The Tragedy of the Commons

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377 Responses

  1. Avatar James K says:

    I agree that the approach you outline is too simplistic. For one thing I don’t understand what makes civil action more libertarian than criminal, we don’t insist people sue thieves and murderers, no libertarian I’ve encountered has suggested making theft and murder illegal was compromising libertarian principles. So why is pollution different? The time to start the argument is when we ask how pollution should be regulated, not if it should be regulated.

    This is why I am attracted to the Friedman / Hayek end of the libertarian spectrum. When Friedman talked about dissolving the FDA, he didn’t suggest replacing it with caveat emptor, but rather a system of compulsory insurance that would turn insurance companies into competing regulators, as they tried to manage their liability. I think there are ways of making liability based systems work, but it’s more complicated than the government just saying “sue them, if you want”.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to James K says:

      Let’s start with AIG.

      Have you read 13 Bankers? (If not, you should.) AIG insured the vast majority of CDOs. At the time of the economic collapse, they also insured most of the banks. And they were on the hook — big time — for losses from Katrina and the tsunami in the Indian Ocean. That one company had its hooks through so much of the world’s economy that it’s failure (too big to fail) would literally collapse the world economy.

      When Friedman talked about dissolving the FDA, he didn’t suggest replacing it with caveat emptor, but rather a system of compulsory insurance that would turn insurance companies into competing regulators, as they tried to manage their liability.

      All you’ve done is mandated customer’s purchase product from the AIG’s of the world. And at no time can you predict when a perfect-storm of disasters will strike any individual company, as the hurricane/tsunami/Lehman bankruptcy hit AIG. So who insures when the insurer goes under? Who’s the insurer of last resort, without having it be a public function via government?

      To do regulatory functions through insurance, you’d have to insure the insurers that insure the insurers. Turtles all the way down.

      This is not to justify, approve of, or promote the TBTF, but I wonder if it might increase, not decrease in an insured regulatory environment; because risk pooling is the norm, and the bigger the pool, the smaller the premium.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to zic says:

        Yes. one of the true problems with insurance as a marketplace, is that new players, having less money, are inherently less fit, even if they’re running better business models.Report

      • Avatar James K in reply to zic says:

        That’s certainly a fair point, and that’s a real problem in a country as small as New Zealand. My point wasn’t so much to say that Friedman’s position was correct, so much as to point out that there are ways of reducing regulation that are smarter than others.Report

  2. Avatar greginak says:

    Good piece. To add on, one of the key failures of the sue instead of regulate model is that it puts the remedy for the harm after the harm has happened. Regulation aims to prevent the harm in the first place. Especially when dealing with enviro harm the effects are very long lasting ( overfishing being a key example or ozone destruction) so once the harm has happened there is no quick solution. Also it can takes many years to determine if harm has been done or the extent of the harm ( such as in potentially cancer causing chemicals or other health problems) I’d be remiss to not mention that Exxon is still fighting some damages from the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989. It is very easy for the monied parties to drag court cases out for many many years. I know the response would be that we should fix up the courts so that can’t happen, but then someone like me is going to note that they are talking about creating a Utopia and we know how many of the libertarians around here feel about that.Report

  3. Avatar zic says:

    Nice, M.A.

    I think we forget how a well-regulated market also brings certainty to that market. New technologies — the internet, fracking, wind farms, tidal generation all spring to mind, don’t have a defined regulatory structure. Getting investment early on can actually be quite difficult because of that.

    I can hear the howls: it’s because of the uncertainty of regulation.

    But I posit the counter: it’s because of the uncertainty of lack of regulation. A good regulatory environment protects the investor’s investment. If you company adheres to the regulation, if all others do the same, it evens the playing field, and helps defer the risk of unexpected shock, damage (Gulf oil spill).

    Just five years ago, investments in banks were considered safe and stodgy; the place where grandmas and grandpas put their money (the stocks, not the accounts) to hedge for their years of un-earned income. We de-regulated those banks, they took outsized risks (despite being insured) and lookee here, everyone’s 401K lost half it’s value. Grannie’s found they might need Medicaid-paid nursing home care after all.

    They’d lost their regulatory certainty and been thrown into an uncertain world.Report

    • Avatar James K in reply to zic says:

      This is why, if at all possible, regulations should be written in a very structured (i.e. with minimal discretion by officials) way, and to cover a general cases as possible. This lowers regulatory uncertainty. Naturally it’s way more complicated than that in practice.Report

  4. There are really two separate but related issues here. The first is mainly environmental concerns that could lead to irreparable damage and the tragedy of the commons. The concern that a company on the verge of bankruptcy could grievously pollute without consequences is valid. But isn’t this already the case even with government oversight? I don’t see how an unregulated market makes this any worse. The Dust Bowl likely wouldn’t have been prevented by government oversight. In fact, it was exacerbated by the Homestead Act–unwise government promotion of too much farming too quickly. And I’ve often heard it said that government is our biggest polluter.

    One way to improve this dilemma is to eliminate the concept of a corporation with limited liability. If all company stakeholders have their own skin in the game, they’ll think thrice before endangering their own net worth in such a way.

    The other issue is that of the not-so-well-informed consumer. And you are correct, especially with our modern lifestyles, that people won’t take the time to educate themselves about many of their purchases. A free market solution is to have product/service rating agencies do the work for consumers. We have some today, like Underwriter’s Laboratories, Consumer Reports, Angie’s List, etc. Liberals will argue that, to be fair, these services must be provided to everyone. In some cases (like UL), companies will foot the bill to have their products certified. In other cases, the government could provide a voucher for consumers, giving them access to online ratings services. This at least retains the free market aspect, insuring rating agencies each compete to provide the most accurate, useful information, and is much preferable to a single, bureaucratic, politicized Federal agency, like the FDA or FTC.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Brian Houser says:

      Private corps are just as prone to regulatory capture if not moreso than public systems. Because who pays the private corp, after all, if not who they’re rating well?Report

    • Avatar M.A. in reply to Brian Houser says:

      We already have ratings agencies, to some extent.

      How many consumers do you know will refuse to buy a “surge strip” or extension cord for lack of the UL stamp? Not many, I’ll wager.

      The ratings agencies are still above the threshold of the Human Unobtainium problem. Much of the population won’t bother looking for the little stamps, and much of the population is going to be so uneducated that they don’t know what the hell those little stamps even mean. For a slightly obscure but semi-relevant example, unless you’re a highly observant Jew or Muslim, are you going to hunt for these or these sorts of identifying features everywhere?Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to M.A. says:

        NSF certified coffee-cleaning products!
        (because the chemistry profs do it with beakers).Report

      • Avatar Brian Houser in reply to M.A. says:

        But this is exactly the sort of problem we have with liberal society today: we’ve delegated everything to government so that we now have a culture that lacks personal responsibility for anything. What’s so bad about going back to a paradigm where consumers actually need to be responsible for what they purchase? With today’s technology, this is really quite feasible. And there are obviously plenty of consumers who DO care. For example, all the cries for nutritional labeling.

        We’ve got some serious problems as a society if consumers aren’t smart enough to look for little symbols on the things they buy. I contend it’s a matter of laziness, not stupidity. Your UL example supports my argument, not yours. Today, consumers are free to not bother looking for the UL seal and end up buying an unapproved piece of equipment. Even the companies who don’t seek UL approval have a strong incentive to produce safe items.Report

        • Avatar Kim in reply to Brian Houser says:

          Have you ever bought Whole Foods Organic Coffee? For quite a few years, it was provided by burning down portions of the Peruvian rainforest. It takes more than a quick google to figure that one out.
          Organic certified? SURE.
          Naturally, none of the Ethiopian crop was certified at the time… because it was all organic!Report

        • Avatar Kim in reply to Brian Houser says:

          LAZY. if the free market can’t make people LESS LAZY, than what the fuck will? Seriously, you could have made MILLIONS by reading a few publically available financial reports on child’s toys, and knowing freshmen chemistry. Nothing’s that color yellow except lead.
          If you didn’t do that, and I know you didn’t… why in fuck are you expecting people to look at symbols — for signaling purposes?

          Energystar works, because it directly affects people’s pocketbooks (and is quite loud). Why is that? Why does that one work, and NSF certification not?Report

        • Avatar M.A. in reply to Brian Houser says:

          What’s so bad about going back to a paradigm where consumers actually need to be responsible for what they purchase?

          As I pointed out, have you ever tried to do any of the research yourself?

          I certainly have. It’s a pain and a half. It took 10 hours of work to figure out the difference between the varieties of green beans on my local shelf (did this on a bet with my Libertarian friend who challenged me on it). Traced 3 of the brands back to the same factory, traced 2 other brands to another “competing” factory, and there are no records that I as a normal consumer can get going further back to determine what farming operations the beans in each can may have actually come from.

          And that’s just for a can of green beans.

          This is not a “liberal society means we delegated everything to the government”, and your saying so is you spewing a load of hogwash. This is deliberately obtuse constructions by the business community that make it impossible for an “informed consumer” to exist.Report

          • Avatar Kim in reply to M.A. says:

            Unless you can taste ratshit. There’s a few factories where rats run rampant everywhere… Constantly get ecoli recalls. Company goes bankrupt, new company.Report

          • Avatar M.A. in reply to M.A. says:

            Another good example is the issue of recalls. How the heck is a consumer, and ordinary consumer, to be able to tell what products are part of a peanut recall (or other similar food ingredient recall) by themselves?

            Here’s a full list from the latest recall issue: http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/CORENetwork/ucm320413.htm#recalled

            What these sorts of recalls show us is how difficult it is to really figure out where a lot of these products come from even IF you are trying to do the legwork yourself.Report

            • Avatar Brian Houser in reply to M.A. says:

              Again, why do you think that in a free market, companies wouldn’t have something in place to get recall information to their consumers? Their entire business is at stake in these sorts of situations!

              And I’m picturing a wonderful free market solution where I get an email (or text) from my grocery store informing me the peanut butter I bought last week is recalled.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Brian Houser says:

                Their entire business is at stake in these sorts of situations!

                You’re assuming rational actors.

                Crisis literature seems to not provide a lot of supporting evidence to presuppose that rational actors exist in the general public.

                I’m not saying that this completely shoots down the approach, mind you… nor am I saying that “the government” will always be a rational actor, because it certainly is not.

                However, when you have multiple sources of audit and they all have differing agendas, you’re less likely to have a failure of audit than when you have one source that is tightly coupled. Generally speaking, most organizations are bad at auditing themselves.Report

              • Maybe I’m misreading a bunch of stuff here, but I feel like everyone keeps supporting my arguments using logic and examples they think contradict them.

                The ratings and free market watchdog companies would provide those multiple sources of audit you speak of. Companies won’t be acting in a vacuum when the government is removed from the picture. There would presumably be MORE auditing in a free market.Report

              • Avatar LWA (Liberal With Attitude) in reply to Brian Houser says:

                But what if there turns out to be a market for shoddy products and poisonous food?

                Serious question.Report

              • There already is a market for shoddy products. We call it Wal-Mart.Report

              • M.A.’s cute response is true. There are plenty of shoddy products and “poisonous” food (consider the Super Size Me diet) being wildly consumed today. The government isn’t stopping it (ignore New York City’s attempts).

                Why shouldn’t consumers have the option to buy whatever they want?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to LWA (Liberal With Attitude) says:

                what if there turns out to be a market for shoddy products

                No more used cars for the working poor, eh? Make those cheap ass bastards buy new!Report

              • Why shouldn’t consumers have the option to buy whatever they want?

                That right ends where the producer is engaging in things that harm us as a whole.

                Shoddy products – as in, so shoddy as to be almost guaranteed to cause injury or otherwise qualifying with statements on packaging as false advertising, are illegal for a reason.

                “Poisonous” foods are an interesting case. Poisonous in the case of being unhealthy if eaten in excess, every meal? There are a lot of foods like that. On the other hand there is a reason we have government oversight of production, random inspection, and recall requirements as well as checks on “food additives” to ensure that there are things that are actual toxins (heavy metals, sickening bacteria, etc) contaminating the food supply.

                And as science goes on, there’s every possibility that some things might go from the GRAS category to a stricter category.Report

              • Should read “that there are NOT things like… contaminating the food supply.” My typing mistake.Report

              • “That right ends where the producer is engaging in things that harm us as a whole.”

                Do you have an example?

                Poisonous foods are not one (what business is it to you if I want to poison myself?) unless, perhaps, there is some sort of contagious aspect, where the poison can spread to others who didn’t choose to eat it. And even in that hypothetical, a case could be made that this could still be handled by liability, perhaps shared by the producer and the consumer.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to LWA (Liberal With Attitude) says:

                Or we could tell companies, as a government, don’t do this or we’ll hold you responsible via our coercive power of fines and stop the company from putting out the poisonous product in the first place.Report

              • Brian,
                ecoli epidemics harm you when you get charged more for the emergency room, because the hospital has to pay for their treatment, despite them being too poor/stupid to buy better peanutbutter.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Brian Houser says:

                Companies won’t be acting in a vacuum when the government is removed from the picture.

                Sure.

                There would presumably be MORE auditing in a free market.

                Why does this follow? I mean, I’ve been audited for security and IT compliance when working for a private institution audited by a private conglomerate, a private institution audited by the SEC, and a something-resembling public institution audited both internally and by the NSF.

                Really, the differences between those audits are pretty negligible.

                Now, in certain specific cases, removal of the government as a player might change the game because the risk of certain activities is no longer (as) easily quantifiable. But this would have different impacts in different sectors.

                Sometimes the insurance industry is going to walk away. “We won’t cover your oil derrick in the Gulf, because there’s no way we can hold enough capital to *ever* cover a potential loss if there isn’t a formal framework for covering that loss that has a cap – the feds are gone, we’re not covering an unlimited loss. Risk is too great. Have fun!”

                Sometimes the insurance company may increase oversight, sure. Sometimes they might lessen it. But I don’t think you can make a credible case that any one of those outcomes is more likely, across all domains.Report

              • “There would presumably be MORE auditing in a free market.”

                What I meant is that instead of having a single government overseer, there would now be multiple competing organizations doing the auditing/rating/certifying. Today we expect the CPSC to keep an eye out for dangerous products. In a true free market, there would likely be multiple companies doing the same.

                As for the feds getting out of the insurance picture, I think that’s probably a good thing. If something involves so much risk that no one is willing to insure it and those involved can’t assume the risk, why are we doing it?Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                What I meant is that instead of having a single government overseer, there would now be multiple competing organizations doing the auditing/rating/certifying.

                This could drastically reduce efficiency on the part of those preparing for an audit. Kind of like having to produce one set of books for the tax man and another for the SEC, on a possibly terrifying scale.

                Again, that’s a trade-off; you’d presumably get better coverage with multiple sets of regulations to meet/surpass.

                Note, though, that audit works because of the reputation of the auditor. If there are too many auditors, this becomes its own information management problem.Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                Are the financial rating agencies who did such a splendorific job in the 2000’s an example of how well private agencies can oversee other private businesses?Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                Brian,
                WHO pays for oversight? Where does the money run?
                i contend, with evidence, that unless you theconsumer is paying for it (aka the consumerist), you’re getting ripped off. BBB is a prime example.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Brian Houser says:

                Costco already does that. Yay big brother!

                The ratshitseller is already out of business, Brian. And everyone else doesn’t want to actually admit they bought from a purveyor of ratshit. So they run the numbers, and see if they’re going to get their pants sued off if they hide this (in all likelihood: yes)Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser in reply to Kim says:

                How is this any different from how things operate today?Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Brian Houser says:

                Today you also have an FDA, who does testing, and a CDC, which traces the epidemics. You think private firms could trace the epidemics? TRUST ME, it’s a short hop and a skip from there to BAD BAD things.
                (private firms knowing how sick you are would be… very profitable, no?)Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser in reply to Kim says:

                Sure, private firms could trace the epidemics. But I’m not sure they’d have any motivation to do so. You can keep the CDC; that can be (somewhat) justified on the basis of public safety since the the free market is unlikely to provide an analogue. But the FDA, no, that’s a stretch. There’s plenty of motivation for the free market to fill that gap if the government gets out of the way.

                In fact, I’d suggest (and I’m not by any means the first to do so) that the FDA is actually an immoral organization because it can prevent me from obtaining a drug that could save my life. If a company is working on a promising experimental drug, why shouldn’t it be my option to try it if I want rather than having to die while it goes through the extensive FDA approval process?Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Kim says:

                Because study is important. Otherwise we might be giving a lot of people unnecessary brain surgery at great cost thinking (because someone covered up the research debunking it or merely didn’t do the research) that it prevented strokes.

                “Promising” medical research can be as much a result of confirmation bias or even malfeasance as anything else. Is it a problem already? Yes.

                It’d get worse, not better, if you eliminate certification requirements. Letting industries self-regulate is a recipe for trouble.

                We saw how well it worked letting the banking industry “self-regulate”, too.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Kim says:

                Crud, apparently I tripped a linking limit, could someone rescue my previous from moderation?Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Kim says:

                Thalidomide doesn’t ring any bells?
                Getting into a research study if you’re dying is relatively easy, so long as you have a decent research hospital nearby.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Brian Houser says:

                why do you think that in a free market, companies wouldn’t have something in place to get recall information to their consumers?

                History shows that, absent a government requirement and oversight, the companies would much prefer to shove it all under the rug rather than issue a recall of any sort.Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser in reply to M.A. says:

                Actually, history shows that, DESPITE a government requirement and oversight, the companies would much prefer to shove it all under the rug rather than issue a recall of any sort.

                Government oversight mainly serves to give consumers a false sense of security.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Brian Houser says:

                Show me an instance of a company coming clean without either being required by government, or else having it brought out by “muckraking journalists” (as they were referred to).

                They don’t. So we have to have safeguards. And they tend best via government.Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser in reply to M.A. says:

                There are many such examples. Here’s one from today: Toyota USA announced a recall of 670,000 Priuses to inspect and correct a steering problem. No injuries have been reported and to my knowledge, no government organizations were involved in the decision. http://pressroom.toyota.com/safety-recall/toyota+safety+recall+2004+2009+prius+nov14.htm?siteid=DMG_rss_201211_RLA_explan_toynew_Toyota+Announces+Voluntary+Safety+Recalls+of+Certain+2004+to+2009+Model+Year+Prius+Vehicles

                The big problem with your argument is that cases of companies trying to hide problems are occurring plenty EVEN THOUGH we have government supervision. Supervision and certification by the free market would at least provide more eyes looking for such companies.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to M.A. says:

                And absent the government requirements and legal structure, the car companies wouldn’t do it.

                Recalls, under law, allow them to escape or severely limit liability for damages should a customer fail to come back for repair.

                And the government oversees the recall process.

                Your example fails.Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser in reply to M.A. says:

                M.A., I enjoyed your original article, but your responses in the comments are not holding up. Why are you so distrustful of the free market? Do you not trust yourself to be a smart consumer?

                What evidence do you have that car companies wouldn’t perform recalls without government requirements? A primary requirement for any ongoing business is that they need potential customers to trust them, and a record of dangerous or poor quality products will hurt their business. Secondary to that is that if their products hurt people, they’re going to get sued. These things are true whether or not there is government regulation and oversight.

                In addition to offering little additional safety benefit and adding to the cost of products, government regulation provides an avenue for big companies to smother out smaller ones by raising the barriers to entry. Crony capitalism at its finest.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to M.A. says:

                Parents in China are looking for USDA labels on their baby food!* Seems to me the anarchy of China’s consumer market argues for M.A.’s general thesis here.

                We all know what a mess they’ve made of their environment. If that’s to be rolled back, it’ll be by gov’t fiat, not free-market benevolence.

                * Acc to this blog, anyway–

                http://chinhdangvu.blogspot.com/2012/05/poisonous-food-reason-chinese-are.html

                “Speak to anyone who had a child while they were in China, and one of the first issues that comes up is food safety. Beyond air pollution, there is no topic that (in general) I have more discussions about… and more often than not I am being asked what I eat and where do I get it from.

                It has become such a concern that many (I speak with) are considering leaving China, and the recent Xinhua article detailing the fact that cabbage in China is laced with formaldehyde is certainly not going to help matters one bit.”

                TVD: Now later in the article, gov’t price-setting is blamed for interfering with the market and fostering corner-cutting. Still, China is indeed a Wild Libertarian West in the consumer area, and there will always be corner-cutters regardless of reasons.

                The irony of more wealthy Chinese seeking out USDA labels as an imprimatur of safety surely tells us something.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to M.A. says:

                And absent the government requirements and legal structure, the car companies wouldn’t do it.

                And yet we libertarians are the ones who are criticized for being too theoretical.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to M.A. says:

                Why are you so distrustful of the free market? Do you not trust yourself to be a smart consumer?

                I don’t trust it, no. I HAVE TRIED IT. I spent quite a bit of time doing the legwork on the various things I purchase.

                Before that, I considered myself a “smart consumer.” Now, I consider anyone who thinks themselves that who doesn’t have a day-job with Consumer Reports to be wildly self-deluded, yourself included.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to M.A. says:

                MA,
                I know someone who used to edit for “the consumerist” (read the website, it’s a great place to learn something).
                In fact, I think TJ’s considers him a buyer, so you might say he knows a bit about logistics…
                Despite that, he can’t point to a bag of flour and say where it’s from…

                As we’ve seen with arsenic in rice, origin tracking is crucial for “not poisoning people”Report

          • Avatar James Hanley in reply to M.A. says:

            There’s a basic error here. You’re assuming that the consumer needs to find all the information him/herself.

            When information’s that scarce, it increases in value, and a market in providing information springs up. If there’s no market for information in green beans, it’s probably because there’s not much value in choosing between Green Giant and Del Monte.

            But I will note that I think one thing government generally does quite well is aggregate information and make it available. I like that aspect of it.Report

          • Avatar Brian Houser in reply to M.A. says:

            Yeah, James has part of the answer, which is that you have to consider how important the information is. It’s a lot easier to find detailed info on cars than it is for beans because cars costs a lot more and it’s easier to kill yourself in a car than with a can of beans.

            But the other part that most commenters seem to be missing is that you can’t use the current state of things as an example against a free market when we don’t have a truly free market. Today, we have the FDA, FTC, CPSC, and a bunch of other government agencies that attempt to shield us from unsafe stuff. If they weren’t there to do that, that’s when the free market solutions show up to the party. The information about products is hard to find today because it’s assumed the government already did all the vetting for us. If they didn’t, that information would become a lot more valuable, and companies would arrive on the scene to help us make wise buying decisions.Report

            • Avatar Kim in reply to Brian Houser says:

              And stupid buying decisions! Gawd, I can see it now! BUY THIS CAR, it’s the safest ever!
              No, no, this car is the safest ever, because it has NONE of the safety requirements!
              (teehee. and you would see the same exact overregulation of safety, because NOW you’ve created a fucking market for it).Report

            • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Brian Houser says:

              Crowding out. +1.Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to James Hanley says:

                FWIW this is where it sounds like Libertarians believe if we just did everything there way everything would be ducky or put it another way: utopia. I have no doubt some Libertarian measures that you are suggesting would work better than i think. I also have no doubt some would work far worse then you think.Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling in reply to James Hanley says:

                This is one of those arguments that proves too much.

                If the government does something stupid and wasteful, it should stop, because, well, stupid and wasteful. If the government does something sensible and valuable, it should stop, because it’s crowding out the entrepreneurs who’d do it even better.

                So you must think we should do away with government entirely, because you just proved it needs to stop everything it does.Report

              • Yes! You’ve now grasped a key concept of libertarianism: government should only do things that cannot be done better by the free market.

                The hardcore libertarians will say that’s nothing, so yeah, no government is best. I’d be willing to go along with that, but given our current society, a more practical answer would be to have a government more like the one we originally designed in the Constitution. Let the feds handle defense, foreign affairs, and disputes between the states. States can do pretty much whatever they want. But I’ll choose to live in one that doesn’t have a lot of regulation and taxes.Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling in reply to Brian Houser says:

                And since everything can be done better by the free market, we’ll eliminate (say) insurance regulations, and let a thousand AIGs bloom.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                Because in the absence of assurances of government bailout, absolutely nothing else would change.Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                I honestly do not think any of the unprintable unprintables who were making money hand over fist until things collapsed and fished all of us had one single thought in their tiny little brains that went beyond “making money hand over fist.” I do not believe they gave one thought to what would happen when the bubble burst, any more than a heroin addict before he pushes down the plunger on what might for all he knows be rat poison.Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                They were insuring each other. In fact, that’s the whole point.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                Looking back, it looks like we were insuring them.

                Maybe I’m using the word differently than you are.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                They were insuring each other. In fact, that’s the whole point.

                It’s surprising how quickly that little part of the financial meltdown has been forgotten.Report

              • Avatar Rtod in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                I bring it up every now and then. The consensus seems to be that no one cares about that part.Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                In the same sense that if someone mortgaged themselves to the hilt constructing a 500-storey building out of rotten timbers, we’d pay for the cleanup rather then live indefinitely in the rubble. Yes, we are the janitors of last resort.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                And the fact we didn’t hire the lowest bidder should be something to think about next time, not an excuse to just leave the rubble on the ground.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                James,
                Okay, given that you have extremely powerful people… what’s to stop them from more radical intervention, if you eliminate the power of government to help them??
                Assassination is not out of the question to these folks…Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                Kimmie, my dear, assassination seems even more likely if we do regulate businesses and manage to avoid regulatory capture.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Brian Houser says:

                You’ve now grasped a key concept of libertarianism: government should only do things that cannot be done better by the free market.

                We tried the “free market.”

                It gave us monopolies, it gave us price gouging, and it gave us October 29, 1929. It followed up with the Dust Bowl and a host of other disasters.

                Repeal of Grass-Steagall gave us our current mess and that was done in the Libertarian spirit of “deregulation” and “letting the market self-regulate.”

                So excuse me if no, I don’t trust your “free market” bullshit as far as I can throw it.Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser in reply to M.A. says:

                I was hoping someone would come along and do the heavy lifting for me on this one, because my response is the sort that demands backing references and I’m not up to the task tonight. Maybe tomorrow.

                But here’s my (mostly) unsubstantiated response:

                Now I understand the source of your fears. You have a lot of (typical) misconceptions about the free market. All the examples you gave of supposed free market failures were actually caused by government.

                Monopolies cannot exist for any length of time in a free market. Instead, true monopolies are created by government interference (excessive regulation and intellectual property laws inhibit competition).

                The same goes for so-called price gouging–if price increases are not true adjustments due to changing market supply/demand, they can’t last for long due to competition.

                Government policies led to the Great Depression and the government response to it caused it to last longer than it would have otherwise.

                How do you think the government could/should have prevented the Dust Bowl (other than by not passing the Homestead Act)?

                The repeal of Glass-Steagall had little to do with the current recession. Instead it was caused mostly by ill-advised government policies promoting home ownership and prolonged by low interest rate policies and an uncertain regulatory outlook.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to M.A. says:

                Mr. Houser, start making a good enough case for libertarianism and the conservatives might start jumping in.

                On the side of the liberals. Adam Smith was no libertarian.Report

              • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to M.A. says:

                Brian:

                Since I haven’t said it yet, welcome to the blog. Always nice to have someone who participates in the comment thread.

                Germane to this comment: I think you’re over-emphasizing the role the government played in the recent financial crisis and under-estimating the role the private market played, and individuals played.

                It’s also pretty much true that “monopolies can’t exist for any length of time in (any) market” is true. Even in an environment of collusion, monopolies don’t exist for any length of time… for “any length of time” sufficiently large.

                Economically speaking, the longest monopoly I can think of is a government-founded monopoly (Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers), but technology kills monopolies at an increasing pace as you advance through history.

                There’s no real credible evidence (to me, anyway), that present-day monopolies can exist whether they’re propped up by the government or not… at least, not for very long.

                Technology just advances too fast. Ask Hewlett-Packard.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to M.A. says:

                All the examples you gave of supposed free market failures were actually caused by government.

                Simply a lie.

                Monopolies cannot exist for any length of time in a free market.

                Explain, then, Standard Oil and the Northern Securities Company.

                For that matter, explain OPEC.

                Instead, true monopolies are created by government interference (excessive regulation and intellectual property laws inhibit competition).

                I’ll agree with you regarding intellectual property laws. Regulation, however, only creates monopoly when regulatory capture is present; absent regulation, private business is VERY adept at creating artificial barriers-to-entry (such as buying up ingredient suppliers or engaging suppliers in exclusivity contracts, see Coca-Cola’s efforts with sports arenas and colleges to block Pepsi out of the market as much as they can).

                Your reply is just garbage. Come back when you’ve something honest to say, if you’re going to lie to me it’s not worth wasting my time.Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser in reply to M.A. says:

                “I think you’re over-emphasizing the role the government played in the recent financial crisis and under-estimating the role the private market played, and individuals played.”

                I’m always open to having my mind changed. My claim is based mainly on this Forbes article and the “Credit creation as a cause” section of the Wikipedia entry.Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser in reply to M.A. says:

                “Explain, then, Standard Oil and the Northern Securities Company.”

                Standard Oil’s dominance was largely enabled by protection of its patents and tariffs which limited foreign competition. Standard Oil’s market share was on a steady decline in the years leading up to the antitrust case against it. See here for additional info.

                Northern Securities Company was composed of railroad companies which each had government-granted land monopolies in their respective regions. And the two years between its formation and dissolution hardly qualifies as a substantial length of time.

                OPEC? You’re kidding, right? That IS a government organization.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to M.A. says:

                Monopolies cannot exist for any length of time in a free market. Instead, true monopolies are created by government interference (excessive regulation and intellectual property laws inhibit competition).

                Do libertarian microeconomics textbooks not have sections on natural monopolies or something?

                I see this assertion all the time, it’s not technically falsifiable, but I don’t think there’s actually credible economists that posit this is entirely the case.Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser in reply to M.A. says:

                “Do libertarian microeconomics textbooks not have sections on natural monopolies or something? […] I don’t think there’s actually credible economists that posit [monopolies cannot exist for any length of time in a free market] is entirely the case.”

                Well, the economics professor and author Thomas DiLorenzo is one. See his excellent paper “The Myth of Natural Monopoly“.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to M.A. says:

                OPEC? You’re kidding, right? That IS a government organization.

                Which is where you’re wrong and another area where Libertarian Blindness exists.

                OPEC is an organizational unit that functions as a collection of nations.

                Functionally, OPEC exists in the one market that MOST resembles Libertopia: the market between sovereign nations, where there really are no rules (only treaties which can be broken at any time) and the only thing holding nations to treaties is their word-as-reputation and the coercive effects of the other nations.

                And we see how fished up that is. OPEC, in the world market, is the best case against the Libertarian idea of a “free market” that I could ever make.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to M.A. says:

                Standard Oil’s dominance was largely enabled by protection of its patents and tariffs which limited foreign competition.

                Simply untrue. Standard Oil’s dominance came partly through aggressive “buyouts” of competitors and when said competitors would not buy out, by operating in predatory manner (at a loss) until they would run the competitor out of business and force sale. This tactic was called “absorb or destroy.”

                The second part of their dominance came from their ability, as the conglomeration of major oil interests, to force shipping companies to accept unfair deals far below market rates or be shut out of the market. The first light on this arrangement came when they tried to create the South Improvement Company as a new part of the trust scheme.

                This model enabled them to gain control of well over 90% of oil production and 85%of final sales. The investigative report leading up to the antitrust case said “beyond question the dominant position of the Standard Oil Company in the refining industry was due to unfair practices—to abuse of the control of pipe-lines, to railroad discriminations, and to unfair methods of competition in the sale of the refined petroleum products.

                Your assertion that their position was due to patent and tariff protection is simply laughable and beyond reason and I shall have to ask you to stop lying when you make your case in the future.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to M.A. says:

                OPEC is a cartel, an organization of governments, not a government organization. It’s not truly a monopoly–as a cartel it suffers from a collective action problem that prevents it from successfully colluding to jack up the price of oil more than temporarily. Every attempt to seriously jack up the price by reducing production has resulted in cheating by member states that ultimately pushed production levels back up.

                Standard Oil was never a complete monopoly, and it’s market share was largest at its first formation, after which its share dropped steadily due to competition. It’s commonly used as an example, but if a company that continually loses market share is the best example of a monopoly that critics of markets can come up with, then the monopoly argument is a pretty weak one.

                Noticeably, M.A. also insists on using the term “libertopia.” I think this indicates that he is unwilling to engage in good faith.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to M.A. says:

                Nob,
                Natural monopolies are pretty rare, and it often depends on how one defines the market. For example railroads are sometimes considered a natural monopoly, but if we define the market as transportation rather than railroads, we find they’re not much of a monopoly at all.

                The same hold with cable TV–the cable TV market may be something of a natural monopoly, but with the ready availability of satellite, the zillion-channel television market clearly is not.

                Local utilities are often considered natural monopolies. I think there’s a better argument for those.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to M.A. says:

                Re: Standard Oil. The standard story on Standard is the Ida Tarbell version. However that version is wrong.

                John McGee, in “Predatory Price Cutting: The Standard Oil (N. J.) Case,” Journal of Law and Economics, Vol. 1. (Oct., 1958), pp. 137-169, demonstrates that Standard did not engage in predatory pricing. It’s lower prices were a consequence of greater efficiencies that lowered production costs. For example, McGee notes that

                “Of the refineries it acquired, Standard dismantled at least 75, and ultimately produced a greatly increased volume in only 20 separate installations.”

                It should be noted that the lower costs directly benefited the consumers through lower prices.

                “Between 1870 and 1885, the price of refined kerosene dropped from 26 cents per gallon to 8 cents…In 1897 this price dropped to 5.91 cents.” (Donald J. Boudreaux and Burton W. Folsom, “Microsoft and Standard Oil: Radical Lessons for Antitrust Reform,” The Antitrust Bulletin, Fall 1999, 555-576.

                Did Standard actually maintain a monopoly? No, because the barriers to entry in the market were low, and Standard made mistakes (like not getting into Texas when oil was discovered there).

                By 1880, Standard’s market share was 80%-85%…By 1907 this share was down to 68%. And by 1911, the year the Supreme Court handed down its famous decision breaking up Rockefeller’s company, Standard’s market share had fallen further to 64%. (Boudreuax and Folsom, p. 558-560)

                That’s almost a 1/3 decline in market share, and it was continuing.

                So we have a company that can’t hold onto its market share and that instead of cutting back production to increase prices actually makes the production process more efficient, dramatically reducing prices. That doesn’t meet the definition of a monopoly.

                Also, Standard pioneered new uses for the non-kerosene fractions of crude. Prior to then most companies just disposed of the non-kerosene fractions as waste product…by dumping it into rivers to carry it away. I doubt Rockefeller was any kind of environmentalist, but by developing productive uses for those fractions he kept that sh*t out of the water.

                As to their famous browbeating of rail companies into giving them better rates, who the hell really cares if different firms in the market beat each other up? Seriously, our concern about markets is that a producer might badger its suppliers into having to reduce their costs? What’s not seen in that argument is that higher costs get passed on to consumers, so the “Standard was mean to the rail companies” argument works–not intentionally, but still functionally–as a “screw the consumers” argument.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to M.A. says:

                Noticeably, M.A. also insists on using the term “libertopia.” I think this indicates that he is unwilling to engage in good faith.

                That’s the first time I’ve ever used the term, but I found it appropriate in this case.

                And as for claiming I’m unwilling to engage in good faith, hold a mirror up to your own side, especially Brian Houser. I’m getting pretty tired of the constant misrepresentations Libertarians make of their own side.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to M.A. says:

                I’m getting pretty tired of the constant misrepresentations Libertarians make of their own side.

                I have the same problem with Liberals. I ask them about their allegiance to Stalinism and they get all huffy.Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser in reply to M.A. says:

                “I’m getting pretty tired of the constant misrepresentations Libertarians make of their own side.”

                What have I misrepresented? I think I’ve done a pretty good job of backing up my claims (with some help from others) while all I see in response is you calling me a liar.

                I understand your defensiveness, but please try to get past it. I’ve learned a lot here and you can, too.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to M.A. says:

                You misrepresented (very poorly too!) the relationship of OPEC as an example of as close we can see today to a free market monopolist entity.

                You misrepresented Standard Oil’s methods of market dominance to the point where I cannot use any other term than lying.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to M.A. says:

                Brian:
                I’m not sure Thomas DiLorenzo actually counts as a “credible economist”. While I couldn’t get past the first page of the piece you cited, given his previous history of distortion and outright mendacity his credibility is open to question.

                James:
                I understand your point, and I’m inclined to agree that natural monopolies tend to be focused in narrowly defined “markets”. (Semantics are important here, I suppose) This is less important when you go into a greater macro view of the world, but it is afterall a microeconomic concept.Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser in reply to M.A. says:

                “You misrepresented (very poorly too!) the relationship of OPEC as an example of as close we can see today to a free market monopolist entity.”

                I’m sorry if it came across that way, but that wasn’t my intent. I could have chosen my words more carefully when I called OPEC a “government organization”. What I meant was that it was a group built upon governments, which makes it fairly meaningless in a discussion of free markets because of the coercive power of its parts.

                I did not dispute Standard Oil’s predatory practices (although another poster did). I didn’t mention them because those practices occur in any market, free or not. It was the patent protection and tariffs that gave Standard Oil an unfair advantage over its competitors.

                I’ve participated in these comments in hopes of learning and educating. I know I’ve learned a few things and I imagine I provided a little food for thought for one or two others. But sadly, I feel like the exchanges between M.A. and myself have turned into some sort of game show. I’ll respond to specific criticisms, but I’m done entertaining the personal attacks.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to M.A. says:

                “I’m getting pretty tired of the constant misrepresentations Libertarians make of their own side.”

                Thank you for confirming that you have no interest in good faith discussion.Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser in reply to M.A. says:

                “I’m not sure Thomas DiLorenzo actually counts as a ‘credible economist’. While I couldn’t get past the first page of the piece you cited, given his previous history of distortion and outright mendacity his credibility is open to question.”

                Come on, Nob, you knew you were setting yourself up with that response, right? You can’t get all ad hominem on Dr. DiLorenzo and not give some backing of that so-called “history of distortion and outright mendacity”. I think you’ll find his publications are quite well researched. I just pulled my copy of “The Real Lincoln” off the shelf and see it has 36 pages of referencing notes and bibliography.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to M.A. says:

                You misrepresented Standard Oil’s methods of market dominance to the point where I cannot use any other term than lying.

                Let’s see, I based my claims on published research, with explicit citations to the literature, and you’ve based yours on…..?

                See, you can call me a liar here, but I’ve already carried a much heavier burden than you, so I think it’s fair for me to claim that I really do have the intellectual high ground at the moment.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to M.A. says:

                Brian,

                Your participation has been welcome. From my perspective M.A. has a hatred of libertarians that at least borders on the irrational, so you shouldn’t worry that you weren’t able to have a particularly good conversation with him.Report

              • Avatar Scott in reply to M.A. says:

                James

                Don’t forget MA’s irrational hatred of homeowners associations.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to M.A. says:

                Having a lot of citations does not a credible piece make.
                Briefest records of say critiques of those 36 pages of reference etc. etc.
                http://www.claremont.org/publications/crb/id.736/article_detail.asp

                The man is a revisionist hack and a bad one at that. At least David Barton got famous off his hooey.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to M.A. says:

                So I’m not a big fan of MA’s approach half the time but, James…

                Let’s see, I based my claims on published research, with explicit citations to the literature, and you’ve based yours on…..?

                See, you can call me a liar here, but I’ve already carried a much heavier burden than you, so I think it’s fair for me to claim that I really do have the intellectual high ground at the moment.

                I’m pretty sure that MA was referring to Mr. Houser’s claims that Standard Oil’s monopoly was enforced via government mechanisms (something your point explicitly undermines) rather than your citation of its business model.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to M.A. says:

                Brian,

                You are actually observing MA at his best in this exchange. His worst is not even safe for office viewing. I’m surprised James agreed to any dialogue with him.

                On a more positive note, the best discussions seem to occur when we can get the really smart moderates into the discussion. A few examples are Mark, North, Rose, Russell S and Pat*. When these and similar commenters bring up counter arguments, they should be taken very, very seriously, as they are very intelligent and open minded people.

                * my list is not in any way shape or form intended as all inclusive. Just kudos to all the open minded moderates.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to M.A. says:

                Hmm, M.A.’s comment came after both Brian and I wrote. I guess he could have been referring to him. I still don’t like his use of “lies,” when his own claims about OPEC and Standard are so off base that he has essentially condemned himself. But if he wasn’t calling me a liar, then I do apologize for assuming he was.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to M.A. says:

                Roger,

                As I’ve yet to have an apology for your insults of the worst dehumanizing time that you previously made, and you are now lying about me here, I consider this conversation done.

                You are a dishonest fishing liar, nothing more or less and nobody should take you seriously.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to M.A. says:

                What I meant was that it was a group built upon governments, which makes it fairly meaningless in a discussion of free markets because of the coercive power of its parts.

                Not the same thing. OPEC operates in the one market we can see as a group of relative equals, and in which there is not “government coercion” in the sense of a layer above them. Do they have “coercive power”? In their own borders and possibly own militaries, sure. Do they have the level of “coercive power” above each other that Libertarians dishonestly claim only a government a layer above has (and that Libertarians constantly deride, ignoring forthwith the very real coercive powers of any corporation above a certain level of size in its field)? NO.

                It was the patent protection and tariffs that gave Standard Oil an unfair advantage over its competitors.

                Repeating a lie doesn’t make it true, and the contrary evidence was well shown in both the report leading up to the Antitrust action as well as in court.

                From my perspective M.A. has a hatred of libertarians that at least borders on the irrational,

                James,

                It’s nothing to do with Libertarians. I just don’t suffer liars gladly.

                There are libertarians who engage in good faith discussion, who I’ve come to understand at least where they’re coming from in the extent of their consideration of what they consider the prime factors or items of most importance to a particular logical reasoning chain.

                Then there are the ones who start from a completely incorrect assumption or assertion of “fact” and will not allow for any question of the merit of that which they base their entire argument around.

                Far too many of the latter around for my tastes.

                Thank you for confirming that you have no interest in good faith discussion.

                Oh, I have every interest in a good faith discussion. If you’re not willing to participate in one, and the way this conversation’s going I’m getting the feeling neither you nor certain of your fellows are, then please point me to a place where one can be found.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to M.A. says:

                Nob,

                What are the best examples of long lived, natural monopolies in relatively free and modern markets?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to M.A. says:

                M.A.,

                Repeatedly calling people liars because they have different interpretations than do you, accusing them of lying about their own beliefs, and calling them idiots? If you’re striving for good faith, you’re doing it wrong.

                I’ll leave you to your own devices now.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to M.A. says:

                Pat,
                Capacitor plague ring a bell? Technology creates monopolies sometimes, now don’t it? 5 companies make commercially-used capacitors in the world, and only one of them makes the type they use in TVs.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to M.A. says:

                There’s nothing particularly long-lived about that problem, Kim.

                It’s also a place where a monopoly, such as it is, gives you a competitive lever, but the thing which you’re providing is on such a small margin that the competitive lever isn’t actually giving you much of a payoff.

                I mean, there are other sort of long-lived monopolies where there is something more of a competitive advantage… like professional sports leagues in the U.S. They’ve existed for a while, and probably will exist for a while longer, but I don’t think there’s really huge pernicious justice issues tied up with them. Not really.

                But if your best case example of a monopoly is something where the profit margin is marginally above the rate of inflation and your second best is the NFL, I think we’re blowing a lot of hot air over really marginal examples.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to M.A. says:

                5 companies make commercially-used capacitors in the world, and only one of them makes the type they use in TVs.

                And another couple of companies, stealing an incomplete gel recipe from a competitor, managed to cause a plague of exploding capacitors in computers and other consumer electronics around the world for a decade.

                IEEE had great coverage on it.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to M.A. says:

                Brian,

                I haven’t weighed in on your reference to DiLorenzo yet, but it’s been kind of gnawing at me. DiLorenzo’s certainly a competent economist, and he does make good arguments about regulation. But he’s a guy I absolutely refuse to use or reference because he’s also a reconstructionist and southern apologist. That doesn’t mean he’s wrong in his anti-trust work, but using him as a source tends to grant him more legitimacy than I think any southern apologist deserves, and can lead people to assume you’re a southern apologist, too. I am absolutely not implying you are. I’m just saying it’s not unlikely that folks will.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to M.A. says:

                M.A.,

                Aren’t their regulations against that kind of thing?Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser in reply to M.A. says:

                “DiLorenzo’s certainly a competent economist, and he does make good arguments about regulation. But he’s a guy I absolutely refuse to use or reference because he’s also a reconstructionist and southern apologist.”

                I can appreciate that, and in retrospect, I should have avoided the risk of bringing some of DiLorenzo’s more controversial work into the discussion. Thanks for the comment.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to M.A. says:

        How many consumers do you know will refuse to buy a “surge strip” or extension cord for lack of the UL stamp? Not many, I’ll wager.

        I for damn sure would. And for years I never bought a bike helmet that didn’t have ANSI and Snell stickers. Until this year–now I could only find helmets with CPSC stickers. I don’t think it’s made me any safer.Report

    • Avatar Lyle in reply to Brian Houser says:

      The issue is do consumers have enough time to become throughly informed, and further could they hope to understand even if they had the facts. I think the financial crisis with the whole predatory or near predatory mortgage issue is a case where the consumer did not understand what was being signed. Or take the vast number of Ponzi schemes shown on American Greed, again people hopeing to beat the odds (as indeed the folks with Madoff were trying to do (Madoff made off with their money: I just had to say that) In fact that may be a sign of the fundamental flaw of modern economics and libertarianism. that all folks are assumed to be able to figure out what is in their interest. First off if one is effectively illiterate or innumerate, it is unlikely that the could do so. To take a case how many could explain the way interest is calculated on a car loan (hint it is not simple interest but uses the rule of 78s), and while today the web provides the information its not clear how many read it (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_of_78s for details).
      In fact I wonder if the basic model of the citizen may have been overwhelmed by the ever increasing complexity of society, as the powers that be figure out how to shaft everyone else as well as each other.Report

      • Avatar Brian Houser in reply to Lyle says:

        If people can’t understand what they are signing, they shouldn’t be signing it! Are we really at a point where we need government to take care of us in every way? Have we no personal responsibility anymore? If you can’t understand interest on a car loan, then either find someone to explain it to you or don’t buy a car.

        Fraud is bad and should be punished. But people making bad decisions is their own fault.Report

        • Avatar M.A. in reply to Brian Houser says:

          If people can’t understand what they are signing, they shouldn’t be signing it! Are we really at a point where we need government to take care of us in every way? Have we no personal responsibility anymore?

          We have a system where shyster lawyers are on call for every large scale corporation to deliberately load down contracts with extra clauses in that incomprehensible gibberish that passes for lawyerese, deliberately written for the PURPOSE of being incomprehensible to normal citizens.

          If you can’t understand that, there’s no hope for an honest discussion with you. And I’m fast giving up hope in any case.Report

          • Avatar Brian Houser in reply to M.A. says:

            I just don’t understand why you insist on playing the victim.

            Companies have no motive to produce incomprehensible contracts. It’s hard to build a business on a model of defrauding your customers. Much of that lawyerese is a result of government regulation (either directly or to reduce exposure to lawsuits based on discrimination laws, etc.).Report

            • Avatar Lyle in reply to Brian Houser says:

              Actually if you can make your killing and go away as many in the mortgage industry there is no long term incentive. If your going to retire in 3 years make it now and damn the future you won’t be there to worry about it.Report

            • Avatar M.A. in reply to Brian Houser says:

              Companies have no motive to produce incomprehensible contracts.

              You can’t honestly be that fishing stupid.

              Insurance companies – ever READ one of the contracts? The fine print is hell. Yes, you probably need a lawyer to go over it. Why? Because the entire point of the legalese IS to defraud the customer, to make them think they have more coverage than they really do until a claim is filed and then denied.

              The “warranties” on many products are the same way. Friend of mine has a Coach handbag, which didn’t hold up well. Was supposed to have a “lifetime” warranty for repair. What she found out? Way back on page 18 of the warranty terms there is a legalese clause that entirely redefines the term “lifetime” to read “until the moment we stop selling that exact model in our stores”, e.g. about 18 months after purchase date maximum.

              Companies have plenty of incentive to produce incomprehensible contracts, and if you’re honestly so deluded that you think differently we don’t have any basis for further discussion.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to M.A. says:

                In pittsburgh, every single rental contract is voidable in half a dozen different ways. Effectively, if one smart cookie took his landlord to court, everyone would be without a contract, as the court would void it for being illegal.
                (this comes of getting one of the Nazgul to look at it.)Report

            • Avatar Kim in reply to Brian Houser says:

              Every single damn rental contract in pittsburgh is ILLEGAL. (it’s a standard contract). Why bother making it incomprehensible, when folks can’t even tell what’s legal and what’s not??Report

        • Avatar Lyle in reply to Brian Houser says:

          I would agree but we are not teaching folks enough financial paranoia 101 for this. Teach them that the default is everyone is out to rip you off, and you should act accordingly. One interesting thing, is that 50 years ago you were supposed to bring your own lawyer to the closing to read the documents, but then the industry pitched the idea that you did not have to. Then they push you not to take the time to read what you are signing.
          The problem is that I suspect the universe of those who understand this stuff is shrinking. I recall when a colleague of mine called about a rule of 78 loan called the bank and they said you would have to be a mathematician to understand it, he had a PhD in math so he did. But this is a sign that companies love to obfuscate.
          We do need to teach people if you don’t understand don’t sign, and get independent advice. (for example the closing agent is conflicted)Report

          • Avatar Kim in reply to Lyle says:

            Yes, all agents want to do is make a deal. they aren’t acting in your interest, but in their own.

            The lawyer is paid to be on your side,a nd if you don’t have one, you are a goddamn fool who deserves to get taken advantage of.

            If you need a PHD in math to understand the document, go find one. Hire him to be a consultant, and get some risk analysis from him.Report

            • Avatar Lyle in reply to Kim says:

              I suspect its just like some illiterates who try to hide the problem. To admit you can’t understand something is to admit failure from the rugged individualist point of view (after all the lawyer helped you and your supposed not to need any help). Anyway while it used to be the advice to get a lawyer on a real estate deal, it appears that that is no longer the case.. Perhaps a simple fix would be to require closing documents to be ready 72 hours before the closing, so that they could be reviewed, and one could consult a lawyer at a bit more lesuire. (If its good enough for laws in congress…). But how far do you go take a lawyer to buying a car? (all be it the advice to get the loan other than from the dealer makes a lot of sense, or do the unusual if you have the reserves, give them a check )(I suspect car dealers like that as that money goes to their checking account not against their floor plan.Report

  5. Avatar James Hanley says:

    M.A., I agree that the L-Party is much too simplistic here. One of the reasons I’ve consciously chosen to not register as an L. I’d note that PERC is not that simplistic, though. (Full disclosure, I know the founder; not well, but well enough that I ought to disclose the fact.)

    But here’s where I think you make a similar mistake.
    “If the government sold its acreage to private ranchers, the new owners would make sure that they grazed the land sustainably to maximize profit and yield.”
    This completely ignores – or considers impossible – the idea of the Tragedy of the Commons.

    If the land is privatized, the tragedy of the commons is far less likely than in its current state. Of course we don’t actually have a grazing commons right now. What we have is public land with a limited number of permits available for bid. So at least we don’t have unlimited access. But the number of permits is almost certainly well above the optimum, and ranchers don’t have much incentive to find that optimum because the permits being time-limited they don’t know that they have a true long-run for that strategy to pay off. Nevertheless, it’s not unknown for public lands ranchers to run below their permitted number, especially since the permit length was increased to, iirc, from three to ten years, allowing more time for running fewer cattle to pay off better.

    And private lands ranchers–especially as the old guard is retiring–are moving to a more sustainable model than in the past. One of the new–I’m sorry to say, market innovated–tools is temporary fencing that can be set up in just a couple hours work, making it easy for ranchers to move their cattle around from pasturage to pasturage efficiently, ensuring grazed areas have time to recover and minimizing the need for wildlife disrupting permanent fencing.

    I own property in Montana, and for years our HOA leased grazing rights for income. Our price per animal-unit month was ten times that of the federal government’s and we were very restrictive about the number of cattle that could be grazed. For the last 7 or so years, no permits have been leased, and it looks like that’s going to be permanent. I’m not too happy with that policy (my HOA fees have gone up due to the lost revenue), but other property owners were unhappy about the effects of cattle on the vegetation and creeks. Ownership made them care–they’re not out protesting public lands grazing.

    The founder of PERC, John Baden (no longer with them, but now runs FREE, has a ranch in Montana. Over the years he has phased down the number of head run and is turning it all into a wildlife sanctuary. And he’s a libertarian.

    As to fisheries, they’re not privatized, so they’re not a useful example of privatization not working. They are true tragedies of the commons. But privatization, or at least quasi-privatization, is possible in fisheries (well, in territorial waters–in international waters it’s a different, and more intractable, issue). Essentially, limited right of access to the commercial fishery must be established. This can be done through a permit system. It can also be done informally. Jim Wilson, at the U. of Maine School of Marine Sciences (who I’ve met, but whom I am sure does not remember me) has described how Maine lobster (I think, but perhaps crab) fishermen informally define individual territories and drive out interlopers (not exactly legal, but it works). By defining and defending an informal property right–and long-timers tend to respect each other’s rights, as a system of mutual cooperation, ala Robert Axelrod–each fisherman has an incentive to ensure sustainable catches (of course figuring out what’s sustainable is its own technical problem, but the same problem exists if we moved to a permit policy).

    Of course privatization isn’t always the proper solution. Too many libertarians are too simplistic about that, for sure. Lake Superior is a commons, but I’m stumped as to any good arguments for privatizing it. The Ogallala Aquifer is a commons, but I’m stumped as to any good explanation of how it could even be effectively privatized.

    Sorry to go on so long. My favorite topic, you know. And just last week I did grazing rights with my enviro policy class, and just couldn’t get them interested, even though it’s a topic I have a particular fondness for. (Midwesterners–public lands grazing is as foreign to us as talking about water rights on Mars.)

    Kudos for the guest post, though. This is indeed a weak point for libertarians as a whole, and it’s not just fair, but necessary, to keep pointing it out to them.Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to James Hanley says:

      Regarding things like fishing rights there is an0ther piece that doesn’t get mentioned. Here in AK we have a permit system for fishing. the biggest fisheries are for halibut, crab and salmon. The permit system works well in general however there are more parties then just the commercial fishermen. Marine mammals eat the fish also. If the commercial fisherman take to many fish then the MM’s may go hungry. It ends up being the Gov’s job to protect the interests of the MM’s. Also indigenous people try to live a subsistence lifestyle depend on the fish also. However they tend not to be the ones with deep ocean commercial fishing boats so they need the gov to make sure they get a share of the catch. My point is that some of these things are really complex and some of the stakeholders seem to need Gov to speak for them. Oh and i didn’t even mention recreational fishermen and all the fish they want.Report

    • Avatar MikeSchilling in reply to James Hanley says:

      Privatization has different issues, which we’ve seen out here in the timber industry. It may well be that the most profitable strategy is to completely use up the resource (clear-cut the forest, catch all the fish, etc.), and then invest the resulting profits elsewhere, leaving behind a destroyed no-longer-renewable resource and local economy. The assumption that privatization will lead to proper stewardship ignores the fact that capital is fungible.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to MikeSchilling says:

        The assumption that privatization will lead to proper stewardship ignores the fact that capital is fungible.

        Not at all. Rather, the unwarranted assumption here is that clear-cutting is never the right thing to do. If people are willing to pay more for the timber plus the clear-cut land than they are for the net present value of all future timber harvests, then that’s a pretty solid argument for clear-cutting.Report

        • Avatar Kim in reply to Brandon Berg says:

          Absent externalities. It is best for that person, but may not be best for the economy as a whole. I walked past some limited clear-cuts near the Appalachian trail. Certainly they’re likely to hurt the local economies, as I’m less likely to walk back there after seeing the environmental devastation. (I sometimes like a bit of ice cream after a hike, so that’s local consumption lost).Report

        • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Brandon Berg says:

          Before someone goes all Lorax on me, I should point out that these decisions are made on the margin. There’s an awful lot of timberland in the US, and the decision to clear-cut a thousand acres of timberland is not a slippery slope towards clear-cutting all of it. On the contrary, clear-cutting a small amount of timberland reduces the supply of timberland, making the remaining timberland all the more valuable. Furthermore, selling off the clear-cut land reduces the marginal value of additional clear-cut land. The more clear-cutting is done, the less incentive there is to do more.Report

        • Avatar M.A. in reply to Brandon Berg says:

          If people are willing to pay more for the timber plus the clear-cut land than they are for the net present value of all future timber harvests, then that’s a pretty solid argument for clear-cutting.

          Or it’s an argument of why an unrestricted “free market” fails.

          Depends on how much you value an ecologically sound planet, I suppose, because replacing a forested area with an urban concrete heat island has environmental consequences.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley in reply to M.A. says:

            Are all clearcuts replaced with concrete and asphalt?Report

            • Avatar Dan Miller in reply to James Hanley says:

              No, but few of them display the same ecological diversity that they did before being clear-cut. Brandon’s argument implicitly assumes that there are no externalities to clearcutting (for instance, due to lost natural beauty or biodiversity) and that assumption is contestable, to say the least. You can’t just look at the price of timber vs. the price of clear-cut land and call it a day.Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to Dan Miller says:

                There are other issues, too.

                Water retention, as it relates to water tables, is one. Trees slow the impact of rain, so decrease erosion; they hold the water in the soil, and so decrease flash flooding, and they release the water slowly, making it available for longer periods of time. The steeper the watershed, particularly the upper reaches of the watershed, the more these things matter.

                A second concern is carbon sequestration. That’s a complicated science, but from what I understand, the older the growth the more carbon it holds sequestered, the more it extracts from the atmosphere. (I could be wrong, I haven’t read on the topic nearly a decade, and the science is developing.)

                A third is bio-corridors; and understanding how breaks impact the biodiversity of adjacent habitat.

                /just off the top of my head.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Dan Miller says:

                Dan,

                I wasn’t arguing against that point.Report

              • Avatar Dan Miller in reply to James Hanley says:

                Fair enough, but I was just trying to clarify M.A.’s point (and cut against Brandon’s).Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Dan Miller says:

                I was just trying to clarify M.A.’s point, too. He jumped straight from clearcuts to concrete. There are legitimate concerns about clearcuts, as you show. I’m less certain concrete is one of them.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to James Hanley says:

                rofl. of course it is. Nat’l Geographic linked a study on how greenery improves (reduces) crime in urban settings…Report

              • Avatar wardsmith in reply to Dan Miller says:

                Dan, what happens after a fire? God’s own clear cut. The issue isn’t even the clear cutting, but the stupid federally mandated planting of mono species that occurred for decades.Report

              • Avatar Lyle in reply to Dan Miller says:

                This depends on ones time horizon. Look for example outside the mowed area in the Land between the lakes and it looks like the forest primeval. If there is sufficient rainfall nature eventually makes it back, but it make take a couple of centuries. The concept of a climax forest arises from the fact that over time there are some species that will eventually dominate. But many of the time constants exceed human vision. The earth as a whole will survive human “improvements”, while some species may go extinct, others will exploit the now empty niches and diversify. Consider the coyote and urban areas for example.Report

        • Avatar MikeSchilling in reply to Brandon Berg says:

          The fallacy is that “right thing to do” means “whatever makes the owner the most money within his personal time horizon”.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to James Hanley says:

      But the number of permits is almost certainly well above the optimum

      Why do you say this? Is this based on knowledge of empirical data? A priori, it’s not at all clear to me that the government wouldn’t issue too few permits, for ideological reasons, though I can also see why they might issue too many, for fiscal reasons.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Brandon,

        Good question. Fortunately, having prepped for this just last week I actually remember the answer. Grazing policy is deep within what we call a policy subsystem, a very limited number of groups involved, and great difficulty in outside interests gaining entry to influence policy. Public lands grazing is essentially all under the purview of the National Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Both traditionally have been occupied by people trained up in the old Giffort Pinchot conservation ethic, in which the primary purpose of public lands is to provide a steady flow of resources; timber, minerals, cows. The relevant congressional subcommittees are dominated by western state legislators (not infrequently folks who themselves come from ranching families). And traditionally the BLM and NSF were required to work with local advisory boards–whose members were primarily ranchers–to set local policy.

        One of the indicators that this system is still in place is the fee per animal-unit month (AUM), which has rarely budged from $1.35 over the past 30 years, hitting a high of $1.98 in ’94, then coming back down and sitting at $1.35 for all but four years since ’96. It’s still there. Meanwhile, the average private land fee is close to $20. (To be sure, private land does tend to be better. Partly that’s because the best lands were the ones grabbed during the homesteading era, but also partly that’s because of better management.)Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to James Hanley says:

          One might make the argument that public land would be better managed if they charged $20 for an AUM instead of $1.35, and they put the fifteen fold increase of funds back into managing the land (to which one might counter that it’s only the rent-seekers who have pushed down the price).

          Indexing public land use to private land fees to prevent rent-seeking might be useful.

          I won’t make that argument myself (having nowhere near enough context to know if it’s plausible).Report

    • Avatar M.A. in reply to James Hanley says:

      I think much of your analysis relies on yet another faulty assumption of Libertarian/Freemarket thought, which is this:

      All actors are in the market for the long haul.

      Take that premise away. You have a company producing Pet Rocks, or Beer Hats, or something else that they’re pretty sure is a fad. One option is to try to find the next fad and keep going. The other option is to make as many as possible while the fad runs, damn the cost, damn any ecological damage, and cash out in a short period of time.

      Someone operating a business may decide they need a short term gain, and damn the consequences of overfarming or overfishing.

      Someone new may come into the business (buyout, inheritance) and decide to try to make it as profitable in the short term in order to make it attractive to buyout offers. We see this one FAR too often in the stock market’s revolving pump-and-dump scammery, where making a company profitable 10 years now means precisely Jack and Bleep, and it’s all about ensuring every quarterly report shows either “profit” or “growth.”

      So there we are. The other faulty premise, very related to the Human Unobtainium principle of Libertarian/Freemarket thought.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to M.A. says:

        All actors are in the market for the long haul.

        Of course I never made such an absolute claim, and am not likely to.

        The corollary, were I to similarly misrepresent you, would be to say that liberals think all actors are in the market only for the short term.

        What say we agree not to base our arguments on misrepresentations of what each other actually believes. Deal?Report

        • Avatar zic in reply to James Hanley says:

          It’s not an ‘all actors’ situation, however. It’s that some actors actually distort markets and destroy value for short-term gain; and in that process, are not held responsible for their actions. See Bain Capital for a good example. High speed trading for another. It’s incredibly common in natural resource extraction, also.Report

        • Avatar Kim in reply to James Hanley says:

          I’ve heard it said that Wall Street thinks only 3 months ahead, max. and that if someone cares about their stock portfolio as a CEO, he will do the same. thus one or two people’s pursuit of maximal profit over the short term ripples out over the entire marketplace, and suddenly everyone’s doing it.
          Naturally, there are businesses which are highly dependent on stock price (otherwise known as “confidence”),, and then even if the CEO doesn’t want to have the biggest baddest stock portfolio, he can still get roped in.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Kim says:

            Wall Street thinks only 3 months ahead, max.

            Then I guess government’s better, because Representatives think 8 times as far ahead, max.Report

            • Avatar Kim in reply to James Hanley says:

              Investing in Research that has a 10 year turnaround is nothing for government, and is done repeatedly. I was involved in a 5 year darpa grant, for goodness sakes!Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Kim says:

                Do you really think any major industrial corporation doesn’t invest in research that has a ten year turnaround?

                I guess it’s a good thing the auto industry is able to R&D all its innovations in seconds, re-tool all their machines and production lines in minutes, and get the new cars out to the lots in days, else we’d still be driving 1967 Dodge Darts.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to James Hanley says:

                *yawn* Detroit fired its engineers a long long time ago. When they’re actually putting together a modern car, I might think about buying it…
                (we’re up to 1990’s tech! Better than 1970’s, which is where they sat all through my childhood).
                Have you looked at our patents lately? Hell, America has trouble hiring engineers these days…

                And that’s three years to prototype for Tesla Motors.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Kim says:

                Detroit fired its engineers a long long time ago.

                Yeah, there are no engineers in Detroit anymore. That’s why Toyota recently built an engine development plant in the metro area.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to James Hanley says:

                😉 MAXWELL to the rescue! (excuse the silliness).
                No, they actually hired a ton of engineers after they saw that the Prius actually made money…Report

        • Avatar M.A. in reply to James Hanley says:

          What say we agree not to base our arguments on misrepresentations of what each other actually believes. Deal?

          I’ll stipulate that I did not say all actors are in the market only for the short term.

          However, given enough actors that are in the market only for the short term, those who are in for the long term will tend to act in the same way as those in for the short term (or else get out-profited, out-competed, or even simply bought out by same).

          When the Libertarian position is that the self-interest of economic actors is predicated on sustainability, that necessarily indicates they believe said actors are in for the long term, does it not?Report

          • Avatar James Hanley in reply to M.A. says:

            I’ll stipulate that I did not say all actors are in the market only for the short term.

            I know you didn’t. That’s why I specifically said it would be a misrepresentation to say that.

            What I’d like you to stipulate is that I didn’t say all actors are in it for the long haul.

            When the Libertarian liberal position is that the self-interest of economic actors is predicated on sustainability cut and run, that necessarily indicates they believe said actors are in for the long short term, does it not?

            See how easy it is to turn that around? If you’re sure my version doesn’t really fit what you’re saying, perhaps you might ponder whether your version doesn’t really fit what I’m saying?

            Equal playing field, either way, yes? But one equal playing field is superior to the other, yes?Report

            • Avatar M.A. in reply to James Hanley says:

              No, not at all.

              The Libertarian justification for “free market” solutions supposedly causing an interest in sustainability is predicated upon the belief that a large enough majority of actors in the market are in for the long run.

              But, by the same logic of Libertarianism, that is less than certain. All it takes is a less-than-majority group of actors interested only in the short run to ruin that proposition and drive many of the long-run operators out of the market altogether by overproducing, driving down sales values to the point where long-run operations are not sustainable in the near term (enough to drive many long-run operators to sale, buyout or bankruptcy) and as that happens, short-run actors will increasingly control behavior of the market.

              The end result we have seen, numerous times. The Dust Bowl. The great fossil rush (also the behavior of the miscreant Barnum Brown), when “excavations” were done with dynamite and rush-jobs done only looking for the biggest and most impressive fossils and damaging even those irreparably in the process, not to mention damaging landscape as well. Overfishing, and abuses of land by many sectors of industry involved in dumping and pollution – whether legal at the time or not.

              It does not require for my position that a majority of the market start out interested only in the short term. The necessary conclusion of Libertarianism is that the short-term actors WILL crowd out long-termers and cause ruin, and thus the premise of Libertarian/Freemarketers that their system would encourage preservation of the commons is therefore void.

              I eagerly await your response.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to M.A. says:

                My response is to read Elinor Ostrom on common pool resource management. Your assumption that the commons cannot be managed sustainably without government regulation is…partly true. Ostrom doesn’t plump either pure free market solutions nor pure government regulation solutions.

                I’ll also note that you seem to think farmland is a commons. Normally not so; privately owned.

                As to the dust bowl, it was an anomaly, a perfect storm kind of event. First you had a series of unusually wet years, which led people to think the land was more suitable for farming than it really is. Not long after they started working it you had a series of drought years. You had poor understanding of the land that led to poor farming practices–tilling along the contours of the land instead of across them, discing and harrowing to break the soil up very finely, making it susceptible to being windborne.

                No real commons problem there, just a knowledge problem. We haven’t had a dustbowl since, because we learned from those problems. (Land grant universities played a big role in that learning process, I will note.)Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to James Hanley says:

                I’ll also note that you seem to think farmland is a commons.

                Farmland runoff has an effect upon the surrounding area.
                Farmland windbreaks (or lack thereof) have an effect upon the surrounding area.
                Farmland will eventually, one way or another, pass to another person.

                Farmland must pull from the commons of water availability, and exist upon the commons of air quality as well.

                In the general sense of “for the next X years, it is owned by a specific person or corporation”, sure, privately owned. But still subject to the effects of which its use has on the rest of the environment.

                Nothing exists in a vacuum, and there is – and should be – a responsibility for those who own farmland not to leave it a barren husk when they die or sell or cede.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to M.A. says:

                Farmland runoff has an effect upon the surrounding area.
                That’s not the farmland, though. Sure, the local water sources are commons. Nobody disputes that. But you’re talking about the farmland itself.

                Farmland windbreaks (or lack thereof) have an effect upon the surrounding area.
                Every farmer can make their own windbreak. I had a lovely chat a couple months ago with a farmer about the windbreaks he’d planted around his fields. And if my upwind neighbor doesn’t plant a windbreak while I do, that’s just more topsoil for me.

                Farmland will eventually, one way or another, pass to another person.
                Something that passes from private ownership to private ownership is, by definition, not a commons.

                Farmland must pull from the commons of water availability
                Again, you’re not talking about farmland being a commons now. Nobody’s claiming the water isn’t a commons.

                there is – and should be – a responsibility for those who own farmland not to leave it a barren husk when they die or sell or cede.
                Do you actually know any farmers? Good lord, do you really think they don’t know better than to turn it into a barren husk? Why would anyone planning to sell their hand want to destroy its price by turning it into a barren husk? How many farm dads want to leave a ruined farm to their kids?

                When’s the last time you set foot on a farm and talked to an actual farmer? They’re not as fishing stupid as you obviously think they are.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to James Hanley says:

                How many farm dads want to leave a ruined farm to their kids?

                How many farm dads expect to leave a farm to their kids at all and see it worked? Roundabout zero.

                When’s the last time you set foot on a farm and talked to an actual farmer? They’re not as fishing stupid as you obviously think they are.

                Two weeks ago. Local farmer’s market.

                Their interests are not as you fishing misrepresent them.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to James Hanley says:

                M.A.
                you don’t have any Amish where you live? Really?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

                Their interests are not as you fishing misrepresent them.

                Heh, there’s that good faith you’re trying to assure me you’re so danged set on.

                But if you’re trying to persuade me that you met a farmer at the local farmer’s market who agreed they were letting their lands turn into barren husks, I’ve just go to express some mild skepticism. But maybe the farmers in your area are different than the ones here in Michigan.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to M.A. says:

        This.

        High speed trading is another example; trades to make a profit based on volatility in the market. Seems like there are a lot of feedback loops produced in this way that distort markets.Report

        • Avatar Kim in reply to zic says:

          some of high speed trading is merely arbitrage… That’s not the bad part, it just makes the market more efficient.Report

          • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Kim says:

            From what I’ve read of HFT, I’d be surprised if any of it was arbitrage. It appears to be designed to create and extract the equivilant of a table rake from sales.

            Anytime anyone can operate INSIDE your decision loops like that, you are screwed screwed screwed.Report

            • Avatar Kim in reply to Morat20 says:

              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-frequency_trading
              at least the ultra low latency stuff is classic arbitrage.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Kim says:

                At least one set of HFT’s was basically looking for large buy/sell orders — then would probe them to determine the spread on their prices (basically executing micro-trades on individual shares to see if they’d go through and thus determine maximum buy or minimum sale prices), and then do the same on the other side of the trade.

                This would happen INSIDE the decision loop of the large sellers. The HFT would then buy at the minimum price a sale order would take and sell for the maximum price the buy order would accept.

                Effectively the buyer and seller were gouged the entire tolerance on their buy/sell order for the privilage of being introduced to each other, which didn’t require a HFT operating inside of them.

                Like I said — table rake.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Morat20 says:

                *shrugs* this is not evil. If you said you were willing to sell for $20, then you ought to be willing to sell for $20, and you aren’t being cheated.
                Cheating is when folks deliberately drop the price of your stock for 1 minute, just below where you have your stop, forcing you to sell, and then buy that, and then let the market bounce back up, making a nice tidy profit.

                I put that stop in there for large and long term swings, not momentary price disruptions.

                And, to top it all off, persuading investors to drop their stops is pretty stupid, as they provide decent price controls (slowing down a falling stock, vicey versa for a rising stock).Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to M.A. says:

        Will you stop parroting these inane left-wing talking points as if you were handing down revelations from God?

        This is what accountants, analysts, and auditors are for. Serious investors don’t just look at the last quarter’s income statements and blithely assume that this is how things will go for now and all eternity. You can’t sell off all your productive assets, post huge profits for one quarter, and then convince someone to buy your company with the expectation that those profits will be repeated every quarter. They’ll find out.

        Sure, sometimes people manage to fool the investors despite their doing due diligence. But if they can do that, they can fool the government, too. At least investors have a strong incentive to be diligent, since they lose money if they don’t. When government auditors miss something, they just use it as an argument that they need more funding.

        And it really ought to go without saying that firms make long-term investments all the time. Pharmaceuticals can take years to get to market. Timber can take decades to mature. I worked on a five-year software project. If companies only cared about current profits and market growth, they wouldn’t bother with these things.

        I’m utterly mystified that any of you take M.A. even the least bit seriously.

        *In fact, accounting standards don’t even allow you to count the sale of assets as profit, unless you get more for them than their depreciated value.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Brandon Berg says:

          firms make long-term investments all the time.

          That’s crazy talk. I heard CSX never buys rail cars; they just sell a bunch off each quarter so they can show a profit.Report

          • Avatar Lyle in reply to James Hanley says:

            Actually from reading Maury Kleins book on the UP it suggests that railroads no longer own cars but lease them, or have their customers buy them. Since many customers have detailed unique requirements why should the RR own the cars? So what you observe is part of a change where who owns the cars which used to be a large part of the capital required to run a railroad is changing. Let the shippers own the cars, which of course John D Rockefeller did, and it was part of the way he sliced and diced the railroads.Report

        • Avatar Kim in reply to Brandon Berg says:

          At least investors have a strong incentive to be diligent, since they lose money if they don’t.
          75% of the American Stock Markets is DUMB MONEY.
          When was the LAST time you even knew which stocks you were buying? Investment accounts are DUMB. You have NO control, and no WAY to be diligent.
          I have FIVE options on my retirement account. FIVE. Why in FUCK should I be diligent about what’s getting invested, when they might sell it the next day, and the only thing i could do would be to change into bonds? (or lower risk stocks?).Report

        • Avatar M.A. in reply to Brandon Berg says:

          Serious investors don’t just look at the last quarter’s income statements and blithely assume that this is how things will go for now and all eternity.

          No, but there are plenty of actors out there who are willing to look at a company and go “we can by a majority of stock for $X, sell off the equipment, sell off the IP, divvy it amongst ourselves, and then spin the rest off into bankruptcy.”

          And there are plenty of other actors out there playing the day-trading game willing to pitch in to buy a stock hoping for it to make a small bump, at which point they can trade out for a tidy profit, sometime in the next 2-3 month cycle.

          Pharmaceuticals can take years to get to market.

          Which is, ironically, why research into actual medical improvements is on the decline and the majority of medical research and patenting is now based on changing an existing drug just enough to re-patent it instead of actually making better treatments.Report

        • Avatar M.A. in reply to Brandon Berg says:

          I’m utterly mystified that any of you take M.A. even the least bit seriously.

          I’m equally mystified that anyone takes someone like you even the least bit seriously, so perhaps we are just at an impasse.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Brandon Berg says:

          Brandon, taking each other seriously is one of the things that makes us us.Report

  6. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    This completely ignores – or considers impossible – the idea of the Tragedy of the Commons.

    Thanks for leftsplaining that to us, but you don’t seem to actually know what “commons” means.Report

  7. Avatar Roger says:

    Libertarians represent a wide range of beliefs with some common elements. At the most extreme end we have free market anarchists who suggest we could get by with no government whatsoever.

    From the left we have a similar range with the extreme being full out socialism. Since we know from a century of experimentation that socialism fails, it is easy to win arguments with the left by equating their philosophy with socialism. I can just lay out the socialist belief and prove it leads to disaster and therefore prove that the left is intellectually bankrupt…right?

    Of course not. It is possible that moderate left policies can be much more successful than the ultra hard left of socialism.

    That said, the same is true about libertarianism, though with some caveats. Anarchism hasn’t actually been tried yet to any widespread, full effect. This doesn’t say much for anarchism in my mind, as I am extremely distrustful of thought experiments, but there is a difference between something not yet tried and something tried repeatedly and failing. Maybe not better, just different.

    Another line of attack on libertarianism is an extreme version of what I just did to anarchism. some say liberty has not been tried yet. This is silly. There are lots of areas where property rights and freedom have been tried, and in many cases the results are vastly superior to the alternatives. These are all mini wins for the classical liberal position. Indeed, much of the past 400 years of history has been for victory after victory of the classical liberal ideals in practice.

    This sets up the main point. The Hayekian approach to social progress is one via experimentation and competition both between and within institutions. Pollution and tragedy of the commons problems can be solved. The most creative, robust and dynamic solutions are explored via decentralized, competitive cooperative problem solving processes.

    How would libertarians solve X? They would allow problem solving systems, preferably of a decentralized variety, to evolve.

    This sounds like magical thinking to people who have trouble with complex adaptive systems or are stuck in childish top down master planning paradigms. Thus the challenge of libertarianism. The masses are not ready yet for it.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Roger says:

      The most creative, robust and dynamic solutions are explored via decentralized, competitive cooperative problem solving processes.
      Quantify this, particularly in view of the drag that advertising puts on a free market.
      Unless you want to count Salk and Sabin as decentralized bits of your process?Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Kim says:

        Kim,

        The quick answer is that you are assuming advertising is a problem. Advertising is a solution. Granted there is a cost to that solution, as there are with most.

        Point is though that advertising serves a purpose of communication, awareness, brand identity and so forth which are essential to free markets and efficient level economies of scale.Report

        • Avatar Alan Scott in reply to Roger says:

          Ironically, advertising is the closes this whole topic has actually come to a tragedy of the commons problem.

          The louder and more obnoxious advertising is, the more that consumers avoid or ignore it. And the more that consumers avoid or ignore it, the louder and more obnoxious it has to be to attract attention…Report

  8. Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

    Excellent post, M.A. Very well done. I’d like to see you do more posts, though I am only an occasional commenter.

    A word of advice: don’t bring up the atmosphere – the biggest Tragedy of the Commons. The libertarians will just say that it’s an unfair gotcha.Report

  9. Avatar Dan Miller says:

    “Pollution and tragedy of the commons problems can be solved.”

    Generally, of course, they’re solved through measures that are fiercely opposed by incumbent stakeholders–when was the last time you saw a factory owner cheerfully accept a cap and trade program? Instead, they tend to issue apocalyptic predictions that never actually come to pass.

    Meanwhile, actually existing libertarians never seem too upset about this state of affairs. Cato dabbles in global warming denialism and publishes hacks like Randall O’Toole who can’t even muster up intellectual consistency.

    It’s theoretically possible, I suppose, for there to be a libertarianism that would actually price in externalities and provide adequate environmental protection. But in the real world, libertarianism has proven to be unhelpful at best (and fanciful suggestions of multiple competing private agencies rating the sulfur output of different factories doesn’t do much to allay this). Until libertarians walk the walk and explicitly call out those who are shoving their pollution onto the rest of us, they won’t be credible on environmental issues.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Dan Miller says:

      SO2 trading isn’t a libertarian solution?Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to James Hanley says:

        apparently not since it involves the government…
        *eyeroll*
        I’m in the Progressive “whatever works” school of hard knocks.Report

      • Avatar Dan Miller in reply to James Hanley says:

        Let me put it this way–the libertarian community, from blog commenters to think tanks, rarely gets angry about the lack of a carbon tax in the way that it does get angry about the existence of Social Security and Obamacare. It’s also more willing to accept ideological inconsistency from its political allies on environmental issues than it is on issues of income taxation or the safety net. Would you say that’s a fair characterization?

        I take this to be a pretty good indicator that libertarians operating in the real world don’t care that much about environmental issues. There are exceptions, no doubt, but they have almost zero sway–I can’t think of a single libertarian group that both advocates for serious solutions to environmental problems and has comparable pull to Cato.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Dan Miller says:

          Agreed. I’d just point out that it’s not because libertarianism can’t do it, but that libertarianism isn’t doing it. That is, they deserve criticism for not doing it, but to claim it invalidates libertarianism, as M.A. does, doesn’t seem to follow as a matter of logic.Report

          • Avatar John Howard Griffin in reply to James Hanley says:

            I just want to point out that liberalism can do anything that libertarianism can do, but better. It doesn’t mean that liberalism is currently doing it, and liberalism deserves criticism for that. But, to claim that libertarianism can do some things better than liberalism doesn’t seem to follow as a matter of logic.

            I’ve discovered that libertarians are good at one thing: making excuses for libertarianism (and complaining that no one understands libertarianism. Oh, and the commons. And regulation. Oooh, and they’re all smarter than you. And…)

            [/snark]

            I needed this reminder of how much world there is that is not here. Thanks!Report

            • Avatar Roger in reply to John Howard Griffin says:

              John,

              You guys don’t understand libertarianism. The concept of distributed, competitive cooperative problem solving seems to be too abstract for a lot of people. Many on the left ( and most on the right as well) are under the childish belief that complex solutions come primarily from top down master planning.

              Once you see that most complex solutions in science, markets, technology, sports and evolution bubble up from the bottom you can begin to grasp the essence of progress. Until then, I suggest you entertain yourselves with childish nursery stories.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Roger says:

                These discussions always wind up pulling apart to the poles.

                It gets a little tiresome.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                Agreed. It is totally tiresome.Report

              • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to Roger says:

                Part of the problem is that you guys (and by “you guys” I mean Team Liberal and Team Libertarian, since the Conservatives typically tune all these discussions out) are arguing from first principles that the extreme measure of the other guys’ first principles are ridiculous.

                Those discussions typically don’t turn out well. You’re as guilty of it here as anybody else; the zero sum fallacy is a fallacy and the Big Kahuna fallacy is another, but neither of them adequately explains complex behaviors and both of them do.

                To say that nothing is built from the top-down is kind of ridiculous, and saying that nothing is built from the bottom up is frankly just stupid. But the actual reality on the ground is that most things are massive hybrids of the two approaches. I mean, lots and lots and lots of bottom up stuff comes into being in our stable society, and lots and lots of top down stuff comes into being in our stable society… but neither of those things is really top down or bottom up unless you’re looking at it through a very particular lens.

                The NSF funds a lot of basic science research. A good chunk of that basic science research isn’t done by private investors. A good chunk of that basic science research winds up having all sorts of awesome applications that individual inventors seize upon that the original basic researchers would never have thought of in a million years, and boom, we get interesting stuff out of the other end.

                This is, from the standpoint of the mechanism of society, neither top-down nor bottom-up. Giving too much credit for the entrepreneurial inventor downplays the role of basic science research, giving too much credit to the basic science researcher ignores the people that were outside the box.

                SpaceX would not currently exist without being able to hire all those rocket guys from NASA. Does this mean that SpaceX would never exist? No.

                But there’s plenty of reason to think that without both things (top down/bottom up processes) going on in multiple, very loosely coupled systems (government, private industry, education, whatever), you would have something different from what you have now.

                There are times when decoupling big ideas from efficiency as the primary concern (which, really, is a feature and a bug in bottom-up designs) you can enable all sorts of major innovations that can wind up producing huge gains in short periods of time, precisely because you’ve offloaded some of the risk (which comes part and parcel with not giving as much of crap about efficiency as you must be, nearly by definition, when you’re bottom-up).

                For lots of problems, one approach might work better than another. For lots of problems, as technology advances, the best approach is going to change, because you’ve enabled high degrees of productivity in smaller sizes of coordinating individuals.

                You’ve got Microsoft Windows, and you’ve got Linux. One is a poster child for top down design, and the other is a poster child for bottom up. They both have advantages and disadvantages. One is better for one user environment, one is better for another. Neither is objectively better than the other for all use cases, in all deployments, with every possible user.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Pat Cahalan says:

                Pat ,

                I agree 100% with your response. Both fallacies operate more as blinders to one side of the realm of possibilities. Zero sum and negative sum interactions are not only possible but widespread. Top down problem solving is possible, and calling out the Big Kahuna fallacy does not disprove the existence of God or big government.

                I also agree completely that most progressive systems balance the issues. Positive sum games almost always have zeo sum dimensions. The most successful decentralized competitive cooperative problem solving system have a top down element.Report

              • Agreed. So let me try to pull it back a little. Because I was thinking what Roger said–that John H.G. sure did set me me/us up to respond, “No one understands libertarianism” but I knew that wasn’t likely to be constructive.

                I have to ask: give some specifics that would ever lead you to say “liberalism can do anything that libertarianism can do, but better.” The social aspects of liberalism are somewhat in tune with libertarianism, but liberalism’s “government is the ultimate problem solver” certainly is not.

                And the problem is exactly the opposite of what you stated: liberalism is currently doing lots of things, and it has generally failed at its intent, whereas libertarianism is based on fairly simple logic but doesn’t have a lot of evidence to prove itself in modern times.Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Brian Houser says:

                I’ll throw in here that liberals do not believe Gov is always the ultimate problem solver. We think its the best solution in some situations. not all but some. To much of libertarian thought seems devoid of context. What works well in one area might not work well in another.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to greginak says:

                Yup. I don’t think the fact iPad’s are uberexpensive is something the government should fix. I don’t think the fact I won’t be able to find a Wii U on Sunday is something the government should fix. OTOH, I think the government should say, Nintendo, Apple, and other electronic companies shouldn’t be legally allowed to colludeo on pricing of their products.Report

              • Avatar John Howard Griffin in reply to Brian Houser says:

                “government is the ultimate problem solver”

                “free markets are the ultimate problem solver”Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to John Howard Griffin says:

                Ergo, free market governments are the ultimate problem solvers!Report

              • Avatar Russell M in reply to John Howard Griffin says:

                Now that’s funny James. under the free market gov can i just directly buy my Commissar of Banking seat or is that still something I would have to pay somebody else for?

                and if I can buy it shall it be silent auctions or live?Report

              • Avatar LWA (Liberal With Attitude) in reply to Roger says:

                “You guys don’t understand libertarianism”

                What is it about libertarianism that makes it singularly mysterious to otherwise well educated and intelligent people?

                I bet emprical evidence, things that you can point to and say “look here, there is evidence that can be measured and independently confirmed” would clear up the mystery straight away.

                Got any to share?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to LWA (Liberal With Attitude) says:

                What is it about libertarianism that makes it singularly mysterious to otherwise well educated and intelligent people?

                What is it about otherwise well-educated and intelligent people that makes them impervious to the simplicity of libertarianism?Report

              • Avatar John Howard Griffin in reply to James Hanley says:

                An understanding of Reality.

                Thanks for playing Short Answers to Short Questions. Next!Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to LWA (Liberal With Attitude) says:

                LWA,
                I would consider my time on this site as a giant cases study on answering this very question. I have two answers. The Zero Sum Fallacy* and the Big Kahuna Fallacy.

                There is extensive literature on both, though the latter term is my own. The zero sum fallacy I even wrote a guest post on. I should write another on the second concept.

                In brief, the zero sum fallacy relates to a basic misunderstanding of the sources of value, prosperity, knowledge and such. The Big Kahuna fallacy is the belief that complex designs and solution sets are created and master planned by a top down, hierarchical process. God or Big Government knows what is best, should design out a rational plan and then coerce others to follow it.

                The key insight is that the two fallacies self amplify each other.

                Libertarians realize that voluntary interactions can be organized in such ways do that only value creating actions are incentivized. Further, they realize that top down master planning lacks variety, the ability to experiment and tends to operate via win lose coercive actions which destroy value over time.

                There may be a third blind spot as well. I think a lot of people confuse constructive and destructive competition, and assume much of the former is the latter.

                * a more appropriate term than fallacy might be “myth”Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Roger says:

                Big Kahuna fallacy. Nice, I’m stealing that. Fortunately as a libertarian I totally believe in theft, and no government to punish it.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to James Hanley says:

                There you go, James, assuming that all regulation needs to be imposed by a third party again.Report

              • Avatar John Howard Griffin in reply to James Hanley says:

                It is really sweet that you spend so much of your time complaining that others don’t understand libertarianism and then you fall in love with the Big Kahuna fallacy. Nice one, Captain Irony.Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to Roger says:

                The Big Kahuna fallacy is the belief that complex designs and solution sets are created and master planned by a top down, hierarchical process.

                I’ve yet to see a government that actually operates that way; total top-down controlled planning. Most government grows organically as people (the governed and the those working within the government) work to solve problems. Much of government is, in fact, bottom up; people coming in with a problem that they cannot solve on their own.

                But most disturbing here is the always present assumption that government is something outside, and separate, not part of people. When I go to a meeting our my town’s selectmen (board to be gender neutral) or school board, there are always people in the room proposing bottom-up change to improve something or other.

                The processes of governing — legislating, budgeting, planning, regulation — are all public process, your voice, my voice, are invited. Nearly every thing a government does involves public hearings.

                The whole ‘top-down’ meme as a way of describing government seems to stem from people who are ignorant of how it actually functions (and it’s not always efficient or pretty) and have never actually engaged government.

                The town you live in has a governing body of some sort; do you know the people on it? How to bring a matter to their attention for discussion? If not, that’s a big a problem of your lack of ignorance as a consumer’s problem for not researching the the thousands of products they might want to purchase over the next few years, isn’t it?Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser in reply to zic says:

                Not all libertarians want to get rid of all government. But we do all agree that bigger is not better. Many of us, myself included, are fine with government as long as it’s as localized as possible. In fact, I’m even OK with a decent-sized state government. The problem is that the more centralized the government becomes, the less in tune with local desires it becomes and the more abusive and inefficient it can become. My issues are not so much over local zoning regulations as they are that a significant portion of my income is stolen and redistributed to people across the country that I know nothing about.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to zic says:

                *sigh*

                Your income is not stolen. It isn’t as if the IRS comes in the middle of the night and steals money out of your pocket. Taxes are the cover charge for being in the club known as America. If you can find a cooler place with better acoustics at as cheaper rate that will let you past the velvet rope, I wish you good luck.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to zic says:

                It isn’t as if the IRS comes in the middle of the night and steals money out of your pocket.

                True, they take it before I even get a chance to put it in my pocket!Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to zic says:

                Brian,

                But we do all agree that bigger is not better.

                How does size have anything to do with it at all? Bigger or smaller has absolutely nothing to do with quality or competence.

                I’ve seen small-town governments that were lean and mean, highly responsive to the needs of the residents. Same with medium-sized city governments, and even a few large state governments. I’ve also seem same, small, medium, and large, that were horrid. The size of a government is about a poor a unit for measuring quality as I can imagine.

                You prefer government that is highly localized — and yet that’s exactly what most government is. But some problems are not localized; the acid rain that falls on my state is generated elsewhere; we have no ability to seek redress or regulate without aid of the federal government. There are growing problems of air quality along the west coast that result from pollution generated in China; again, the Federal government is needed.

                When people complain about government, typically they’re grousing about town/state level, and blame it on federal government. You and I can talk about land-use regulation, about building standards, about water quality regulation, and on and on and be discussing two completely different sets of regulations without realizing it because most of it is already localized.

                This was obvious and common as folks discussed health insurance on blogs during the ACA debates; folks would bat away at each other for pages of posts and never realize they were discussing two different systems as they existed at that time. One of the benefits of Federal Government is that it actually flattens out some of those differences while allowing for local interpretation. The health insurance exchange my state sets up is not likely to look or function like the exchange yours sets up; yet both have this basic floor of meeting health insurance needs. Same goes for education. While I’m no fan of No Child Left Behind, it did create a basic grade-level expectation so that a child moving from one state to another had some hope of being at grade level.

                Discussions of ‘government’ and ‘big government’ fail this way. Which government? Which governing agency? They are many, not one.

                I’m all for perfecting. But we discuss this as if it were one gigantic scary beast, a monster out there, waiting to devour everything in its path while stunning us into inaction with its magic gaze. And it just ain’t so.Report

              • Avatar Zach in reply to zic says:

                “Most government grows organically as people (the governed and the those working within the government) work to solve problems. ”

                It most certainly does not. A government agency or regulation may be a response to a perceived problem, but the underlying structural aspects that inform, shape, and limit the possible decision-making responses are created at the top.

                “The processes of governing — legislating, budgeting, planning, regulation — are all public process, your voice, my voice, are invited.”

                No, many of the administrative processes are categorically not public processes. Indeed, in most Western countries, the administrative process is deliberately designed to provide as much distance as possible between the democratically elected legislator and the administrative decision-maker. After all, how ‘efficient’ would an administrative agency be if it was subject to anything resembling public oversight?Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser in reply to zic says:

                RE: zic

                I guess it boils down to the fact that as government centralizes, it becomes less reflective of individual desires, and that that’s not a good thing.

                Sure, a federal government can be useful in cases such as pollution from one state affecting another. But when it tries to solve social problems like education, welfare, and healthcare, the side effect is to remove evolutionary market forces that produce innovative outcomes. In other words, government does things the way people tell it to rather than ways that have been proven to work.

                As designed, the United States of America had a built in innovation engine, in that each state could try its own thing. Some would work, some wouldn’t, but we’d learn. As functions are taken over by the federal government, it all devolves into a single fit-all solution.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to zic says:

                Zic,

                Sorry to respond so slowly.

                I agree completely that even top down organizations evolve bottoms up. I also believe the best systems usually involve a measure of both.

                I do not think the government is separate from the people. It is an institution of people with a particular set of roles, rules, protocols and procedures aimed at solving human problems via coooperative human action.

                My issue is with the assumption that most humans have on problem solving, that where a problem exists, the way to solve it is to design a solution for it from the top down. As an extreme example. It is the difference from believing that the role of the president is to create jobs, as opposed to the view that the role of the president is to ensure that the system is working smoothly enough to create jobs.Report

              • “What is it about libertarianism that makes it singularly mysterious to otherwise well educated and intelligent people?”

                I’ve been wondering that, too. Roger’s ideas are interesting and probably mostly true. But I want something simpler and more visceral.

                Fear? Guilt? Years of indoctrination by the statist schools and mass media? I don’t know.

                There does seem to be this mystical barrier between liberalism/conservatism and libertarianism that’s hard to cross in either direction. In the course of a lifetime, people often move between being a liberal and being a conservative, but there are very few cases of libertarians ever switching back to anything else. It’s like something just clicks and once it does, nothing else makes sense anymore.

                So it’s hard, being on the libertarian side of the fence, to understand why everyone else has such a tough time crossing over. For many of us (including myself), I think we were always libertarians; we just didn’t know it when we were younger. But we always had a sense that neither of the major political parties really felt right. I have noticed some common personality traits among libertarians, and maybe that’s an important factor. Many of us are critical thinkers, value competence and fairness over authority, and place a high value on logical systems.

                Can we approach this from the other side? What is it about libertarianism that doesn’t work in your view?Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Brian Houser says:

                Brian

                Have you read about Fiske’s models of human relations? He lays out that all relationships can be sorted into four types.

                Here is an large text copy explaining it..

                “The answer, surprisingly, is that people use just four fundamental models for organizing most aspects of sociality most of the time in all cultures. These models are Communal Sharing, Authority Ranking, Equality Matching, and Market Pricing. Communal Sharing (CS) is a relationship in which people treat some dyad or group as equivalent and undifferentiated with respect to the social domain in question. Examples are people using a commons (CS with respect to utilization of the particular resource), people intensely in love (CS with respect to their social selves), people who “ask not for whom the bell tolls, for it tolls for thee” (CS with respect to shared suffering and common well-being), or people who kill any member of an enemy group indiscriminately in retaliation for an attack (CS with respect to collective responsibility).

                 In Authority Ranking (AR) people have asymmetric positions in a linear hierarchy in which subordinates defer, respect, and (perhaps) obey, while superiors take precedence and take pastoral responsibility for subordinates. Examples are military hierarchies (AR in decisions, control, and many other matters), ancestor worship (AR in offerings of filial piety and expectations of protection and enforcement of norms), monotheistic religious moralities (AR for the definition of right and wrong by commandments or will of God), social status systems such as class or ethnic rankings (AR with respect to social value of identities), and rankings such as sports team standings (AR with respect to prestige). AR relationships are based on perceptions of legitimate asymmetries, not coercive power; they are not inherently exploitative (although they may involve power or cause harm).

                In Equality Matching relationships people keep track of the balance or difference among participants and know what would be required to restore balance. Common manifestations are turn-taking, one-person one-vote elections, equal share distributions, and vengeance based on an-eye-for-an-eye, a-tooth-for-a-tooth. Examples include sports and games (EM with respect to the rules, procedures, equipment and terrain), baby-sitting coops (EM with respect to the exchange of child care), and restitution in-kind (EM with respect to righting a wrong). 

                Market Pricing relationships are oriented to socially meaningful ratios or rates such as prices, wages, interest, rents, tithes, or cost-benefit analyses. Money need not be the medium, and MP relationships need not be selfish, competitive, maximizing, or materialistic—any of the four models may exhibit any of these features. MP relationships are not necessarily individualistic; a family may be the CS or AR unit running a business that operates in an MP mode with respect to other enterprises. Examples are property that can be bought, sold, or treated as investment capital (land or objects as MP), marriages organized contractually or implicitly in terms of costs and benefits to the partners, prostitution (sex as MP), bureaucratic cost-effectiveness standards (resource allocation as MP), utilitarian judgments about the greatest good for the greatest number, or standards of equity in judging entitlements in proportion to contributions (two forms of morality as MP), considerations of “spending time” efficiently, and estimates of expected kill ratios (aggression as MP).

                People often use different models for different aspects of their interaction with the same person. For example, roommates may divide the rent evenly and take turns cooking dinner for each other (both EM), buy ingredients for the meal at the store (MP), share their food and drink at the table without regard to who consumes what and share living and bath rooms (CS), pay for long-distance calls according to the costs they each incur (MP), and one may sell her used car to the other. On the softball field one is a coach, the other player (AR); yet in their sexual relations they like to reverse these roles of domination and submission.”

                The reason I bring this model up is that in some of his writing he explains that there is a cognitive climb from lower primates and children up to the higher level of abstract relationships. MP relationships are harder to get. The overlap with libertarian thinking is pretty obvious.Report

              • Avatar LWA (Liberal With Attitude) in reply to Brian Houser says:

                You touch on an interesting point- liberalism and conservatism have much more in common with each other, than either does with libertarianism.

                Based on my engagement here and elsewhere that libertarians write, what strikes me is how monochromatic the libertarian palette is.

                For example, I am working my way through Haidt’s “Righteous Mind” where he asserts that there are 6 basic sets of virtues
                http://moralfoundations.org/
                Care/Harm, Fairness/Cheating, Liberty/oppression, Loyalty/betrayal, Authority/subversion, Sanctity/degradation.

                Its as if the libertarians raise the third one up to a commanding height, and shrink the others to negligibility.

                Consider the libertarian proposals put forward on pollution; it is defined entirely in terms of individual liberty to control property, versus measurable harm to others.

                In other words, one liberty, pitted against another. But liberty remains the coin of the realm, the sole yardstick by which things are measured.

                Is the land sacred, something that should be conserved and cared for? Not really- land is property, and is only to be interfered with if my use of it causes harm to another property or person.

                Drugs, prostitution, same sex marriage? They can only be discussed in terms of liberty- such as economics, harm, autonomy.
                Human dignity, the sacredness of the human body, the value of family groups, their effect on community? Libertarians scarcely have the language to even discuss these things.

                Democracy? When the people vote, their authority is not legitimate if it limits the free choices of the libertarian. Whatever the libertarian himself has not personally chosen, such as Social Security, helmet laws, etc., is illegitimate coercion.
                This explains the wildly contorted proposals that all involve forms of “opting out” whereby the libertarian is allowed to unlimited choice of engagement with society.

                Conservatives and liberals both see the world as complex systems of moral values, and that individual autonomy is conditional, and partial; no one completely owns their own self, but instead we all have a lien upon us owned by society- a debt, a duty, an obligation of varying degrees.

                So for conservatives and liberals, my exercise of property rights is limited and conditioned upon my “right use” of it, as defined by society.

                By granting so much power to one single attibute, by defining the entire political world in the monochromatic tones of Liberty/Oppression, Care/Harm, libertairian thinking completely alienates itself from the worldview of both conservatives and liberals, and speaks a language that is unknown to us.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to LWA (Liberal With Attitude) says:

                Hmm, so libertarian emphasis on the harm principle doesn’t mean we elevate the care/harm virtue?

                I haven’t read Haidt, so I don’t know. I can see libertarians fitting only half of it–harm is bad, but no corresponding duty to care, so maybe we don’t, at least as Haidt has defined it.Report

              • For now, just wanted to say thanks for your thoughtful response. Some good stuff to think about there, and I’m still digesting it.Report

              • Yesterday’s Dem is today’s Rep and vice-versa. Depends on what you think is right, and on what works.

                But yesterday’s libertarian is tomorrow’s libertarian, mostly.

                I endorse Barry Shain’s thesis, “The Myth of American Individualism.” From the Puritans to the FDRians, we were always communitarian, never Randians atall. “Radical individualism” is a fairly recent invention, and it is a lie.Report

              • Avatar Russell M in reply to LWA (Liberal With Attitude) says:

                I personally think Libertarians don’t move out of their niche because they have not gotten to try and enforce their beliefs as a governing coalition in any major way. once you put any party in power you start to see the strain of holding that block together. elect a libertarian majority to the house and senate and the white house and you will start to see the ideological drift. because governing is much harder than the ivory tower of purity.

                take Rep. Ron Paul for example. more or less the face of libertarian thought in this country and held up as pure because he votes against every spending bill. which he can do because there are always 218 other votes for. once Ron had a Majority behind him as house speaker, he would have to start voting yes if only to maintain some limited gov function. and thus would lose the pure label and be No True Libertarian.

                (I know there is a fair amount of broad brush painting in proceeding but I think the idea has merits.)Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to LWA (Liberal With Attitude) says:

                Russell,

                Your argument explains why libertarians are skeptical of overusing the role of government. It is a process which is easily overused and which in excess harms rather than hinders progess. The logical move in games which are inherently negative sum is not to play.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to LWA (Liberal With Attitude) says:

                I’ve read Haidt’s site, taken the survey and read various articles on his theory, and would be glad to discuss this further.

                Check out Fiske’s theory for another framework.Report

              • take Rep. Ron Paul for example. more or less the face of libertarian thought in this country and held up as pure because he votes against every spending bill. which he can do because there are always 218 other votes for.

                Even there, though, you see the ideological impurity once you scratch the surface.

                Ron Paul was proud of “voting against” every spending bill, and “never voting for an earmark”. But at the same time, he requested more earmarks than any other representative for most of his term. He requested $157 Million in earmarks for FY 2011 and he got just about all of them by tagging them to the very bills he was voting against, knowing full well his “no” vote didn’t mean a thing because they were going to pass overwhelmingly.

                It’s one thing to hold him up as ideologically pure without analysis, but he doesn’t hold up. He talked and shouted and ranted the talk, but never once walked the walk.Report

              • Avatar Russell M in reply to LWA (Liberal With Attitude) says:

                Re:M.A.

                was not trying to make a point of Paul’s actual beliefs vs actions. but ask 10 americans to name a libertarian and 6-7 will say one of the Pauls(ron or rand). right now libertarian is their brand.

                to expand a little i am just saying it is easy to be pure when not in power. Ruling according to your principles is harder than sitting outside pointing out problems.

                Re:Rodger

                If you dont play you dont get to meddle with the rules. if you want to prove you market theories you have to be in government. never trust someone else to write your ideals into rules.

                best example is the ACA. i was fairly sure we were going to go single payer based on the campaign. And instead we got national Romneycare.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to LWA (Liberal With Attitude) says:

                Russell,

                Hence the demise of democracies over time. Only those that want to meddle with rules are attracted to the game, so the rules are constantly meddled with.

                Luckily there are certain escape valves for the dilemma. The most obvious is what a libertarian writer refers to as THE VERGE. New industries, new businesses, new growing towns and cities, new colonies, and new opportunities. it takes a while for the meddlers to screw things up.Report

        • Avatar Kim in reply to Dan Miller says:

          they call those people democrats. left-libertarians are better integrated than right-libertarians… i wonder why?Report

  10. Avatar Dan Miller says:

    I would say that depends on how much you distinguish “libertarianism as an ideal philosophy” from “libertarianism as a community in the real world”. Personally, I tend to put more weight on the latter; that could be the source of a lot of the disconnects in this comment thread.Report

  11. Avatar LWA (Liberal With Attitude) says:

    I am still back on the question of how the Libertarian Party positions are meant to improve the lives of the American people, overall.

    Suppose we followed their proposal and abolished the EPA, and instituted the tort and strict liability requirements. What would be the benefit to us as a people?

    The arguments presented so far- e.g. “ranchers would certainly cre for their property as owners better than as tenants” are offered without evidence or citation and fly in the face of observable phenomenon.Report

    • Avatar Roger in reply to LWA (Liberal With Attitude) says:

      As I answered your question in detail on James’ thread, the libertarian solution allows people to solve problems collectively. The benefit is lower costs, more efficiency, higher standards of living and so forth.

      https://ordinary-times.com/blog/2012/11/on-markets/#comment-408962Report

      • Avatar LWA (Liberal With Attitude) in reply to Roger says:

        No, actually you didn’t.
        You gave a long and clear explanation of how it would be different, but not better.

        An example from your post:
        “Infrastructure would be funded from a supermajority of state or federal legislatures, built by private firms. Other projects would be funded by local government or built by user fees. ”

        OK, first off, I assume we are talking about federal scale infrastructure like the interstate highway system. How would having it built by a supermajority of states be one bit better? And most projects are already funded by a consortium of federal and state dollars. And it is already built by private firms!

        And building codes being thinner? Thinner? Why didn’t you just say, “Symphonies will have fewer notes” and be done with it?

        “Building codes would be thin and subject to sunset. ”
        How is making the building codes thinner going to benefit real estate developers, building owners, occupants, and cities? Would our buildings be safer, cheaper, more beautiful, what?

        “People would be expected to insure themselves against catastrophe, (WE DO!) though relief funds would be available, (THEY ARE!) and in no case would someone be allowed to rebuild in a hurricane or flood area without proof of total private insurance. (Without federal flood insurance to cast a wide net, vast swath of the country would revert to vacant land. Goodbye Florida! So long Mississippi , Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois!)

        Again- why is this an improvement?

        Your arguments all just seem to have as an assumption, that private =Better, by definition.Report

        • Avatar wardsmith in reply to LWA (Liberal With Attitude) says:

          Libw/attitude, you’re going to tell me the EPA has done a /good/ job with the Superfund? This I gotta hear.Report

          • Avatar Russell M in reply to wardsmith says:

            well the river in Cleveland no longer catches fire so I think that’s a winner right there. and the superfund cleanup in the copper mining town i live in has made the water safe to drink and the soil non-toxic so there’s another one.Report

        • Avatar Roger in reply to LWA (Liberal With Attitude) says:

          LWA,

          “No, actually you didn’t. You gave a long and clear explanation of how it would be different, but not better.

          The part about education and health care being cheaper, and the part about substantially faster growth rates and lower rates unemployment leading tomorrows poor to have better standards of living than you or I today is the better part.Report

        • Avatar Roger in reply to LWA (Liberal With Attitude) says:

          LWA,

          To be concise. The key issue is not private. It is to make human interactions voluntary and subject to constructive competition. In other words, my solutions are aimed at reducing monopolies and coercion and optimizing choice.

          Longer answer… By thin regulations I am referring to consistent, impartial rules written in such a way that the system being regulated is allowed to optimize problem solving rather than micro managing the process from the top down.

          On hurricane or flood areas, my recommendation is that emergency aid funds NOT be used to rebuild in such a way that risk is exported to taxpayers. For example, the aid or loan should be contingent upon proving it is privately insured from that point on.Report

          • Avatar LWA (Liberal With Attitude) in reply to Roger says:

            OK, keep going-
            Reducing monopolies andcoercion and increasing choice is a good thing…Why? What measurable benefit does it bring?
            There are dozens of ways to make schools cheaper- is that their primary failing today, that they are too expensive?

            On regulation- You sweep this incredibly broad brush, by asserting that “regulations”- (all regulations, everywhere?) need to be reduced.
            What actual, empirical firsthand

            For example-
            Neither you nor I are experts in the regulations for designing and operating commercial airliners. I’m sure these regulations run into the thousands of pages.

            What statements can you and I make about them? That they are onerous and inefficient? That they should be reduced, reformed, sunsetted?

            Nope. For all you and I know, the existing FAA regulations could very well be the very epitome of perfection, without even the possibility of being improved. For all we know, the regulations of commercial airliners may already be a system that is “allowed to optimize problem solving rather than micro managing the process from the top down. ”
            Or not!
            But in order to have that discussion, we would need at least 2 knowledgeable people, presenting evidence and data. And that isn’t you or me.

            So any statement that asserts something universal about “regulation”, is false. Its based on theology and faith, not observable evidence.Report

            • Well stated. This is probably why so many Libertarians/Conservatives can never name an actual regulation they want eliminated. They either use it as a signaling call, or they want entire departments eliminated while having no plan to deal with the effects of doing so.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to M.A. says:

                PATRIOT. The CSA. PPACA. The Copyright Term Extension Act.

                That’s off the top of my head.

                (Now getting rid of the TSA is a gimmie but I stand by getting rid of that too.)Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Jaybird says:

                See, and I’d argue there’s actual good things about interdepartmental cooperation in the PATRIOT Act and of course, the PPACA is a good start fixing a massive problem.

                The CSA and Copyright bills I don’t know enough about.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

                There’s actual good things about possessing nuclear weapons, too, but that doesn’t mean they don’t come with drawbacks.

                The PATRIOT act is – in my opinion, anyway – atrociously bad law and trying to harvest about ten lines of good law out of the whole thing is a huge waste of time. I have zero problem whatsoever with chucking the whole thing in the ravine and starting over, and think any attempt to defend it on the merits of the about ten lines is seriously fighting the bad fight.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Jaybird says:

                You point to entire, rather large laws.

                What provisions of the PATRIOT Act do you want removed? Which could stay?

                Controlled Substances Act – revision may be needed. Law itself is relatively sound. I presume when you say CSA you mean “legalize marijuana.”

                PPACA – there’s far more good than bad here. Again, specific provisions you want repealed?

                Copyright Term Extension act – should have been unconstitutional anyways as an ex post facto law. However, I’ll agree that the general merits on it are bad to start with. It’s a relatively small law compared to the others you mentioned.

                This is the problem. Three of your cases are massive generalities.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to M.A. says:

                What provisions of the PATRIOT Act do you want removed? Which could stay?

                All of them.
                If any individual provisions are worth keeping, put them up, individually, as an individual law.

                I do not like the tendency of HUGE GIANT LAWS being passed where one provision provides more nutritious school lunches to needy children and another provision provides for some harmful policy and another provision provides an umbrella for other harmful actions over there… and then, when we oppose HUGE GIANT LAW, people ask “don’t you *CARE* about needy children eating???”

                Quit bundling evil laws with good ones. One provision at a time. If this one can’t pass without that one, then this one doesn’t pass. We’ll have to do without, leave it up to the states, or leave it up to the people.

                I presume when you say CSA you mean “legalize marijuana.”

                You presume incorrectly.

                PPACA – there’s far more good than bad here. Again, specific provisions you want repealed?

                THE WHOLE FRIGGING THING. If you absolutely positively want to keep a specific provision, try to pass it. If it doesn’t pass? Leave it up to the states, to the people, or do without.

                It’s a relatively small law compared to the others you mentioned.

                Follow the money. I think you’ll be surprised by how large the law is.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Jaybird says:

                Jaybird,

                Quit bundling evil laws with good ones. One provision at a time. If this one can’t pass without that one, then this one doesn’t pass.

                I stand somewhat in solidarity with you on this thought, because I can point to laws I feel equally where something very bad was bundled with something very good as a compromise. However, that’s the result of the sausage-making sort of system the Founders created, and realistically I doubt we’ll see it anytime soon.

                I respect your position on the matter, however. It’s a principle I can agree with as a principle. I just don’t quite see how we get there, and I worry that its requirement might cause even worse messes and blockages in the necessary functions of government as our current mostly-adversarial system designed by the Founders exists.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Jaybird says:

                Jaybird,

                This is where we part ways. In reality only the first ten thousand pages of the PPACA are garbage. The last few thousand pages and programs and bureaucratic rent seeking rules are golden.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Jaybird says:

                Jaybird,

                Also could you clarify what you meant by CSA, and your objections, then?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

                The Controlled Substances Act.

                What part of “eliminated” is unclear?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to M.A. says:

                M.A.

                Quit moving the goal posts. You said libertarians never can name any specific regulations they want eliminated. He names some, then you claim they’re not specific enough to suit you because in your opinion there’s more good than bad in them.

                But maybe he wants all of PPACA eliminated. Maybe he wants a straightup repeal of the Patriot Act without replacing any of it (a return directly and in whole to the pre-Patriot Act structure).

                If you’re going to interpret these as not being specific regulations, it comes across as a matter convenience for you so you can continue claiming libertarians can’t name any “specific” regulations.

                As to the copyright term extension act, the ex post facto prohibition only applies to criminal law. As criminally bad as the act was, it couldn’t possibly be unconstitutional under that standard.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to James Hanley says:

                As to the copyright term extension act, the ex post facto prohibition only applies to criminal law.

                As violation of copyright carries potential criminal penalties (fines, jail time) the ex post facto extension of its duration necessarily alters criminal law. Your objection is therefore invalid.

                Quit moving the goal posts….If you’re going to interpret these as not being specific regulations, it comes across as a matter convenience for you so you can continue claiming libertarians can’t name any “specific” regulations.

                I’m not moving the goalposts. I said I wanted specific regulations and I meant it. “PPACA” is not a specific regulation, it’s a rather long law consisting of thousands of regulations. Some of them are good, some of them are bad.

                Jaybird has clarified he dislikes the notion of laws that don’t pass one provision at a time as a principle itself, and I’ll take him at his word on that. It’s something I can respect, though it makes discussions on specific regulations, again, difficult since the system as designed by the Founders is designed to encourage sausage-making.

                He also provided one law which I found relatively meaningful to discuss on the terms of specific regulation, so I did so.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

                So if in fact a libertarian can name an entire bundle of laws he wants eliminated, then he can’t describe what he actually wants.

                Didn’t you once say you teach critical thinking?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

                As violation of copyright carries potential criminal penalties (fines, jail time) the ex post facto extension of its duration necessarily alters criminal law. Your objection is therefore invalid.

                No, because if I violate the copyright extension, I have done so after the extension was made law.

                Ask a lawyer.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to James Hanley says:

                Didn’t you once say you teach critical thinking?

                You have me confused with someone else.

                No, because if I violate the copyright extension, I have done so after the extension was made law.

                Not so. The way the law was written, a number of works with already-expired copyright terms reentered copyright protection.Report

              • I do indeed have you confused with someone else. My apologies.

                Re: copyright. It’s the timing of the individual’s action in relation to when an act was kegal or not that matters. If I copied something while it was out of copyright, then it went back into copyright, then I stopped copying, but was arrested for the copying I had done previously, that would be a violation of the ex post facto clause. But a public domain item being re granted copyright is not itself violating the law, and if I am only arrested for copying after it returned to copyright protection it’s not a violation of the clause. Super stupid and sucky, yes, but not unconstitutional.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to M.A. says:

                Grape cartels, taxicab medallions, minimum wage laws, UPL statutes, sugar tariffs, the no night-time street parking law in my town, the minimum home size rule in Steuben County, Indiana that’s preventing someone from building her (small) dream home, dairy price supports.

                Would you like me to go on?Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to James Hanley says:

                Grape cartels – you mean an organization in restraint of fair market access? I can’t find any by googling it, but if they are what you seem to imply, you’d find me against them.

                Taxicab Medallionslong argument..

                Minimum wage laws – no sale. I’m philosophically opposed to the abolishment as I consider the arguments that abolishing it would result in more employment and/or higher wages to be unsupported by the evidence and a result of magical thinking.

                UPL Statutes – Depends on the state. Where tied to membership in the state bar, possibly. Where tied to a certain level of proven education and the passing of a certification exam, I am ambivalent because there are good arguments both for and against. I’ll also caveat this with the notion that, should the law become vastly simplified again towards what it was in the past rather than the hyper-abstract, deliberately confusing morass it is today, I would expect that the education requirement could be dispensed with and mere passage of the certification exam given enough weight.

                Sugar tariffs – As a matter of regulatory capture by the relatively powerful corn lobby, you have a case here. Not a case to eliminate the government’s right to impose tariffs (something 100% constitutional) but a case to wrest a repeal or lowering of said tariffs and lower the power the corn lobby exerts.

                The no-night-time street parking law – Wouldn’t that be a local issue?

                The minimum home size rule – again, wouldn’t that comprise a local issue of the building code?

                Dairy price supports – system probably needs some reworking, but without a lot more research I cannot call for its elimination entirely. However, you might get your wish anyways by default if Congress can’t stop bickering.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to M.A. says:

                sugar lobby’s more powerful than corn’s.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Kim says:

                Kimmie, corn’s part of the sugar tariff lobby. Without sugar tariffs, corn sweeteners are less price competitive. Archer-Daniels-Midland probably plays a bigger role in lobbying for sugar tariffs than American sugar producers do.

                One results has been the destruction of the American candy industry.

                But hey, only a crazy libertarian would advocate for a repeal of the regulation.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Kim says:

                One results has been the destruction of the American candy industry.

                I believe IP law and megacorporation consolidation efforts have more to do with that than the price of sugar, but that’s probably a separate discussion.

                I will note that I keep running across local confectioners making candy, and doing reasonably well at it, despite what you consider the destruction of the American candy industry. So I wonder what you’re referring to save for the acquisitions made by some of the large megacorps, and of course NECCO’s habit of buying up independent producers in order to get their star recipes.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to M.A. says:

                M.A.,

                I really don’t care if you disagree with me on these. You said libertarians can’t name actual regulations they want to eliminate, so I named a bundle.

                The proper response would have been, “Oh, maybe I’m wrong that libertarians can’t name any they want to eliminate,” not, “but you’re wrong about that one!”

                It’s an indicator that you’re not actually listening to the answers to the question you asked. We’re not asking you to agree–we’re just saying, “here’s a list.”

                Instead of rushing to think about arguing the list, just take a moment to ponder the fact that libertarians actually have such lists, in contradiction to your claim. That’s the point here.

                Oh, and as to nighttime street parking being a local issue, can’t a libertarian have a position on his town’s laws? You’re not actually implying that libertarians can only critique federal, maybe state, laws/regulations, are you?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

                Re: “grape” cartel. Easier to find if you google “raisin” cartel. My bad.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to James Hanley says:

                I’m glad you’re able to formulate a list. It’s a refreshing change of pace from the usual conservatives and libertarians I deal with.

                Is that better?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

                It’s not a change of pace from the libertarians I normally deal with. So why should I believe the libertarians you deal with are different?

                Look, if you’ve persuaded me of anything in our discussions it’s that you have such a deep bias against libertarianism that it fundamentally distorts your ability to listen to them objectively.

                Feel free to object to that, as is your libertarian-approved right. But that’s what you’ve managed to convince me of. That puts you in the company of a handful of others around here, and sets you apart from most of the League’s liberals.Report

              • Avatar LWA (Liberal With Attitude) in reply to James Hanley says:

                “Grape cartels, taxicab medallions, minimum wage laws, UPL statutes, sugar tariffs, the no night-time street parking law in my town, the minimum home size rule in Steuben County, Indiana that’s preventing someone from building her (small) dream home, dairy price supports.”

                I probably agree with most of these. On others, I don’t have enough information to make any statement pro or con. Still others, my argument against is based on faulty information and would change if I were to hear the facts.

                But one thing I can say definitively, all these regulations developed from different stimuli, agendas, and ideas, and can’t simply be stuffed into one envelope as “big gummint that needs to be cut”.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to LWA (Liberal With Attitude) says:

                What, you missed the email chain where we all decided as liberals to stop James’ friend from having her house built?Report

              • I eagerly await your link to where I stuffed those into the “big gummint needs to be cut” box.

                Oh, and Jesse, sorry to disappoint you, but I’m pretty sure it’s a conservative county commission that set the minimum house size. How you managed to get onto a conservative email list is, I’m sure, an interesting story in its own right.Report

              • Avatar LWA (Liberal With Attitude) in reply to James Hanley says:

                Whenever people speak about “markets”, “regulation” and so forth, without specifiers, modifiers, or description, it is assumed to mean “all markets”, “all regulations” as if they were all interchangeable.

                I can easily see why that may not be what you in particular intended, but lets be honest here-
                Libertarians, capital L and small l, the Party and its assorted companions, don’t make their arguments based on minutia of this zoning law or that taxicab regulation.

                I honestly don’t think most libertarians oppose barbering licenses because they themselves are barbers, or have studied the barbering industry, or have a particular zeal or interest in barbering; often it appears to be a proxy for the argument that Regulation is bad, unregulated markets are good.

                I think its completely fair and reasonable to say that libertarians- generally speaking- want to argue about Regulation writ large, stuffing all regulations into an envelope and marking it as “Danger- Contents Coercive!”Report

            • Avatar Roger in reply to LWA (Liberal With Attitude) says:

              LWA,

              Monopolies are a problem because they minimize experimentation. Instead of multiple competing and cooperating solution sets they force one solution. This has several drawbacks.

              First, it reduces the potential solution set.

              Second, it is often less dynamic, it gets frozen into one way, and as the world changes, it is less adaptive.

              Third, it assumes we all share the same goals and values and contexts. It is entirely possible that what the monopoly is trying to accomplish is antithetical to some people’s needs and desires.

              Fourth it eliminates or at least reduces benchmarks for performance. How can a monopoly even measure success or failure without competing benchmarks of performance?

              Fifth, it is extremely prone to sclerosis. Over time institutions become rigid, bureaucratic, inefficient and ineffective. They become filled with rent seeking, stifling rules and regulations, administrative bloat and power hungry special interests. Managers thrive by furthering their interests and power , rather than the goals of the organization.

              Finally, a monopoly usually requires coercion to continue as a monopoly. It does this by suppressing competing organizations from existing and by requiring people to use the institution even if they would rather leave — it thus eliminates the people’s ability to influence the institution via their exit rights.

              Coercion and monopolistic hierarchies tend to go together. They operate by forcibly suppressing other institutions and by forcing people to use it whether they want to or not or whether they could do better elsewhere. Coercive monopolies are the exploitative cowards of institutions. They are so afraid of failure and so sure they are not the best solution for people that they resort to coercion to maintain themselves. They are exploitative by their very nature. And easily captured and perverted into widespread tools of exploitation by those in power.Report

              • Avatar LWA (Liberal With Attitude) in reply to Roger says:

                Many public utilities are monopolies; would it be better if we broke up the water company into 14 different firms?

                Isn’t it possible that some things like (water and dial tone) are best delivered via regulated monopolies, while other things (like pizza) are delivered via private markets, while still other things (like first class mail) are delivered via quasi-public entities?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to LWA (Liberal With Attitude) says:

                Dial tone? You want to go back to a telecom monopoly?

                Thanks, I’ll pass.Report

              • Avatar wardsmith in reply to James Hanley says:

                LOL, if we were still under the big T, this website would not exist, except for those few souls who could afford $4000/month for a 56K connection.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to LWA (Liberal With Attitude) says:

                LWA,

                Yes, despite the heckling you received from my companions, I can envision situations where regulated monopolies might be better at delivering certain solutions. Just because competition is usually better doesn’t mean it is always possible. Remember though, private competition is not the only rule of thumb I had to encourage competition and choice.Report

              • Actually in the electricity case folks looked and the market and broke it into regulated monopolies and a larger non regulated piece. The distribution network (from the substation to the consumer) is regulated because having multiple ones would be more expensive. It is regulated and a price set for its services. However the retail and generation parts are not regulated. Then retail electric companies combine the generators and the distribution utilities and their services into a bill for electric services, here essentially looking for where monopoly still makes economic sense.
                The same was tried a bit with the copper loop for telephone, but the law was not written clearly enough so it failed (of course then the issue was fiber was coming as well)Report

            • Avatar Roger in reply to LWA (Liberal With Attitude) says:

              As for the specific examples, of course I am not qualified to evaluate perfect regulations, assuming perfect regs exist and assuming we would all share the same values, needs and contexts necessary to ensure we share the same definition of perfection. Thus my suggestions, which are procedural in nature…

              Rules should be clear, consistent and impartial as possible. The action should occur primarily on the playing field, not in the rule making process itself. I call this RULE WRESTLING. It is where the path to victory is not within a set of impartial rules on the field, but comes about by lobbying judges and manipulating rules.

              Processes which help minimize regulatory bloat and cronyism are: competing institutions ( thus my bias toward private and local vs worldwide regulatory agencies), voluntary ( where people can choose which regulatory body or locale to operate within aka entry /exit rights), supermajorities, sunset provisions, opt outs and so forth.

              Each of these procedural solutions are imperfect tools with strengths and weaknesses that can be used some of the time to mitigate the various dangers and weaknesses of coercive monopolies as I elaborated above.Report

              • Avatar LWA (Liberal With Attitude) in reply to Roger says:

                More generalizing.
                How are these different than what we have now?
                For example, are the DoD regulations for aircraft procurement “clear, consistent and impartial” ?
                I honestly don’t know.

                But are they suffereng the same ailments as the Broward County Health Department regulations? Would they benefit from the same remedy?

                I doubt it. But feel free to make the case.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to LWA (Liberal With Attitude) says:

                LWA,

                Let me provide an example in an industry I am intimately familiar with — insurance.

                Some states regulate insurance by ensuring that the companies are adequately reserved to pay claims and by providing a website that allows consumers to compare and shop rates. They let the system play out.

                Other states write the insurance contracts word for word and require companies to use those contracts. They determine what acceptable rate classification categories are and only allow these to be used. They require every rate filed to be justified according to their administrators. They then carve out exemptions to the laws for certain local county mutual companies which biases the rules in favor of those owning the county mutuals who also happen to run the legislature. They decide upon underwriting requirements, and tell the insurers who they have to insure.

                In these latter states, the way you change something is by lobbying the regulators and legislature. Changes are made frequently, and economic survival depends primarily upon ones connections to those in power.

                In the former states, the competition is based upon who serves customers the best long term. Low priced, high quality companies like USAA thrive.

                Do you see the difference?Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Roger says:

                +1. Yes, although I still think that you shouldn’t have your rates go up for Life simply because you bought a red car once. (particularly not without disclosure).Report

              • Avatar LWA (Liberal With Attitude) in reply to Roger says:

                I do see the difference, and assuming your facts are the case, I wouldn’t support the latter approach either.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to LWA (Liberal With Attitude) says:

      “ranchers would certainly cre for their property as owners better than as tenants” are offered without evidence or citation

      Funny, I’m pretty sure I offered evidence of that right here on this very same page.

      What is it about liberals that every time a libertarian explains something they aren’t able to see it? Or is it just liberals that have attitude?Report

      • Avatar LWA (Liberal With Attitude) in reply to James Hanley says:

        Are you referring to your post at 1:39?Report

        • Avatar James Hanley in reply to LWA (Liberal With Attitude) says:

          Yes.

          If you’re up for it, we can take a field trip out to Montana. I haven’t been there in a while. 😉Report

          • Avatar LWA (Liberal With Attitude) in reply to James Hanley says:

            I think this is a source of much ggravation here- not a trip to Montana, which would be lovely- but logic leaps where you draw sweeping conclusions from such sparse evidence.

            You state that some ranchers care well for their property, which is undoubtably true. You then conclude that owners (generally) care (always) for their property better than tenants.
            I don’t see anything inyour post to draw this conclusion. In contra, there are countless examples of property owners treating their property as disposable.

            I think we could probably agree that given enough market contraints and legal/tort system conditions, we could induce property owners to care for their property as well as they could under a system of government regulation.

            I’m not convinced this would be any more effective, however. But i could be convinced if pointed to examples.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley in reply to LWA (Liberal With Attitude) says:

              LWA,

              Compare rental properties–particularly places likely to have short-term renters–with owner-occupied properties. Talk to landlords. Talk to college housing administrators. Compare public restrooms to private restrooms. Ask Jimmy Carter why Habitat for Humanity helps people build homes to own, rather than just building rental property.

              Yes, some people foul their own nests, but do you really think that’s the norm? That most people don’t care more for their own things than for things that aren’t theirs and that they don’t expect to hold long term?

              Sorry I don’t have a specific link for you, but I’m really astounded that you actually harbor any doubt about this.Report

              • Avatar LWA (Liberal With Attitude) in reply to James Hanley says:

                I completely agree that renters generally lack the long term pride that some owners do.
                But its also true that the simple act of owning automatically does not cause people to care for property, at least in the way we are talking about.

                Because the issue with the federal government and ranches, is not whether the ranchers have pride of ownership. I’m sure they all do, to a man.

                But the federal government isn’t concerned with whether or not ranchers keep their flowerbeds trimmed. The government is tasked with protecting the natural resources, which belong to the people collectively.

                So its not enough that ranchers care for their property- they also must care for it in ways that benefit the people broadly.
                And frankly, that sometimes is contrary to the desires of the ranchers even if what they want to do doesn’t cause direct harm to the property.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to LWA (Liberal With Attitude) says:

                And of course caring for your own land for its long-term value is totally unrelated to its effects on the surrounding environment.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to James Hanley says:

                Compare rental properties–particularly places likely to have short-term renters–with owner-occupied properties. Talk to landlords. Talk to college housing administrators. Compare public restrooms to private restrooms.

                Now look for the intervening variables, though understandably Libertarians always want to hand-wave away that gets in the way of the magical-thinking justifications.

                Compare rental properties to owned properties; some level of question about maintenance. Except for the intervening factors – renters are more likely to be lower income. Look at the owned houses in a low income neighborhood, they’re just as likely as the rented properties to be in severe disrepair because maintenance costs money and nobody in the neighborhood has a lot of it.

                Control for income, and renters are only slightly worse on the property than owners, the remaining issues coming from the hassle of getting the landlord to do a repair (landlords often say “it’s not worth it, just live with it”) or the liability issues that come from the renter doing the repair themselves without landlord permission. I once got written up in my apartment complex for putting in a small corner guard on my tub to prevent water from running out the side of the tub edge onto the floor when I showered; my defense was that I had already reported the issue to management, who had REFUSED to do it on their own by saying the issue was “not large enough to require attention from the maintenance staff” despite leaving a puddle of water on the floor around the commode each morning.

                The cost of the repair part to me was $10 and a little bit of time to install it and grout it. The aggravation factor made me vow never again to bother reporting or making repair steps and I got the hell out as soon as I could.

                Talk to college housing administrators – yes, because a group of beered up kids living dorm style is COMPLETELY representative of society at large. (end sarcasm mode).

                Compare public restrooms to private restrooms – some of the dirtiest damn restrooms I’ve ever seen have been in people’s homes. Others were in private establishments, corner-dive restaurants and of course gas station bathrooms are legendary. On the other hand, Route 55 and 57 through Illinois have some of the nicest, most well maintained rest stops in the country.

                Libertarians. Never want to examine contrary data, never want to look for intervening variables. Sigh.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to James Hanley says:

                James,
                Okay. I looked around my neighborhood. the Bank owned places are just as well kept as the People Owned places, if not moreso (due to more cashflow from younger “owners”).
                Apparently, renters are better than owners.

                But what the hell do I know?Report

            • Bus Shelters, rental cars, the sides of highways, street facing walls, public parks, I hate it but it strikes me as a blatantly obvious truism that people care for things they own enormously more than things they don’t own and treat the latter horribly.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to North says:

                I hate it

                Oh, yeah, it’s nothing for the human race to be proud of.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to North says:

                Aside from rental cars and sides from highways, I say it’s more of a socioeconomic and frankly, age-related situation. Yes, bus shelters around poverty-stricken areas aren’t likely to look great. But, for instance, the bus shelters in Bellevue (the rich suburb of Seattle) look great. Except for the ones around schools. Same thing with walls, parks, and even bathrooms.

                That’s not saying poor people are less responsible than rich people, but that frankly, cleanliness/how things look isn’t as important to them. After all, a wall or bus shelter doesn’t become useless because there’s some graffiti on it.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

                That’s not saying poor people are less responsible than rich people, but that frankly, cleanliness/how things look isn’t as important to them.

                Ho. Ly. Cow.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to James Hanley says:

                Go to my latest comment. I should’ve noted, a small percentage of them. I thought it was sort of understood than I meant, “a small percentage” under the general comment, but yeah, my bad.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

                And you never saw rich kids engaging in vandalism for shits and giggles?Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

                Well, if they do, from my experience, it’s either –

                1.) Quickly fixed because the resources are there (ie. graffiti on a bus stop outside upscale mall in suburbs versus broken window in welfare office in the ghetto).

                2.) They do it on an expedition to the ‘big city’ (note the big city can be 100,000 instead of 10,000 or 5,000,000 instead of 100,000) where there are seemingly less consequences for their actions.

                Again, as I noted in my reply to greg, it’s a low percentage. But, there’s not going to be a whole lot of homeless people with drug problems going into public bathrooms in Classy Mall X (because he has no way to get there), a lot of idiots having parties at Public Park X in Suburb Y (because the police have nothing better to do than checking that park), or a lot of graffiti next to the Strip Mall in Suburb Z (again, because the police have not much else to do).

                Or again, if any of the above happens, it’s easier for the better parts of town to fix things because their budget isn’t being drained by kids in reduced lunch programs, higher crime, and so on. When you don’t have the problems of poverty because you’ve priced poor people out of your borders, it becomes a lot easier to clean up the small problems that do come up.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

                Jesse,

                As you note, there are the resources in wealthier communities to fix up any vandalism by the wealthy kids.

                Could it be that the poor just don’t have the resources to fix things up? Or are you sticking by your hypothesis that the poor are less likely to care?Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

                When you don’t have the problems of poverty because you’ve priced poor people out of your borders, it becomes a lot easier to clean up the small problems that do come up.

                It’s sort of the reverse version of the “broken windows theory” – the idea that by spending the $$$ to fix a lot of the small things, the locality would look good enough that locals would start taking more pride, reporting things to the cops, trying to keep it in better shape.

                Neither is completely wrong, they just come at the phenomenon from one end or the other. Chicken or egg, as it is.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

                Or are you sticking by your hypothesis that the poor are less likely to care?

                I don’t know about him, but I’m willing to consider it about 50% column A and 50% column B.

                Go visit a new city. Everything looks bright and gleamy from far off, but if you stay there a week you’ll start noticing some of the more run-down things. Stuff that hasn’t been repaired, or has been repaired in a slapdash fashion.

                Now, live there a year. At a certain point, a lot of those things just plain look normal to you. That pothole that annoyed you a year ago? You’ve learned how to steer to avoid it each morning. That graffiti on the underpass? It’s been there a year, mostly hasn’t changed.

                It’s not that they don’t “care about” certain things, it’s that as a result of the level of income and resources in the area, some things just become normal over time.

                Folks where my grandmother live mow their lawns all the time, but their fences are all rusty and a lot of the houses have some peeling paint. They take care of what they can, not what they can’t, and the rest just starts to feel normal. She doesn’t even notice most of it, to her it looks the same as when she was raising her kids.Report

              • Avatar Scott in reply to James Hanley says:

                As a kid I wondered why some of the kids from the local trailer park smelled. Why does the truth hurt? You doesn’t see as much graffiti in rich ares do you?Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to North says:

                Actually i see lots of public parks and trails treated well. I’d guess its feeling a sense ownership in public areas that leads one to treat them well or poorly, not whether a person actually owns it. Also how many people really trash public areas, my guess is that most public places get messed up by a minority of people and that most people don’t abuse them.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to greginak says:

                Also, this. I’ve lived with literally dozens of people during my twenties. Only a few were assholes and caused most of the damage that led to various deposits not being given back.

                It’s the same with most public places. One person can cause a public bathroom to be a biohazard. One person can cause a rental car to smell like a McDonald’s kitchen. And so on.Report

    • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to LWA (Liberal With Attitude) says:

      On a side point to this, I don’t doubt under certain conditions, certain libertarian solutions would work just as well or even slightly better than our current solutions, whoever centralized they may be. But, to me, and this is the small-c conservative part of me talking, is that if we’re going to blow things up, we’re not going to blow things up for a 5% effeciency difference. By the way, same thing on the liberal side of the ledger. In all reality, some sort of Pigouvian tax + VAT would probably be more effective and even more progressive than our current system. But, we can’t do it overnight. And we have to sell the idea it would be much more effective and more progressive than if we just eliminate some exemptions.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

        if we’re going to blow things up

        Yes, Jesse, because as you know from carefully reading every libertarian participant here, our goal is blow things up and build our libertopia from scratch. None of that piecemeal experimental change for us; no sirree.Report

        • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to James Hanley says:

          The Libertarian Party proposal is to eliminate the EPA immediately. I’m taking them at their word. And yes, I consider unilaterally defunding and eliminating an entire Cabinet department to be “blowing things up.”Report

          • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

            Jesse,

            Hmm, without making any comment on whether blowing up the EPA is a good idea or not, blowing up one out of dozens of federal agencies hardly strikes me as blowing things up. Eliminating would leave literally 99% of the federal civilian bureaucracy (as a function of number of employees) in place (17 thousand/2.8 million).Report

  12. Avatar The Masses says:

    “How would libertarians solve X? They would allow problem solving systems, preferably of a decentralized variety, to evolve.
    This sounds like magical thinking to people who have trouble with complex adaptive systems or are stuck in childish top down master planning paradigms. Thus the challenge of libertarianism. The masses are not ready yet for it.”

    Really? We The Masses may be too stoopid to understand, but “Problem solving systems of a decentralized variety”, sound an awful lot like what we have now.
    We have federal programs like FDA and OSHA, with decentralized state programs fine tuning federal regs, then local and municipal systems providing further refinement.

    All of these are complemented by private industry systems of voluntary professional associatons like ANSI and ASTM, with a further layer of market based systems that reward and punish behavior, with a system of tort and case law to check and mitigate bad behavior.

    So what is wrong with the existing “problem solving system of a decentralized variety”?Report

    • Avatar Roger in reply to The Masses says:

      So you think a top down, coercive regulatory monopoly beholden to special interest groups is a decentralized, competitive problem solving system?Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Roger says:

        you had me a coercive and regulatory. yes i heartily think those are , in many situations, very good things. Safety reg and enviro regs should be coercive and based on regulation from the top.

        You know Roger i completly agree that you soltions would work well in some areas, just not all of them.Report

      • Avatar LWA (Liberal With Attitude) in reply to Roger says:

        I am thinking of the building industry, which is most familiar to me.
        The building you are sitting in was not designed via a top-down system beholden to special interests.
        There are federal regulations like ADA, that were developed in a democratic process, and the public was offered input and commentary. Yes, real estate developers and contractors and disability rights advocates were represented. They met and discussed and worked out compromise agreements. These were then voted on by Congress.
        Further, your state has regulations that affect the design, on everything from structural stability to fresh air requirements.
        Again, each and every one of these was developed in a long series of conferences by professional engineers, developers, contractors, then their result was adopted by legislatures.
        Finally, your city adopted these regs, and added zoning requirements, also developed in conferences with as many stakeholders as cared to participate.

        And the system IS decentralized- each state and municipality is allowed to craft regulatory systems to suit their particular needs.

        So no, your argument about “top-down, coercive, beholden to special interests” is false.
        And while I will be the first to say it can be improved, you haven’t met that bar.Report

        • Avatar Roger in reply to LWA (Liberal With Attitude) says:

          LWA,

          Good points all. Yes, even monopolistic hierarchies tend to form from the bottom up. And as you know we libertarians like that different locales can experiment and compete with each other on building codes, though there are also arguments for them to explore ways to standardize them too. We always add the voluntary part in, though.

          Let me just add that feudalism and totalitarianism are both coercive hierarchies. Yes one is more decentralized than the other.Report

        • But saying the system is decentralized is not accurate. It’s only true if each municipality has the freedom to use the federal laws as guidelines rather than requirements. But aren’t all localities forced to adopt things like the provisions in the ADA? What business does the federal government have to require the businesses in my town to install wheelchair ramps if we don’t have anyone in a wheelchair?Report

          • Avatar LWA (Liberal With Attitude) in reply to Brian Houser says:

            Well, lets be clear. The American people decided that disabled people should be included into society, and afforded every reasonable effort to include them in the activities we all enjoy. We’ve had about 10 Congressional elections since then, and none of the Congresses has seen fit to overturn it.
            The ADA is very broad, and each state is allowed to interpret it individually. What makes building codes decentralized is that there are actually very few federal laws- almost all building regulations are local or state.

            To your example- even if you don’t have anyone in a wheelchair, do you not have any elderly people? Blind people? Deaf people?
            None of these people ever visit to conduct business?

            If you want to argue that this is not a federal matter, one best left to the states, I am pretty receptive to that notion.Report

            • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to LWA (Liberal With Attitude) says:

              And as we all know, populations are static and never change.Report

            • The problem with things like the ADA is that it is overriding the rights of the business owner with that of the disabled. Why can’t the free market handle this just fine? If not having wheelchair ramps is such a big deal, wouldn’t people boycott businesses that don’t have them?

              I’d rather have an opportunity to pass judgement on businesses based on their voluntary actions. Maybe I choose to patronize a business because of how well they treat the disabled. But instead, today, I’m left resenting the disabled (and the government) because of always having to park in the 13th parking space at the end of the row of 12 empty handicap spots.Report

              • I’d rather have an opportunity to pass judgement on businesses based on their voluntary actions.

                So would I.

                But then I’m not disabled. I can imagine if I was disabled, I might tell me to go screw myself for putting my opportunity to pass judgment over my opportunity to actually get to a class on the second floor of a building.

                The problem with things like the ADA is that it is overriding the rights of the business owner with that of the disabled.

                To the liberal, that isn’t a bug, it’s a feature. Because the disabled person is at a severe power differential disadvantage.Report

              • Avatar Lyle in reply to Pat Cahalan says:

                Of course that was the attitude of Lester Maddox in the 1960s he held he had the right to not serve blacks, and that overrode the right of the blacks to be served. Society as a whole decided otherwise. I guess the way to look at it is if you want to serve the public then you have rules, if you want to be a true private club you do not.Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Brian Houser says:

                If the free market would make the ADA unessacary then why did the disabled push for it in the first place? There were many decades of the modern world for the free market to meet the needs of the disabled but it didn’t. The ADA was needed and got support because yours and my looking down at businesses that didn’t offer what the ADA did didn’t add up to shit.Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser in reply to greginak says:

                Why does anyone push for anything? Because they can. Government is the tool by which one group can force another to do their bidding.

                The free market didn’t meet the needs of the disabled because such needs weren’t important enough to justify the costs. And having government force it doesn’t negate that fact. And now we’ll never know what innovative solutions might have sprung up to cater to the disabled because the government has chosen for us.Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Brian Houser says:

                Yes we’ll never know the inovative solutions the market might have found that it hadn’t previously found but if we had waited those of us without disabilities would have been just fine. That the costs didn’t justify the remidies is fine and dandy for those of us without disabilities. We musn’t doubt the wisdom of the markets, they are kind and good. They will provide and if they don’t, well that must be the correct solution.

                How dare the disabled petition the gov for redress of their grievnces, lord knows the founders wouldn’t have tolerated that.Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser in reply to greginak says:

                Nothing wrong with petitioning the government. But the founders certainly would be horrified that anything even close to the ADA was passed at the federal level and that the states went ahead and followed it. If states wanted to enact similar laws in their own legislatures, not a problem. But how could the federal government ever have the audacity to think it had the authority to tell businesses how they had to operate?Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to greginak says:

                Well there’s a long long list of things the founders would be horrified at:
                1. Black man as president.
                2. Women voting.
                3. Catholics holding political office.
                To name a few things…so I dunno why their horrification is really any justification to be against something.

                This fetishization of 18th century english rebels needs to stop at some point.Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to greginak says:

                Last time i used my Oujia board the founders told me they were most horrified by people thinking the US had to be run exactly as they thought was best over 200 hundred years ago. I believe they said “you’re supposed to figure it out yourselves. we’re dead, we died before the industrial age, microchips, computers and before most freaking handicapped people would have even survived.”Report

              • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to greginak says:

                I will say this, as I have before:

                The founders certainly were well educated men. If you yanked them all into the present and asked them what they thought of the regulatory state… after they got over the shock of time travel… they’d probably tell you that they needed to read some history.

                I’m pretty sure they’d all rethink a bunch of positions after reading about the Industrial Revolution, and a bunch more after reading about WWII, just to name a couple.

                I would be surprised if none of them changed their minds about anything.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to greginak says:

                Greg,
                Funny, that’s exactly what the Hellraisers would have said. Except more colorfully.Report

              • “Well there’s a long long list of things the founders would be horrified at:…”

                Point taken. But it’s not as strong a point as it may seem.

                The Founders were an important piece of history because they had a unique perspective: they’d spent time on both sides of the fence. They knew what it was like to live under an oppressive government and they had also tasted liberty.

                And when they designed a new government, they well understood government’s uncontrollable will to accumulate power as well as democracy’s danger of the tyranny of the majority. The resulting constitutional republic was an attempt to at least slow those tendencies.

                The Founders probably would be surprised by a black man as president and women voting, but not horrified. Why? Because these things occurred within the framework as designed. Blacks becoming citizens and women getting the vote all happened within the process they had put in place to allow for those sorts of changes.

                But the federal power grab that has enabled such programs as Social Security, the Federal Department of Education, Medicare, Obamacare, and so on is unconstitutional and is exactly the sort of thing the Founders were trying to prevent. They denied broad-ranging powers to the Federal government because they knew how the story turns out.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Bridges in reply to Brian Houser says:

                Except “the founders” weren’t the monolithic entity you and many others libertarians portray them as. They had radically differing opinions on what was best for the country in terms of lots of things, including federalism and slavery. In the end, they made an initial compromise cut at in the Constitution, in many ways based on their experience with the Articles of Confederation. The also left us with legislatures, courts, and amendment mechanisms for *improving* on what they started us with.

                To quote Jefferson: “…laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”

                Oh, and finally, “I don’t like something the government does” is not the same as “unconstitutional”. Fetishizing your understanding of the constitution as the only reasonable understanding doesn’t make your argument stronger. You’re better off just arguing the merits and demerits of your proposals (if you can even recognize the demerits). This is particularly in your best interest because the constitution provides a well-defined mechanism for adjudicating what is constitutional and what isn’t. The constitutional method of determining constitutionality says you’re wrong about all of those things being unconstitutional.Report

              • What the Founders [wisely] feared most was tyranny. Jefferson:

                “In questions of power, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.”Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Brian Houser says:

                And yet, TvD, the founders considered that there were MANY forms of tyranny. Tyranny of both the minority and the majority, for starters.

                The 1st amendment isn’t there to protect the majority, for they very rarely need protection. It’s there to protect the minority religions and those with minority opinions from the jerks who run the majority.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Bridges in reply to Brian Houser says:

                TvD, I agree. Jefferson was certainly an expert at using the Constitution to keep (3/5ths of) persons in chains.Report

              • Actually, religion was left to the states. The First hogties Congress, not the states. Massachusetts had an official state church until 1833.

                The Establishment Clause [“Congress shall make no law…”] was designed to protect the states from the tyranny of the central government!

                Now, I agree with you that majoritarianism was a tyranny they feared as well. Hence the Senate, hence the “electoral college”: federalism, republicanism, not democracy per se.Report

              • I don’t particularly like Jefferson, who neither fought the Revolution nor helped frame the Constitution. He had some inspiring words, not a lot of inspiring actions.

                http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/96oct/obrien/obrien.htmReport

              • Avatar Patrick Bridges in reply to Brian Houser says:

                You don’t consider writing the Declaration of Independence an inspiring action?Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Brian Houser says:

                The First hogties Congress, not the states. Massachusetts had an official state church until 1833.

                And then we found that the 14th was necessary, because of overreaching like Massachusetts.

                Jefferson’s thoughts on the matter.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to The Masses says:

      So what is wrong with the existing “problem solving system of a decentralized variety”?

      Perhaps its strength is the degree to which it is decentralized, and that we could capitalize on that strength by decentralizing it even more?Report

  13. Avatar Jon Rowe says:

    Likewise the Coase theorem and Richard Epstein offer extremely valuable insights on how free market principles and government regulation ought to be understood in the context of environmental policy.Report

  14. Avatar beyonce knowles says:

    No amazing Real beyonce knowles nude broke up with a person.Report

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