say “little,” I don’t mean “none,” so please don’t come back with that “you don’t want any regulation” strawman.)

              [Jh] What I suspect you don’t get is that many libertarians just have a very different solution than you do–privatization/property rights so that the commons is no longer a commons.
              [JHG] How does one privatize the atmosphere? There are many more things we could get into, but let’s start with just that. How do you make the atmosphere no longer a commons?

              That’s just classic. There are lots of things we could talk about, but let’s just take the hardest case first! And that following immediately upon a request to engage honestly–fishing priceless, Mr. Griffin. The only appropriate response is “How do liberals propose to pay for super-generous social welfare programs when nobody does any work at all?”

              Seriously, as a matter of logic you cannot just point to an extreme case and claim the impossibility of satisfying that proves an idea is wrong. All that can do is point out the limits of a particular idea (and finding the limits on libertarianism’s functionality is a particularly interesting topic to me, so I’m fine going there, if we’re upfront about what we’re doing). Do you really want to get involved in a battle of, “can your ideology solve this extreme problem?” Do you think there are no limits to the functionality of liberalism?

              So my answer is, one cannot privatize the atmosphere. But if that’s really the case you have to begin with, then I think there’s an implicit admission that you have to find a fairly extreme case before you can catch me out. Oh, there are lots of commons that can’t functionally be privatized–or if they could, the difficulties would be immense. I mean, I can imagine the privatization of Lake Superior, but (political difficulties of that aside), I can’t imagine the owner successfully monitoring it to prevent trespass and theft (not of the whole lake, but of water, fish, recreation, etc.).

              So if you really want, as you say, to engage honestly, please stop the dishonest “gotcha” approach, and let’s talk seriously about real-world examples.

              Oh, and I’ll hold off on the definition of the commons for now. You imply that you know it, so I’m happy to let you demonstrate it to me, rather than me possibly just reiterating something you already know.Report

              • Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

                That is, if you’re really willing to be serious, instead of just looking for purchase for further criticism. That is, are you really willing to listen to what a libertarian has to say, ore are you only interested in attacking?

                Where was I just looking for purchase for further criticism and was only interested in attacking? From my vantage, I responded to your specific claims and statements. You responded with attacks, calling me ignorant. It is remarkable that you are saying this to me, after what you wrote previously, and even in this latest comment.

                It’s probably the only subject on which I can make that claim.

                It is wonderful that you understand the tragedy of the commons. But, was there such a need to write about it in the way you did? To me, your defensive posture (via passive-aggressive tone) makes me think that you don’t feel very self assured in your knowledge, otherwise why so much talking down to others?

                Seriously, explain to me how Bill Gates’ education spending is limiting someone’s liberty.

                A large subject, but one point is that money influences how people perceive problems, and how they talk about it. See here: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/22/education/22gates.html?pagewanted=all

                “It’s Orwellian in the sense that through this vast funding they start to control even how we tacitly think about the problems facing public education,” said Bruce Fuller, an education professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who said he received no financing from the foundation.

                Mr. Hess, a frequent blogger on education whose institute received $500,000 from the Gates foundation in 2009 “to influence the national education debates,” acknowledged that he and others sometimes felt constrained. “As researchers, we have a reasonable self-preservation instinct,” he said. “There can be an exquisite carefulness about how we’re going to say anything that could reflect badly on a foundation.”

                “Everybody’s implicated,” he added.

                What’s great about markets is the degree to which they are very analogous to that; a very complex system that functions with surprisingly little top down direction giving solutions–in fact the systems that have tried top down management of this complex system have normally performed more poorly.

                I agree that markets provide solutions. The important question is what kind of solution to what kind of problem? Evolution doesn’t provide a solution to a problem, so it seems like you are saying that markets don’t provide a solution to a problem. Easter Island was a market. The market worked like all markets are designed to work, until so many of the natural resources were gone that the population crashed. Then, no more people, no more market. Markets don’t provide solutions to the most difficult commons problems. Shouldn’t we be concerned about that?

                That’s just classic. There are lots of things we could talk about, but let’s just take the hardest case first! And that following immediately upon a request to engage honestly–fishing priceless, Mr. Griffin.

                Ah, you want an easier case. I actually prefer starting with the hardest cases. Somehow, that makes me dishonest. Ok.

                Let’s try marine fisheries, instead. Is that too hard? National Parks? Is that also too hard? Please let me know a case that is easy enough to discuss.

                So if you really want, as you say, to engage honestly, please stop the dishonest “gotcha” approach, and let’s talk seriously about real-world examples.

                I cannot think of a more important real-world example than the atmosphere. But, that is dishonest “gotcha” approach, somehow. You made a sweeping statement:

                What I suspect you don’t get is that many libertarians just have a very different solution than you do–privatization/property rights so that the commons is no longer a commons.

                I responded with a specific area where it would be very difficult to privatize a commons. This was not an attempt to prove anything about libertarians. It was focused on your sweeping statement.

                You say that you deeply understand the commons, yet think a discussion of one of the most important (if, also, hardest) commons is off limits. That seems very odd to me.Report

          • Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

            If you want to engage on this honestly, let’s start with this. Give me your best shot. Trust me, I can take it. I’ll give you my best shot in return.

            What I suspect you don’t get is that many libertarians just have a very different solution than you do–privatization/property rights so that the commons is no longer a commons.

            How does one privatize the atmosphere? There are many more things we could get into, but let’s start with just that. How do you make the atmosphere no longer a commons?Report

          • Avatar M.A. says:

            Never have I seen a more longwinded defense of “Fuck You, I Got Mine” style “libertarianism.” But that’s really all it is. Never go more than the 1st layer in, never analyze deeper than to say “oh my god, that restricts someone’s liberty and is therefore bad” rather than ask: how many people’s liberty does it restrict, and to what extent, and how many people benefit from it with more liberty, and to what extent.

            Too many “libertarians” have a concept of eliminating the commons by privatizing everything, following a semi-religious belief that a strange god called “the market” will magically make everything alright… for them.

            The essence of FYIGM Libertarianism, which claims the “American Dream” is still alive and well:
            Yzma: It is no concern of mine whether or not your family has… what was it again?
            Peasant: Umm… food?
            Yzma: Ha! You really should have thought of that before you became peasants!
            Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              Ah, M.A., if you’re going to throw out FYIGM libertarianism as your great and deep insight, perhaps I’ll just respond with Fuck You I Ain’t Got Mine So Give Me Yours Liberalism. It’s just about as meaningful.

              But you’re clearly not interested in a real conversation–you aren’t interested in actually listening to a libertarian’s view of libertarianism, but are just looking for something you can catch hold of as purchase for another attack.

              That is to say, I don’t really know what’s going on in your head, but that’s how it comes across to me, because I’ve seen it so many times before, and you’re showing all the hallmarks of that approach. So why should I even begin to take you seriously?Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              J.H.G. and M.A.,

              Look, I know I come across as really abrasive on this, but the reality is that I’m really tired of people who come here and strive mightily to bash libertarianism while demonstrating repeatedly that they don’t actually understand it. They think they do, but because of their refusal to actually listen to what libertarians say, and try to understand it from the libertarians p.o.v., they are unable to recognize their errors.

              It’s really just the same thing as folks who criticize Marxism by saying, “but human nature makes Marx’s communist paradise impossible!” What they don’t recognize is that Marx didn’t believe in a fixed human nature, but that the material conditions of a society created people’s character, so that if you change the material conditions to a communist society, you change humans’ nature so that they will become people who make the communist paradise possible.

              Now, I disagree with Marx on that, and I think human nature is the product of evolution much more than society, so that it can’t fundamentally be changed, and that it is such that communism is an impossible system. But that doesn’t mean I actually make sense if I just yell, “Marx is wrong because of human nature.” To make sense of Marx I have to understand his internal logic.

              That’s all I’m really asking, and it’s really the only way to engage in honest and productive discussion.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                In this same vein, can we please stop with all the “PINK COMMIE PROGRESSIVES LOVE TO COERCE PEOPLE INTO STATISM AND EQUAL OUTCOMES!” crap that seems to be part and parcel of every response?

                God knows there seems to be enough assumptions that because a left-ward leaning person has problems with the status quo that it’s an automatic desire to forcibly take your land and redistribute it.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Would we be allowed to say that they want to make the entire country an HOA?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                I’m on board with that. 100%. I don’t think it’s a practice peculiar to liberals, by any means (hard core libertarians are abso-fishing-lutely ridiculous on that score).

                We’re all imperfect, so it’s possible I’ve slipped into that, too. Anyone and everyone should feel free to call me out if I do. God knows I wouldn’t enjoy being called a hypocrite, but that would be more tolerable than continuing in a hypocritical manner.

                (Besides, you’re a liberal in Texas–who the hell, even if they’re liberal–would want anyone to redistribute any of that land to them?)Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                You sir, may go to hell, but I am going to Texas.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                The devil in hell we’re told was chained a thousand years he there remained.
                He neither complain nor did he groan but was determined to start a hell of his own.
                Where he could torment the souls of men without being chained in a prison pen.
                So he asked the Lord if he had on hand anything left when he made this land,
                The Lord said yes there’s a plenty on hand, but I left it down by the Rio Grande.
                The fact is ol’ boy the stuff is so poor, I don’t think you could use it as the hell anymore.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                And I’m asking for honest and productive discussion, which doesn’t happen when “libertarians” refuse to engage in anything beyond the shallowest first-order analysis.

                Take the healthcare debate. Reaction by almost all libertarians to single-payer systems is “omg that is awful you are making it so people don’t have a choice in the healthcare market.” Sounds great, but it’s only first order analysis. Now look at what other choices are opened up by implementing single-payer. More people are free to take the risk of starting up an independent business who couldn’t before because they couldn’t risk getting sick without insurance. More people are free to take the risk of looking for a new job – with or without quitting their existing one – because they don’t have to worry about whether the new job would transfer insurance coverage well or have better or worse coverage regarding potential health issues, cost to insure children or spouses, or a wait-time on preexisting conditions. More mobility, more choice, more liberty, not less results from single-payer once you fully analyze it.

                Most issues that I have examined start that way. Libertarians start from a position of “look at his one guy. Right here. For whatever reason we decree anything that reduces his liberty is bad. Doesn’t matter what level of coercion or implication of his use of liberty reduces the liberty of others, reducing his liberty is bad.”

                End result? Exactly as I stated before. Maximization of liberty for a chosen few, which quickly becomes oligarchy. The discussion of Company Towns I brought up for good reason, because most people in the USA are in that sort of a situation now. How many can really say they could quit their job today, and look for another, without any major coercive repercussions? No, better to suffer through whatever indignities and problems at the workplace until you’re either fired or “downsized/rightsized/brightsized/reductioninforced/thisweeksbullshitbuzzwordmeaningthesamething”- and can draw unemployment – or manage to hunt a new job and go to daytime job interviews without the boss realizing.

                It’s real easy for most libertarians to turn around and say “so what, just quit your job and find another one”, or ignore the coercive forces surrounding many other decisions. I’m willing to bet most of those libertarians have never experienced those coercive forces in action, or at least are presently lucky enough to not have to face them head-on.

                That’s why I label it FYIGM Libertarianism and I stand by that position firmly. It’s easy to tell people that they have “a choice” while ignoring the coercive forces; it’s hard and takes a lot more mental heft to look at all the arrayed coercive forces and look at liberty from that perspective, and the FYIGM libertarians either lack the honesty or capacity to do it.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Hey, M.A., we discussed the health care thing here, a million years ago.

                I can appreciate that you want to argue against the FYIGM Libertarians. If you want to argue against positions that have been stated here, though, there’s that thread there.

                For the record, I think that divorcing health care from employment would do more to help the disadvantaged than anything else. It’d certainly be a damn sight better than having insurance companies write a health care bill for you.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                you may be misreading some of our friends on this board. As a liberal, perhaps they won’t mind me putting in a few good words for them? (feel free ta bitch, guys, if i have ya wrong).

                Roger works with insurance. He thinks he can give you everything you list above (with a whole big helping of safety nets), and keep the idea of “free markets.”

                I’m skeptical, and am concerned about another credit card debacle (where people rig the whole economy even worse than it already is).Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Take the healthcare debate. Reaction by almost all libertarians to single-payer systems is “omg that is awful you are making it so people don’t have a choice in the healthcare market.” Sounds great, but it’s only first order analysis.

                If you truly think libertarians stop at that point in their analysis, then you’re not actually listening to them. Why should we bother to take you seriously or treat you with respect when you make claims that are factually false and demonstrate that you’re not interested in hearing us, only talking at us?Report

              • Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

                Look, I know I come across as really abrasive on this, but the reality is that I’m really tired of people who come here and strive mightily to bash libertarianism while demonstrating repeatedly that they don’t actually understand it.

                Where exactly did I strive mightily to bash libertarianism while demonstrating repeatedly that I don’t actually understand it?

                I engaged with your post, and pointed to some things I have seen in the past that are confirmed in your analysis: namely that liberals and libertarians are very far apart on the Equality scale, and that libertarians are more comfortable with inequality. Isn’t that exactly what your analysis shows?

                I then made the point that libertarians always seem to be arguing on the x-axis and liberals (or at least, I) are arguing on the y-axis. I don’t see anything there that bashes libertarianism.

                You responded to my comment, and I responded to yours. Then you, Mr. Hanley, started in with the ad hominems, not me.

                I tried to engage with you on the tragedy of the commons. But, my selected commons was a “gotcha” and too hard to discuss. Rather than offer your own commons for discussion, you continued your attacks.

                Exeunt.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Where exactly did I strive mightily to bash libertarianism while demonstrating repeatedly that I don’t actually understand it?

                Here are two examples:

                you don’t focus too much on trying to fix where people start on the ladder, as long as they have a chance to advance on the ladder (maybe less than some, but oh well).

                And, when the concept is raised, the response is always: But, the market eventually corrects because of market pressures!

                But for the record, you don’t hold a candle to M.A. on the misunderstanding/bashing scale. You I think there’s an actual chance to really talk to, whereas I have no real hope for him.

                I tried to engage with you on the tragedy of the commons. But, my selected commons was a “gotcha” and too hard to discuss. Rather than offer your own commons for discussion, you continued your attacks.

                No, you selected the single most impossible case. Which is a setup for a catch-22. If I actually try to argue we could privatize the atmosphere, you can point out (rightly, in such a case) how dumb I am. If I admit we can’t (which is my position), you treat it as proof that libertarianism can’t solve problems. See, you rigged the game. That’s why it’s a gotcha. That’s why it’s dishonest, and not a sincere approach to discussion.

                Frankly, the inability to solve the single most impossible problem is not evidence at all about the ability to solve less impossible problems. So your example can’t take us anywhere. I freely admit privatizing the atmosphere is beyond the reach of libertarianism and markets–but that leaves everything else in the world still open as a possibility. Whereas if you started with something much lower down the scale, and demonstrated libertarianism/markets can’t solve that, then you’d have automatically demonstrated it’s inability to solve any problem further up the scale. So your argument didn’t really work in your service, either, unless what serves you is just gotcha argument.

                Why don’t you give me a real world case where liberals and libertarians actually disagree about the value of privatization or the value of command and control regulation? Then we can have a real discussion. And since I’m not the world’s most dogmatic libertarian, who knows, I might even come down on your side on the particular case. But it has to be a real world case of disagreement, not something that nobody actually argues about.

                Skeptic: “Hey, Christian, how do you resolve the problem of evil in the world?”
                Christian: “Well, we really haven’t figured that one out.”
                Skeptic: “Hah! That proves God doesn’t exist and your religion is false!”
                Logician: “No, no, it doesn’t really do that at all.”Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Just for clarification on one of those points where I say you don’t understand libertarianism, the “you don’t focus too much on trying to fix where people start on the ladder,” point:

                Libertarians have criticized public housing projects. They have criticized the war on drugs. They have criticized bad public schools. They have criticized badly designed welfare programs that create incentives to go on welfare young and stay on it.

                Whether or not a person agrees with their criticisms or proposed solutions, those are indisputably about changing the starting position for the poor. If you don’t understand that, you don’t actually understand libertarianism. There’s a big difference in what you learn listening to talk about libertarians vs. listening to libertarians.Report

              • Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

                See, you rigged the game. That’s why it’s a gotcha. That’s why it’s dishonest, and not a sincere approach to discussion.

                This is what you wrote, that I responded to:

                What I suspect you don’t get is that many libertarians just have a very different solution than you do–privatization/property rights so that the commons is no longer a commons.

                There were no qualifiers in that statement. You state that libertarians have a very different solution for dealing with the tragedy of the commons – not different solutionS, solution. I understand what your very different solution is: privatization/property rights. Except that that isn’t ALWAYS the solution to the tragedy of the commons. Sometimes there is another solution, or no solution at all. And, I’m supposed to know when the very different solution applies and when it doesn’t.

                You see, I actually AM reading what you are writing, and responding directly to that. But, somehow I’m also supposed to know what you really MEAN if it is different from what you write.

                Frankly, the inability to solve the single most impossible problem is not evidence at all about the ability to solve less impossible problems.

                I never said it was evidence of anything other than your statement about the libertarian solution being incomplete, and that you could not brush me off so easily with a flippant statement. It’s a solution, except when it isn’t.

                Why don’t you give me a real world case where liberals and libertarians actually disagree about the value of privatization or the value of command and control regulation?

                What real world commons can have your initial statement (privatization/property rights as solution) applied? I’ve offered others already. Marine fisheries? National Parks? How about grazing rights? Water resources? Energy use? Pollution? Human population? Infinite growth in a finite system? Holocene extinction event? AGW?

                You say that you understand the commons. Not just a little, but with great insight and detail. So much understanding that you attack me and claim I do not understand. Great. Which commons can we discuss in regards to your stated solution about privatization/property rights, and which ones are “gotchas” that we must avoid? Not which subjects or disagreements, which COMMONS does your solution apply to?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                JHG,

                [JH] What I suspect you don’t get is that many libertarians just have a very different solution than you do–privatization/property rights so that the commons is no longer a commons.

                [JHG] There were no qualifiers in that statement. You state that libertarians have a very different solution for dealing with the tragedy of the commons – not different solutionS, solution. I understand what your very different solution is: privatization/property rights. Except that that isn’t ALWAYS the solution to the tragedy of the commons. Sometimes there is another solution, or no solution at all. And, I’m supposed to know when the very different solution applies and when it doesn’t.

                Of, for fuck’s sake, it’s hard to try to be polite when faced with shit like this. Answer me this–liberals care about unfairness and have various solutions for mitigating it, but how do liberals propose to completely and permanently end all unfairness, 100% for ever and ever?

                If liberals don’t have an answer to that, does that mean liberalism thereby shown to be bullshit? Of course not. Would a serious person immediately jump to that most impossible of all tasks for liberals? Of course not. And does that mean liberals can’t take some real and meaningful steps towards mitigating unfairness? Of course not.

                But you seem to want to hold libertarians to a much tougher standard than you would want others to be held to. That’s bullshit. It’s like a basketball team wanting the refs to let them get away with hacking and pushing, but calling touch fouls on their opponents.

                Consider a set of problems A, B, …… Z, where A is the easiest to solve, Z is the hardest, and each one in between is successively harder to solve than the one prior to it. So if at any point in there a problem can’t be solved, it means all problems above it also cannot be solved. If we can’t solve problem Q, then we can’t solve R, S, T….Z. What you asked was, “How do you solve problem Z?” But the inability to solve Z doesn’t prove much–it means everything from A through Y is still potentially solvable. Privatizing the atmosphere is a pretty good Z for libertarians, eliminating all unfairness is a pretty good Z for liberals, and so the inability to resolve either of them says nothing about either libertarians’ or liberals’ ability to solve their respective A through Y problems.

                If you can step out of relentless ideologue mode and try to consider both ideologies without such bias, you can come to understand why your example was precisely the wrong place to start.

                You see, I actually AM reading what you are writing, and responding directly to that. But, somehow I’m also supposed to know what you really MEAN if it is different from what you write.

                The issue is not misunderstanding what I mean. The issue is not understanding what is a reasonable way to argue.

                [JH] Frankly, the inability to solve the single most impossible problem is not evidence at all about the ability to solve less impossible problems.

                [JGH] I never said it was evidence of anything other than your statement about the libertarian solution being incomplete, and that you could not brush me off so easily with a flippant statement. It’s a solution, except when it isn’t.

                Does liberalism have a complete set of solutions? Seriously now, every ideology is incomplete, limited. Pointing specifically to one and exclaiming over a characteristic it has in common with all other ideologies is not meaningful. It’s like talking about dogs and cats, and saying about the dog, “But it gives live birth!” Well, yes, yes it does. Now let’s see how the cat reproduces, shall we?

                The problem here, as far as I can tell, is that you are operating in pure argument mode, where any critique of your opponent’s ideology is satisfactory. Because you’re not really interested in discussion and discovery, you are unable to step back and consider whether such a critique is also applicable to your own ideology.

                [JH] Why don’t you give me a real world case where liberals and libertarians actually disagree about the value of privatization or the value of command and control regulation?

                [JGH] What real world commons can have your initial statement (privatization/property rights as solution) applied? I’ve offered others already. Marine fisheries? National Parks? How about grazing rights? Water resources? Energy use? Pollution? Human population? Infinite growth in a finite system? Holocene extinction event? AGW?

                Marine fisheries: Coastal ones can be privatized with relative ease. Deep sea fisheries, not so much.

                National Parks: Not truly a commons, although they share some characteristics of a commons. (We’re back to that issue of definition–it matters.)

                Grazing rights: Grazing rights are not a commons. If you mean public lands grasses, grazing rights are in fact the privatization of that commons. It’s a bit ironic that you actually listed a privatized solution without realizing it.

                Water resources: Frequently easy to privatize, not always. The Ogallala aquifer would be impossible to privatize (at least with current technology), but smaller aquifers, as well as water rights pertaining to most lakes and streams would not be outside the realm of possibility.

                Energy use? Pollution? Human population? Infinite growth in a finite system? Holocene extinction event? AGW?

                These things are not commons. Again, the proper definition is critical to having a meaningful conversation. Energy is overwhelmingly privatized–you pay for what you use. Human population is not a commons, although it is plausibly a consequence of the general global commons. Infinite growth in a finite system is an interesting issue, but it’s not a commons. HCE is, again, a consequence of the commons, not a commons itself. AGW, the same.

                Which ones are “gotchas” that we must avoid?

                None of those, because none of those are that indisputably impossible one that doesn’t prove anything about less difficult ones, as “privatizing the atmosphere” was. (Although we could talk about pollution permits, which are plausibly a privatization of, not the atmosphere itself, but of the right to dump shit into the atmosphere.)

                Not which subjects or disagreements, which COMMONS does your solution apply to?

                There, that’s the key. Not, “Does your solution fix this most impossible of all problems, no, well then nyah nyah it’s a total failure and I can dismiss it completely,” but “to what extent is it feasible, and what are it’s functional limits?” That latter is a good question, because every approach has functional limits, your as well as mine as well as anyone else’s. It would be foolhardy to try to use any solution in a case that is beyond its functional limits, but it’s not necessarily foolhardy to do so in situations where it actually is functional. (It’s not necessary to use it–for some problems multiple solutions will work, and the question is just what type of outcome we want and what side effects we find acceptable or not. That likely would still lead a liberal and a libertarian to frequently prefer different solutions, and that’s fine and legitimate. What’s not fine and legitimate is to say, “Your solution can’t solve the hardest problem, so we no longer need to consider it for less hard problems.)

                See, the issue I really have here is not that you’re a liberal who dislikes libertarian solutions. The issue I have here is that you want to make grand pronouncements about the failures of libertarianism when you don’t yet have a good grasp on it, and you want to argue against it using a double-standard. Unless, of course, you’re willing to explain to me how liberals can completely and totally eliminate all unfairness–the moment you do that (and I hope to God it doesn’t look like this), then I promise to do my best to try to explain how we might possibly privatize the atmosphere.

                The big point is, I don’t hate liberalism. What I hate is the general approach to argument that sets up an unequal comparison, where our own favored thing (whether it’s a sport, a restaurant, a political party, or an ideology) is implicitly treated as flawless (not explicitly, oh, no, because keeping it implicit allows the arguer to deny they’re done any such thing), while all the shortcomings of the opposing thing are revealed. Hence we get, “the market has failed, government must solve it,” which points out the shortcoming of the market while implicitly assuming that government is flawless enough to actually solve it–it never takes into account that there might be shortcomings in government that make it unable to improve (in the particular case) on the market imperfection. And, yes, it works in the other direction, too. Libertarians who say, “Government has screwed this up, the market will do better,” not because they’ve examined the particular case but because they implicitly treat the market as flawless, are just as guilty.

                That’s why my critique of you is not about your being a liberal–it’s about you following this bad approach to argument, which itself cuts across all ideological lines.Report

              • Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

                Answer me this–liberals care about unfairness and have various solutions for mitigating it, but how do liberals propose to completely and permanently end all unfairness, 100% for ever and ever?

                Well, we were talking about the tragedy of the commons, and your great and detailed knowledge of it. We were not talking about libertarianism or liberalism. I was talking about the fact that it is rarely discussed. You then talked relentlessly about how I didn’t really understand it, but didn’t actually discuss it yourself, other than to say “my solution is to privatize the commons”. Then, when I pointed to a commons, you said it was unfair.

                But you seem to want to hold libertarians to a much tougher standard than you would want others to be held to. That’s bullshit.

                No, what is bullshit is the fact that you make a sweeping statement about your solution to the tragedy of the commons and then complain when I bring up a commons that your statement can’t fix. I am only holding you to your statements. You hold me to my statements and quit cryin’.

                National Parks: Not truly a commons, although they share some characteristics of a commons. (We’re back to that issue of definition–it matters.)

                Are you really saying that land that is shared by all is not a commons?

                Grazing rights: Grazing rights are not a commons. If you mean public lands grasses, grazing rights are in fact the privatization of that commons. It’s a bit ironic that you actually listed a privatized solution without realizing it.

                Are you really saying that land that is shared by all is not a commons? Of course I’m talking about public lands, and of course I know that it is a privatized solution. I bet, if you try really hard, you could be even more condescending.

                Water resources: Frequently easy to privatize, not always. The Ogallala aquifer would be impossible to privatize (at least with current technology), but smaller aquifers, as well as water rights pertaining to most lakes and streams would not be outside the realm of possibility.

                Easy to privatize does not equate with best way to manage public resources, particularly for those downstream. The oil sands in Canada has privatized some water resources, to horrific effect.

                These things are not commons. Again, the proper definition is critical to having a meaningful conversation. Energy is overwhelmingly privatized–you pay for what you use. Human population is not a commons, although it is plausibly a consequence of the general global commons. Infinite growth in a finite system is an interesting issue, but it’s not a commons. HCE is, again, a consequence of the commons, not a commons itself. AGW, the same.

                Yes, I have to say you really are trying to be obtuse here. Are you honestly claiming that energy use, pollution, human population, HCE and AGW (all of which are examples of infinite growth in a finite system) are not examples of the tragedy of the commons?

                The issue I have here is that you want to make grand pronouncements about the failures of libertarianism when you don’t yet have a good grasp on it

                I never made any claims about failures of libertarianism. We haven’t even discussed it. Stop. Take a breath. Go back and look at your first reply to my initial comment. You talked about markets and how some are more successful, but that doesn’t mean it is bad inequality. Then look at my reply where I said that the tragedy of the commons was not talked about when markets were brought up. Then, you exploded at me for even saying the words “tragedy of the commons” and said that privatization was the solution by making a commons not a commons. I then gave an example, and you exploded some more. Take a chill pill.

                You are amazingly condescending, Mr. Hanley, and treat my words in the worst possible manner. I tried to engage with you on the tragedy of the commons. Amazingly, you have shown yourself to be unwilling to discuss the tragedy of the commons, despite your protestations of grand and intimate knowledge of it. You have been willfully obtuse in confirming my examples that are commonly accepted (even by Hardin, fercrissake!) of the tragedy of the commons in the modern world. You continue to put words in my mouth about judging you and libertarianism, when I have done no such thing. Recall that I never made claims about liberalism being able to solve the tragedy of the commons, I just said that it isn’t discussed when evaluating markets.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Well, we were talking about the tragedy of the commons, and your great and detailed knowledge of it. We were not talking about libertarianism or liberalism.

                You’re determined to miss the point, aren’t you? It was an analogy intended to illuminate why your example was not one designed to lead to productive debate.

                Then, when I pointed to a commons, you said it was unfair.

                You really are determined to insist that pointing to the one most impossible solution is a fair approach to debate, eh? But it isn’t—no matter what the topic is, that’s a really shitty way to go about a debate, and it indicates the person doesn’t really want to talk seriously to the other person, but wants to play gotcha and smugly proclaim some kind of victory.

                what is bullshit is the fact that you make a sweeping statement about your solution to the tragedy of the commons and then complain when I bring up a commons that your statement can’t fix. I am only holding you to your statements. You hold me to my statements and quit cryin’.

                It’s really ironic that you can write that such a short space after criticizing me for not reading you generously. That rule’s just for me to abide by, not you, eh?

                I said libertarians have an alternative method for solving commons problems, and you took that to mean that I thought every single commons problem, at all times, in all places, forever and ever amen, could be perfectly solved that way. So you brought up the one case that absolutely positively disproved a claim I never intended, and that the very kind of generous interpretation you’re asking for would show that I never intended. Congratulations, you killed the strawman.

                [National Parks]: Are you really saying that land that is shared by all is not a commons?

                I am saying that national parks are not a commons. Because by definition they are not. They are actually a toll good. Common ownership is not the definition of a commons.

                [JH] Grazing rights: Grazing rights are not a commons. If you mean public lands grasses, grazing rights are in fact the privatization of that commons. It’s a bit ironic that you actually listed a privatized solution without realizing it.

                [JGH]: Are you really saying that land that is shared by all is not a commons? Of course I’m talking about public lands, and of course I know that it is a privatized solution. I bet, if you try really hard, you could be even more condescending.

                Wait, “of course” you know grazing rights are a privatized solution? Then why did you list them as a commons? Yes, the open grazing lands of the west are a commons, and yes the rights are a privatizing solution to the problem…so what exactly was your point? Listing a privatized solution when you’re asking about whether a privatized solution will work is a bit illogical, no? Sorry to be condescending again, but it looks like you made a mistake and you’re trying to pretend it wasn’t, instead of just owning up to it. I mean, you can hardly be challenging me on whether X can be privatized when you’ve already agreed X can be privatized, right?

                [Water resources]: Easy to privatize does not equate with best way to manage public resources, particularly for those downstream.

                Hold on, you’re moving the goalposts. We weren’t talking about best solutions—your question was whether privatization was possible, not whether it was best. Let’s get one issue cleared up before moving on to another. I note here for the record that you appear to have agreed that it is possible to privatize water resources (but have not agreed that it is wise to do so).

                [JH] These things are not commons… Energy … Human population… Infinite growth… HCE [Note: Should be HEE, my bad] …. AGW…
                [JGH] Yes, I have to say you really are trying to be obtuse here. Are you honestly claiming that energy use, pollution, human population, HCE and AGW (all of which are examples of infinite growth in a finite system) are not examples of the tragedy of the commons?

                Are you talking about commons, or the tragedy of the commons. They are no more the same thing than HIV is the same thing as AIDS. I don’t really care how condescending you think I’m being, it’s important to make sure we know what we’re talking about here. The distinction is critical. First, the mere existence of a commons does not determine that there will be a tragedy. The tragedy is a likely, but not inevitable outcome, of a commons. There are commons grazing areas in Switzerland that are over 4 centuries old, but have never resulted in tragedy—not through top-down government regulation, but through bottom-up design of social institutions for managing it. Or there could be too few users of the commons to overuse and degrade it. Or the commons could be a resource that’s not valuable enough to people for them to overuse. The relevant issue, though, is not how frequent those are, but that those demonstrate that a commons and the tragedy of the commons are non-identical, and to talk about the commons is not necessarily to talk about the tragedy.

                Second, while a commons can be privatized, I’m not sure what it would mean to privatize the tragedy. How would we privatize the Holocene extinction? How does someone own an extinction? So if we’re talking about privatization, we’re actually talking about the commons itself, not the tragedy (even though the ostensible purpose of privatization is to prevent the tragedy).

                You may think I’m being pedantic, but these distinctions are important. As I said above, you may not want to get into this debate with me, because it’s a particular area of expertise for me. That means I’m not going to let you slide on the fundamentals. There are specific meanings, and if we get too loose with them, then the things we say will be inaccurate. If you think that’s condescending, I’ll just have to live with it. But you might as well go talk to a biologist about evolution or a chemist about elements, having inaccurate definitions in either case. They’re not going to have much patience if you’re not willing to try to understand the proper definitions.

                Then, you exploded at me for even saying the words “tragedy of the commons”

                Yes, because I’ve had these conversations with liberals before. There’s a great smugness in their claims that other people just don’t get the concept of the commons, but it is extremely rare that I come across one who has an accurate understanding themselves. As I said at the outset, “Most–or at least many–liberals misuse and overuse the concept of the tragedy of the commons because they don’t understand the proper definition of the commons, and so they apply the concept too broadly, thinking it applies far more often than it really does.” I anticipated that you would fall into that grouping, and the brute fact is that you do.

                and said that privatization was the solution by making a commons not a commons.

                “A” solution, not “the” solution, and what I actually said was that libertarians propose a different solution than liberals. The latter is a factual statement. Here’s what you actually wrote:

                It is a basic principle that is ignored often in these discussions. And, when the concept is raised, the response is always: But, the market eventually corrects because of market pressures!

                To which I replied, “What I suspect you don’t get is that many libertarians just have a very different solution than you do–privatization/property rights so that the commons is no longer a commons.”

                Two points here. First, what I said was simply a rebuttal of your “the response is always “the market…corrects.” I was simply pointing out that libertarians frequently have a different response, not “the market will correct,” but “the market won’t correct, so let’s do X.”

                Second, I said that libertarians have this solution; I never said it was “the” solution. Again, if you’re really bothered by me not reading you generously enough, it would behoove you to recognize that you’ve done the same. Motes and boards and whatnot, for the biblically literate. Heck, my own solution set is multi-tooled—I think privatization is sometimes appropriate and sometimes not.

                I then gave an example, and you exploded some more. Take a chill pill.

                You are determined to believe that your example was entirely appropriate, aren’t you? If you can’t see that taking the most extreme example, one that isn’t actually debated by anyone, is not the way sincere people discuss things, then we’re really not going to get anywhere. Take a moment and really think about my liberalism/fairness example. The point is not that it is what we are discussing, the point is that if you were to say “liberals want a fair society,” and I posed that question to you, would you think I was sincere about wanting a meaningful discussion?

                I tried to engage with you on the tragedy of the commons. Amazingly, you have shown yourself to be unwilling to discuss the tragedy of the commons, despite your protestations of grand and intimate knowledge of it.

                Uhm, how have I not discussed it? I’ve said the tragedy of the commons is real; I’ve talked about when privatization is possible for a commons and when it is not, and I’ve talked about your misunderstanding of what commons are, so that we actually focus in on the commons, rather than talking about things that are not commons. So in what way have I been unwilling to discuss this? Again, if you’re really bothered by ungenerous readings….

                You have been willfully obtuse in confirming my examples that are commonly accepted (even by Hardin, fercrissake!) of the tragedy of the commons in the modern world.

                1. What do you mean by “even by Hardin?” Hardin wasn’t especially strict in his definition fo the commons, and in fact he’s not particularly respected by commons experts for his understanding of the problem. They respect him for bringing attention to the issue much more than for his actual understanding of it. That’s not to knock him, though. He was a biologist, commons weren’t really his specialty, so he doesn’t stand as much of an expert. But to his credit, almost nobody was an expert in the issue until he brought it to everyone’s attention.

                2. Can you give me some examples of commonly accepted tragedies of the commons that I have denied? I don’t see any. If you mean things like AGW, I never said it wasn’t a tragedy of the commons, I said it wasn’t a commons. And please don’t tell me, “you know what I mean.” No, I don’t. When you use concepts too imprecisely, I can’t in any way be sure I know what you mean. The unfortunate fact is, I can’t be sure even you know what you really mean, because I can’t be sure you understand the issue accurately enough.

                I never made any claims about failures of libertarianism. …. You continue to put words in my mouth about judging you and libertarianism, when I have done no such thing.

                I’m not sure why you’re trying to deny it when the evidence is right here on this page. See your very first comment on the OP. See your comment that began this sub-thread. Both were negative judgments about libertarianism. I’m not sure if you’re being dishonest or just forgetful. In the spirit of generosity I’ll assume the latter, but, please, let’s try to keep things accurate.Report

              • Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

                You’re determined to miss the point, aren’t you?

                Just as you are determined to miss my point. You are arguing on the x-axis and I am arguing on the y-axis. Careful pointing that finger at me, cause the other four are pointing back at you.

                no matter what the topic is, that’s a really shitty way to go about a debate, and it indicates the person doesn’t really want to talk seriously to the other person

                Kind of like saying “Most–or at least many–liberals misuse and overuse the concept of the tragedy of the commons because they don’t understand the proper definition of the commons, and so they apply the concept too broadly, thinking it applies far more often than it really does” without knowing how I was using it, and then not explaining your definition, or engaging honestly with me. Yep, I agree. That’s a really shitty way to go about a debate.

                There’s those fingers pointing back at you again…

                I am saying that national parks are not a commons. Because by definition they are not. They are actually a toll good. Common ownership is not the definition of a commons.

                Given that Hardin discussed them specifically, and called them a commons, I’d think that means something. Are you saying that part of the definition of a commons does not include that it is shared as widely as possible, usually through shared ownership. That seems to break the very definition of the commons as understood by about 99.9% of the human race. Are we all wrong? Also, are you saying that a managed commons (charging a fee for entrance) changes it from being a commons to a toll good? Does the tragedy of the commons apply to toll goods, or is everything fine once it’s a toll good? I’m trying to understand why you are making this distinction, if not to just dismiss me.

                Assuming it is a commons, as understood by just about everyone:

                Is there a potential for a tragedy of the commons if National Parks were privatized (I say yes)? Would that create greater inequality than exists today (I say yes)? Is the severity of the tragedy of the commons and/or the increase in inequality greater under the privatized model than the commons model (I say yes).

                The market, as it exists today not some idealized market, is rewarded or punished completely on short-term gains over long-term stewardship. Selling a National Park to private interests would destroy the park in the short-term, because of lack of stewardship. The recovery from short-term damage could take many years, if not forever in some cases. Market forces would maximally increase profit in the short-term, which would take these national treasures away from a not insignificant amount of the population. All of this together, outweighs the benefits of privatization. Much smarter people than I have written about this extensively. Many conservatives (hah!) and Republicans have suggested selling the National Parks.

                This is the space where you finally start defining how you think of commons, that is different from how 99% of the country would view National Parks as commons, but how your definition is more correct, and why this is an example of another liberal just not understanding the tragedy of the commons or commons in general and why none of this applies to National Parks and how I’m ultimately wrong about all of this, and, hey, you’re still not getting my point!!!!1!(talk about playing gotcha?!):

                Go ahead, I’ll try to check back over the weekend. Then, we can hopefully continue with the next parts of your response.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                JHG,

                I’ve said several times, when you’re ready to get serious, just ask about the definition. It sounds like maybe you’re getting there, so perhaps now we can actually talk turkey.

                Are you saying that part of the definition of a commons does not include that it is shared as widely as possible, usually through shared ownership.

                Correct, that is an inaccurate definition. A commons neither needs to be shared as widely as possible, nor owned at all. You’ve already agreed the atmosphere is a commons, but who owns the atmosphere? Yes, we all share it, but nobody owns it in the sense all of us Americans own our national parks. And a tragedy of the commons can come into being even if the commons is not widely shared—a commons shared only among two people can result in the tragedy if they fail to coordinate on appropriate levels of use.

                The technical definition of a commons is a resource that is characterized by two attributes. It is difficult to exclude non-payers (non-excludable), and one person’s use of the resource takes away from the whole and diminishes another person’s use of the resource (use is “subtractable,” or as is sometimes said, your consumption and mine are “rivalrous” because we cannot both enjoy the same unit of the resource.). Here is a graphic showing the different types of goods, as defined by these two characteristics.

                So a national park is not truly a commons because it’s fairly easy to exclude non-payers, and for the most part one person’s use does not diminish another’s use. In that way it’s very different from a fishery or an aquifer. If I’m watching Old Faithful erupt in Yellowstone National Park, your simultaneous viewing of it does not diminish my viewing. The classic example of a toll good is a toll bridge (hence the name, of course)–it’s easy to keep people off the bridge if they don’t pay, and my use of the bridge does not diminish your use of the bridge. Toll goods are, however, subject to crowding, as anyone who’s traveled across the San Francisco Bay Bridge at rush hour or visited Yosemite Valley in July can attest. But that’s not the tragedy of the commons.

                The tragedy of the commons is the degradation of a commons through unconstrained use. Unconstrained use is possible because it’s difficult or impossible to exclude potential users, and the degradation occurs because each person’s use subtracts from the whole. Because other potential users can’t be excluded, I have no incentive to conserve in my use of the commons, because there’s no guarantee there will be any units of it in the future. If others do conserve, then I don’t need to because by myself I’m unlikely to over-use it.

                A classic example is a deep sea fishery, as you of course know. It’s difficult to exclude potential users (although modern satellite technology makes it easier than it would have been in the past), and each unit of fish taken by one fisher is a unit not available to others. If everyone at the League is a deep sea fisher, and I limit my catch in a single-handed effort to avoid overuse, my single-handed efforts are insufficient to prevent over-use, and all I do is guarantee I’ll get less in the long run. So I, and each of us, has an incentive to get as much as we can now, which of course hastens the degradation of the commons.

                The normal liberal response to the tragedy is to regulate the commons with a top-down approach. This has often failed for several reasons. One is that the regulators often lack understanding of the resource’s characteristics, so they do things like set catch limits that are too high. Another is that top-down regulation frequently fails to take account of the interests, beliefs, and incentives of traditional commons users, and inadvertently promotes rule-breaking, instead of compliance. (I have a friend who works for NOAA, and he’s doing research on the coastal fisheries of the southeastern United States, with an eye toward understanding how local users the fisheries–that knowledge is something Elinor Ostrom considers crucial to good management of the commons.) Another reason is that specialized interests often lobby for rules that won’t actually constrain them. Liberals recognize that, of course, but too often they don’t accept that it is an inevitable price of relying on top-down regulation.

                That doesn’t mean top-down regulation always fails, though. It only means that successful top-down regulation has a much lower probability of success than liberals generally recognize. (And, to be fair, perhaps a higher probability of success than many, perhaps most, libertarians recognize.)

                And it also explains why–rightly or wrongly–libertarians propose privatization as a solution. Once an open-access resource is privatized, it’s no longer open access; it’s no longer a commons, so the tragedy is less likely to occur. Of course a private user can overuse and degrade it–but if the resource really has long-term value, the private owner is likely to conserve in its use, to keep the flow of value coming long term.

                Sometimes commons are de facto privatized, even when de jure privatization doesn’t exist. The Maine lobster fisheries for example, are effectively privatized by the local fishermen who ruthlessly drive out interlopers. It’s not necessarily an ideal system, but they do see their interests in long-range terms, and by limiting the number of users they give themselves breathing space to not take too much catch each year–they can leave some and be assured of having access to it the next year, instead of worrying that the “extra” users will take it all.

                Privatization can take forms most people are not aware of. For example, in England certain fishing clubs have (or at least used to have, I don’t know if it’s still the case) exclusive right to the fish in certain streams. Fish in streams are a common pool resource, and the normal solution is to regulate the catch. Privatizing the right to catch them also eliminates the commons problem. It also puts the responsibility for monitoring illicit use on the right-holder, rather than on the government, which is probably more efficient politically.

                Of course not all commons are suitable for privatization. And despite whatever fervent wishes libertarians may have, some potential privatization schemes would be politically unacceptable. Oh, well, that’s how the real world works. All we libertarians can do about that is fuss and fume and hope someday everyone comes to their senses. 😉

                I’m trying to understand why you are making this distinction, if not to just dismiss me.

                Not do dismiss you. To make the point that if we start calling toll goods commons, then we’re going to miss the relevant characteristics of a commons that create the tragedy. And if we misunderstand that, then we’ll be talking, quite literally, nonsense, without realizing it.

                Put another way, an accurate understanding of the technical characteristics of the real world is crucial for good policymaking. Just calling something a commons doesn’t make it so. And thinking that something has the characteristics that lead to a tragedy just because it is communally owned is erroneous, and will lead to ill-suited policy proposals.

                Is there a potential for a tragedy of the commons if National Parks were privatized (I say yes)?

                Technically, no, since it would no longer be a commons But if I understand your point, I think you’re asking if the resource would be degraded if it was privatized. As to “potential” for that, yes, there is potential—a private owner can degrade a resource he owns. But it’s very important not to call it the tragedy of the commons in that case because it’s resulting from a different dynamic, not the dynamic of open access.

                And of course there’s potential for degradation while it’s owned in common, too. Many of America’s commons, from lakes and streams to aquifers, public lands, and fisheries have been badly degraded under public management. I participate in a monitoring program for our local river—it’s publicly owned and managed, yet so badly degraded that I won’t let my kids touch the water. So “potential” is really an inevitable characteristic–it’s an inseparable aspect of the resource, not an aspect of either privatization or public ownership.

                The one advantage that private ownership can provide is long-range planning, which government in fact doesn’t do well, being driven by a focus on the next election and annual budget-making. Politicians can certainly talk well about the long run, and can be useful in bringing those issues to our attention, but because of annual budgeting they cannot–and I mean this in the most absolute terms–they cannot make guarantees about the future. No legislature, at any point in time, can bind future legislatures. (Here in Michigan, people are upset that the state has eliminated “promise” scholarships for college students, a program that was supposed to be perpetual. People are outraged that the legislature broke it’s promise; but of course the current legislature is in no way bound or constrained by past legislatures. The same problem holds true, unfortunately (and I sincerely mean it’s unfortunate), for public management of the commons. For an example, just look at how keeping drilling out of ANWR has required a non-stop political battle for nearly four decades now, with no end in sight. (My proposed solution is to privatize ANWR by deeding it to a group like the Nature Conservancy.)

                Would that create greater inequality than exists today (I say yes)?

                I don’t care about the inequality issue. I think it’s an overrated issue, because it focuses on relative well-being (am I as well off as the Joneses?) rather than absolute well-being (am I better off now than I was before?). These comments are long and complex enough, so I’m not going to respond to inequality issues.

                The market, as it exists today not some idealized market, is rewarded or punished completely on short-term gains over long-term stewardship … Selling a National Park to private interests would destroy the park in the short-term, because of lack of stewardship.

                That’s an assertion. You have to explain it. Why would private owners not engage in stewardship over their lands? If they destroy the value of it, it is no longer valuable to them.

                The recovery from short-term damage could take many years, if not forever in some cases.

                You mean like the damage that’s been done in Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks under public stewardship? Like building walkways, campgrounds, and parking lots in the middle of a geologically sensitive geyser basin? Like killing all the wolves, so that a century later we had to reintroduce them? Like building a major reservoir and a fricking golf course in Yosemite? Or letting so many goddammed snowmobiles into Yellowstone in the winter? The fact that the stewardship is public is no panacea, no guarantee of good stewardship. What it is a guarantee of is that the management of the resource will be subject to on-going political pressures, not all of which are going to be favorable toward long-term conservation of the resource. The fact that the stewardship is public is no panacea, no guarantee of good stewardship. What it is a guarantee of is that the management of the resource will be subject to on-going political pressures, not all of which are going to be favorable toward long-term conservation of the resource.

                Look, I’m not arguing for privatizing the national parks. Parks are a traditional government function, and I just happen to like them. But if you think public management of the national parks has prevented their degradation, you haven’t been studying it closely. I have, solely because I love the national parks, so they’re a pet issue of mine. I think the National Park Service does a pretty damn good job under nearly impossible political conditions (protect the wilderness while making it available to hordes of the public; don’t commercialize it, but keep the local merchants happy)—but there’s the problem, even as good a job as they try to do, public ownership frequently results in having to operate under impossible political conditions.

                Market forces would maximally increase profit in the short-term, which would take these national treasures away from a not insignificant amount of the population.

                I’m not sure those two statements are congruent. How is the private owner making profits if they’re closing access to the resource? If I owned Smokey Mountain National Park, I think I’d make more money by charging people to use it than by locking them out. And if you’re sure that market forces always maximally increase profit by focusing on the short term, I’m going to guess you haven’t done much formal study of economics, but are just reading liberal critiques of the market (written, for the most part, by other people who haven’t done much formal study of economics). I don’t want to sound condescending again, but I have studied economics formally, and as with the concept of the commons, I recognize the errors in your statements. They’re based on popular belief, not expert understanding.

                Much smarter people than I have written about this extensively.

                And much smarter people than I have written extensively about the arguments I’m making. I’m not especially brilliant—just another third-rate academic. But I’ve been studying these issues very seriously for almost exactly twenty years now, reading the first rate minds who are the leading experts. My initial approach was much like yours, “private bad, public good.” Then I studied environmental economics and environmental law, then I studied public choice theory, and did a post-doc at the leading research institute for commons research (Indiana University’s Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis). And now I teach political economy and environmental politics. And what that twenty years of study has taught me is that “private bad, public good” is an overly simplistic approach, that fails to capture the complexity of commons management (much of which is neither strictly public nor strictly private), and fails to hold public management up to the same scrutiny to which it holds private management. It is an approach that seeks out every potential flaw in private ownership of resources, while assiduously resisting making serious efforts to recognize flaws in public ownership. (Libertarians do the same thing, in reverse. Seeing only the good in option A and only the bad in option B is a very blinded and unsophisticated approach, no matter what issue we are talking about and no matter who is engaging in it. It’s the approach I use when comparing a state I love (say, Oregon) to a state I loathe (Texas), but nobody should take me seriously when I do so.)

                This is the space where you finally start defining how you think of commons, that is different from how 99% of the country would view National Parks as commons, but how your definition is more correct, and why this is an example of another liberal just not understanding the tragedy of the commons or commons in general and why none of this applies to National Parks and how I’m ultimately wrong about all of this, and, hey, you’re still not getting my point!!!!1!(talk about playing gotcha?!):

                I hope you’re not seriously arguing that mass belief creates truth value. And when we’re talking about something of a technical nature, what’s more likely, that the 99% gets it right or that the 99% gets it wrong? And, yes, this is unfortunately another example of a liberal not understanding commons in general. Like so many, you think common ownership creates a commons. Certainly common ownership overlaps with the concept of the commons, and of course the two words are identical, so the misperception is very understandable. But it’s still a misunderstanding.

                One of the great ironies is that people also tend to make the error of thinking that public ownership means something is a public good (refer back to the chart). So the same resources are sometimes viewed as being simultaneously a commons and a public good, which is an impossibility.

                Go ahead, I’ll try to check back over the weekend. Then, we can hopefully continue with the next parts of your response.

                That depends on your response. If you actually do some serious consideration of what I’ve explained here, I’ll probably respond in kind. If you decide to reject what I wrote because it doesn’t match up with what you believe, I’ll exit the discussion. Because this really isn’t about two competing interpretations of the commons, where each of us has a case to make for his own preferred one. There is a technical definition, and I’m not going to conduct a discussion on any basis except the technical definition that’s standard among the experts; certainly not on the non-technical one that’s popular among the masses.Report

              • Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

                We are going to have to disagree about this, and end the conversation here.

                You are unwilling to consider other definitions to the commons beyond your definition.

                Aboriginal peoples have had a fairly straightforward understanding of the commons for hundreds (perhaps thousands) of years before the white man’s definition came along. The Great Law of the Iroquois, or the laws of the Onondaga, clearly discuss the tragedy of the commons in the the rule of seven generations. Economists like Peter Barnes have a much different view than yours of the commons. And, there are commonly accepted definitions of the different type of commons: public commons, privatized commons, and half-public half-private commons. You seem to reject these distinctions, and seem to insist they do not exist (or, otherwise, label them differently).

                I’d like to have this discussion, but you preclude the possibility by insisting that your definition is the only one you will discuss. So be it.

                I don’t care about the inequality issue.

                And, this brings us back to where we started. In my first comment, I wrote:

                Libertarians talk about liberty a lot, yet are very comfortable with inequality.

                I understand that you don’t care about inequality. No point in discussing any of this further, because this is what I am interested in discussing. This is my point that you are determined to miss.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                John,

                Going back to your initial comment. This libertarian cares about inequality. I don’t really see inequality itself as a problem, however, I believe there are some underlying social problems that result in inequality. These underlying problems should be addressed.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                It’s not that I don’t think inequality can be a problem. I just don’t think inequality is necessarily a problem. The real issue is not whether some have more than others, but whether everyone has a sufficient amount to live a good life. If a child grows up in abject poverty but manages to escape it as an adult, the important thing is not that his degree of inequality (his relative well-being) has improved but that his own standard of living (his absolute well-being) has improved.

                But it’s absolutelyno skin off my nose that Warren Buffet has vastly more wealh than I do, or that next year that inequality will probably increase (again) next year. I’m pretty sure that you and I are economically unequal, and Icouldn’t care less.

                But if we’re talking about the type of inequality where some kids have no choice but to go to terrible schools, where they’re more likely to be the victim of gang violence, where they’re more likely to be beaten without provocation by cops,. Then I care more than JGH is likely to ever understand. And if he thinks we libertarians don’t care about that type of inequality, then he doesn’t really get libertarianism. But that’s not the kind of inequality he was talking about in the comment where I said I don’t care about the inequality issue. As much as I would oppose selling Yosemite to some rich dude, whatever inequality results from that is not going to cause one more kid to end up in a lousy school that dooms his future prospects, so I really can’t get worked up about that side of the issue.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                I concur.

                I think mega wealth is an awesome thing, especially when earned in a mutually beneficial way. Those getting wealthy via free enterprise almost by definition did it in a way which benefitted others. This is good.

                I also do not care about unequal results based upon unequal contributions. This just shows the system is working as intended. If a family does not work, does not become educated, does not adopt the ethic of playing by the rules and preparing for the future, then they should expect to be poor.

                What I see as a problem is the social pathology of the generationally poor. We have allowed an underclass to form of people who reject the simple and obvious path to middle class. That is sad.

                I think someone should start an OP on inequality. Wardsmith are you still there?Report

              • Avatar wardsmith says:

                Inequality is a great OP topic, but I’ve already started on an HOA one since no one else seemed willing to bite. Should be done in an hour or so unless (as seems likely) the wife drags me off the computer to work on honey-do projects.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Want me to draft something?

                I am still awaiting the publication of my surfing and property rights guest post. I am not sure if Erik is busy with the fest or has problems with it, or both.Report

              • Avatar wardsmith says:

                Roger, Ok, after a couple of interruptions finished it off. Maybe I should have proof read it, but there ya go. 🙂 Last time I sent something to Erik, I’d sent it to the wrong address so now I’m clogging up two of his mailboxes just to be sure. He still could reject it – never thought about that. I’m sure your surfing and property rights OP would land just fine in Mindless Diversions, where I was most happy to guest post once.

                An inequality post could be excellent coming from you. Your comments here have shown that you have a deep intuitive understanding of the difference between quantized statistics sets and individual outcomes. The obvious reason why wages have stagnated for 20 years is the impact of globalization. The bottom of our 99% are still in the 1% compared to the rest of the planet, although many liberals don’t have that understanding. There are inequalities and there are inequalities.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                I need to pick a reasonable scope. Which “problem” do you think I should focus on…

                1. The problem is that the rich are getting rich at the expense of the poor (the zero sum fallacy)
                2. The rich unfairly use their wealth to manipulate the rules to their own advantage (rent seeking and threats to democracy)
                3. The rich don’t pay their fair share of taxes (though they pay more than in other modern states)
                4. Disparity between rich and poor is a problem in and of itself due to status
                5. The poor are being increasingly held down by discrimination and lack of adequate institutional support (heartless conservatives)
                6. A segment of the poor are stuck in a cycle of cultural,cognitive or institutional dependency
                7. In reality the poor are actually better off than ever, and this is mainly smoke.

                I can’t write on all of them. Any suggestions?Report

              • Avatar wardsmith says:

                Wow Roger, those seven points would be a rip-roaring OP all by themselves. Flesh them out with a few links for each. OP’s don’t have to be very long, but the best ones seem to be very impactful. I certainly get the sense of the Blaises and Griffins of the world that life isn’t fair and someone needs to do something about it. While agreeing in principle with them my pragmatic side tells me that regulations are BS, the ones we have haven’t done the job, what makes us think adding new ones are going to make things any better – and coercive redistribution of wealth is only going to create a new crop of problems while the wealthy take their own countermeasures and the re-distributors line up at the pig trough to “make sure things are divided equitably” and the old souls on the planet like myself recognize the symptoms right out of Animal Farm.

                The most important words in the Hippocratic Oath are “First do no harm!” While interlocutors hereabouts are dismayed at this supposed “disease” our society suffers from, the pragmatists among us are more concerned with the side-effects of the supposed “cures”. If your OP demonstrates (as I suspect it shall) that the disease, certainly stateside is far less prevalent than the envy class is promoting, well then we don’t have to worry as much about the cure then do we?Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Yeah, the do no harm thing is spot on. I think the most troublesome problems are ones which are so complex or opaque that we come up with a “solution” that actually , yet subtly, makes the problem worse. We pour more gasoline on the fire and wonder why the flames keep growing. Sadly, I think there is a very small group of progressives that actually realize that the hydrants are full of gas, and they just want to burn the house down. Most are just useful idiots.Report

              • Avatar Rod says:

                Quick pre-buttal from this progressive. Note: I make no claims that my views represent “liberalism” per se. They are strictly my own.

                1. The problem is that the rich are getting rich at the expense of the poor (the zero sum fallacy)

                I’m sorry, Roger, but if you look at the actual statistics on income distributions and such what you consider a fallacy does, in fact, seem to be happening. The main problem I see is that up to the mid ’70s wage growth matched productivity gains pretty closely, but after that point wages have stagnated badly while productivity continued to rise. The divergence is such that at this point I should be making roughly twice what I am now if historical trends had held.

                2. The rich unfairly use their wealth to manipulate the rules to their own advantage (rent seeking and threats to democracy)

                Big subject. Taking the latter first, there is an undeniable positive correlation between money spent on a campaign and electoral success. But we can also point to spectacular counter-examples like Meg Whitman’s unsuccessful bid for the Senate in 2010 despite spending a crapload of money.

                I guess the best argument along these lines is to ask, If money doesn’t influence electoral results and policymaking then why are the corporations and the wealthy spending so much of their money that way? Presumably they aren’t foolish enough to just throw it away for no reason.

                3. The rich don’t pay their fair share of taxes (though they pay more than in other modern states)

                Lies, damn lies, and statistics. First, this depends on what you consider fair, so it’s easy to talk past each other. But the main people getting screwed, relatively speaking, are the upper middle-class folks–the people earning high-five to middling-six figure incomes. In particular those who earn high-ish salaries.

                4. Disparity between rich and poor is a problem in and of itself due to status

                Partly. There’s pretty strong correlation between equality measures and various indicators of social health (teen pregnancy, health stats, crime rates, etc.). This holds both between countries and between states within the U.S.

                However, correlation does not prove causation, so “due to status”–whatever that means–is speculative. The working hypothesis is that the causal link is something like “social cohesion”–again, whatever that is.

                5. The poor are being increasingly held down by discrimination and lack of adequate institutional support (heartless conservatives)

                Racial discrimination? Not so much anymore, IMO. Institutional support is eroding, particularly in the Red states and, yes, that strikes me as sort of “heartless” in the midst of this… whatever the hell you call our current economic straits. There seems to be a view among some conservatives
                and libertarian types that people are declining low-wage work in favor of an even much more meager existence on unemployment.

                The most disturbing trend I’ve seen lately is the refusal of many employers to consider hiring the currently, particularly long-term, unemployed. Then they resist the extension of UI benefits. WTF??? Are they just supposed to die for your convenience?

                6. A segment of the poor are stuck in a cycle of cultural,cognitive or institutional dependency

                There is something to the theory of “learned helplessness.” These are complex subjects. I would need to see your specific thoughts to comment intelligently.

                7. In reality the poor are actually better off than ever, and this is mainly smoke.

                Well… yeah, in some ways maybe. Of course a lot of that is due to the very governmental supports that a lot of conservatives/libertarians want to dismantle. A lot of it is also due to the very economic trends, like importing cheap crap from China, that is responsible for the depression of wages in the first place.

                What concerns me more than the plight of the poor per se, is the increase of the numbers of the low-wage-but-getting-by slipping into real poverty.

                I genuinely look forward to your OP. Put on the gloves, dude. 😉Report

              • Avatar wardsmith says:

                Roger, yes some left leaners are indeed potential pyromaniacs. 😉

                @Rod, no fair jumping the gun! Poor Roger hasn’t even written it yet. 🙂

                I could rebut your rebuttals, but will wait until the OP hits. 450 comments in a single thread (Great Job Hanley!) gets a bit unwieldy especially with this indenting system. I also want to answer Creon’s points below, only noticed his post today but would rather have more room for the inevitable back and forth.

                Of course the reality is some of us just aren’t out traveling and enjoying ourselves this Memorial Day Weekend so in between backyard BBQ’s and honey-do’s we’re peeking in here to see what’s happening. If I were really thinking I’d have written something related to military service, but can’t match whatever Rtod (your arch nemesis namesake) would write. Well I’ll try, I know one good story, sort of a Sergeant York tale from WWII.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                As much as the Left might want to destroy capitalism, it can’t even approach the damage done by CDOs, CDSs, and the rest of the horrors CalTech grads were creating when they should have been designing relatively innocuous things like nukes.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Rod,

                Great feedback. Thanks.

                Your pre- rebuttal on 1 brings up a good fact… That productivity trends have diverged from income gains. There are a lot of institutional factors that could cause this, global competition, immigration, and so on. Why do you assume the wealthy are getting rich at the expense of the poor? What evidence is there that the trend line for the one percent had any negative impact on income, rather than a positive impact to a trend that would have been even worse? Do you know of research on the topic? I could possibly link to it in the OP.

                I agree the wealthy contribute to campaigns. Last data I read was they gave 52% to Obama. In other words, they give to both sides. In addition, there are the contributions of unions, government workers, lawyers, doctors, PACs etc. I actually agree that special interest rent seeking has a negative impact on society, but I don’t see the wealthy as being a particularly dangerous coalition. They are too diverse and even conflicting in their demands. Political contributions probably are a zero sum game.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                There was some talk on another thread about having multiple people write about the same topic. Maybe inequality is a good subject for that, not just a few of us libertarians writing about it, but the liberals/progressives, too.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Ward, thanks for the compliment, but I suspect there’d have been fewer comments if certain cockheads had actually read the post and responded to its substance instead of seeing the word libertarian and ignoring the rest of the post as soon as they realized they’d been gifted another opportunity to repeat their lanai-libertarian rants. Comment threads that drift are one thing, but folks who just want to grind their axes regardless of what the OP is about as asshats who really need a kick in the nads.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                James,
                That is a really good idea. The topic is WAY too big for one post, and it would be great to see it attacked from various sides, especially if we can get some conservatives into the discussion.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                John,

                Noticeably, you don’t actually provide a clear alternative definition, so it’s imwpossible to respond. You leave me no way to actually discuss those alternative definitions. That’s really unfortunate. It’s possible you misunderstand them, or it’s possible that those definitions are flawed.

                What is clear is that you don’t want to accept the standard definition of the commons that is widely agreed upon by commons scholars. I have no respect for that. You area placing ideology before understanding,. And choosing e definition that is ideologically convenient. That merits nothing more than a big yawn; it’s the secondl tier of Internet debate– a rung above invective, a rung below real intellectual discussion.

                If you are seriously interested in the commons,. I recommend Ostrom’s Governing the Commons. Whether you like me or not, you really should listens to her.Report

              • Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

                Well, other than talking about Peter Barnes definitions, and the definitions of aboriginal peoples, Hardin’s definitions, and commonly accepted definitions of the commons, you are correct that I have not offered my own definition.

                What is clear is that you don’t want to accept the standard definition of the commons that is widely agreed upon by scholars that are not amongst those that you have chosen. I have no respect for that, or for missing the definitions that I have offered previously. Talk about a big yawn, and the common form of Internet debate. Hypocrisy, thy name is Hanley.

                Regarding inequality, two things: why do libertarians score so low on the y-axis, if they care about inequality so much? Do you agree that income inequality (like your Warren Buffet example) is intimately tied to social inequality (inequality of choice, in your example)? If not, how do you separate the two?

                Finally, which one does the libertarian choose:

                – Total world population of 10 billion humans where 90% were not malnourished?

                – Total world population of 500 million humans where 90% were malnourished?

                The first option has many more (total number of humans) with less absolute well-being. The second option has many more (percentage of the total) with less absolute well-being.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                John,

                Did you mean to reverse those scenarios?

                Libertarians tend to believe that prosperity comes from social cooperation and constructive competition. Therefore, we believe larger numbers of people working together in positive, interconnected ways will lead to higher prosperity for all. The general path to high GDP is more people, better interconnected working in mutually beneficial, win win ways.

                As with all things, this can be taken too far. At any given time there can be too many people for society or the environment.Report

              • Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

                Roger, if you’ll read a little more closely you’ll see that the first example is 10 Billion, with a B, and the second example is 500 Million, with an M.

                10 % (malnourished) of 10 Billion, is 1 Billion.

                90% (malnourished) of 500 Million, is 450 Million.

                1 Billion is a greater number than 450 Million, while 10% is a lesser percent than 90%.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                John,

                My issue wasn’t the math, it was trying to read something into your question that obviously wasn’t there. My bad.

                If forced to choose, I would strongly lean toward more people. I think life is worth living, indeed, I not sure what the term “worth” means absent life. The ten billion example has more life, more value, more happiness, more knowledge and more prosperity. It also has more problems in absolute numbers.

                Why are you probing though?

                As stated before, I think poverty is a bad thing. If people don’t take the obvious steps to get out of poverty, the problem is why is the obvious path obscure for some? If they are taking the path and still not achieving prosperity, then what is wrong with our path?

                My take on it is that most Americans that are generationally poor are not even close to taking the path to prosperity. The path works as well as ever, the problem is people have increasingly refused to or failed to take it.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                JHG,

                Mentioning that. Someone has a definition is not the same as giving that definition to the person you’re debating. How can I possibly respond to definitions you have not specified? It’s either lazy or cowardly on your part.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Your question about numbers of people is a bit weird. Why should there be a specifically libertarian position on that? And just what would any answer demonstrate?

                I think it’s clear you’re just interested in being partisan, and don’t yet really understand what it means to have a real discussion.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Aargh, one more thing. Libertarians score low on the equality axis because the questions are geared toward equality of economic outcomes,and that particular element is not a major concern of libertarians. Not wanting a social structure that locks people into poverty is related to, but is not at all identical to worrying about economic inequality per se. I care that some people live on $10k a year–I don’t care that some live on $45k w while others make 100 times as much.

                If you are willing to consider those distinctions, you’ll better understand libertarians. If you are only interested in reinforcing your preconceptions about libertarians, just ignore the distinctions.Report

  10. Avatar Will H. says:

    One thing I find interesting from the second graph is how close together the center-right person and the left-of-center moderate are.

    Also, it looks like “conservative” covers a fairly broad swath.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      I don’t think this blog attracts very many really conservative conservatives, and some of those who self-defined as conservatives stretch my credulity just from having read many of their comments. There’s a real methodological issue about whether people’s self-identifications (in general, not just here) are reliable.Report

  11. Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

    That red circle, bottom center [Fig. 2], looks absolutely right to me. 😉Report

    • Avatar Will H. says:

      I’m not so sure, Tom.
      I’m that blue triangle NNW of that circle.
      If you will notice, it is in a position equally balanced between the extremities of equality and order.
      Oddly, I believe that places me as both a tad more liberal and a tad more conservative than the aggregate of Conservatives shown in fig. 1.
      I kinda like it like that.

      (A bit surprised it didn’t reveal me to be more libertarian, as I demonstrate that tendency far more than most acquaintances.)Report

      • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

        That blue triangle is my theoretical limit. WillH. I can hang.

        I didn’t quite realize it when I submitted my score, but I think I would have tried place meself exactly there on the graph. “Ordered liberty” is the paradigm of classical liberalism and there I am equipoised; the bottom of the y-axis is a complete rejection of modern re-engineering schemes of “fairness.”

        I am quite comfortable with a safety net, which dunno how they factor in; FDRism started with widows and orphans, surely unanimously worthy targets of our publick sympathy and charity.

        I will note here that IMO, our respondents here and the West at large undervalue order: we take it for granted. But Mexico is becoming one big death camp, and Chinese society has become so laissez faire that people have taken to killing their doctors for ripping them off.Report

        • Avatar b-psycho says:

          Mexico is becoming “one big death camp” largely due to our insistence in the face of obvious failure on imposing an impossible order, & the profits to be had in aiding its flouting. End the war on drugs and they can begin to clear up. As for China, no. “Laissez faire” is not a synonym for “government that could give half a crap about you as long as the well connected make money, so you STFU & go to work”. Doctors get away with that because the gov’t is too busy backstopping foreign capital & crushing dissent to care about some petty theft.

          BTW: the problem with order is that it’s seen in ridiculous black & white terms. Nobody likes chaos, but there’s a long way between that at one end and My Preferred Societal Structure Enshrined At All Costs at the other. Funny enough, chaos is more likely to occur after an overly strict order collapses on itself than after any gradual loosening process.Report

          • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

            Mr. Psycho, that a state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation is also Edmund Burke 101, the first “conservative,” but by all means a liberal as well.

            Actually, I’m speaking of order in the American and Western sense, which assumes responsible individual self-government and a functionable society as the necessary foundations for liberty.

            However, if you set the government against society, presumably in a coerced mushy multiculturalism of a previous comment, society ceases to exist. You are then stuck with only law as the means of a society’s self-preservation, and you’ll find that humans being human, respect for law ain’t going to cut it.

            I don’t know why Mexico and China have descended into barbarism. My next-door neighbors are refugees from Mao’s China, and they’re great. As an Angeleno for 30 years, interaction with America’s Mexican-national guests has been equally rewarding and pleasant.

            I don’t know what permits a culture to cut off people’s heads and hands by the dozens [Mexico] or doctors to cheat their patients.

            http://www.worldcrunch.com/patient-doctor-violence-china-symptomatic-sick-and-crippled-system/5015

            Unfortunately, this seems to be an underlying illness of Chinese society today. Our food is toxic; our hospitals are unsafe; our roads are dangerous. Our society has fallen into a “mutual harming” mode. Everybody is harming everybody and can get harmed themselves. The patient could be hurt by a doctor; the doctor’s house could be demolished; the patient could also be a profiteer selling “toxic milk” … you get the idea.

            “Mutual harming,” Mr. Psycho. Migod, what a chilling thought, eh? This is the Hobbesian war of all-against-all. Societies are built on trust, not on law, and these societies have run out of trust. This is what I mean by us Westerners taking order for granted, not from the top down but from the inside, that first and foremost we govern ourselves and each other via society and culture, not the sterility of laws and cops.

            The alternative to “order” isn’t merely disorder, it’s mutual harm.

            Does this make any sense? I must admit I’m arguing more from a sickened feeling just now than from theory, but I the article from China was on the same page as one on Mexico in The Week and it hit me that it’s the same illness.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              “Mutual harming,” Mr. Psycho. Migod, what a chilling thought, eh? This is the Hobbesian war of all-against-all. Societies are built on trust, not on law, and these societies have run out of trust. This is what I mean by us Westerners taking order for granted, not from the top down but from the inside, that first and foremost we govern ourselves and each other via society and culture, not the sterility of laws and cops.

              Agreed. Just as iterated interactions can turn into mutual cooperation for mutual benefit (well-functioning markets) they can also turn into mutual defection for mutual harm (Hatfields and McCoys). Unfortunately there’s no magic button that makes society, culture, or government a certain solution to the problem.

              And of course “order” does not necessarily mean “government command-and-control regulation.” (And, of course, TVD didn’t say any differently–I’m just emphasizing that point, not arguing it against him.)Report

            • Avatar Murali says:

              in a coerced mushy multiculturalism

              How did multiculturalism get into this?Report

            • Avatar b-psycho says:

              I’m not sure how this contradicts what I said about China. Their imposed order begins & ends at “The Communist Party maintains control, & connected interests get paid”, thus anything that challenges that gets smashed. The incidents you describe don’t challenge that, so they don’t care. People come to screw each other over because they learn over time that playing by the rules just results in starving, so they try lying cheating & stealing on for a change.

              If China wants to solve that issue, then playing by the rules has to offer clear possibility of benefit for the average person. But solving that would threaten the ruling class, so it doesn’t get addressed. So people screw each other over while the Communist Party fiddles.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Mr. Psycho, if I understand your background correctly, you recognize the phrase “crabs in a bucket.” Why one society slips into that, or more importantly how any society rises above it [if Hobbes is correct that it’s man’s natural state] is our concern here.

                Although it’s a component, I don’t think it’s a question of political regime per se. When the French tired of the Terror, they brought in Napoleon, and all the while they were still the French.Report

        • Avatar Will H. says:

          I understand completely, because I feel much the same.
          The idea is sound, but the implementation is lacking; particularly in the shoehorn effect of ever-expanding programs.
          I don’t care much at all for the idea that government has one function and one function only: Everything.
          The fact that every law ever made by man is evidence enough for me to believe that we should concentrate on making better people rather than better laws.
          I have difficulty finding the One Commandment of Anton Lavey– Do as thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law— to be valid.
          Likewise, I hold it invalid that ever-greater extortionate attempts should be identified as “good,” no matter how noble the stated purpose. The Road to Hell is still paved with good intentions, and the ultimate character of man has changed very little from the early days of savagery.Report

  12. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

    Dude, James…

    Given the small n, you should’ve bootstrapped the sample.

    I thought you were a libertarian! Don’t libertarians love bootstraps?Report

    • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

      Aww…no comment? 🙁Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        Sorry, man, I was building a deck all day. The old stone steps out the back door of my house were a hazard…but perhaps as a libertarian I should have told my kids it’s their responsibility to stay safe, and I wasn’t going to be all paternalistic, etc., etc. 😉

        Yeah, we love bootstraps, and I’m sorry not to respond early enough to just give you a big “hah!” But as to bootstrapping the sample I A) wanted to just keep it all simple, and B) have let my stats chops decline abysmally. I’ll be happy to give you the data so you can do it, though.Report

        • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

          Fair enough. I hope the deck comes out great. You need one to tell the liberals to get off your lawn from….

          As for bootstrapping, I’m not sure it’d be worthwhile in this case because I think you actually have most of the population in your data. That is: most of the site’s commentators seem to have responded if the N is 64.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley says:

            I hope the deck comes out great. You need one to tell the liberals to get off your lawn from….

            Considering the deck’s in the back yard, I’ll certainly be yelling at anyone I can actually see on my lawn from it.

            Of course I did purposely buy a house with a front porch. Ostensibly for the pleasures of swinging in my grandma’s antique porch swing that I managed to inherit, but really just for the yelling.Report

  13. Avatar Will Truman says:

    Looking at the graph, I think I may have singlehandedly screwed up the “conservative” positioning.Report

  14. Avatar wardsmith says:

    John, I couldn’t exactly recall, so went back and found it here. Just because /you/ don’t believe there is any mechanism whatsoever for achievement doesn’t mean I have to agree with you. I’ve seen too many personal examples in my own experience, which out distances yours by several decades at least, to deny it. Yes there are most certainly challenges, and yes there are some who have a leg up when they are born, but you and every other liberal are completely and utterly wrong when you believe that the advantages are absolute and the disadvantages insurmountable. Poor people achieve every day, some spectacularly so, and rich people join the ranks of the poor every day, some spectacularly so.

    Your income statistics fail you because you think “the rich” are this monolithic creature that never moves, when in fact it is a statistical artifact by definition. CEO’s like skilled ballplayers command high incomes because they won’t last long in their positions. The WSJ recently had an article about this and the mean time was about 4.3 years to stay as a CEO. Same for many ballplayers (excluding baseball). You just can’t last at the top of your game that long, that is why it is called the top of your game.

    Liberals pursue “income redistribution” in the guise of “fairness” while blithely ignoring the unfairness of taking from the rich in the first place. The purpose of taxes was never to punish success, but to keep the government’s LEGITIMATE functions operating. In the hands of the liberal elites taxes have morphed into a economic cudgel to punish success and reward favored sons. Libertarians rightly have issues with this, as should anyone with intelligence and/or a conscience. Furthermore, the track record on this kind of behavior is anything but successful. We have most of Europe to look at for examples of this, along with most of South America.

    The whole topic of income inequality deserves its own OP, as does the comparison concept of looking at the entirety of the USA as a massive HOA (or several massive HOA’s).Report

    • Avatar Roger says:

      Wardsmith,

      Write an OP on inequality!

      By the way, the actual data reveals that the lower the income of a family, the higher the expected increase in income over time. Progressives are just confusing individuals with quintiles.Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

        Of course. Because going from mind-numbing poverty to a meager lower-middle-class existence is a bigger percentage jump than going from really rich to slightly more gobsmacknigly rich.Report

        • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

          Less pithily.

          Just about every intergenerational income distribution study done with data over the past 50 years has basically shown that your family’s starting income is a very large predictor of your chances.

          It’s not the determining criteria, but it certainly narrows your possibility of moving upward.Report

        • Avatar Roger says:

          No, the gains are bigger in absolute dollar as well. Here is the link showing income trends from 19777 to 1986. The lowest income increases the most. If anyone has newer data, I am unaware of it.

          http://www0.gsb.columbia.edu/faculty/ghubbard/Articles%20for%20Web%20Site/Household%20Income%20Changes%20Over%20Time_Some%20Basic%20Questions%20and%20Facts.pdf

          This summarizes the trend over the decade…

          Income gains by family from bottom quintile to top…..
          Lowest quintile $ 12,145        77%
            $ 11,701        37%
            $ 8,499         20%
            $ 5,828         10%
          Highest quintile $ 4,609         5%Report

          • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

            A lot of the changes in the 60s through 80s tended to come about as a result of dual-income households becoming substantially more common. This tends to show up a lot when you do income over time studies that span the 60s to 90s.

            Note that a relatively recent FRB study has shown that the 90s and 2000s has had substantially less income growth for most households.

            You can find the pdf here:
            http://www.bos.frb.org/economic/wp/wp2009/wp0907.pdfReport

            • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

              I’ll quote part of the pdf:

              We find, by and large, that different measures yield similar pictures of mobility trends. By most measures, family income mobility was lower in more recent periods (the 1990s into the early 2000s) than in earlier periods (the 1970s). Most notably, mobility of families starting near the bottom of the income distribution has decreased over time.

              However, comparing the most recent periods, the downtrend is more or less pronounced, or even nonexistent, depending on the mobility measure employed. Black families exhibit substantially less mobility than white families in all periods relative to the overall distribution of families and in absolute terms, and while the disparity between the races’ mobility rates does not appear to be growing, between race differences in long-term income have risen.

              This suggests that during most of the span from 1967 to 2004, a low-income family’s probability of moving up was decreasing while lifetime incomes were becoming less equal—mobility did not offset rising cross-sectional inequality of family incomes. Not surprisingly, families’ later-year incomes increasingly depended on their starting place. Determining whether these patterns abated after 1999 will require additional examination as more years of data become available.

              Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                In short:
                This does not to me suggest a system that has a lot of absolute mobility for a good share of the population.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Nob,

                Thanks, I read the summary and will read the entire thing tomorrow. I hope it addresses the following issues….

                1. Declining size of families in lower quintiles
                2. Affect of two earner, higher educated couples
                3. tendency of the lower quintiles to avoid long work hours even under periods of full employment
                4. The tendency of those families that don’t value education, hard work and planning for the long range to raise kids that don’t value them either
                5. Effects of in migration skewered toward the working class
                6 effects of regulations and minimum wages pulling the ladder of opportunity out from under the lower classes
                7. Effects of state mandated lack of school choice on the poor
                8. Effects of the collapse of union coercion (a great thing) from prior decades getting blue collar workers back to an uncoerced free market wage
                9. The stifling effects of victimology undermining the self initiative of these supposed victims
                10. The fact that there has never been a better standard of living and health for the poor than right now.
                11. That income stagnation for the poor in America may be contributing to the unprecedented gains in prosperity of the worlds poor ( who are finally able to compete with them….YEAH!)

                Again, I will keep my fingers crossed!Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                The paper just looks at data, not so much the causal effects of it, so you’re probably looking at the wrong thing if you think it’ll confirm or disprove your hypotheses.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Nob,

                I read the paper, and as you say, it just lays out data on a sad trend. In all seriousness I agree that more mobility would be a good thing.

                I believe we have entire classes of people caught up in dysfunctional patterns. Bad boyfriends, single moms, very few hours worked, forced into bad schools, not valuing education, not installing the ethic of hard work and planning for the future in the next generation.

                If the hard core poor could learn to work 50 hours a week, value education, and wait to have kids after finding a good spouse, then their mobility would be better than ever.

                Values and institutions have consequences. Long term, significant ones. People tend to move toward their goals. Progressive culture is the modern day chain.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                Please stop mixing up economics with a messed-up moral framework. It doesn’t work and it inevitably descends to rude stereotyping with a hint of dog whistling.

                I believe we have entire classes of people caught up in dysfunctional patterns. Bad boyfriends, single moms, very few hours worked, forced into bad schools, not valuing education, not installing the ethic of hard work and planning for the future in the next generation.

                If the hard core poor could learn to work 50 hours a week, value education, and wait to have kids after finding a good spouse, then their mobility would be better than ever.

                And I know people who are “poor” who work multiple part-time jobs because they can’t find any place that hires full-time anymore. Who can’t get health insurance because they can’t find full-time employment. Who live paycheck to paycheck from those part-time jobs trying to make ends meet, with a spouse trying to do the same. Who don’t have an incredible number of kids, one or two – and those who have kids, they had at a time when they had full-time positions and career prospects looking solid.

                “The hard core poor”? That is the statement of someone making an ass of himself, who’s probably never talked to anyone who makes below 6 figures. You don’t know the first thing about what you are talking about.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                MA,

                I am not saying nobody struggles. I am not saying we should not have safety nets.

                I am saying it is easier now for those that work hard to succeed than in any prior generation. The problem is we have created a culture which has permitted and even encouraged a pattern of dysfunctionality to prosper. In other words, the progressive recipe either backfired or accomplished exactly what it was intended to do.

                The “best” snake oil is that which subtly causes the very ailment it is supposed to cure. That is what progressives peddle. You sell people a cycle of dependency and poverty and then ask us to buy more. Inequality is Your fault, and you need to admit it if you really care about the issue.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                I am not saying nobody struggles. I am not saying we should not have safety nets.

                I am saying it is easier now for those that work hard to succeed than in any prior generation.

                No, you are saying that your assertion – that it is easier now for “those that work hard to succeed”, something that is probably untrue given stiffening class immobility that is well documented – is also proof that the poor are a bunch of lazy, inadequate and morally lesser beings. That is the implication of your insistence that if the poor “would just learn to” do things like “value education” and “work 50 hours a week”, that they would magically succeed. There are so many people out there who value education, work long hours and do NOT succeed anyways that your entire assertion is revealed a lie.

                The problem is we have created a culture which has permitted and even encouraged a pattern of dysfunctionality to prosper. In other words, the progressive recipe either backfired or accomplished exactly what it was intended to do.

                The “best” snake oil is that which subtly causes the very ailment it is supposed to cure. That is what progressives peddle. You sell people a cycle of dependency and poverty and then ask us to buy more. Inequality is Your fault, and you need to admit it if you really care about the issue.

                A cycle of “dependency” and “poverty”; oh yes, that’s exactly what I suggest when I suggest people should be free to seek better jobs, free to start their own businesses, free to make the choices that include spending more time raising their kids and less time desperately trying to keep a roof over their heads.

                I have nothing courteous to say to you at this point. I agree with BlaiseP; “You are a contemptible, selfish little creature” who appears to believe that the poor are all morally bereft, lazy, and that nobody could possibly be poor for reasons beyond their own inadequacy.

                Blaming the victim is the act of a sadist. Which is what you are.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Even disagreements about matters of taste are now seen as evidence of venality on those who disagree. It’s a religious argument and you’re either on the side of the angels or…

                Lord, that’s tiring.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                *blink blink*
                and folks get upset when I call someone a dipshit and explain things to them!

                Roger,
                Wealth is well-correlated with remaining in the middle class after a job loss. Wealth is something people inherit, often from generations ago. I can prove both of these things if you’d like. This does not say that it is easy for someone to become middle class.

                I’d venture to say middle class was easiest to attain in teh 1950’s-1970’s.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                +1 to Jaybird.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Let’s recap…

                Progressives start by saying we have a problem with inequality.

                I provide data that poor households work very, very few hours during times of full employment. I can also provide data on their graduation rates from the schools you guys lock them in to. I can provide data on their out of wedlock birth rates.

                Let me be real clear. If you lock them out of a good education, if you pull the ladder of economic opportunity out from under them by raising minimum wage and creating burdensome licensing regulations to keep them from getting entry level jobs, if you convince people that following the rules is for suckers, and if you enable them to get by without working full time, you are creating the problem. I am not blaming them, I am blaming you.

                What do you think the long term poverty rate is for high school graduates, that are married and where both spouses work full time? I bet it is miniscule. To the extent it is not zero, I recommend social safety nets. Hard working people that realize horrible catastrophe deserve a hand. Lazy people that impregnate multiple girl friends and don’t marry or support any of them deserve nothing but shame.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Exhibit A proving my point.

                http://jacksonville.com/opinion/editorials/2012-01-27/story/three-rules-staying-out-poverty

                “Brookings whittled down a lot of analysis into three simple rules. You can avoid poverty by:

                1. Graduating from high school.

                2. Waiting to get married until after 21 and do not have children till after being married.

                3. Having a full-time job.

                If you do all those three things, your chance of falling into poverty is just 2 percent. Meanwhile, you’ll have a 74 percent chance of being in the middle class.

                These rules apply to all races and ethnic groups. Breaking these rules is becoming more commonplace, unfortunately, for all racial groups.

                By contrast, young adults who violated all three norms — dropped out, got married before 21 and had children out of wedlock and didn’t have a full-time job — had a 76 percent chance of winding up in poverty and a 7 percent chance of winding up in the middle class.”

                The above is all vut and pasted from the link. Progressives care to respond?Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                There you go again, Roger.

                Progressives start by saying we have a problem with inequality.

                If you’re going to call me a progressive, fine, I’ll take the bait. It’s certainly better than being whatever you are.

                So, real income disparity exists and is growing, not shrinking. Class rigidity is documented and increasing. Is it a problem, or is it not?

                I provide data that poor households work very, very few hours during times of full employment. I can also provide data on their graduation rates from the schools you guys lock them in to. I can provide data on their out of wedlock birth rates.

                So now I’m an evil, villainous person who locks poor people into poor-performing schools? Deliberately and with malice? Really? You are so completely full of it.

                You want to see income disparity in action? Compare rich vs poor school districts. The ones with 200-computer, brand new every 2 years computing labs and gleaming libraries with a “computer lab” of less than 15 machines that are all 8 years old and half of which don’t even power up but the district can’t afford to replace or have repaired – and can’t even afford a staff member who could do it with retail parts. The ones whose library doors were locked 10 years ago because they couldn’t afford to staff a librarian any more.

                Who’s not “locked in” there? Ah yes, the rich kids whose parents can afford to send their kids to the private schools, who then moan and rant about “why should I have to pay taxes for schools my kids don’t use” and have a “starve the beast” attitude to government. Or the kids whose parents moved to a wealthier, “exclusive” school district – because they can afford the homes the poor kids’ families are priced out of – and then work tirelessly to block via zoning or other restrictions the rise of affordable housing that would mean some of the poor kids move into the rich kids’ district.

                The ones who file lawsuits about “unfair” taxation if too much state money is allocated to try to eliminate the educational disparities between poor and rich counties and districts.

                Let me be real clear. If you lock them out of a good education, if you pull the ladder of economic opportunity out from under them by raising minimum wage and creating burdensome licensing regulations to keep them from getting entry level jobs, if you convince people that following the rules is for suckers, and if you enable them to get by without working full time, you are creating the problem. I am not blaming them, I am blaming you.

                Let me be real clear. It is people (and I use the term loosely) like you who have pulled the ladder of economic opportunity out from under them, who have locked them out of an equal chance at a good education. People like you who filed lawsuits to block adequately funding schools, block making parity with educational tools and equipment. People like you whose response overall has been not to “improve public schools” but to put their kids in private schools and then didn’t give two rat droppings about what happened to the private schools as long as you got a tax cut.

                “Raising minimum wage” has stopped them from getting jobs? “Burdensome licensing regulations” have stopped them from getting entry level jobs? What a complete load of hooey. The lies you tell yourself so that you can sleep at night.

                If you do all those three things, your chance of falling into poverty is just 2 percent. Meanwhile, you’ll have a 74 percent chance of being in the middle class.

                These rules apply to all races and ethnic groups. Breaking these rules is becoming more commonplace, unfortunately, for all racial groups.

                By contrast, young adults who violated all three norms — dropped out, got married before 21 and had children out of wedlock and didn’t have a full-time job — had a 76 percent chance of winding up in poverty and a 7 percent chance of winding up in the middle class.”

                The above is all vut and pasted from the link. Progressives care to respond?

                Yes, I have a response. Here it is: you’re too blind, blinkered and full of hate to tell cause from effect. And yes I’ve also checked the research paper to be sure the analysis is accurate.

                You know what is also a great indicator of living an upper class life? Being born with a silver spoon up your ass. You know what is also a great indicator of living a middle class life? Being born to middle class parents.

                You know what the greatest indicator that someone will grow up to live in poverty is? It’s not having babies out of wedlock. It’s not “failure” to get married. It’s not even graduating high school – more and more people who graduated high school are falling into poverty now.

                The greatest indicator that someone will be in poverty in their lifetime is being born to poor parents.

                You can go back to blaming the poor for “choosing” to be poor, and blaming anyone who sees it as a problem for “causing the problem” and “locking” the poor into it.

                But I’ll respond much like this. Swivel on it.

                I don’t care if your attitude is that public schools suck and need fixing, or that they should be eliminated as a “waste” of money because “those people are lazy and don’t value education” – because someone like you will never approve any plan that could actually fix them. I don’t care if you can dredge up a dishonest, meaningless statistic in which you count up “hours worked in the week” on the part of a demographic that has always suffered unemployment problems compared to a demographic that has always had it well.

                Your actual position is that “the poor” are a bunch of lazy, uneducated ne’er-do-wells who deserve to be poor. And that is a complete load. Conservatives have spent the last 3 decades destroying the public education system and making things worse for the lower class while the whole time blaming the victim, and that is the truth.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                “Your comment is awaiting moderation.” Maybe I shouldn’t justify my position with links, but then someone will just demand links. Sigh.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                We try to catch links quickly and efficiently. If we miss a post you make, please let us know and we’ll free it.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                MA.
                Excellent post. One link per comment generally goes through (and your comment was verging on tldr, so breaking it up might be better in general)Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                MA,

                Thanks for the KFM link. I love that movie!

                I have already proven to that the average poor family gains in absolute and percentage terms over time more than non poor families. Nob then shifted the argument to the trend that mobility is lower now than before. I agreed.

                I then explained that getting married before having kids, working full time and graduating high school is an almost fool proof system to escape poverty.

                These are the facts. Is it a problem? Yes, I think that millions of people not graduating from good schools, not waiting to have kids, not marrying, and not working is a huge, massive problem. Don’t you?

                As with Blaise, I am not questioning your good intentions. I am sure you are a fine person. You have been suckered into selling snake oil. You actually do believe it heals the sick. You and Blaise are the best kind of snake oil salesmen. Ones that believe the shit works.

                Your argument on schools is actually making my point, you just fail to recognize it. I believe it is wrong to trap kids in monopoly schools based upon their district. I support parental choice and open competition. I strongly support better schools, and unlike you I actually have ideas about how to accomplish it without featherbedding the administrative department of the teachers unions pension.

                Your rant seems to have libertarians confused with conservatives. I am not in agreement with any of the conservative crimes you envision me supporting.

                I read the article on single moms that you link earlier this month.

                Again, I am not blaming the poor. I am blaming the culture and institutions that people such as you and Blaise have snookered them with over the past forty years. Yes, having a single mom, a deadbeat absent father and no choice in schools tends to lead to another generation of the same. When you built this culture, hopefully inadvertently, you got a cycle of dependency.

                It is time to re-examine your assumptions.

                I know this shakes your world view to the core. “What if everything I believe is wrong?” However I urge you, for the sake of millions of poor people, to give it a try. Be brave.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                Roger,
                forest fires were an easy way to fix overgrowth in national parks. Perhaps this is an insoluble problem with liberalism… or perhaps it just needs a bit of tweaking?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Even disagreements about matters of taste are now seen as evidence of venality on those who disagree.

                Are you saying that views about poverty and the poor reduce to expressions of taste? That poverty isn’t a moral issue?

                If so, that’s an incredible position to hold. Even for you.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Is poverty ubiquitous? Is it something that has existed at every point in human history and will continue to exist until the last human dies?

                If so, I find it difficult to come to the conclusion that poverty is a matter of morality. If anything, it strikes me as the natural state of man and when man is *NOT* impoverished, it’s a surprise (and, even, to be celebrated).

                Additionally, given that we’ve established in the past that we measure poverty as “relative” rather than “absolute”, I’m doubly inclined to not see poverty as a primarily moral issue.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Is *murder* ubiquitous? Is it something that has existed at every point in human history and will continue to exist until the last human dies?

                If so, I find it difficult to come to the conclusion that *murder* is a matter of morality.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                It’s much easier for me to describe acts as moral or immoral.

                States? Not so much. Relative states? Even less.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                A bit of artful dodging there, no?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                I think it’s a distinction worth considering. I’m not quite sure what to make of it myself, but it ought to be explored rather than rejected. If a state can be considered immoral, won’t it at least require a somewhat different route to the claim than it would for an action? “I” am immoral if I hurt you…who bears the stamp of immorality if you are poor?

                By the way, Stillwater, did you see that I finally responded to your comment below (the only comment, I think, in this whole thread that actually responded to the real substance of my post!).Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I did see it James. And thanks. I had a pretty long response to it that ended up getting lost along the way. 🙁 It wasn’t really very good, so it’s probably for the best – I sorta confused myownself in writing it.

                I’ve got to go out of town for a few days, but I’ll get back to it then. After I think about it some more. Oh, and great post! I also want to expression some appreciation for all the effort you put into it. I wish the thread followed the OP a bit more …Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Stillwater,

                If you don’t respond for a few days, be sure to find a chance to bring my attention to it so that I don’t miss it.

                As to the thread going off-topic, that’s pretty much par for the course. It’s by turns amusing and infuriating, but anyone who’s going to throw a fit about it probably shouldn’t be blogging.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              A lot of the changes in the 60s through 80s tended to come about as a result of dual-income households becoming substantially more common. …. Note that a relatively recent FRB study has shown that the 90s and 2000s has had substantially less income growth for most households.

              Of course, because that trend couldn’t last forever. But that’s not cause for dismay. The easy fruit gets picked first.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                1. I’m not so sure if dual-income households is actually a good trend in terms of child-rearing. Census data on higher earning households and intergenerational mobility suggests that the upper echelon is generally populated by single earners of some sort or another. Now it’s probably too much to conclude that single earner households are superior, but there’s probably an advantage when one parent can afford to be a full time stay at home.

                2. I think more troubling is the lack of fruit we’ve come across in the last two decades. The economic trends in the US at least are trending substantially more toward gaps in earning potential due to how service industries and even manufacturing have changed.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                Nob,
                there’s an advantage when people don’t depend on dual incomes. a BIG one. You’re under a lot less stress if you can pick up and move to where ONE job is, not needing to find a place where both people can get employed.
                Dual-income households means something different once kids are in school, as well.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                I think more troubling is the lack of fruit we’ve come across in the last two decades.

                Have you read Tyler Cowen’s book about that? (I haven’t myself, although it’s been talked about a lot in the blogosphere, so I don’t know his full argument or what to think about it.)Report

    • Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

      in my own experience, which out distances yours by several decades at least

      Wow, I had no idea you were in your eighties (or is it nineties!)! Congrats, Mr. wardsmith.Report

    • Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

      I never said that I “believe there is[n’t] any mechanism whatsoever for achievement”. I said that the system is not fair and criticized your statement about “a mechanism to achieve equality built into the system”.

      If you are arguing that the system is fair to all individuals, then I don’t think there is much more to discuss. I find it to be self-evident that the system is not fair. If you don’t, then I will not convince you otherwise.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      Warsmith,

      This is why I don’t want you to leave. +1.Report

    • Avatar Creon Critic says:

      The purpose of taxes was never to punish success…

      Wardsmith, I think you misunderstand where liberals are coming from. Taxes aren’t meant to be punitive – “punish success” as you put it.

      Let’s begin with a large scope of public goods, from public broadcasting and art museums to oceanography and green energy. Couple that with support for progressive taxation. This combination inevitably yields the well-to-do contributing more to finance that broadly defined range of public goods. On top of that, add a broad definition of human rights, both negative and positive rights. Those positive rights have to be financed somehow. Liberals tend to be far more sympathetic than both conservatives and libertarians to the argument that there are a suite of economic and social rights, and what’s more, the government ought to play a significant role in ensuring those rights are realized. Punishment isn’t part of the equation.

      …to keep the government’s LEGITIMATE functions operating.

      I think there’s some question-begging going on here. Part of the discussion is precisely over whether redistribution is or is not a legitimate function of government.

      In the hands of the liberal elites taxes have morphed into a economic cudgel to punish success and reward favored sons.

      This is also a pretty skewed characterizing of the liberal position. “Rewarding favored sons” is a really odd way to put Rawls’ Difference Principle, or any schema that posits we ought to have an ongoing, active, community-based concern for improving the welfare of the less well off. Ongoing meaning a continual process of examining capability deprivation. Active meaning not waiting for civil society to intervene to alleviate capability deprivation. And community-based meaning a willingness for the government to take far reaching action (e.g. social insurance, universal benefits). There are no “favored sons” in advocating for universal benefits and social insurance of the kind advanced by liberals. And examining some of the key texts outlining this kind of platform (Beveridge Report), I’m hard pressed to find either lack of intelligence or lack of conscience.Report

    • Avatar Scott Fields says:

      I’ll second Roger and say I’d enjoy reading the OP as well.

      I hope you’ll bring some data to the table and not rely solely on “personal examples” from your own experience. I’m particularly interested in numbers, rather than anecdotes, to back up your assertion that “Poor people achieve every day, some spectacularly so, and rich people join the ranks of the poor every day, some spectacularly so.”

      The data I’ve seen on that looks a lot like what Nob cites below, but I’m open to new evidence.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi says:

      How punish success?
      Taxes make more success…
      More money to middle class,more entrepreneurs get rich.

      Successful businessmen convince people to spend money on their products… which is a lot easier if they dont’ already have everything.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

      > Yes there are most certainly challenges, and yes there are
      > some who have a leg up when they are born, but you and
      > every other liberal are completely and utterly wrong when
      > you believe that the advantages are absolute and the
      > disadvantages insurmountable.

      Ward, the rest of your comment is pretty good, but here’s your bias.

      Aside from the shrieking Left (which I’ll agree exists, just like you’d have to agree there’s a shrieking Right), I don’t think every liberal believes that advantages are absolute and the disadvantages are insurmountable.

      They’re both dynamic. What most liberals believe is that the likelihood of staying rich, or at worst dropping into the middle class, if you start with advantages is ginormously higher than the likelihood of *not* staying poor if you start there.

      I don’t know that this is terribly controversial.Report

    • Avatar Will H. says:

      That was fantastic.Report

  15. Avatar Kolohe says:

    When liberals start being as proactive on a 19 year old woman’s right to have a glass of white wine as they are on her right to have an abortion, they can start preswsing me on the problems of homeowner’s associations. (which I don’t care for much anyway)Report

    • Avatar M.A. says:

      So your position is that instead of dealing with issues that are debatable and winnable, liberals should hang themselves out to dry against the hard-right conservative MADD crowd who’d like nothing better than to reestablish the 18th amendment and ban alcohol entirely?

      Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against lowering the drinking age to match the voting age, but you’re never going to get logic and reason to triumph over a million posters and TV ads featuring a crying mother and a sob story about how alcohol “took her baby away.” It’s just not a winnable fight.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe says:

        Sir, you’re the one that brought up HOA’s and workplace dress codes. I don’t particularly think those are the most pressing issues of the day either, and in any case unlikely to find a favorable resolution among the body politic. But if you won’t tilt at my windmills, why should I tilt at yours?

        (and I’ve said here on this board that I’m in favor of single payer. The best thing that could happen for advocates of single payer would be for PPACA to lose on some level, as the fight to preserve it will continue to create an even more monstrous monstrosity and preclude any sort of real single payer plan)Report

  16. Avatar b-psycho says:

    Since someone brought up HOAs: I never understood the concept, really. Why would anyone want to have some 3rd party of busybodies telling them what they can & cannot do with their damn property? If I’m paying the bills I want total freakin reign.Report

    • Avatar Rod says:

      Possible answers: Some folks are obsessed with their property values and believe that a HOA will help maintain that value. Others are the third-party busybodies themselves that just want to tell everybody else how to run their lives. Still others want some assurance that their neighbors will be the “right” kind of people (whatever that means for them). Finally, in some cities you may not have a lot of choice in a certain price-range or housing style (condos come to mind).

      I personally will never live in one if I can help it. Like you, I just don’t see the attraction. The one’s I’ve seen are the most stultifying examples of uniformity imaginable. You need a compass and a map to find your way home because every street and corner looks the same. Basically it’s living in someone else’s fantasy of a perfect, Disney-esque, neighborhood.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      In theory, it’s something that ensures that everyone’s property values remain high. All of the lawns are neat and trimmed. No one has a 1983 Trans Am up on blocks in their front yard. The neighborhood is uniform, quiet, and (theoretically) will be a good investment for everybody.

      In practice, there’s one old lady who calls the HOA for violations like “garage door was open for more than 5 minutes” or “dumpster stayed next to curb past 6PM on trash pickup day”. (A friend at work told me that he got written up for leaving his garage door open while he mowed his lawn. The official HOA rule was: open garage door. Remove lawn mower. Close garage door. Mow lawn. Open garage door. Return lawn mower. Close garage door.)Report

      • Avatar Rod says:

        I have to wonder if they even accomplish what they purport to aim for. I mean we have people here defending the right of HOAs to exist; hell, I’m as liberal as they come and I don’t have a problem with them existing. I just don’t want to live in one. And neither it seems do most people here.

        So do they just cut off their own noses to spite their face? Do they restrict their potential market so much that they actually end up depressing the property values? Or at best, have no effect?Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          I think that’s where the H-R (Hanley-Roger) critique of them makes the most sense. Rather than prejudge them, let’s just say that they a) are voluntarily entered into agreements which b) will persist over time insofar as they increase individuals subjective utility.Report

          • Avatar Roger says:

            Dude,

            You really do understand what we are saying. This doesn’t mean we are right of course, but at least we made some sense to someone.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              Second this.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                Yeah, I’ll cosign with you folks on this one.
                I may hate the buggers, and feel like they’re prone to problems (internal and external to the community)… But by all means, hope nobody in your community pisses off someone lulzyReport

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          Charitably, I’ll say that people who enter into an HOA do it because they feel like they can have some control over the scariest investment most people ever have to make. A house is a lotta money… an HOA can make a person feel like they are protecting their investment.

          Uncharitably, I’ll call them nazis.Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck says:

            Well, there’s the fact that a negotiation for 385 properties plus the common grounds can get a better insurance rate than 385 individual homeowners plus whoever maintains the pool.

            Also, it’s generally easier to hire groundskeepers and exterior maintenance contractors to work on the whole neighborhood at once, rather than individual houses (and, as a side benefit, if the lawn service people do the mowing and trimming whether the house is occupied or not, you avoid the problem of “weedy yard = empty house = rip out the appliances and the pipes”.)

            There are some logistical benefits to acting as a group rather than a series of individuals.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley says:

          Rod,

          I think the answer to your question must be no, based simply on the fact that developers keep creating subdivisions with HOAs. If they depressed the market, I assume they’d stop creating them.

          I think we all just hang out in the circles that are too “anarchic” (or “too live and let live,” or “too leave me alone” or “just not busybodish enough,” or “really just not budding fascist enough”) to like HOAs. So I think our circles of friends make it easy for us to not see just how many people like the orderliness that comes from living in an HOA.Report

          • Avatar Kimmi says:

            most people just don’t want an old house, and don’t understand what builder grade fucking means.
            most people can’t value anything.
            Mean time to large scale failure of a house built these days is under twenty years. If you’re in florida, try under five years (bad chinese drywall — under humidity it smells like rotten eggs, and corrodes plumbing and electrical hardware)Report

            • Avatar Rod says:

              My house is starting to show its age. But it ought to; it was built in 1926! Bedrooms and bath added in ’42. Family room and garage in ’60. Most of it has plaster-lath walls so sort of a bitch to hang pictures. Totally ruined a good drill bit putting up new curtains in the LR.

              Plumbing sucks and the wiring is scary as hell but that’s ok. I know what you mean by “builder grade”. Basically a mobile home minus the wheels.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                worse than that. at least most mobile homes don’t belch corrosive sulfur into the air.

                Mines a 1930’s home. The old pre-war wiring was a breeze to ground, so I don’t worry one whit. The Jews what built my home were rather paranoid about electricity.Report

  17. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    Just to be clear, when we say there’s “variation among individuals in each group,” when we mean by “in [a] group” is just, ‘among those who willingly self-apply the label which we use as the name of the “group” in question.’ Is this correct? Not saying there’s anything wrong with this, just want to be sure I’m understanding the terms correctly. Each of these groups as defined as, “all those people who willingly self-apply this label”?Report

  18. I still love this post if only for the 1973 Chevrolet Liberaltarian.Report

  19. Avatar Roger says:

    James

    Back on topic. Great post. I think a lot of us are centered toward the various modern branches of classical liberalism. Indeed I see you as more of a classical liberal than a libertarian.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      Indeed, I may be. But in general, saying so publicly causes even more confusion than calling myself a libertarian does. Sigh.

      By the way, nice new gravatar.Report

      • Avatar Roger says:

        Thanks,

        I am not much of an artist, and I usually concentrate on seascapes. However, I’ve always wanted to paint this iconic picture of Dexter Gordon. I’m actually not completely finished with it yet.Report

  20. Avatar Al says:

    I am really glad to see the results here. This is excellent. My supposition was that most Leagers would be liberal. Actually, I seem to have missed where you state how many people scored in the liberal and libertarian zones. Are most Leagers in fact liberals? What impresses me from this data, however, is the extreme dearth of people scoring high on the order axis. I am the only self-described conservative to score in the conservative zone. 😉

    In general though I do have a problem with this kind of analysis. It isn’t based on public opinion. I think everyone interested in this thread should read the Wikipedia page for political spectrum. If we look at Eysenck’s research he talks about a left-right axis and authoritarian-libertarian axis. And his axes are based on factor analysis or taking the most significant possible axes given actual public opinion data. In his analysis it’s possible to have left-libertarians, for example. That is not possible on this chart. Given the information in the Wikipedia article, I invite the author to state which axes he would use if designing the project now. What is your justification for these axes in particular as opposed to Eysenck’s or Ferguson’s?Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew says:

      Second these questions. Left-Right and State Intervention-State Non-Intervention are also the axes that I think would allow for the most sensitive representation of the most people’s actual inclinations, and the differences we see among them due to different preferences along those two independent scales. It seems to me that it’s wrong to reduce conservatism to being about order and liberalism to being about equality – those are just single elements of those inclinations. You could flesh out Left versus Right simply by having the quiz questions address various subject matter areas and values that we might think illustrate/constitute Left versus Right. And you could have people say for each of those questions the extent to which they would support state action to advance those ends. The result would simply be a graphical representation of where people fall on a Left-Versus-Right and an Interventionism-Versus-Non-Interventionism scale. You would be able to capture more parts of what actually animates the broad political identities in our society at this time (people generally think of themselves as on the right or on the left more than even worrying about whether they are conservatives, liberals, progressives, or what have you), and you wouldn’t have to worry about whether desire for equality and/or order really gets at those things. You wouldn’t even need to correlate the questions to values like that – the various questions would in themselves discreetly define what it is to be more Leftish or more Rightish. I think that’s both what we’re actually trying to illustrate here, and it would (or could) also better reflect what actually animates peoples’ views (if you chose the questions in a way designed to do that). It would also allow for what values populate the categories of Left and Right in the exercise to change over time (if you kept the questions current to that which currently animates L-R political views), as they in fat do in the world. (Noninterventionism versus Interventionism could remain a simple inquiry into how much one supports intervention in support of various L & R values, since that is really all there is to that question by definition, unlike the L-R, which is culturally defined.)

      This would also allow for the sparattion of the exercise from the very terms (groups, labels) it seeks to locate along these axes. We wouldn’t have to say that liberalism is about equality and conservatism is about order – rather, we could let “conservatives,” “liberals,” “progressives,” “independents,” “libertarians,” and everyone “else” tell us what it means to be these things, and see how much concurrence or variance there is among them on the question. Because currently, this test actually tells liberals, conservatives, and libertarians what it is to be liberal, conservative, and libertarians, yet also illustrates differences among them on those very questions. In other words, it actually inserts itself into the very question it tries to explore. Left and Right are sufficiently evocative yet nonspecifically defined enough to be able to both allow us to represent the broad thrust of our politics and say something about them that we understand, but also without specific meaning enough that we don’t have to attempt to conceptually define them (like we did with liberalism and equality and conservatism and order here). They can just stand in for the basic yet changing political inclinations that we have in society, and be defined simply by the specific questions we choose to fill them out. Just an X and a Y of political culture whose values we have filled in with particular, contingent, not always conceptually correlating contents in such a way where X has come to mean something to us and Y something else, even though they are not words and convey no meaning in themselves apart from the longer-established association of certain portions of those contents with the terms themselves. After all, there’s nothing about the term “Right” that actually means “conservative” – that’s just an association we’ve developed by relating the two directly or via other concepts, whereas “conservative” is a term that actually claims to be inherently about the actual thing, conservatism.

      Knowwhatimean?Report

      • Avatar Rod says:

        But this sort of quiz isn’t intended to do what you want. The first time I ran into one of these was probably twenty years ago on a libertarian website and I believe it was called a “Nolan” quiz, referring to the dude that started the Libertarian Party back in ’70 or so. Generally, the idea is to have one axis, say the y, represent “Economic Liberty” and the x-axis represent “Civil Liberty.” Then libertarians would score in the upper-right quadrant, Conservatives were supposed to score in the upper-left, Liberals in the lower-right, and Lenin, Pol Pot, Mao, and Genghis Khan in the lower left.

        It’s all just a marketing device designed to make you say, OMG!!! Libertarians are The. Best. Ever!!! because they, you know, like Freedom in EVERY direction! It’s about as rigorous and meaningful as a Cosmo Quiz.

        I’m not sure how to do something like this better; maybe what you suggest would work. Although I’m skeptical because our ideas of left and right as political coalitions are, to some degree at least, the result of a Constitutional structure which strongly encourages a two-party system. There’s really no reason why your attitudes about gay marriage, say, should correlate to support for unions, or distaste for regulations should correlate with being anti-abortion. In fact, sometimes they would seem to directly conflict such as support for a hefty (read expensive) military and low taxes, or support for unions and liberal immigration.

        I read somewhere–don’t ask me where–that the labels liberal, conservative, libertarian, etc. really refer to moods or attitudes more than specific ideologies. In this conception you need to look at deeper personality traits like empathy, orderliness, novelty seeking, fearfulness, etc. This is the kind of thing that some recent work by psychologists have been looking at. Tom Van Dyke had a recent post on a book by Jonathan (?) Haidt in this regard that generated a fair amount of commentary. It’s controversial but I think it holds up fairly well.Report

        • Avatar Rod says:

          I’d like to add something here. I think it’s appropriate–at least as a starting point–to define terms like liberal, conservative, etc. as being distinguished from one another on the basis of what primary values each type of person holds most dear and to what extent. I’ll often encounter libertarians who will accuse liberals of “not caring about liberty.” I find that deeply offensive, and it’s simply not true to boot. I care about liberty a lot, but I also care about other values as well and liberty doesn’t automatically trump all else in my mind. It’s a balancing act, not unlike a problem in linear programming–maximizing a value, call it utility or satisfaction or whatever–that’s some function of other independent variables. As a first cut I would take the values of liberty, equality, and fraternity (yeah, that’s the French national motto) as the independent variables.

          Anyway, the main thing it seems to get clear is what counts as a dimension and what is a measure along those dimensions? The IDEAlogue quiz and similar vehicles seem to use liberty or freedom as a measure along some other dimension when to my mind it is actually a dimension itself.Report

        • Avatar Al says:

          Although I’m skeptical because our ideas of left and right as political coalitions are, to some degree at least, the result of a Constitutional structure which strongly encourages a two-party system.

          I would think that the reverse is true. The parties in our two-party system adopt the views they do because the left-right public opinion axis is stronger than any others and therefore is the one that parties naturally align across.

          There’s really no reason why your attitudes about gay marriage, say, should correlate to support for unions, or distaste for regulations should correlate with being anti-abortion.

          You seem to imply here that social and economic issues are separate “independent variables.” But why? In public opinion these are not the two axes that you find. So what is the motivation?Report

          • Avatar Rod says:

            Winner-take-all elections force parties to form coalitions before elections to achieve a winning majority. Contrast this with Parliamentary systems where you may have any number of parties, large and small, that win some seats to the Assembly and then wheel-and-deal to form a governing coalition. Really, this is well-known and fairly obvious stuff.

            Now, are the social and economic axes totally independent variables? Well, the economic is a subset of the social, so no, not entirely. But really, “social” encompasses everything relevant to the political, so we probably shouldn’t use that overly broad term here. One, and I believe better, way to distinguish the left and right is to separate issues of public and private morality.

            But things don’t always match up real neatly. So you have the “Log Cabin” (gay) Republicans while generally Repubs are hostile to gay marriage. You have Catholics that support Repubs for any number of reasons, both moral and economic, yet differ with the party on support for the death penalty. Similarly, you find similar tensions in the Democratic Party among various interest groups; for instance, between unions and environmentalists over the Keystone Pipeline project.

            And these things can shift over time as well. In the 19th century the Republicans were the “progressive” party, and until sometime in the ’50s or ’60s were the champions of civil rights. George Wallace was a Democrat, remember. Then that flipped around the Vietnam era. The same sort of thing happened with Free Trade. Back in the day, the Republicans, who became associated with moneyed interests and corporations around the turn of the last century, were in favor of protectionist policies, now they’re on the side of globalization. Republicans used to tend toward isolationism, now they tend toward expansionism.

            If left and right, embodied by the Democratic and Republican parties, somehow represent inherent political variables, then how and why could those shifts take place?

            Frankly, I think you have the much harder thesis to defend.Report

            • Avatar Al says:

              Granted that our elections force parties to form coalitions. But the question is, Why are the coalitions the way they are? You could imagine all sorts of possible coalitions. Why not have the Republicans take a primarily anti-war stance and the Democrats take an interventionist stance? Why not have Democrats be for traditional families and Republicans against traditional families? These things don’t happen, I believe, because the distribution of public opinion makes it unnatural. There is an objective left-right axis that dominates all other axes.

              I think this post by Paul Krugman sheds some light on the matter:

              http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/05/obama-the-moderate/

              There used to be a second dimension, clearly corresponding to race; but once the Dixiecrats became Republicans, that dimension collapsed into the first.Report

            • Avatar Al says:

              By the way…

              It’s all just a marketing device designed to make you say, OMG!!! Libertarians are The. Best. Ever!!! because they, you know, like Freedom in EVERY direction! It’s about as rigorous and meaningful as a Cosmo Quiz.

              +1Report

      • Avatar Al says:

        Michael, I am happy that someone else thinks these questions are important! For the most part I agree with what you’ve said.

        I do think, though, that all we could probably expect from anyone in an online poll is a pre-determined set of axes. This is because on the internet you are likely to have a quite different population from in America (or another country) generally. So if you try to determine your own axes from the data, even assuming that you have enough people to infer axes with reasonable confidence, the results may not be very interesting. I am much more interested in seeing how Leagers compare with the various typical American leanings than in defining our own unique ideologies based on Leagers.

        But your comments could apply well to scientific polls that attempt a truly random sample of Americans, Britons, Turks or the like.

        I also want to point out here that Eysenck’s other axis was not universally interpreted as authoritarian-freedom, although that was the way that he interpreted it. And you can see why:

        While Eysenck’s R-factor is easily identified as the classical “left-right” dimension, the T-factor (representing a factor drawn at right angles to the R-factor) is less intuitive; high-scorers favored pacifism, racial equality, religious education, and restrictions on abortion, while low-scorers had attitudes more friendly to militarism, harsh punishment, easier divorce laws, and companionate marriage.

        So one should be careful, although I think an authoritarian-libertarian, order-freedom, or even state intervention-nonintervention axis seems defensible if coupled with left-right as the other axis. Those would at least represent an attempt at mirroring actual attitudes among the population even if they aren’t perfect. What I don’t understand is a seemingly arbitrary set of axes like social issues and economic issues. You really do need a left-right axis for a sensible model.Report