In Which John Cole Is A Very Wise Man


Mark of New Jersey

Mark is a Founding Editor of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, the predecessor of Ordinary Times.

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191 Responses

  1. Avatar greginak says:

    I need to know how high frutose corn syrup feels about gay marriage first.Report

  2. Avatar Kazzy says:

    I was thinking about something similar recently when I heard on the news that the declaration of 26+ states as disaster zones in the wake of this summer’s droughts mean that the farmers can apply for aid to account for their lost earnings.

    Does no one else find this outrageous? Isn’t a drought part of the risk you run when you’re a farmer? Unless I’m misunderstanding the situation (I have no problem if they receive payments from an insurance policy they paid for), it basically seems as if the government has opted to make farming no-risk.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Kazzy says:

      The modern agribusinessman has a multiplicity of financial products available to mitigate the harshness of unpredictable economic blows. And unless I’m mistaken, a governmental declaration of a disaster area is a necessary predicate condition to making some kinds of claims on your typical crop insurance policy.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Burt Likko says:

        If they are taking advantage of privately purchased insurance policies, which required the disaster declaration, I withdraw my objection.Report

        • Avatar Another Halocene Human in reply to Kazzy says:

          Actually, it’s government-subsidized crop insurance, and despite the government’s best efforts, a lot of farmers won’t even buy that.

          Yes, it’s helped the agribusiness, although there were other things, too. It’s not like bust years help the little guy–and before farm subsidies, they were ALL bust years (1920s-1930s).

          I object to the USDA spending $1B and using up precious water resources to grow cotton in the desert in California. What, do we need a strategic cotton reserve in case Egypt declares an embargo?Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Kazzy says:

      It’s no different than FEMA helping out a small business destroyed by a tornado. Catastrophic drought is not the same as, “People just aren’t buying a lot of corn this year.” The government routinely mitigates loss due to force majeure incidents.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        But outside of the impact on farmers, how “catastrophic” as the drought been? It is entirely possible I am underestimating its impact, as I live in an area that has largely been unaffected. But if the catastrophe itself is the impact on farmers and their crops, it seems a bit myopic. I mean, last I checked, we aren’t exactly experiencing another dust bowl, supermarkets still seem full of food, and prices don’t seem to be escalating wildly.Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Kazzy says:

          If you saw my monthly electric bill you might think otherwise. And that’s basically so we all don’t croak. My company’s electric bill is proportionally larger for the same reason.

          As for crops. Production is predicted to be down 25% +. That will mean higher prices for food in the fall. Everyone will feel that pinch.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Kazzy says:

          Kazzy, your food costs are going up this year, especially since you’re a meat eater. What’s going to happen first is that the price of meat is going to drop, because farmers looking ahead at a shortage of corn-based animal feed (in many areas the estimates are 80% loss or more) are going to decide to sell much of their stock off now instead of paying really high prices to feed them. Then when those critters are all sold off and eaten there’ll be a shortage and prices are going to jump. My advice is, if you’ve got a deep freeze, watch the prices and when they drop, spend what it takes to fill the damn thing up. Or wait until the prices go up and use them as the incentive to go vegetarian that you’ve been waiting for.

          The soy crop may do better than corn, but it’s also going to be bad, so there’ll probably be some increase in soy-based products, too.

          In other words, your areas hasn’t been affected yet. You won’t have empty shelves, and food prices aren’t going to impoverish you, but you will see price changes down the road, with the return to normal taking a couple of years.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to James Hanley says:

            First off, you eat corn fed beef? BLEH! Grass fed for me only, baby!

            More seriously… I obviously underestimated the bigger picture effects of the drought. Thanks to both you and MD for the education.

            So, my follow up question… Is the money being sent to farmers going to mitigate this? Or are they going to take that money and still up prices because of the short supply, thus setting off the chain reaction offered here? It seems logical, to me at least, that such payments are coupled with a cap on pricing that sets the farmer to about where he would be if the drought never hit. Otherwise, it seems like double-dipping.Report

            • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to Kazzy says:

              In theory they should be able to use the funds to mitigate profit loss from less crops, therefore they don’t have to raise the price of their corn (as much) to make their margin. This carries on down the line to the consumer.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Kazzy says:

              You can afford grass fed beef? The private school you work for must pay a lot more than the private school I work for!

              The farmers aren’t going to up the prices, the market is. The money going to the farmers will offset their losses: fuel costs and seed for planting crops they can’t sell, losses on livestock they’re about to sell at fire sale prices, things like that. The price increase in meat will come later, and a lot of farmers aren’t going to have enough stock left to benefit from it. The ones who are going to benefit from the higher prices, whether the direct price of corn or the higher prices of meat, are mostly going to be those in the non-drought regions, and they’re not going to be eligible for the gov’t money. (Well, big agribusinesses operating in multiple states will probably get some on both ends, but even for them it just may even things out.)

              Setting a cap on prices would be a bad thing. It always is, because it slows down the process of market adjustment. Prices aren’t just what we pay; they’re signals that tell us–consumers and producers–how to react. If we cap prices, people won’t get the signal that they should eat a bit less and farmers won’t get the signal they should produce a few more, and then you very possibly will see actual shortages (“So sorry, Mr. Kazinewski, no pork chops today.”). If there’s less meat available we need people to eat less, and the only way to make that happen is to directly ration it (“Do you have your pork chop ration stamp, Mr. Kazwell?) or to let the price mechanism ration it.

              That’s the whole “invisible hand” thing that people like to scoff at. “Invisible hand” was a poor analogy, both because it smacks of central control and an invisible and magical mechanism. But all it really means is lots and lots of us each making a personal decision about whether to sell on the one side and whether to buy and if so how much to buy (“The 3/4 pound steak should suffice instead of the full pound steak, we’ll eat more potatoes to fill us up.”) on the other side.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to James Hanley says:

                We don’t eat a ton of beef… and I should say that typically only my steaks are grass-fed. We might have one steak a month. I should also note that I’m not really a snob about this… I’ve had wonderful steaks that are corn-fed and wonderful steaks that are grass fed. The aging and cut and overall quality of the beef is really what matters. It just so happens to be that the best steaks available at the local farmers market are grass-fed so that’s what we go for. We do go out for a burger here and there, so we might feel it there.

                I’m far from an economist, so I’m starting to glaze over a bit at your description here (though I do appreciate you putting it in what seem to be layman’s terms). It just seems to me that there is less corn being produced and possibly more money going into the corn market, between higher prices and government funds.

                And wouldn’t simply letting the drought and the after-effects run their course, however dire they may be, be a better example of the “invisible hand” at work? If we were forced to truly deal with the consequences of the drought (which itself might be the result of AGW), maybe we’d make more sweeping changes that would make us less susceptible to droughts in the future. Do you think that the government’s actions here will result in long-term changes that will better prepare us for the next drought? My very amateur opinion says the opposite will happen.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Kazzy says:

                I wish my farmer’s market had grass fed beef. It hardly even has particularly good vegetables. Sigh.

                As to your question, it’s a good one, and I can’t pretend to be sure about the answer. My first take is like Mike’s, that it’s like FEMA helping a small business during a tornado. This isn’t a normal business expense, or a result of bad planning. This is sheer bad luck, the kind of thing liberals tend to say justifies government intervention, and an area where I find it difficult to disagree with them.

                What I think is likely to happen without intervention is that it’s the small guys who get wiped out, while the big agribusinesses are able to weather it. I’m no misty-eyed romantic about the family farmer, but still, something about that outcome bothers me. Maybe I actually have a latent sense of fairness I haven’t been able to weed out of my libertarian soul. Or maybe I’m not sure it would be a good thing if the big agribusinesses snapped up all the family farms at firesale prices and all we had left was giant agrifirms. (Our crop subsidies are already pushing things that direction.)

                Of course increasingly there are small farmers who work under contract to big agribusinesses, and I’d guess they’re somewhat protected by those contracts. See here, for example.

                But I absolutely don’t know what role insurance plays in all this, as far as being sufficient (or not) to offset the need for actual government bailouts. I wish I did, and I hope someone else can chime in more.

                Ag policy is a bit of a sideline interest for me. I’m far removed from expertise, but I do try to follow a bit of ag policy and ag economics lit. I suppose it comes from growing up in a farm town.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to James Hanley says:

                Our veggies are weak, considering the abundance of quality farms in the general area. Most of the good stuff goes down to the city, where the combination of food snobs and higher incomes allows those farmers to get top dollar. Probably true of most of the meat, too, but there is a couple quality meat guys that blow the local chain grocers (which are our only options within 30 minutes… sigh…) out of the water.

                It’d be great to get someone more informed weighing in here, as there is clearly a lot for at least me to learn.

                For some reason, the tornado and the drought strike me as quite different but, again, I may be severely misunderstanding how droughts work. It seems to me that droughts can, at least somewhat, be mitigated against through irrigation and other such things. When a tornado hits, I don’t know that there is much you can do.

                The consequences vis-a-vis family farmers and agribusiness are certainly worth considering and not just for the little bit of fairness hiding in the depths of your Libertarian Pandora’s Box, banging fiercely at the lid to be let out. We’d have to walk those out and see where they went.

                Of course, we’re dancing around a four-letter word that has been a hot-button topic round these parts recently…Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Kazzy says:

                Irrigation’s expensive, so at the least it’s going to add a shit-ton to the costs. And lots of farmers in our area don’t really have the equipment because they don’t normally need it. Same reason I haven’t spend the money to build a tornado safe room in my basement. And sometimes there’s not enough water to allow farmers to irrigate. We need a certain amount in our streams for the wildlife, and we don’t want to deplete our aquifers any more than the already horrible amount we already have in some places. This takes us into water policy, which is a related issue, but one with all its own intricacies.

                All I can get out of your final comment is “fish.” (It’s got 4 letters, functions as a 4-letter word, and relates to water.)_Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

                It is a word swirling around both Obama and Romney that rhymes with duck…

                And we’ve officially gone beyond anything I can even pretend to know about. Water policy is a thing?!?!Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Kazzy says:

                Water policy is a thing?!?!

                And how! A huuuugggeee thing. You have vast water-sucking cities in the middle of deserts, and outside their borders you have vast water-sucking farms, rice paddies even, in the fricking desert! You have 7 states fighting over rights to the Colorado River, whose collective demands sum to more than 100% of the water (which explains why it so rarely reaches its outlet in Mexico these days). You have agriculture in California using 90% of the state’s water while paying only 10% of the cost of supplying it, where the farmers have iron-clad rights to certain quantities, but no ability to sell any surplus, so they have no incentive to conserve. You have water quality and invasive species issues in the Mississippi River Basin and the Great Lakes. You have fights over the building and removal of dams. You have aquifers that are being sucked dry so that they collapse in on themselves and can never be replenished. You have streamside tree removal for to move floods quickly off the land, but that causes streams to heat up, leading to degraded fish habitat. You have battles over lakeside landscaping, pitting people who want green lawns outside their lakeside McMansions against those who want to keep phosphorous out of the lakes. Man, it goes on and on and on. I’d rate it one of the very most significant domestic policy areas for the U.S.

                This is actually an area where I could really talk your ear off, as it’s both a personal and professional interest, but I’ll try to resist the temptation.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

                Hey, we’re off the grid man. Well and septic. Though the county may be trying to force us onto a new central sewer no one wants at our own expense,

                I may become a libertarian yet.

                We can talk water policy over beers. Any other way is probably considered torture. Or at least enhanced interrogation.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Kazzy says:

                Totally off the grid? Like, no electricity? Or just off city water and sewer? Do you have the big LP tank in your yard? I’m beginning to think you live in just the right place.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

                We’re on the power and gas grid. Just off the water grid. And they’re trying to take that from me! Which may still be better for us long term, but I’m generally opposed to being told I have to do something I don’t want to do AND I have to pay for it. Which is why I opposed the insurance mandate in theory.Report

              • Avatar Fnord in reply to Kazzy says:

                We’ll see how off the grid you are when the aquifer your well feeds from is depleted, salinized, or contaminated.

                Not to imply that you’re in the wrong, or being more irresponsible that your local government. But being “off the grid” doesn’t mean water policy doesn’t affect you.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Kazzy says:

                Drought free Minnesota, however, is going to be sitting pretty. Mwahahaha! Also our farmers markets in Minneapolis are the bomb-diggity: awesome veggies, nice meat and tons of cheese which our Wisconsin thralls send as tribute.

                And yes, I think it’s an open question which US policy is more devastating to South America; the War on Drugs or US Agriculture Policy.Report

              • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to James Hanley says:

                > This isn’t a normal business expense, or a result
                > of bad planning. This is sheer bad luck, the kind
                > of thing liberals tend to say justifies government
                > intervention, and an area where I find it difficult
                > to disagree with them.

                Knowing their choice of political representatives and the way they tend to vote, I find it hard to feel bad for farmers in some states.

                Not all. But some.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Pat Cahalan says:

                Yeah, they’re not all sympathetic characters, to be sure. The ones in my area have a nasty habit of plowing right up to the very edge of drainage ditches, which exacerbates both soil erosion and fertilizer runoff, both bad for water quality.Report

        • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Kazzy says:

          prices will be escalating wildly. that’s feed corn. ENTIRE midwest crop gone (baked in the cake now). Expect meat prices to spike HIGH and HARD.Report

  3. Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

    It looks to me like he’s opportunistically taking up a policy preference I’ve had for years.

    Which — apparently — makes him wise and me a worthless Koch brothers shill.

    Sorry for the bitterness, but there you have it. What passes for wisdom is just noticing the bloody obvious. After the crisis has already struck.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      Gotta go with Jason here. I’ve been bitching about sugar tariffs for well over a decade now, ever since I read this; it’s nice to see a Juicer get on board at last.Report

    • I view it as a better late than never sort of thing.Report

    • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

      Again, I realize Balloon Juice are the Internet’s worst monsters because they occasionaly make fun of Nick Gillespsie’s leather jacket, but cutting support for sugar and corn subsidies has been supported by most liberals that don’t live in farm states for a while now.

      It’s one of those thing liberals are like, “hey, we’re with you on this”, but the libertarian says something like, “well, you’re just supporting it now because it’s politically expedient so I’m still better than you even though we hold the same position on this issue.”Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

        Funny, an internet search on the topic brings up considerably more libertarian sources criticizing sugar tariffs than liberal sources. Maybe the liberals are just talking more quietly.

        And, frankly, I’m wondering which state is a non-farm state. I’ve been in 47 of the buggers, and every last one of them has had lots of farms. In fact I’d guess that damn near all of them have more farm acreage than urban acreage. Can’t find any relevant info on the ‘net, though.Report

        • Avatar Kimmi in reply to James Hanley says:

          Yeah. my liberal friend who talks about the Evil of big sugar sits “quietly” around calculated risk, where all the other shmart guys hang out and try and get real shit done.Report

        • Avatar Rod in reply to James Hanley says:

          The problem is the way these subsidies are set up. As I’m sure you know, the ginormous farm bill is about a third ag subsidies and the rest is food stamps and school lunch programs. Liberal politicians (generally representing urban areas) know they can’t object to the ag subsidies without losing the support of the farm state Senators, and the conservatives know they can’t ditch the food stamps without losing too many urban Senators and Representatives in the House (depending on how the House is made up, of course).

          Combine that with the whole support-the-family-farm mythology and liberals have little reason to attack the farm subsidies and lots of reasons not to bother.Report

      • Yup, as usual, liberals are entirely blameless, pure as the driven snow, and totally interested in working with libertarians when they actually agree with libertarians. Which is why juicers spammed a poll to prevent a libertarian organization with a history of being at the forefront on civil liberties issues from taking over an important civil liberties tool.

        The sad fact is that demonizing libertarians as Koch whores (thpugh hopefully not in this case) takes precedence in various quarters on the left over working with libertarians on issues where there is actual agreement.Report

        • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Mark Thompson says:

          At a certain point, anything that lends advantage to your enemy becomes counterproductive. I’m not certain I’d, personally, put the Kochs on that level…

          HOWEVER, there are people like that in this world. Cost benefit analysis is a good thing, at least before the war. When war comes, choosing sides will be quick, clean and easy. And most people here will wind up on the wrong side whether they like it or not.Report

          • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Kimmi says:

            The Kochs had nothing to do with the decision. I noticed that the call had gone out at the National Police Misconduct Reporting Project (I think Radley Balko blogged it), and I suggested to some of my colleagues that we might want to put a proposal together. They took the ball and ran with it.

            I have no idea whether the Kochs knew about it at the time, or whether they know about it now. But none of it was done at their prompting.Report

            • I think she’s saying something to the effect of “Some people are so bad that if you let them help an old woman across the street, you’re doing everyone a disservice (including possibly the old woman) because it gives them an air or respectability” and suggesting that BJ’s actions might be justified on this basis.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Will Truman says:

                If that’s the case, the Democrats need to give us back our free trade. It’s making them look too respectable.


              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Will Truman says:

                No, not quite that bad. Anything that helps the *insert bad person here* get wealthier/morepowerful/have morefriends, is, by definition, a BAD thing. I wouldn’t put helping an old woman across the street in that category.

                Voting for Walker? Yup, in the category of “bad idea”.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Mark Thompson says:

          Yup, as usual, liberals are entirely blameless, pure as the driven snow, and totally interested in working with libertarians when they actually agree with libertarians.

          Doesn’t this cut both ways, tho? All I’m seeing in this subthread is a bunch of libertarians using Cole’s comments to criticize liberals. Apart from your OP and sequentially first comment, that is. Since then even you’ve been riding the “we were right, liberals were wrong, Cole’s an ass and liberals suck”.

          It just seems like the exact type of ideological team signalling libertarians criticize in others but somehow refuse to believe apply to themselves.Report

          • No doubt it cuts both ways, Still. I should mention I’m not trying to say “liberals suck” with my comment, though; I’m just responding to Jesse’s attempt to portray liberals and Balloon Juice as saints and to pretend as if the problem is just that libertarians dislike liberals. There’s a lot of history here, and it goes far beyond just some occasional namecalling.Report

            • Avatar Don Zeko in reply to Mark Thompson says:

              Maybe this is my liberal team blinders at work, but I didn’t read Jesse as portraying anyone as saints. He’s just pointing out that opposition to ag tariffs (and the current shape of ag subsidies in general) is not a libertarians-only thing.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Don Zeko says:

                Support for free trade in general is not something liberals are known to be wildly enthusiastic about. And when I teach my political economy class, both the liberals and the conservatives (i.e., nearly every student I ever get) usually think tariffs and subsidies to protect American agriculture are necessary. Sometimes I point out how this increases the price of food for poor people, which in turn necessitates more welfare provision. It’s not uncommon for liberal students to see all that Rube Goldberg policy as perfectly sensible. Most of my co-workers, being academics, tend liberals, and most of them are dubious about my criticism of tariffs on ag products. So I’m not yet ready to apologize for saying liberals aren’t particularly famous for their opposition to ag tariffs.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to James Hanley says:

                No, you shouldn’t have to apologize for that. I’d like to work up a better response to this, but can’t, so in short: liberal policies are mostly reactive, so they wouldn’t be opposed to something that say, increased food prices for the poor full stop. (I don’t know why anyone would think that lowering food prices for the poor full stop should be considered decisive, btw.) Tariffs and whatnots are justified insofar as they increase total utility, or increase the utility of marginalized groups that are experiencing (legitimate!) harms. Liberals may be wrong about any particular tariff or trade restriction or regulation, of course. But it’s the sum total of those policies, and the corrective measures each achieves, that needs to be taken into consideration.

                This opens up the door to your standard criticism. Liberals (at least, it seems to me) are primarily focused on problems with where we’re at right now. So the libertarian’s criticism that liberal policies layer up to compound problems, and may create additional problems which may also require corrective measures (from the liberal pov!), is entirely justified.

                I think the liberal response is predictable, tho. This is where we’re at, so we do what we can.

                (Maybe I can write more about this, if anyone thought it was interesting.)Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

                Whoops. That should read “I don’t know why anyone would think that increasingfood prices for the poor full stop…”Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Stillwater says:

                Heh, thanks for the correction. I really was trying to puzzle that part out.

                Absolutely write more about it. I’ll say that I’m not puzzled by the liberal response (perhaps that should be “liberal,” since I don’t really mean to imply all liberals), because I think it’s quite natural. It fights right in with the old “muddling through,” “tinkering,” “incrementalism” theories of public policy. But I do think it means that sometimes we get lost in the weeds, where we can only see the specific problem and look for a post-hoc corrective to it, rather than stepping back and saying “wait, how did we get here in the first place?”

                It’s kind of like wearing blinder, and it’s not a problem confined to liberals, of course. Conservative policy responses to events in the Middle East are perfect examples of that type of blinders.

                I’m not willing to claim libertarians are immune to it, since they’re also human. But off the top of my head I can’t think of any examples. Maybe there are fewer examples for them because they tend to be opposed enough to the current structure that they’re mostly not looking for incremental changes. Maybe socialists would fall into the same camp? Don’t really now, and at this point I’m just rambling.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Stillwater says:

                And on a side note, it bothers me that Cole hasn’t made an argument that sugar tariffs are just plain bad policy. He’s arguing we should eliminate them because we have a corn shortage. That makes me wonder if he would support reinstating them next time we have a bumper crop? Perhaps not. I hope not.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

                And on a side note, it bothers me that Cole hasn’t made an argument that sugar tariffs are just plain bad policy.

                Why does that bother you? He’s a liberal, not a libertarian.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Stillwater says:

                Hold on now, Jesse was trying to persuade me liberals are simply opposed to the tariffs, and now you’re saying they’re not normally opposed to them. I’m very confused. 😉

                Seriously, though, it does relate to what Jesse was saying. He said liberals have opposed the policy for some time now. Since there haven’t been corn shortages for some time, it seems Jesse’s saying liberals are opposed to the sugar tariffs in general. I am skeptical about that, but I’d like it to be true. But I can’t tell from Cole’s comment that in fact it’s true about him, as Jesse, I think, would have us believe.

                And it gets back to that issue of ties between liberals and libertarians. Liberals complain about libertarians ties with conservatives, say that we should link up with them, then say they don’t want to link up with us…I don’t really know what to think about all that, but if real linkages are going to occur, a real opposition to tariffs would be an area where libertarians would happily join up, but if it’s only a temporary opposition for the purpose of manipulating this year’s supply, well, then the date’s off again, right?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

                I agree with Jesse about the sugar tariffs: I’ve not heard a single liberal defend them. Cole, in fact, has opposed those tariffs since I began reading his blog, about three years ago, I guess.

                In general, tho, I think Jesse is right that liberal views are moving away from sing tariffs as a useful mechanism to achieve liberal’s economic goals. I wouldn’t say that they have a principled opposition to tariffs, but rather a pragmatic one.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Stillwater says:

                This is one of the things that irritates me about all ideological groups that have neither power or hope of power — the insistence that political compromises like continuing Ag subsidies is a sign of evil, and if they were in charge, they’d never do such things. Their strength is that of 435 + 100, because their heart is pure.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Stillwater says:


                If taking from consumers and throwing sands in the machinery of prosperity is what it takes to get elected, doesn’t that say something about the moral fiber of those willing to play that game, or to vote for them?

                To some of us, the only way to win the game is to convince others that they should quit playing.

                To quote Joshua from Wargames: “A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess? “Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

                If taking from consumers and throwing sands in the machinery of prosperity is what it takes to get elected, doesn’t that say something about the moral fiber of those willing to play that game, or to vote for them?


              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Stillwater says:

                To some of us, the only way to win the game is to convince others that they should quit playing.

                Good luck with that.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Stillwater says:

                SW and Mike,

                Let me answer your digs in two ways

                First from the aspect of history. That’s what the Greeks and Southerners said about slavery. That is what the elites said about poverty and political representation. That is what they said about torture, cannibalism, witch trials, racism and a few dozen other institutional dysfunctionalities.

                The paradigms of the past repeatedly (though not inevitably) get replaced by something better. Progress is possible even if it isnt assured.

                Second, as the leader of innovation at a major corporation, I heard this every time a new and better idea came along. The normal pushback was always that this isn’t the way things work, and that it would never work, even if it was desirable. After we implemented the change (not always successfully of course), where we were successful, everyone developed institutional amnesia. They assumed it was obvious and couldn’t imagine doing it the old way. It is creepy seeing how frozen most people are in the current paradigm.

                Some of us are noticing better ways and trying to wake others up. Feel free to mock… I am used to it.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Stillwater says:

                I can think of other groups that were going to build systems that were going to remake human nature. Not a great track record.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Stillwater says:

                Notice how we separate the successes from the failures. The failures were consistently trying to reshape human nature via coercion and control. The successes came out of the enlightenment philosophers and what is known as classical liberalism.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Stillwater says:

                I look forward to your post. This touches on one of my problems with liberalism more broadly that I have a really hard time articulating. It’s related to a general pattern of, except when they think that someone is profiting unduly, they can seem rather indifferent to the increased cost side of the (wages+subsidies)/cost equation.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Will Truman says:

                I think of it more from an institutional pov, tho your criticism is certainly valid. The problem seems to me that institutional structures are continually revised, layered up, introduced, etc, all in an effort to rectify current problems without undermining already existing policies and programs. That leads to the bureaucratic nightmare which liberals are rightly (in my view) criticized for.

                The solution to the problem is to let go of institutional structures that are no longer essential. Or at least liberate them from government control in the ways libertarians suggest. {{I’m referring only to the ostensibly legitimate uses of state power here, not the crazy shit that seems to exist independently of any party’s advocacy. I’ll leave out the specifics.}}

                So the criticism is valid. And the solution is to move in a more libertarian direction wrt state power where we can. Determining that requires critical analysis and loosening the emotional grip liberals have on programs that have achieved successes. It may turn out on further reflection that we can’t, but I’d be surprised if that were the case. I mean, times change, and structures that liberals have traditionally thought were the purview of the state may be sustained at this point by culture, or more effective legislation, or better programs.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Will Truman says:

                Interesting ideas SW,

                How do you suggest we go about avoiding or reversing this layering of accumulated institutional structures?Report

            • Stillwater, on further reflection, I regret the direction this thread has turned, and even more regret my participation in that turn.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

            Dig this: Imagine a libertarian seeing all of the kerfuffle over Catholics and Birth Control Insurance Coverage and saying “Here’s a bright idea: why not single payer?”

            Now I know that you wouldn’t feel your eye twitch when you read that comment, but could you imagine a liberal-leaning person of good will *SOMEWHERE* having his or her eye start twitching when they read that?Report

          • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Stillwater says:

            I’ll happily say that some liberals suck. So do some libertarians. My complaint was not about liberals in general.Report

      • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

        Oh totally, I was just mad about Nick Gillespie’s jacket. Sure.

        Come back when you want to have a serious discussion, maybe?Report

      • The responses to this comment are pure gold. Every single one of them proves the argument you were making. That was some epic trolling.Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

          Okay, fine. I’ll put some names and faces on Mark’s comment of 11:20PM. Not sure why he didn’t do it in the first place, but maybe it’ll help you see things from my perspective.

          Several weeks ago, and at my suggestion, the Cato Institute offered to take over the National Police Misconduct Reporting Project, an independent fact-finding and documentary effort whose owner couldn’t keep it going anymore due to personal issues.

          The project had had its own online community of followers, and the owner solicited proposals from qualified outside individuals and groups to run it. We did, and we were leading in the online poll until the folks from Balloon Juice noticed it.

          They claimed that Cato likes it when the police bash ordinary citizens, that we were bidding on the project only to bury it, and that the Kochs had ordered us to do so. All of which is nonsense. Even a glance at the years of work Cato has done on police misconduct would disprove these claims.

          The community that had grown up around the NPMSRP didn’t believe it either, but the Balloon Juicers were just too many, and they threw the poll to (as I recall) some guy from al Jazeera with no background in American criminal justice issues at all.

          If that’s funny to you, Ryan, then I have nothing but contempt for you. Post a trollface in reply to this comment if it gives you lulz. I don’t care. Knock yourself out. I am mad, and I don’t think it’s the least bit funny.

          At least the story has a happy ending, as far as I’m concerned — Cato did end up running the project, with strong support from the community that had grown up around it. The Balloon Juicers stopped giving a shit about it roughly ten minutes afterward.Report

          • Okay, that’s fair, and I understand the anger. Balloon Juice has been consistently wrong about what libertarians believe about any number of things for like… well, ever. I’m sorry if you thought that’s what my point was. In truth, I don’t read Balloon Juice and I had no idea this was happening. I suspect Radley probably mentioned it and I completely skipped it. I tend to ignore his fights with Balloon Juice because I don’t think they make anyone look particularly noble.

            In any case, all I was trying to do was poke fun at the incessant need for Libertarians on the Internet ™ to insist on their moral and intellectual superiority at all times, even when someone else is trying to agree with them. In this case, the fact that John Cole is sometimes a bastard really doesn’t detract from the fact that a lot of liberals have opposed all kinds of ag subsidies for a long time now. But I do appreciate James’ need to rush to Google to confirm that libertarians are still better human beings than liberals.Report

            • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Ryan Noonan says:

              I just wanted to make it clear exactly what the history was here. There have been other dust-ups, but mostly I think you’ve been here to see them. The right is certainly guilty of hippie-punching, but the left has done plenty of Cato-punching.

              It’s damn hard to make nice with these people, but I do have to admit it — John Cole has backed a policy that will be good for our country and for the rest of the world. And that’s true even though he very often lies about what Cato stands for, just for the lulz.Report

              • Avatar Annelid Gustator in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                Cole seems for some reason to think that libertarians in general, and Cato in particular, are quite happy to be suborned by his bêtes noires–which explains his invective.

                I’d take a slightly less inflammatory tack than him: I think that you’re probably right about the shape of where you want to go, but that every line drawn from here to there will be hijacked by folks who will not feel the pain of the journey.

                So when I perceive that libertarians in general, and Cato in particular, are so very willing to be used by those hijackers… I find that icky.

                I could well be wrong.Report

              • Avatar Liberty60 in reply to Annelid Gustator says:

                This is close to my take.
                Libertarians favor many things, but the three main strains I hear are:
                1. Lower taxes and regulation;
                2. Less police power of the state
                3. Less rentseeking and subsidies

                Of these three goals, which ones have been successfully implemented over the past 30 years, and which ones have been unsuccessful?

                Liberals like me find it ironic that for all the political power and influence held the bankrollers of the CATO project, only one of these goals has ever been met.

                No, not really ironic.
                Just sad and predictable.
                Radley Balko does fine work exposing police misconduct and overbearing police power. Libertarians generaly do terrific work crafting intellectual arguments against subsidies and rentseeking.

                None of which has ever moved the ball even an inch towards their stated goals, because in the end, the papers and studies and articles produced by CATO or Reason are utilized in service of one goal, and one only.Report

              • Sure, though the flipside to this is asking why it is that liberals by and large don’t take advantage of the papers and studies and articles produced by Cato or Reason on those other two goals and leverage them with liberals’ greater access to power.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Mark Thompson says:

                Liberals need to get better about this stuff. Definitely. But I also want to mention that in the BJ thread Jason referred to earlier about the police misconduct project, about 1/3 of the commenters expressed admiration for either Radley Balko or Cato on police issues, or both. (Even the liberal Balloon Juicers!) So it’s not like liberals aren’t paying attention. It’s that they don’t prioritize it highly enough.

                But … there is also a general distaste for Cato because of it’s affiliation with the KochBros. I think liberals look at the Koch’s as a real threat. And I think the evidence bears this out to some degree, what with financing the TP and Walker and Kasitch and others who’ve tried to implement some of the Kochs preferred policies. Liberals don’t like ’em.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Mark Thompson says:

                So, yes, in the end it really does come down to Team Red vs Team Blue.Report

              • Avatar Liberty60 in reply to Mark Thompson says:

                I was a council coordinator with MoveOn for a while, and am now organizing a progressive church group.
                So when I have the opportunity to guide our selection of issues to agitate on, I generally pass by the offerings from the Libertarian portion of the buffet table.
                Not like we disagree about police misconduct, or subsidies, but we have so many bigger and more pressing threats.

                The Ryan budget; Opposing Citizens United; The Bush Tax Cuts;
                these are examples of the priorities that people get angry enough to go out into the streets.

                Licensing requirements for barbers?
                Not so much.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mark Thompson says:

                What, exactly, have the Koch’s done that is supposed to be so scary? As someone who leans left, I know I’m *supposed* to fear them… But I don’t. Am I a bad liberal?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Mark Thompson says:

                Only on a really childish understanding of things.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Mark Thompson says:

                Kazzy, you are bad and ought to feel bad.Report

              • @Liberty 60:

                “The Ryan budget; Opposing Citizens United; The Bush Tax Cuts;
                these are examples of the priorities that people get angry enough to go out into the streets.

                Licensing requirements for barbers?
                Not so much.”

                Sure, although I might question the rationale for going out into the streets over Citizens United, which has at best an indirect effect on peoples’ lives; I suspect that licensing requirements and eminent domain abuse have a significantly greater tangible impact on people.

                Regardless, though, there are quite a few issues that do get liberals on the streets, on which they agree with libertarians, and which are high priorities for many/most libertarians. Questions of war and peace, for instance. Various police abuses are another example. Immigration policy is another (though there is an internal libertarian split on that, admittedly; still, the Cato/Reason position is on the same side as the liberal position). And so on.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Mark Thompson says:

                Well, conceiving of the tea party might be one thing.
                Running the edge of a civil war just to steal a few nuclear power plants from the public till might be a second.

                –assertions below that I’m not going to support, though the internet certainly contains collaborating evidence (NOT easily found, I might add.)–

                They’re the sort of folks who will delight in ruining you if you cross them, without much of a second thought.

                Also the sort of folks who are prepared to coerce compliance in All Sorts of ways, be they legal or not.

                (I believe I mentioned I know someone who used to work for ’em?)Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Liberty60 says:

                Libertarians favor many things, but the three main strains I hear are:
                1. Lower taxes and regulation;
                2. Less police power of the state
                3. Less rentseeking and subsidies

                Of these three goals, which ones have been successfully implemented over the past 30 years, and which ones have been unsuccessful?

                Well. (1) is always favored by Republicans. (2) and (3) are sometimes favored by Democrats.

                If you want an explanation, look no further.Report

              • Avatar Liberty60 in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                Yes, or to frame it another way:
                (1) is favored by those who are rich and powerful, while (2) and (3) are not.

                Which is the essence of the argument against inequality; Charles Koch can implement his policy desires, while Radley Balko cannot.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:


                First a compliment. This was your most accurate description of libertarianism of the past year.

                Second a clarification. The 1% tend to vote democrat. Most of the wealthiest counties were overwhelmingly in favor of Obama.

                Third, a rebuttal. Lower or less than what? Than yesterday, or than the self amplifying spiral would otherwise lead to?Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                “wealthiest counties vote democrat” is not at all the same as “wealthiest people vote democrat.” And in fact, when you break down the numbers in terms of individuals, that voting Republican is strongly correlated with income


              • Don,

                It depends somewhat on how you define rich and what election cycle you’re looking at, but by my estimate Tom is more right than wrong here. The map you show caps out at $150k and looks at states. According to exit polls, Obama won among those making more than $200k a year. On the other hand, Bush won the same group in 2004, I think.

                In some pre-election polls in both 2004 and 2008, millionaires voted for the Republican, but supermillionaires (those making in the eight-digits and above) planned to go pretty heavily for Kerry and Obama (and I’ve seen nothing to suggest they didn’t).Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                Thanks Will, that is the data I was looking for. I knew I had read that Obama had won among the 1%.

                So the question is why do people like Liberty continue to claim that the Republicans are the party of the rich and powerful? It appears the rich lean left, the powerful (government regulators and media) are overwhelmingly left.

                Liberty, would you care to retract your claim? Or is this an inconvenient truth for your ambitions?Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:


                That’s all true, but I’d throw in some caveats. For one, I never said that rich people vote Republican, I said that voting Republican is correlated with income, which is quite true. Here’s a link that doesn’t muck things up with state-level comparisons.

                So in 2008, it’s true that the top 6% of incomes went narrowly for Obama, while people making between $100,000 and $200,000 went for McCain. Lower incomes, on the other hand, went very strongly for Obama, who won $200,000+ by a couple points but won under $15,000 by nearly 50 points. This is all a little skewed, however, since we’re looking at an outlier election in terms of Democratic success. The ‘natural’ state of the electorate is going to be more Republican-friendly. One way or the other, my understanding of this comes from Andrew Gelman’s book, which concludes that downscale voters vote like good Marxists, but richer voters vote along culture war divisions.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

                Maybe because it is INCONVENIENT for both sides, to say that The Rich vote Democrat??

                To the right: Because then how do they argue that the rich shouldn’t pay more taxes, when the rich WANT to pay more taxes?

                To the left: Because the Scaifes and Kochs feed into a (deserved!) persecution complex, and are actively trying to revert this country back to a more romantic, less modernistic era?

                Entrepreneurs vote Democratic — more money in middle class pockets means more money in THEIR pockets.Report

              • Don, I was mostly just backing up what Roger was saying*, which you seemed to be refuting (maybe I overestimated your disagreement). Election results do correspond with income, but not in the way usually implied: the wealthiest of the wealthy don’t.

                As far as Gelman is concerned, part of that depends on how you define downscale both in terms of dollar amounts and whether we, for instance, exclude students. It holds true even if we do. Gelmen’s most jaw-dropping map includes only those making less than $20k a year, or $10/hr. No surprise how they would vote. (I was about to say “I was an exception, back in the day” but it just so happens that I lived in one of the four “exception” states!)

                * – Though for some reason I thought Tom had, mea culpa Roger.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Liberty60 says:

                “Libertarians favor many things, but the three main strains I hear are:
                1. Lower taxes and regulation;
                2. Less police power of the state
                3. Less rentseeking and subsidies”

                Well, 1 and 3 are the result of 2, so those are really all the same thing.Report

  4. Avatar Jaybird says:

    End the Cuba embargo. Get the sugar. Get the power. Get the women.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jaybird says:

      Good god, man, you forgot the cigars!Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Jaybird says:

      Err aren’t liberals in favor of ending the Cuba embargo? I thought the embargo was a right wing (and South Florida)pet project?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to North says:

        What happened between 2009-2011?Report

        • Avatar North in reply to Jaybird says:

          A good point. I’d say inertia held the day. Obama et all had other priorities and, in case you missed it, were hyper cowardly and defensive on the subject of defense. You recall their craven retreat on Gitmo yes? While I think liberals are in favor of ending the embargo I don’t think it’s a change they feel much incentive to spend a lot of time/capital on.Report

        • Avatar Don Zeko in reply to Jaybird says:

          While we oppose the embargo, Liberals don’t prioritize ending it very highly, and we aren’t the only moving part in the Dem coalition.Report

        • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

          Someone still needed to win Florida. That’s what happened.

          When there’s a question about why a politician or political party has done something, or why a politician or political party hasn’t done something, the answer is almost always, “Because of constituency X” or “Because of the money,” or “Because of constituency X and because of the money.”Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

            So when they do it, we can point and snarl “They only care about constituency… AND CONSTITUENCY’S MONEY” and, when we do it, we have to shrug and say “you have to understand… the political realities of the situation involve making concessions to constituency and, yes, to money and sometimes that’s the cost of being able to do all of the good we’re able to accomplish. Or, at least, claim to be on the side of were it not for political realities.”Report

            • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

              And libertarians can continue to deny political realities because (to use Mark T’s phrase) “they’re pure as the driven snow”.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                Thank goodness we have Liberals and Conservatives to take those sins upon themselves, like Christ did.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko in reply to Jaybird says:

                Yes, because feeling good about your movement impeccable moral credentials is clearly more important than, you know, implementing good policy.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Don Zeko says:

                And the good policy is *AWESOME*.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko in reply to Jaybird says:

                Exactly. You don’t like the policy that comes out of Washington, and are a member of a marginalized political minority. You also like that your faction doesn’t engage in the messy horse trades and sell-outs that the major parties, who actually win elections, do. There’s a causal connection between the first fact and the last.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Jaybird says:


                I thought the problem with Washington in the last decade is that the two political parties have given up horse trading and tradeoffs and entrenched themselves in partisan ideology that prevents anything from actually getting done.

                So why are they successful… now?Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko in reply to Jaybird says:

                The horse trading still goes on within each party, as well as on less prominent issues with weaker ideological lines.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Jaybird says:

                So have fun with your unconstitutional wars then, Mr. Zeko. You got a fair trade.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jaybird says:

                No, no, no, the liberal story line is supposed to be that the libertarians are getting all their policies enacted through the Kochs and their alliance with right wing Republicans.

                So which is it, already? You guys are confusing me about whether my own side is having success or not.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko in reply to Jaybird says:

                Both? It seems to me that there are a lot of different policy areas out there and a lot of possible criteria for evaluating each of them. So what’s so odd about thinking that A) I’m getting good stuff from Obama B)I’m also getting bad stuff from Obama C)but then I’m also avoiding getting even worse stuff from [insert republican] while also D) missing out on a small number of good things that I would get from [insert Republican] that I don’t get from Obama, and on balance Obama beats the alternatives?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jaybird says:


                I think that’s actually the answer. But so much of what we get from hostile liberals is either what you said above, that we just “feel good about our movement’s impeccable moral credential” and don’t actually have to fuss ourselves with implement good policy, or else it is, “ZOMYGOD, the Kochtians have unlimited influence over public policy!!!”Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Jaybird says:

                Libertarians are SO proud of their moral purity that they will sacrifice everything, including policy success, for the sake of standing smugly aloof.

                Also, libertarians are SO unprincipled that they’ll say or do anything at all for a fat pile of Koch brothers money.

                One would think that these complaints would be mutually exclusive, but apparently they aren’t.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jaybird says:

                The duality of libertarianism.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko in reply to Jaybird says:


                I’d say that both of those positions are overstated (I’ll freely admit that I was being a bit hyperbolic), but once you pare them back rhetorically a bit I think they still hold up. The reason is that the Kochs (and the various other monied interests that I hope most liberals are using them as a proxy for) really like parts of the Libertarian program also wield tremendous influence through the GOP. So it can simultaneously be the case that Libertarians are hopelessly marginalized, as they basically are nowadays on the drug war, executive power, etc., and very politically successful, as they are on tax cuts, preventing new environmental regulation, and so forth.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jaybird says:

                So it can simultaneously be the case that Libertarians are hopelessly marginalized, as they basically are nowadays on the drug war, executive power, etc.

                Which we are only because liberals give nothing more than lip service to those concerns. Again, liberals think libertarians ought to spend less time hugging the GOP and more time snuggled up to the Dems, but on the issues where that can actually happen, it’s always, “oh, we have more important things to do.”

                As Liberty60 says below, ” Not like we disagree about police misconduct, or subsidies, but we have so many bigger and more pressing threats.” OK, to me that reads as, “the destruction of African-American society through the war on drugs, not a pressing issue.” “The dangerous growth of executive power, not a pressing issue.”

                That really makes me question their priorities, but fair enough; they rank order problems differently than we do. But for god’s sake, then. they need to stop blaming us for the failure to consummate the relationship, and stop bitching that we work as much as we do with a party that will help us pursue some our interests.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Jaybird says:

                Raise you a Webb.
                They ain’t all asleep at the switch.
                The ones that are awake get run off pretty quick by da prison lobby though.

                Elect MORE smart people, who have goals, and aren’t going to stick around if people don’t like ’em.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko in reply to Jaybird says:


                First, it appears that I am talking to you, and not to Jaybird. So sorry for the confusion, and I promise not to post pre-coffee in the future.

                On to substance. I’m not sure what exactly Liberals should be doing that they aren’t doing to make the Democratic party a better home for Libertarians. It’s not that we don’t spend time thinking, complaining, and protesting about that basket of issues. But when it comes time to vote, where else are we supposed to go? Republicans are almost uniformly worse on those marginal issues, so we don’t die on that hill and vote where we can get some of what we want.

                Libertarians, I would submit, do the exact same thing in their tacit alliance with the Republican Party. You aren’t influential enough to even kill ag subsidies, much less limit executive power or the drug war, so you go along to get along and take your tax cuts and deregulation. If our preference order is a sign of moral cowardice, we aren’t alone.

                The trouble here is that Liberals like myself, North or Greginak don’t even hold the balance of power within our own party, and it turns out that swing voters like the Drug War and don’t care about the imperial presidency. But if we’re both making compromises with our preference order that emphasize what can actually be achieved, can we drop the holier-than-thou posturing?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                Libertarianism cannot fail, it can only be failed.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                The problem with that criticism is that we’re in a thread devoted to ending corn subsidies.

                I look forward to you using that line in a thread about the TSA molesting children or knocking old people out of wheelchairs or something.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                Or we can talk about libertarians advocating coverture laws and teaming up with racists for political expendiency.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

                Perhaps a secret police could address that issue.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                Ahh. The liberals = Stalinists response. Wasn’t it only yesterday that you denied you did this reflexively?

                Of course.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

                Wait, I thought we were taking turns associating the other with morally abhorrent positions that we should know better than to associate the other with.

                Were you *SERIOUSLY* associating libertarians with coverture laws and racism?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                So you accept that there is a seedy side to libertarianism, that Paul and Caplan aren’t exactly pure as the driven snow? Good. Then neither side can claim the moral high ground.

                What, then, are we arguing about?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

                How much pottage should be considered a decent amount given that no one will ever see their birthright anyway.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Jaybird says:

                What, then, are we arguing about?

                Well, I was only commenting on whether John Cole deserved the description “very wise man.” With a bit of spillover to the rest of Balloon Juice, but not to Team Blue as a whole.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Jaybird says:

                Nice try, JasonK. What’s the deal with ethanol? If we cut the corn-ethanol requirements/subsidies, we’re way overplanted in corn. Or so I gather.


                As usual, an epistemological mess. Anything from Cato?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jaybird says:


                Are you arguing that Caplan advocates coverture? Because if so, you might want to re-read his piece a little more carefully. I think it’s a very weak piece myself (and the last line is puzzling, but then I’ve never watched Sex and the City), but an honest reading cannot lead you to the conclusion that he favors coverture, only that he thinks it wasn’t necessarily as horrible as people think and wasn’t as all-encompassing as people think.

                If that’s the best you’ve got for libertarianism’s dirty laundry, then we’re more squeaky clean than I would have guessed.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                James, you just can’t let it go, can you. The moral high ground is always the most strategically important terrain, no doubt.

                From Caplan:

                Women of the Gilded Age were very poor compared to women today. But from a libertarian standpoint, they were freer than they are on Sex and the City.

                Spin away.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jaybird says:

                Jesus, Stillwater, I seriously don’t know what he meant by that line, as I already indicated. So that’s the one you throw at me? Do you know anything about Sex and the City? Because I seriously fishing don’t.

                But here’s the line you chose not to throw at me.
                The most libertarian option, of course, is separation of state and marriage,

                Yeah, I’ll agree Caplan is soft on coverture, in a way I don’t like. But if folks are trying to say he’s arguing for coverture, that he’s a supporter of it, no fair reading of his article will get you there. “It may not have been as bad as people think” is not equal to “I think it’s a good thing.”

                And your “moral high ground” line is as puzzling to me as Caplan’s Sex and the City line. If it’s a reference to my “dirty laundry/squeak clean” line, that was totally tongue-in-cheek precisely because I know it’s not true.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                And to flesh that out some, here’s some choice quotes from libertarian commenters:

                As horrific as spousal rape might be, isn’t that just another issue like coverture that could have conceivably been contracted around?

                Why people believe that freedom from rape is extremely important? There is no objective reason, only the fact that majority of women feel that it is extremely important for them. So, we listen them. If they feel it is important, then it is important.

                On the other hand, both Jason K and Simon K take Caplan to task, as well as some of the other paleos spouting off on that thread.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                I seriously don’t know what he meant by that line,

                It seems pretty unambiguous to me. Why are you trying so hard to find ambiguity where there is none?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jaybird says:

                Yeah, those people are neanderthals. Assholes. Subhuman scum.

                Are we actually going to lower ourselves to the level of defining each others’ ideologies by reference to the worst people on the internet?

                Because I really didn’t think you were that person.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jaybird says:


                I seriously don’t know what he possibly could have meant. On the surface it sounds like he’s saying women are less free today. If that’s what he meant, then it’s certainly hands down the most stupid thing he’s ever said. But the specificity of the reference makes me wonder if he’s referring specifically to some element of the message of Sex and the City. And I don’t know what that message is, because I’ve never seen the show (nor do I intend to ).

                But the key issue is that despite the stupidity of his argument, Caplan didn’t argue for a return to coverture.

                Or maybe he did. Who the fuck cares. One libertarian writes something that other libertarians excoriate as stupid, and suddenly the lesson is “libertarians support X.”

                Again, I didn’t think you were that person. Rip Caplan for a horrible argument, by all means. But jesus, the rest of it seems really pathetic. For a guy who’s been thinking really seriously about the boundaries/overlap between liberalism and libertarianism lately, this just seems like you got burned out on being thoughtful and decided to go for a relaxing swim in the cesspool.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                I’d rather you just admit the obvious, James – that Caplan’s post is an argument that from a libertarian standpoint women were freer in a Gilded Age of coverture laws than they are in 2010. Laws that permitted marital rape.

                So, why did I cite those offensive comments? You wrote: If that’s the best you’ve got for libertarianism’s dirty laundry, then we’re more squeaky clean than I would have guessed. It sure seems like you were staking out the moral high ground to me.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jaybird says:

                No, Stillwater, I won’t admit that. Caplan thinks the argument is from a libertarian standpoint. But as numerous commenters pointed out in various ways it’s not really very libertarian at all. There were a hell of a lot more rebuttals than agreements in that comment thread.

                It’s a bad stupid muddled fucked-up argument that seems to have been roundly rejected by other libertarians, and yet it’s the one you’re going to hold up as being libertarian.

                It’s really sad that it’s not good enough for us libertarians to reject Caplan’s argument; you’re insisting that we accept it as representative of libertarianism. It seems to me that if you are looking to understand libertarianism, you’d be happy to see libertarians rejecting the argument. But if you’re just looking to make libertarianism look bad, then it makes perfect sense to demand that we own the argument instead of rejecting it.

                Or are you insisting that we own it at the same time you want us to reject it?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                So, do you feel like you have the moral high ground again?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jaybird says:

                You wrote: “If that’s the best you’ve got for libertarianism’s dirty laundry, then we’re more squeaky clean than I would have guessed.” It sure seems like you were staking out the moral high ground to me.

                Dude, totally tongue-in-cheek. I’m saying there has to be some real dirty laundry, not this rag we’ve rejected. The “more…clean than I would have guessed” is the key…it means I’m guess we’re actually not. Ah, once you have to explain a joke, it’s too late.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                But all thru this thread, and especially the second to last comment, you’re strenuously rejecting that your team has any dirty laundry.

                How do square up them apples?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jaybird says:

                But all thru this thread, and especially the second to last comment, you’re strenuously rejecting that your team has any dirty laundry.

                Really? Exactly where am I “strenuously rejecting” that? For God’s sake, I’m agreeing that Caplan’s argument is shit, so that is some dirty laundry. I’m just pointing out that we’re treating it as dirty laundry and rejecting the argument. We can’t run away from the fact that Caplan said it; but likewise you have to face up to the fact that we have rejected the argument. And as bad as the argument it, it’s not as bad as people are making it out to be (“Oohh, Caplan thinks coverture is an ideal system!”) So it’s dirty laundry, but it’s rather small laundry.

                Now, where have I said libertarianism doesn’t have anydirty laundry? I haven’t said any such thing. Just because I haven’t dragged out the dirty laundry we have doesn’t mean I’m denying there is any.

                Seriously, this accusation both puzzles me and kind of ticks me off. I can’t figure out where, if you honestly believe it, it could have come from. And you’re not someone I’m willing to accuse of dishonesty. But, seriously, about the only thing I’ve been arguing here is that libertarians are a lot more consistent on tariffs than liberals, and you spin that into a denial that we have any dirty laundry?

                And you seriously don’t know me better than that by now?

                For god’s sake, man, why do you think I criticized you for the Caplan reference and not for the Ron Paul newsletter reference? I’ll admit that one straight up. You know I’m not the type of fanatical ideologue you’re now making me out out to be.Report

            • Avatar North in reply to Jaybird says:

              Or, more pertinantly, while liberals (and the party they nominally are a part of) would like to see the embargo go they’re not so invested in it going that they want to bear the price of removing it alone (the eternal enemity of Florida Cubans, the way the GOP would spin this back into them being soft on defense etc…)Report

            • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

              Who is they and who is we?

              To me, the only purpose of the Democrats, if there is one (and I vacillate), is to keep the Republicans from fucking shit up more than the Democrats will. The Democrats suck ass, but at least they’re generally not trying to get around the Supreme Court so they can execute people with the IQs of 6 year olds, or trying to force reproductive rights 40 years into the past (and therefore trying to force women’s freedom 40 years into the past), or trying to take gay rights back to 1969, right? In other words, if you were to ask me what I liked about the Democrats, and I were forced at gunpoint to answer, my answer would be composed entirely of shit they didn’t want to do that Republicans do. If I were to vote (I won’t), I’d vote based entirely on whether the person I’m voting for belongs to the party that will fuck up the shit I care about less than the other party.

              You may have other issues where you say, “The Republicans suck ass, but at least they’re not…,” and if you do, that’s fine, because you know, we all have our issues and our priorities.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Chris says:

                Well, societies, and cultures, and groups, and individuals are all pretty fucked up from one pov view or another. Why do you think politics ought to be any better?Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

      And the baseball players.Report

  5. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    Corn subsidies have been a real thorn in my state’s economy IMO. I believe them to be a temporary blip on the longer timeline of U.S. agriculture. Unfortunately they have completely skewed our agribusiness towards corn production. A decade ago hardly anyone in Kentucky grew corn for profit. You grew it for silage. Tobacco was king and when that disappeared farmers started diversifying (i.e. net good for longterm survival). When corn subsidies became so lucrative they stopped trying new things and started growing corn. In the odd years they grow soybeans but even that is becoming a 2:1 split as people risk damaging their soil for short-term gain. When this goes away we are going to have lost a decade of innovation.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      Nah, the innovation goes on apace (you should see what Penn State is working on right now — it’s pretty cool)… but the diversification? the loss of soil? those are long term problemsReport

  6. Avatar James K says:

    Well economists have being saying this since before either of our countries existed, so I’m definitely not going to argue.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to James K says:

      The interesting thing about free trade is that economists of all political persuasions overwhelmingly love it. But free trade policies aren’t as popular among non-economists. This leaves political movements in a strategically difficult spot — side with the economists against the voters, or vice versa.

      Since World War II, the politicians of most countries have charted an interesting though hypocritical middle ground — they talk populist while cutting tariffs. It would be interesting to poll Americans on this question: “What average percent tariff do you think is paid on imported goods around the world?”

      I’d bet on a number in the high 90s, when really it’s more like 4%. (And thank economists for that, at least.)Report

  7. Avatar MFarmer says:

    Hey, I have an idea. Let’s create a free market for everything, even agriculture! This could be liberal/libertarian/conservative/baptist/gay/socialist/atheist/zoroastrian/mormon/communist idea for which we all take credit.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to MFarmer says:

      Sell it to the farmers, Farmer. (Sorry I couldn’t resist).Report

      • Avatar MFarmer in reply to North says:

        Most small farmers would buy it, because then they could be small farmers. I like George Pyle’s “Raising Less Corn, More Hell” on the subject, although we’re politically much different on many matters.Report

        • Avatar North in reply to MFarmer says:

          Somehow I suspect that the farmers wouldn’t share your long view of things. Certainly they raise Cain at the idea of any rollback of ag. subsidies. Take for instance the entire phenomena of the Iowa primary caucus.Report

          • Avatar Trumwill in reply to North says:

            It depends very much on which farmers. Farm subsidies are a lot less popular out here than I actually figured they would be. There is the sense among some that it’s actually distorting things in favor of larger farm units and against family farms and, along with increasing federal regulation, making it harder for family farms to compete (though distribution complaints aren’t limited to that). It’s entirely they haven’t thought things through, of course, but it has still not been what I had kinda expected it to be.Report

            • Avatar Don Zeko in reply to Trumwill says:

              I’ve read arguments that they make it very hard to start up new farms, since they inflate the price of farmland, but I have no sense of whether the average farmer or farm belt resident buys that criticism or not.Report

            • Avatar North in reply to Trumwill says:

              Are there really more family farmers now than there are employees, associates and clients of larger agribusinesses? The former I could see being persuadable on the subject but all the later I’d expect to be pretty much firmly opposed.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to North says:

                Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. Consider the impact of truly gargantuan operations like Monsanto, Cargill and ConAgra. I’m not going to say these big outfits are evil but a good many family farms are part of vertical market operations. I know, some people love to call these big operations the Tools of Satan, and I suppose they are, to some extent, but the vertical market is no myth.

                Here in Augusta, Wisconsin, home of Bush’s Baked Beans, there’s no point in growing beans for anyone but Bush’s. Raise a broiler chicken around here, you’re working for Gold’n Plump.

                The “family farmer” is a myth. A farm is a business. Even the Amish around here are deeply interconnected into the larger word at a cash crop level. There’s something of a scandal around the Amish these days, they run puppy mills. Dogs, as a cash crop.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to North says:

                North, that’s a good point and I’m really not sure. The folks out here in family farm and ranch country may be real outliers. They get a lot of community love, but I’d imagine the same is true of those around BigAg places. The latter are also much more politically organized. On the ranching side, it’s almost all grass-fed beef out here (the fact that corn is a marginalized crop out here, and one of the most subsidized ones, likely feeds into the imbalance) and there’s not much ability to really be able to promote the fact that they raise and sell a relatively hot-ticket item. I don’t think a more organized outfit would have this problem. I suspect this sort of organization, or lack thereof, feeds (no pun intended) into disparities real and perceived.

                One of the big things that’s happened over the last year is a tightening of labor laws, forcing family farms to hire family members (excluding children) under the same labor laws as anyone else. Really, really unpopular in an age of less children and more reliance on extended family. But it hasn’t gotten much attention, I suspect at least in part because the big producers are a-okay with it. The nephew of Corporate Farm’s CEO isn’t working the farms, obviously.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi in reply to MFarmer says:

      … read the book on why this is a bad idea.
      Here’s a hint: it’s about Starbucks.Report

  8. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    We can sum this thread up as “Liberals are so evil that even when they’re right about something, it only makes them eviller.”Report

  9. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    It’s not quite so simple. Corn isn’t fungible. Corn destined for conversion to methanol is tuned to high starch production. Feed corn, tortilla corn and sweet corn are completely different. Corn’s been engineered.Report

  10. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    I love how these comments have turned into “We thought of it first!” “Yeah, but we thought of it for the right reasons!” And so on.Report