On “Free” Markets

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423 Responses

  1. Avatar greginak says:

    As part of the great Silent Majority who read the first post and didn’t comment, this is good stuff. Well done. This all makes sense. My only issue with it is that it still doesn’t help me figure out Mike’s probability problem.Report

  2. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    my critic who was so quick to notice how I mocked liberals in the opening of that first post, and utterly failed to notice how I mocked libertarians

    It reads to me like first you called liberals names, and them mocked the way we picture libertarians. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

    Though I picture libertarians more like this:

    “Bloody Romans! What did they ever do for us?”

    “There is the aqueduct.”

    “The aqueduct? You know what that is? Crowding out!”

    “Crowding out?”

    “Yeah, crowding out! Suppose I wanted to built my own aqueduct?”

    “But you’re not a stonemason, Reg, you’re a goat-herder.”

    “That’s not the point, is it? The point is, if I were a stonemason, and I wanted to built an aqueduct, I couldn’t, could I, because the Romans already did. And we don’t need two, do we?”

    “But, Reg, it was two thousand years we didn’t even have one.”

    “Oh, shut up! Serves me right, trying to teach economics to a bunch of liberals.”Report

  3. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

    For some reason James, I keep thinking we’d have a conversation like this:

    “The corporal lurks in almost every bosom, and each man tends to use authority when he has it, thus destroying his natural relationship with his fellows, a disastrous state of affairs for both sides. Do away with subordination and you do away with tyranny: without subordination we should have no Neros, no Tamerlanes, no Buonapartes.”

    “Stuff. Subordination is the natural order: there is subordination in Heaven – Thrones and Dominions take precedence over Powers and Principalities, Archangels and ordinary foremast angels; and so it is in Policy. You have come to the wrong shop for anarchy, brother.”Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      That’s the conversation I’d like to have. In my heart of hearts, though, I think most men are servile, and their moments of insubordination are just expressions of self-hatred at that fact.Report

  4. Avatar Shazbot5 says:

    So the shaz is taking a lot of fire here.

    Whenever this is the case it is always me. Or so my wife tells me.

    So I concede.Report

  5. Avatar Ramblin' Rod says:

    Okay. First, let me apologize, James, for being stubborn about a point that, given the tenor of this post, likely won’t make any difference to your final thesis. I was uncharitable in suspecting you of setting up a bait and switch. You’ve demonstrated to me in the past that you’re not the sort of vulgar libertarian I’ve previously encountered on the net and I should give you the benefit of the doubt.

    FTR, I still think Stillwater and are I right, though, about the distinction between a bare exchange or transaction and a market. A trivial, unregulated, market might be something like a group of college nerds sitting around trading “Magic” cards. While normal societal rules still apply (i.e., no stealing, honor your contracts, etc.), external enforcement is impractical due to the vanishingly small dollar value of the goods. And Roger’s surfing example also applies, mainly because no one outside of that particular group of surfers gives a shit.

    Finally, your beer for mowing arrangement only works because of the pre-existence of actual markets in lawn-mowing services and beer, respectively. Having a rough idea of the monetary value of both a can of beer and having some kid mow a typical lawn allows you and your neighbor to look at your little patch of grass agree that the price is “about right” and “close enough for neighbors.” If beer-for-mowing were to evolve into a common practice in your neighborhood, where one group (older, lazier, richer, etc.) were to regularly engage a second group (younger, ambitious, thirstier, etc.) in such exchanges, then you could expect to see a set of performance norms and a price structure to evolve such that an offer like, “I’ll mow your lawn for a six-pack of Natties, but no trimming.” would be an offer that you could judge as fair and reasonable or not. All very informal and non-regulated and unquestionably a legitimate instance of a market.

    See? I can’t help myself. 😉

    But I’m really looking forward to where you go with the concept of a free market. I’m staying tuned.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      If I’m going to pull a bait and switch, there will be money involved. Lots of it.

      As to the definition of markets, I will refine it to this. It is the opportunity for exchange of value for value that constitutes a market, rather than the actual exchange itself.

      I’m really looking forward to where you go with the concept of a free market.
      But this is it for “free” markets. This is as far as I go with them. I’m arguing against using the term.Report

      • Avatar aaron david says:

        “As to the definition of markets, I will refine it to this. It is the opportunity for exchange of value for value that constitutes a market, rather than the actual exchange itself.”

        While I completely agree with this definition, I think you have found the sticking point here.Report

    • Avatar MFarmer says:

      “not the sort of vulgar libertarian ”

      Just out of curiosity, what is your definition of vulgar libertarian? I see this quite often lately on the Bleeding Heart site and some other Left-libertarian sites, but no one really explains what they mean — it appears to mean that whatever someone dislikes about libertarianism is vulgar libertarianism. Libertarianism has a few core principles, so I don’t quite know how so many variations have developed.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        What, in your view, are those core principles?Report

        • Avatar MFarmer says:

          “What, in your view, are those core principles?”

          Like, you know, smoking pot when I feel like it, and looking at porn, you know, and stuff that the man wants to outlaw and keep us down. I, like, want my gun and ain’t nobody gonna take it from my dead hands, uh, I mean, like, if I was dead they could take it from my cold fingers, or something like Moses said.Report

          • Avatar zic says:

            Could this be the definition of vulgar libertarian?

            Pot – I’m for ending prohibition. Always have been.

            Porn – meh. I could care less. And I worry the efforts to eliminate it will be used to put more restrictions on the internet.

            The man – he’s a conspiracy theory, not a flesh-and-blood porn watcher; the HE in THEM.

            Guns – liberals gave up that fight a while ago; but mass killings with semi-automatic rifles does give one pause about some portions thereof. Mental health treatment and eliminating poverty are better solutions to most gun violence, anyway.

            And Moses, great story. Wandered around the desert. Set his people free, and all that. But the talking to god bit? Rodents in the grain.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        what is your definition of vulgar libertarian?

        One who says “fishin’ liberals!” without the euphemism?Report

        • Avatar dhex says:

          amongst my more learned bros/broettes, the term is used to indicate econ 101/DEMAND KURVE folk – i.e. mindless sloganeers; i believe left-libertarians use it to indicate those who focus on food stamp programs over corporatist favoritism.Report

          • Avatar Dan Miller says:

            I’m stealing “broettes”.Report

          • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

            I think that the perception that this is a thing is largely an artifact of the fact that leftists and libertarians both agree that corporate welfare is bad, but leftists think that individual welfare is the bees’ knees. Individual welfare thus becomes the main point of personal contention.Report

            • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

              More precisely, leftists agree that corporate welfare is bad unless you call it “green jobs” or “stimulus” or something like that.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                What a complete and utter misrepresentation.

                “Corporate welfare” – by which you mean grants or tax incentives – are a major function of government at all levels. Counties, cities and states use them to try to attract corporations to their area.

                The USA gives out millions in tax incentives and subsidies to wildly profitable oil companies for reasons I can’t fathom.

                Then we get to investments in future, potentially cleaner products. Given that there are subsidies AND tilting market forces that would otherwise push these out of the market before they became self-sustainable, yes, there is a need for some level of grants and tax incentives.

                As for the stimulus, argue all you want about the specifics, but I’m not going to let you pretend it was all rosy hunky-dory and one-sided. Conservatives were calling for it at the time just as much as liberals were, and there were plenty of Liberals calling it out for targeting in the wrong direction (e.g. bailing the banks out rather than the homeowners).Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Funding Maxwell right now is stupid. Why bother when GM will do it for you?
                Funding FREE JOBS is fun (aka efficiency upgrades that pay for themselves). But that’s not actually corporate welfare, now is it?Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Vulgar libertarianism is the type of libertarianism that I am perfectly justified in holding in contempt as well as anyone who says “I’m a libertarian.”

        Non-vulgar libertarianism is what you are… so when I say “I hate libertarians”, you shouldn’t take it persionally because I’m talking about vulgar libertarianism. Quit being so thin-skinned.Report

        • Avatar MFarmer says:

          Actually Jaybird, your response is a little thin-skinned, or something, because I didn’t think for a minute anyone was talking about me. I’ve seen the tem used and wondered how it’s being used. But thanks for the useless and misdirected advice, anyway.Report

          • Mike:

            This may give you an idea about the background of the phrase, which Kevin Carson coined:
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vulgar_libertarianism#.22Vulgar_libertarianism.22

            Although it originated with him, my experience is that Kevin tends to use it in a slightly different fashion than a lot of the folks who have taken the term up. Still the basic premise is consistent – using existing capitalism as a synonym for a “free market” in order to justify existing inequalities.Report

            • Avatar MFarmer says:

              Thanks Mark. That’s where I first saw the term, but since I’ve seen it used for different purposes. I’m trying to drill down to the basic distinction they’re making, and like you’ve said, it appears to be an economic distinction. Like many libertarians have reponded to Carson, et al, we all think State/Crony Capitalism has nothing to do with a free market, and we all want to see limited government. I’m not getting something. Perhaps there are bloggers who call themselves libertarians and praise the present capitalist system, but I don’t know of any libertarians of any merit or legitimacy who do.Report

  6. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    I could point out that free/unfree is a clunky binary variable, surely a false dichotomy, and that we ought to be looking at it as a continuous variable ranging from various degrees of “less free” to various degrees of “more free.” Logically, that’s the more defensible way to go, but what would it really accomplish? We’d never come to agreement on how to operationalize and measure the variable. Never. Prospects for agreement nil.

    So far, you’ve managed to get the premise established, but can’t wrap your mind around the linear nature of the solution. As varies risk, so varies the need for regulation. As the risk approaches zero, the need for regulation disappears.

    I hate the gerundification of this fine language. Operationalize is ridiculous. We have a word for this in mathematics, it’s called Solving. Solving a Linear Equation in One Unknown. We know the amount of risk, we’re solving for regulation. Lawnmowing, ecch, low risk activity. Derivatives trading, high risk. When we learn financial math, we are always careful to say “risk-free” before calculating a rate of return. To work with risk, we consult an actuary, who computes the potential for losses. From actuarial science arose probability theory.

    But this we know from the calculation of risk, a premium attaches to risky transactions. These days, we have regulations, Basel III for banks, Sarbanes-Oxley for corporations and Dodd-Frank for investment institutions aka Wall Street.

    These regulations didn’t emerge from some tyrannical regulator’s mind. There are two horns to the problem in all such regulations. Do we want private auditors and quants and actuaries quantifying risk or should these roles be occupied by the public sector? We saw what happened with 2008, where the certifying agencies were stamping AAA all over trash investments. But would the public sector be any more impartial and/or qualified to calculate risk? Same story with Enron: if the regulated pays the regulator, there’s a short in the circuit. But if the public sector regulates, there are alternate risks: as with politicians, they’re no immune from outside pressures.

    Now that’s the real debate.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      All I’ll say is that “operationalize” and “solving” are not the same thing, and that I’ll talk about risk and regulation in part III, although not necessarily in a way that will satisfy you.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Yeah, operationalize is very different from solving. In fact, they’re not even really related, conceptually.

        Operationalize is a technical term. It is a denominal verb, and it’s a bit clunky, but I have absolutely no problem with it, any more than I have a problem with someone telling me that they’re hammering something.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Of course they aren’t the same thing. Thank you for noticing solutions aren’t the same as posing some framework and quantification for a potential solution. All through this exceedingly tiresome debate, you’ve failed to acknowledge the obvious, that your Teeny and Unregulated Markets are either Ancient History or ersatz transactions devoid of any federal reserve notes changing hands.Report

    • “I hate the gerundification of this fine language. Operationalize is ridiculous. We have a word for this in mathematics, it’s called Solving.”

      Isn’t “solving” also a gerund, at least etymologically?Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        And “operationinalize” is not a gerund.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          Sure it is. Operate, the verb. Operation, the noun. Anything which follows thereupon is damned old gerund, whether it ends in -ize or -ing.Report

          • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

            A gerund is a verbal form used as a noun. “Operationalize” is a verb. Really; look it up.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP says:

              Operate is a verb. Operator is the noun derived from it. Operational, the adjective. Which was again transmogrified into a verb because the coiners of this phrase wanted a word to describe the process of extracting an operator, resulting in the noun operationalization and the verb operationalize.

              Operationalize is a stupid word, misappropriated by Social Science weenies trying to sound like mathematicians. It doesn’t clarify anything. And you’re right, operationalize isn’t a gerund. It’s an EdVerb.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        If ever there was a low-risk activity, it would be underestimating the ability of a Libertarian to compute a solution for an unknown single variable.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck says:

          Hey bro, you’re the one who claimed lawnmowing was a “low risk activity”.

          PS note how you now agree with Hanley that there are some exchanges of value-for-value which do not require by-the-government capital-R Regulation. So I guess we’re done here, then.Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP says:

            I never disagreed with him about the lo-risk nature of lawnmowing. I also said his beer for mowing proposition wasn’t a market.Report

  7. Avatar M.A. says:

    It strikes me that you are in some ways correct, inasmuch as Libertarians (and the Conservative/Tea crowd as well) use the phrase “free market” as a signaling device when they really mean “rally to me my brethren so we can eliminate This Regulation I Don’t Like” (or possibly just to accuse anyone else who disagrees with them of being a Command Economy Communist or some other BS).

    Somewhat telling is that when you engage these people who shout signaling phrases like “job-killing regulations” or “over-burdensome government regulations”, quite often you find they don’t have specific regulations in mind. They may shout some hogwash about abolishing the EPA, or abolishing OSHA if they are really out there, but rarely can they point to a specific regulation and say “this regulation costs my business $50,000 a year, with which we could hire an entry level person more” even.

    And of course there’s no guarantee that, absent said regulation, the hiring would actually occur instead of merely aggregating all the more in a business owner’s pockets.

    So we’re left with the standing question of how much regulation is appropriate. Regulations don’t appear in a vacuum, normally they are a response to something or other. OSHA, the EPA, each had specific causes brought about by previous business market behavior that required their existence as regulatory agencies. Likewise for most other regulations, including those by the FDA (which one of your fellows insisted was wrong because it “slows” access to “promising” treatments).

    Are there regulations that are outmoded? Absolutely. A case that barely got noticed: the Obama administration in this past year eliminated the EPA requirements that gas stations install vapor recovery nozzles on their gas pumps. Why? Because as the auto market has progressed, the vast majority of cars sold in the past decade already have a vapor recovery system built in to the tank access anyways. They are redundant on the pump now; they weren’t a decade ago.

    But that doesn’t mean that every regulation is outmoded and should be chucked. And it doesn’t mean that every time some unprintable conservative or libertarian idiot decides he doesn’t like a regulation, that we should take it as gospel that it is a “job-killing, government overreaching, tyrannical regulation.”Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      Libertarians are evil idiots, liberals are all good, kind, and wise. Got it. Thanks for “contributing.”Report

      • Avatar M.A. says:

        Libertarians are evil idiots, liberals are all good, kind, and wise.

        No, but I happen to know far more conservatives (some who probably misappropriate the Libertarian name without having the faintest clue what it means) who are nitwits, idiots, whatever other term you would prefer.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley says:

          Clearly I need to be explicit. Your approach seems to primarily about drawing lines between ideological groups, declaring one eevul and stoopid, and caricaturizing its beliefs. I’m not going to engage in a way that legitimizes such a shallow approach.Report

          • Avatar M.A. says:

            Your approach seems to primarily about drawing lines between ideological groups, declaring one eevul and stoopid, and caricaturizing its beliefs.

            No, not at all. You’ve proceeded to misrepresent and caricature my own position most handily, Mr. Hanley, and you’ve done it while playing the victim and accusing me of not trying to engage in good faith.

            I would be tempted to say you suffer from a severe case of projection, were I medically credentialed to make such a diagnosis (which I’m not).

            I have provided, in this case, anecdotal evidence of the difficulties I encounter trying to get Conservatives and Libertarians to define the “burdensome regulations” they actually want to get rid of. “OMG REGULATION BAD” makes for a great case in the land of TV ads and 30 second sound bites but makes for very crappy public policy.

            So I pointed to one specific regulation that has been removed in the last year, and the reasoning behind it.

            If we could have more of THOSE conversations, about specific regulations or specific policies, rather than always having the “government bad rawr” and “omg burdensome regulation” and “down with gummint local control for everything” sort of conversations that go on far too often, maybe we could actually get somewhere again.

            I’m not a fan of tribalism. Tribalism leads to all sorts of bad things. Chiefly among them it leads to people irrationally holding on to ideological planks that are logically unsound at a minimum.

            So I’ll follow from the logic, every time. If the logic is unsound, if it’s built on a deck of cards, then there’s a problem. Many, many of the planks of Libertarianism and Conservatism assume “if only X were perfect” scenarios that fail the reality test, and I’m willing to say so. I’m also willing to say that there are elements of Liberal thought often do not hold up or pan out as they want it to.

            Do you want examples, do you want an honest conversation, do you want to engage in the real discussions, or should I just give up?Report

            • Avatar Murali says:

              Sometimes, its not just any one regulation. The cumulative effects of lots of regulations can create a minefield to work through.

              For example, just applying for my J1 visa took me 3 different forms to fill, one of which was so long and which required so much information (lots of which looked rather unnecessary) as well as $660 in fees one which I had to mail over in a bank draft, and another in which I had to get a cash order from Standard Chartered bank that it was kind of offputting. You should be making it easy and enjoyable for people to casually go back and forth, not put people through 9 levels of hell.

              Sometimes its the regulation itself too. Recently, in Singapore, foreign guestworkers have been required to pass an English proficiency test. However, this has not noticeably increased the language proficiency of those who supposedly passed the test. At the same time, it has increased the cost of hiring gues workers.

              Recent minimum wage rules for guest workers has also increased the cost of hiring them. This has domestic servants out of the reach of a number of middleclass households.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              M.A., Your words here sound so good, but I’ve seen you in action. Don’t tell me you want a good faith conversation, demonstrate it in action.Report

    • I do think the ACA (which I support) is an example of a regulation that can be described as “jobs killing.” Large-ish employers who didn’t offer insurance before the ACA now have to. Therefore, it’s (probably) more costly for them to hire more people or keep as many people on.

      In other words, while I don’t particularly like the phrase “jobs killing,” which I find too….confrontational, I also see some of the reasoning behind it.

      Also, just to be clear by repeating myself, I support the ACA and it’s the principal reason why I rooted for Obama to win and almost voted for him, too.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        Let’s give really clear on this: WalMart. The six heirs of Sam Walton own as much wealth as the lower 40% of the population in the US. One year ago, it was the bottom 30%.

        Part of the trick to building that wealth is only letting workers work 30 hrs./week or less; I’ve had friends hired there ‘full time,’ with benefits, and then had their hours cut so that they no longer received the employer contribution to their health insurance. They lost 10 hrs. of work a week, and took a premium hike they couldn’t afford.

        Most then qualified for medicaid and food stamps.

        So we’re subsidizing that build up of the fortunes of the Walton Heirs. Something’s rotten on WalMart mountain. This is real.

        It’s a small piece of the corporate welfare ACA ends.Report

        • Avatar Roger says:

          Zic,

          Edna the homeless lady that I drive by every day on the corner of Prospect and Ja Jolla Drive has a higher net worth than the bottom 40% of America. She is not in debt.

          The Waltons have done as much for humanity as just about anyone who has ever lived. First they offered jobs. Jobs that were better than any other alternative to all those that accepted them. More importantly, they offered low prices at a high quality. The cost and quality of life is substantially better for most of us, especially those of us that are poor due to quality control and efficiency than we can ever comprehend.

          God bless Walmart.Report

          • Avatar Kim says:

            Thieves, one and all.
            Oh, but don’t let me stop you Roger…
            sing their praises high into the sky.

            (as to what they stole? intellectual property…)Report

          • Avatar zic says:

            Really?

            So you don’t have a problem with providing employees of WalMart with subsidized medical care and public aid because of how little they’re paid? While the company is one of the most profitable in the world?

            Must reconsider carefully, Roger. Corporate welfare doesn’t sound like a true libertarian position to me, but perhaps I’m wrong. Socialism is OK when it benefits the rich?Report

            • Avatar Roger says:

              You need to help me out with the corporate welfare charge, Zic.

              I do not think Walmart should pay above the going rate for employees, no, absolutely not. If the going rate is too low to pay for medical care, then that is a societal problem that is not the responsibility of the employer to fix, indeed they are already doing more for the employee than any of the rest of us. They are the last one we want to penalize to help the employee.

              So, if you want to suggest a fair and reasonable safety net for low skilled workers, I am all ears. If you want to coercively force this responsibility on the one firm helping these people, I reject the suggestion vehemently.

              My take on economics is that it will backfire and lead to more harm than good. Indeed it won’t even help the people you intend, instead it will attract higher skilled people to take that job instead of the one they currently have, thus leading to skilled people filling less skilled jobs, more unemployment of unskilled, higher costs, lower productivity and a lower economic prosperity for all.

              But the real question is where is the corporate welfare?Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                The employer needs healthy workers. If he pays less than a “Just Wage,” he freeloads on the governmental safety net.

                The most extreme example of worker exploitation [taking advantage of their desperation] might be William Langewiesche’s epic Atlantic article “The Shipbreakers,” where the workers in India exerted more calories per day than they could buy with their wages.

                Here, albeit sadly without the stunning photos

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

                The point being that Wal-Mart does indeed depend on the gov’t being part of the equation to assure the supple of able workers. Now it’s not necessarily a bad thing that we have a “mixed” social regime of private wages and public subsidies for the worker, but we cannot pretend that Wal-Mart functions as a self-contained, self-sufficient system.

                “You didn’t build that” has a firm claim to the larger truth at least in this instance.Report

              • Avatar b-psycho says:

                …who are you & what have you done with Tom Van Dyke??

                Seriously though, what you’re admitting here has an implication I didn’t expect you to make, and I’m wondering where you’d go on it if pushed:

                Suppose this arrangement by which the government subsidizes the living expenses of low-wage workers as benefit in the end to large-scale employers dependent on low wages for the work were about to be altered, by cutting or removing the subsidy. Say hypothetically the workers react by way of mass strike, effectively stating that the difference needs to be made up by the corporate half of the former state-corporate agreement. After all, the only reason they could previously sustain themselves at that job was because of the state subsidizing them.

                What say you?Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Thx, Mr. Psycho. There’s nothing inherently wrong with a “mixed” economy where the gov’t and business partner up to pay a Just Wage–but let’s recognize it for what it is.

                Our consumer society has developed a Wal-Mart model that was largely impossible without the modern safety net. We want cheap consumer prices, and the low-wage Wal-Marts and Home Depots provide them, depending on the gov’t to pick up the slack on the wages.

                In the end, my fire would be more directed at the consumer than the employer. We save a few pennies at Wal-Mart then make it up on the back end with sales taxes—to pay for the workers’ social services.

                You maniacs!Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                …who are you & what have you done with Tom Van Dyke??

                Yes. I’m rounding up a search and rescue party. I hope it’s not a hostage situation or. . . alien invasion. do de do da do de do daReport

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Tom,

                Interesting point, and I basically agree with your conclusion down below. If we as a society believe we should supplement lower wage workers with an education and health care, then we have to pay for it somehow. I would not recommend it be via regulation for above market rates as it basically ends up taxing and discouraging these very jobs. A sales tax would be preferable, or a graduated income tax.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                Isn’t telling companies and businesses, “don’t worry about paying your workers a living (small l, not big L) wage, we’ll take care of it” the ultimate form of corporate welfare?Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Corporate “workfare.” Why not?Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                Hey, I’m just finding it weird that corporate welfare in the form of subsidies and tariffs are bad according to libertarians, but straight-up making up for a lack of wages and benefits is AOK.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                No. Profits long term are determined based upon competition. An unexpected change in the law which went from company pays to society pays (or vice versa) would lead to an immediate profit (or loss) but the markets would quickly respond and profits would quickly recalibrate around this change.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                If person A was previously making $10/hr, all paid by the employer. Then, in Rogertopia, he’s now making the “market rate” of $5/hr with a $5/hr subsidy from the government, the only different is where the check is coming from.

                The worker is still paying the same amount of rent, gasoline, cable, and so on. The only people who benefit is management, not labor. Because, to be blunt, the only people getting a pay raise after this don’t get paid by the hour.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                I think it’s a rich vein, Jesse. I’m rather in your corner on this, at least when it comes to Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart’s model cannot exist in the state of nature. The poor hungry bastards would steal it blind, for one.

                And if the public-private model of compensation is desirable so our consumers can have low prices, let’s acknowledge it.

                Now the counterargument would say that gov’t subsidies for the working poor are what distort the market and make a Wal-Mart possible in the first place, but I’ll leave the chicken, the egg, and the snake eating its tail to you guys. Conservatives are more comfortable with is than ought.

                [As Bobby Kennedy said, “Some men see things as they are and ask ‘Why?’ I dream things that never were and conservatives ask, ‘Why?’]

                Mr. Psycho was quite right in asking what happens if the gov’t pulls out its half of this economic lean-to. It can’t, is the answer, I make it.Report

              • Avatar b-psycho says:

                It clearly is corporate welfare, particularly because it means those businesses are no longer subject to basic economic logic when it comes to demand for employees.

                If they need more people than the wage they’re offering can draw, then they need to offer more money. The subsidies mean that people are working for a wage they would have normally rejected. I don’t see a reason why propping up the profitability of businesses should be any of the concern of government whatsoever.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                B/c Wal-Mart paying half beats the gov’t paying all of it.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                True, but I don’t buy into the libertarian/conservative notion that there’s this massive populace of low-skilled workers who would totally be employable if only the minimum wage didn’t exist or was cut in 2/3.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                No Jesse,

                I assure you in every topia that above market rates of return (profit) attract investments, capital and so forth until the net result is market rates. This is true even in Jessetopia.Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                There is a habit the company has: hire someone full time, with benefits, and then cut their hours and withdraw the benefits.

                It happens over and over; it’s been well documented throughout the country.

                And those same workers then qualify for aid from the social safety net.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                If the company is truly engaged in deceptive or fraudulent hiring practices, then my guess is their management is criminally negligent. This is theoretically possible, but Occams razor would suggest they are being railroaded. The liability vs benefit of engaging in massive bait and switch job offers to people would be too easy to prove. If so, screw ‘EM,

                I do understand their movement toward part time, though. Actions from the left requiring expensive health care basically demands this as a rational response. An expensive mandatory benefit on full time employees is the economic equivalent of passing a law that encourages hiring part timers, reducing hours for full timers, automating low skilled jobs and increasing prices. Even the guy running the pizza company knows this.Report

              • “But the real question is where is the corporate welfare?”

                Maybe it’s partially in the ACA. Walmart can afford it much better than say uncle Bob’s three-location chain hardware store. Yet uncle Bob will probably have to pay for the the same type of insurance (or the tax penalty for not providing it) that Walmart can better afford. Also, Walmart might get a waiver for certain portions of the coverage costs, as, I believe, McDonalds and other companies have (although I haven’t heard yet about Walmart).Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                It’s worth noting that Walmart supports (or supported last I heard) a raise in the minimum wage. Maybe they’re just generous. Maybe they are in favor of the public good.

                Maybe some things that people think hurt Walmart actually put them at an advantage because they can better absorb the cost than their competitors.Report

              • This is my general sense, too.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

                I assume you mean that they supported a minimum wage prior to the recent ~$2 increase. I believe that Walmart typically paid more than that, and so would not have been significantly affected. Don’t quote me on that, though.Report

            • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

              Easy now, Stretch. Calling this “corporate welfare” is really reaching. It’s personal welfare. Walmart employs some of the economy’s least able workers, who, for various reasons, don’t have the skills needed to command a wage higher than what Walmart pays.

              This isn’t Walmart’s fault. The act of employing unskilled workers doesn’t oblige them to pay the difference between the market value of their employees’ labor and the amount they need to reach some certain standard of living, especially since that amount varies widely depending on the circumstances of the individual employees (e.g., students vs. single parents).

              If the government chooses to step in and make up the difference, then the primary effect of that is to increase the personal consumption of the welfare recipients and their families. This is no more a subsidy to Walmart than it is a subsidy to you, because Walmart’s under no more obligation than you to give their employees charity.

              The effect of welfare on the wages Walmart pays is likely small, and it’s not even 100% clear what the sign is. See my comment below, at 4:28 PM, for analysis.Report

        • Zic,

          My main point in my comment, is that the ACA does come with a cost and that cost needs to be acknowledged.

          As far as Walmart goes, I’m probably more sympathetic than you are and less sympathetic than Roger appears to be. Some things I have heard about Walmart, if they are true and if they represent a systematic set of incentives and not a few bad-apple managers or rogue stores, are truly disconcerting and impugn the company as a whole. (Even if it’s only a question of rogues, it’s a bad thing and still impugns the company for tolerating them, and then we get back to the question of to what extent we can call the tolerance systematic.)

          Some of the other things–like selling cheaper products and providing jobs (even if they are really bad jobs)–give me pause. I think it’s at least then a mixed bag and am ready to enter the cost-benefit discussion. (Even then, Walmart might come out looking bad, but it’s less of a slam dunk to me.)Report

    • Avatar Damon says:

      A real problem with regulations is that they are not static. Not to tangent off too much, but it would be one thing if Congress came out and specifically regulated one specific thing, say lead in automotive exhaust as an example. But they legislate “clean air” which the bureaucracy gets to then define and regulate, and the definition continues to expand over time. Additionally, the next 30 years are spent in litigation over the interpretation of those rules because Congress was vague. Never allow wiggle room to a ‘crat; that’s how they expand their empire.

      Additionally, I’m for removing foolish regulations like banning lawn darts and bucky balls because someone stupid did something stupid and died. And if I want to drive my car without a seatbelt, I should be free to do so.Report

      • Avatar M.A. says:

        Thanks! See, here are some specifics I can get behind:

        – The banning of Lawn Darts. Agreed. More people were killed by horseshoes that same year.
        – The banning of buckyballs. Agreed. The idea of “oh my god kids might get their hands on an adult toy” is a stupid reason to ban them.

        As for the seatbelt, I take issue there because it’s not just you with a problem. The belt keeping you in your seat, keeping better control on the car (or at least a chance thereof) rather than being tossed around inside the cabin is a factor in safety for all others participating with you in the commons of the roadway. But I can see your point and have that discussion because now we are discussing specifics rather than “OMG REGULTATION BAD IN ALL THINGS” and so I thank you for bringing it up. 🙂

        As for the wiggle room on other regulations, I’m not 100% with you but I’m willing to compromise. Sunset provisions for a new law are almost never a bad thing and I’m very willing to allow for mandatory sunset provisions and required Congressional confirmation of new regulations within a certain period of time (say, 2 years? 4?) or else the regulation be voided after. Would that be a fair compromise method?Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      I saw a guy who had a regulation that was unfairly targetting smallish businesses (cost them a HELL of a lot more than the big ones). Thing was? That got fixed next Congress. Because the government actually does serve (at least the people with big pockets. and small caps, all together, are pretty big pockets)Report

  8. Avatar zic says:

    Like many, I’m still trying to wrap my head about where you’re going with this.

    I do believe there is too much regulation. An example: Raw milk. I don’t think the sale of raw milk or raw milk products should be regulated, particularly when the market is direct from the farmer to the customer.

    I trust the farmer with whom I barter goat-cheese (she’s allergic to wheat, so I baker her spelt bread in exchange for fresh goat cheese), and she trusts me. This is a pretty ideal unregulated market. Sometimes, I deliver cheese for my friend to another farm, where she barters cheese for yarn and lamb. Now, we’ve introduced a level of risk; the cleanliness of my cooler, the temperature.

    When you start adding other elements to the chain — then I see the need for regulation increase because the risk in the chain increases. But there should still be raw-milk products available.

    But there are also unintended consequence of dairy-product regulation — declining farm hygiene. If all the milk will be cooked to kill germs, there’s less need to make sure conditions were sanitary, which is time consuming and has both labor costs and material costs. Since the ban of direct sales from farmer to customer, there’s been a steep decline in production safety, and that’s a big concern.

    Another unintended consequence is in the general population. I grew up drinking raw milk, my body has the flora and fauna to deal with the naturally occurring bacteria populations. My husband and children aren’t so lucky. They needed to acclimate — inoculate might be a better word — their bodies to tolerate it raw milk and cheese.

    It’s such a simple thing; yet it’s not. It’s important to anticipate as many of the potential consequences when you regulate. But the same has to happen when you deregulate.

    All of this to ask a question, which I guess would be aimed at how you frame installment III: What’s the framework for holding the discussions of externalities and unintended consequences? For any market, should those discussions be public information?Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      I won’t go into details yet, but this general type of approach–it not necessarily these specific examples–is more or less where I’m going.Report

    • Avatar RobZ says:

      Spelt is wheat.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        Spelt, aka ikehorn wheat is a cousin to wheat, the same family, but not the same thing. Many people who cannot eat strains of ‘wheat’ can eat spelt. Andrew Sullivan, for instance, can consume spelt, but is allergic to wheat. It’s a different problem then being gluten intolerant, though most folks with wheat allergies eat gluten free outside the home to protect themselves.Report

  9. Avatar dragonfrog says:

    Where would you fit prohibited markets?

    I propose
    1) That the global drug trade cannot rightly be called “trivial,” based on the number of people and the amount of money that it involves

    2) That outright prohibition cannot rightly be called “third-party regulation,” as it does not provide any of the parties to the market anything resembling recourse in the event of a contract dispute.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      I’m inclined to agree on both points. I struggled a bit with those, then decided to just ignore them for the purpose of the argument as it will develop. Since the focus will be on non-prohibited markets, I think discussing those in my posts would just function as a distraction.

      I’m not trying to say you shouldn’t have brought them up, or shouldn’t discuss them in the comments. I’m just asking forbearance for me not tackling them in the post. Were I writing a book, they’d be a separate chapter.Report

      • Avatar dragonfrog says:

        Fair enough, that.

        Here’s a third proposal I’m less confident of:

        3) That the absence of legal, non-trivial, non-third-party-regulated markets owes far more to the fact that regulators having completed the process of either regulating or prohibiting every instance of a non-trivial market, than to the impossibility of those markets existing in the absence of third-party regulation. Any newly emerging non-trivial market will not last long, not due to the intrinsic impossibility of its doing so, but because it cannot long escape the gaze of regulators.

        Prior to the advent of international regulations governing markets, major international markets existed, and were entirely non-trivial. The long presence of regulations has changed the character of those markets considerably, largely for the better; some particular currently existing markets could only have emerged in a regulated environment – but that is generalizable to all non-trivial markets.Report

  10. Avatar Roger says:

    I guess I just need to see where this goes.

    Is Free Market a perfect term? No.

    Is it a bad term? Compared to what? It is better than “capitalism.”

    My preferred term has always been free enterprise, with free market as my back up term. I am open to suggestions on better terms.Report

  11. I agree that “free market” obfuscates more than it illuminates. I’d also say the same thing about the way some libertarians use “liberty,” especially when they don’t qualify or explain what they mean.

    I’m sure there are some liberal shibboleths that are similarly annoying. But perhaps because I am a liberal(ish) person, I have trouble thinking of them. If anyone has any suggestions on that score, I’ll be happy to entertain it and reconsider my use of it.Report

    • Avatar MFarmer says:

      Pierre,

      If you will define social justice, I won’t ask for anything else. Thanks in advance — I await the explication with baited breath. Red wigglers are good with chocolate.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Ask Tom. He’s the Thomist around here. Aquinas didn’t call it social justice, but Taparelli, who coined the term, was using it to describe the Thomist view of human dignity.

        Or are you one of those people who thinks “social justice” has the word “social” in it, so it must be a socialist idea? (Lest you think I’m making this up, I’ve had that conversation more than once.)Report

        • Avatar James Hanley says:

          As one of my colleagues in our philosophy department asked, “what does the word social add to the word justice?”Report

          • Avatar M.A. says:

            “what does the word social add to the word justice?”

            And such a philosopher is simply being dishonest.

            The term “Social Justice” is not additive, but a refinement of the broader term. It refers to justice practiced in society concerning the differences in experience and interaction experienced amongst differing social groups and classes.

            And if your philosopher colleague can’t grasp that, I wonder what he’s doing teaching at all.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              And such a philosopher is simply being dishonest.

              Good grief.Report

            • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

              Given that “justice” is a thing that only exists in a society, I think it’s an entirely fair question to ask.

              You can have Robinson Crusoe ethics or even economics, all of which might be useful if you expected to pass your time entirely alone. But justice is a set of right relations for a society.

              So what isn’t social about just plain “justice”?

              An olive branch however, if you’re inclined to take it: I would much prefer to be having this conversation about economic justice. Here, the field has clearly been refined, and we can ask about which sorts of economic acts or distributions are unjust. That’s a discussion worth having, and a term worth using.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                I would much prefer to be having this conversation about economic justice.

                And that’s fine, and a respectable decision to have.

                Social Justice may very well include it – however it also includes areas that are not specifically “economic” in nature, such as the potential for inter-class social interaction, marriage, friendships. The artificial barriers erected to prevent mingling of the hoi polloi with the gentry.

                Those can be as much a part of Social Justice study as anything strictly economical.Report

          • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

            As one of my colleagues in our philosophy department asked, “what does the word social add to the word justice?”

            It doesn’t add. It subtracts.Report

          • Avatar Kim says:

            Oddly enough that’s an easy question to answer:
            Justice addresses wrongs, generally on a person to person basis.
            Social Justice addresses wrongs for which the entire society bears responsibility.

            Does that make sense?
            (Yes, I know Libertarians may -disagree-, but let’s say that the term does carry some cognitive weight Beforehand, mmmkay?)Report

          • Avatar Chris says:

            I’m not sure precisely why the word “social” was chosen over other possible ones, but (and this fits with Jason’s comment below), social justice essentially means equal opportunity and getting one’s due. I imagine the “social” part came from the importance of social classes at the time, but I haven’t read much on the origin of the term itself.Report

        • Avatar MFarmer says:

          Yes, Chris, you got me, I was thinking it’s a socialist thing, and Kenyan in nature. This site is drawing some really stupid people.Report

          • Avatar Chris says:

            Hey, I had to ask. Given your… proclivities, I wasn’t going to put it past you.Report

            • Avatar MFarmer says:

              What are my proclivities, Chris?

              Actually, if you’ve ever read Michael Harrington and understand his ideas regarding socialism, there’s a connection to be made, thus bonding a democratically just society together with non-statist, socialist ideas — I never understood how his world would hold together without devolving into tyranny, but he thought we all should try.Report

      • MFarmer,

        If you will define social justice, I won’t ask for anything else.

        I’m sorry it’s taken so long to respond. I left for work right after my comment and just got home.

        I’m not sure what my definition of social justice is, but I will say I don’t like the term for very many of the same reasons I don’t like the way some libertarians sometimes use “liberty.” “Social justice” sounds nice–after all, who’s against justice? who’s against society?–but it’s so often used in a question-begging (in the sense of assuming what one sets out to argue) way.

        In other words, I think I’m (yikes!) agreeing with you.Report

  12. Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

    my critic who was so quick to notice how I mocked liberals in the opening of that first post, and utterly failed to notice how I mocked libertarians

    I liked that you started by throwing grenades over at the liberals, then spent the rest of the time complaining that liberals were fighting with you. The mocking of libertarians was even more awesome, since you were really bashing liberals with it, not libertarians. And, then, in this post, you talk about a lesson in communication, and refrain from even considering your part in it. Truly, you have a dizzying intellect.

    But to my mind nobody successfully rebutted the claim that at least some of those examples were both markets and unregulated by third parties.

    I had only brought up one quibble, which was never answered: if you are going to define “markets”, then shouldn’t you also define “regulations” (what you mean by “third party regulations”)? And how it is determined that some things are “third party regulations” and other things are just “externalities”? And how it is determined that some things are “third party regulations” and other things are just “societal norms/rules”?

    From my reading, you were not persuasive, Mr. Hanley. You just changed how things were categorized to fit your narrative. You went out of your way to define market. Then went out of your way to ignore making any definitions of the other important terms. Yes, there is a lesson in communication here.

    If I have a problem with your writing, it is that you consistently say that the onus is on the listener to understand your communication. I never hear much about the onus being on you, the communicator. But, that wouldn’t fit your narrative, so I understand why you don’t talk about it much. It’s much easier just to yell about liberals not understanding you.

    Here’s my rule: when more than a couple people don’t understand me, or misunderstand me, I start thinking that the problem isn’t with everyone else.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      The mocking of libertarians was even more awesome, since you were really bashing liberals with it, not libertarians.

      Really? You know my intentions better than I do? That’s just space awesome, buddy. Can I submit my next post to you before publication so you can explain to me what I really mean by it?Report

      • Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

        my critic who was so quick to notice how I mocked liberals in the opening of that first post, and utterly failed to notice how I mocked libertarians

        Just as you know when someone utterly fails to notice something.

        You win. I cannot compete.Report

    • Avatar MFarmer says:

      See, you can’t please Leftists — you mock libertarians and they say you’re really mocking liberals. Damn, you might have to swear on the Red Book that you think libertarians are vulgar and utopian and simpletons and patsies for the Koch brothers, as well as sexually dysfunctional and closet homophobes.Report

  13. Avatar MFarmer says:

    Dang it fellas, not everyone deconstructs the idea of a free market with one line snark attacks. It takes a little time to obscure the distinction betwee free market and statism. In time we’ll all be socially democratically in agreement and all will be well, but, geez, give a comrade a chance to work it out.Report

  14. Avatar Stillwater says:

    I find it interesting that, in writing this post as you have, you’re are now going even further out of your way to perpetuate, rather than resolve, The Great Hanley v. Liberal “Markets” War of 2012. It sure appears that way. So, rather than blame all the liberals on this board who argued with you the other day, why not take a moment to consider that perhaps you overstated your thesis in the last post (personally, I think you did), or that your thesis in the last post was subject to varied interpretations because it was confused: were we supposed to merely agree with your definition of “markets”?, or agree that markets predated regulation? or that it’s possible for markets to exist in the absence of social norms acting as regulation? or the absence of third party/government regulation? etc and so on. It was hella confusing, it seems to me, and it’s no surprise that liberals rather than libertarians were the ones most confused about what you meant, and therefore the ones most likely to challenge you on theses that apparently don’t hold. The interesting thing tho, to riff of of what JHG wrote upthread, is that if so many people misunderstood your thesis in that post – and I did as well, I admit – then maybe it’s because the post wasn’t clearly written.

    Could that be part of issue here? Is it even worth considering as a possibility?Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      that if so many people misunderstood your thesis in that post – and I did as well, I admit – then maybe it’s because the post wasn’t clearly written.

      I certainly can’t reject that hypothesis. I also can’t reject the hypothesis that anything written by a libertarian will be misunderstood by liberals because of some kind of disconnect in thought. But my favored hypothesis at the moment is that it was misunderstood mostly (not solely) because it’s so out of our experience for a person to purposely write a post making such a banal claim and not be playing some kind of game with it. That is, I violated everyone’s expectations.

      As to your first sentence, I don’t understand it, nor am I inclined to put any effort into trying to. Since I have explicitly agreed that whatever realm of markets that we might possibly be able to incontrovertibly call “free” is trivial, and that almost all markets of interest will need some kind of (yet to be defined) regulation, I actually feel as though I’ve given liberals about 90% of what they claim, and it’s staunch libertarians I would expect to be attacking me for surrendering so much of the field. And yet I stand accused by a liberal of–presumably intentionally–trying to widen the gap between the two sides.

      What an amazing disconnect between intent and perception. If you’re not a shitty reader, then I must really be a shitty writer.Report

      • Avatar Russell M says:

        your not a bad writer. I followed both the commentbomba and both posts. I get the argument but still don’t buy it. just different views on how the free market works.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        What an amazing disconnect between intent and perception. If you’re not a shitty reader, then I must really be a shitty writer.

        I want to highlight that as your final thoughts on my comment. The problem you’re having right now is that I am a “shitty” reader. As are all the other liberals who argued with you the other day.

        Just let yourself imagine for a moment – I am! – how easily disputes could be resolved if we all adopted that argument as decisive!!Report

        • Avatar James Hanley says:

          Stillwell,

          I posed two possibilities. You assume I only meant one of them. Either you didn’t read that line well or I didn’t write that line well.

          Really.Report

        • Avatar Shazbot5 says:

          Well shitty reading and shitty writing are relative to each other. Let’s call it a miscommunication and a dispute that got out of hand. Famously, Mill (maybe the smartest person alive at the time) misread Kant on the categorical imperative the way that freshman students do. Kant was a weird writer, true, but the fault was not his nor Mill’s. Just a miscommunication, a dispute. Shitty reading-writing happens.

          I think the disputes over the previous post are all pretty abstract: what counts as a regulation, what counts as a market, what do people ordinarily mean when they say “markets”, are black markets regulated by thugs or not, is the textbook definition of a market too broad, etc., etc. I still stand by a lot of what I argued about the claim “Markets can’t exist without regulation” but I think Hanley was willing to give some ground on large markets, and I didn’t give ground I should’ve on markets more generally.

          Thankfully, I agree with the thrust of Hanley’s post today, which is -I think- in part that anything important about markets and how we should regulate them shouldn’t hang on these abstruse definitional disputes. The markets we have, and we need, have to have some regulations. The question is how much, how little, and what sort of regulations we should have. The term “free market” just brings up all those definitional disputes, but they are unimportant, so let’s avoid (or beware of) the term. This is a good point.

          I learned something in that last thread. Libertarians are sensitive to being attacked and this is probably because they are attacked too often and a little too often unfairly. And maybe liberals (me in particular) are too likely to think all libertarians are the same crude sort of libertarians who refuse all regulations that Hanley was criticizing in his post.

          I do wonder if the mature libertarians really have a position that is distinct from neo-liberalism, and I wonder if the term “libertarian” should be reserved for the more extreme types, but that is not something I am sure about, and it is irrelevant here.Report

  15. Avatar joey jo jo says:

    James, thanks for the thought you put into this. Look forward to the next one and I’ll chew on what you said for a while. My instant reaction was that the existence of a trivial market that does not require regulation will surely be used as a “markets are markets, if it works there it should work in this other market.” Additionally, the existence of the non regulated trivial markets prove that libtards don’t want to regulate everything.Report

  16. Avatar Scott Fields says:

    So what are libertarians really asking for, and what phrase should we all be talking about, instead of that useless and substantively empty term “free market?” Well, this post is already too long, and as much as I was disinclined to continue at all, I’m just going to have to leave that one for another day and write a third damned post on the topic.

    Thank you for this effort, James. I agree that the term “free market” is an impediment to reasonable debate. I look forward to reading how you’d describe what libertarians are really asking for.

    I am hopeful, too, that in the course of describing what libertarians really want you will also offer some idea of how libertarians suggest we might bring what you want into fruition. (God forbid that require a fourth damned post considering your disinclination.)

    A clear definition of the goal is a critical step, but without some plausible pathway to achieve that goal, it is hard to get too excited about it. Let’s say that we all enthusiastically agree on the objective. Given the status quo economy, our current form of government and the general disposition of our fellow citizens, what are the next steps we take in advocating for policies, cajoling sympathetic lawmakers and winning over hearts and minds, that might start moving us toward our desired destination. Without something we can agree to work on to achieve our ends, we’re merely sitting on the front porch dreaming of unicorns.Report

  17. Avatar Robert Greer says:

    I like where this is going, James. Looking forward to the final post.Report

  18. Avatar Brian Houser says:

    “There are in fact such things as unregulated markets, but the examples of such are trivial, and without much, if any, relevance to the modern type of markets in which we engage.”

    James, I appreciate the main point of your article: that the term “free market” may be too vague or loaded to be useful. I may even agree with that. But you seem too eager to give up on the concept of a truly unregulated market.

    Although real-life examples of unregulated markets may not extend beyond the trivial, that doesn’t mean they can’t exist. Isn’t it true that regulations often come about not from demand by those in the marketplace but by those who want to influence the market to their benefit (isn’t that what crony capitalism is all about)?

    Most markets arise on a basis of trust. People prefer to do business with and for other people they like and trust. As long as the market participants remain trustworthy, no regulation is needed or called for.

    The only market regulation desired in a libertarian society is the ability to receive restitution from bad actors. Basically, there’s an assumption that everyone in the marketplace is honest, but if someone does defraud me, they need to provide restitution for the value of the fraud. This is what we consider a “free market”. The regulatory side effect comes from knowing that if you get caught, you’ll no longer be welcome in the market because no one trusts you.

    Regulation is only necessary when there is a significant lack of trust between those in the marketplace. Obviously, as the marketplace spans a larger community or geographic area, trust becomes more difficult to achieve. But I suggest it’s not impossible.

    I’d like to posit that eBay operates as a free market. It’s buyers and sellers coming together in a framework that allows their organized exchange. Ratings provide varying degrees of trust on which people can choose whether the risk is worth the cost.

    Is eBay not an example of a large-scale free market? If not, why not?Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      Good arguments that I may build into my next post, minus the word “free.”Report

    • Avatar zic says:

      The only market regulation desired in a libertarian society is the ability to receive restitution from bad actors. Basically, there’s an assumption that everyone in the marketplace is honest, but if someone does defraud me, they need to provide restitution for the value of the fraud. This is what we consider a “free market”. The regulatory side effect comes from knowing that if you get caught, you’ll no longer be welcome in the market because no one trusts you.

      And this is precisely where you loose this liberal. Bad actors happen. And this puts the burden of catching them and holding them accountable on their victims. It requires an activist judicial.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        And he’s saying the bad actors have to provide restitution to their victims. I don’t see where he’s saying individuals have to catch and punish them themselves.Report

        • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

          Yes, but the impetous is put on the victims to prove in a court of law where you can be outspent and outlawyered that the bad actor is actually a bad actor. Ask the people affected by the Exxon Valdez diaster how that is going, even with numerous onerous job-killing environmental regulations on their side.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley says:

            Of course the gov’t never gets outlawyered, and firms that are charged by the gov’t never manage to wheedle thing down to a penny ante fine.

            Now can we be done with our nirvana fallacy moment? Or do I need to reference Liebeck v. McDonalds as well? (Not to bash it as frivolous, but to ask why, if the tort system is so impossible for an average Jill to win in, Ronald McDonald got his ass handed to him?)Report

            • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

              Did I ever say our current system was perfect? Yes, sometimes, the government will get outlawyered. But, it’s far more likely the organization staffed with dozens of lawyers relating to a specific area as opposed to say, a couple of families.

              Yes, people do sometimes get big judgements, but the number is small and most lawsuits involve buisness on business action (http://www.tortreformtruth.com/fact-vs-fiction/). So yes, sometimes the little guy does win, but there’s a reason why it’s big news – because it’s so rare.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Jesse,

                You always point to how the market or the tort system doesn’t work perfectly, and say, “so therefore, government.” So the assumption appears to be that the government is, in all cases, superior. That’s the nirvana fallacy.

                And if you really think gov’t agencies are really that successful in beating down the do-badders, then all I can say is at last I’ve found an issue where you’ve really been listening to libertarians. Unfortunately, a bit too closely.Report

        • Avatar zic says:

          I think the best analogy here is the difference between preventive medicine and ER medicine.

          But please remember: I grew up in paper-mill country in the 1960’s; in a town of about 500 souls. I lost two sisters to spinabifida. In the town, during that time, there were nearly 20 cases of spinabifida. 500 hundred souls. Some departments in the mills had workers where 50% were colorblind. These are all neural problems. I have severe, chronic migraine. As do all my siblings. Neural problems.

          I cannot undo this damage. Proving it in a court of law is nearly impossible; perhaps it was the pesticides sprayed on the potato fields; perhaps it was some other thing. People tried. Proving it in a court of law is nearly impossible; perhaps it was the pesticides sprayed on the potato fields; perhaps it was some other thing. Yet the statistics condemn.

          The bad actor restitution after the fact will not bring my sisters back. One died at 3 weeks, one at 3 months. This was common for most of these children. Two survived; I went to school with them. Their lives were difficult. I cannot hold down a regular job, so I’ve found niches — writing, designing, etc., to help support us, where I can mostly work from home and on my own schedule.

          Do you really want to stand there and tell me that bad actors ‘have to provide restitution?’ That restitution is even possible? Particularly when I’ve also witnessed the results of regulation? I’m putting forward a legitimate consideration: that restitution is often too after-the-fact; that it creates a judicial nightmare, that it fails to consider the huge amount of innovation that’s rooted in regulation.

          And I’m also on record throughout this blog as saying that regulation needs review and revamping, with an eye toward the ways it’s too burdensome, not working, and the ways its captured.Report

          • Avatar M.A. says:

            And this, in a nutshell, is why the Libertarian “tort law is enough” cry rings hollow for me too.Report

          • Avatar Brian Houser says:

            But here’s the problem with your logic: this (and most of the other examples that have been/will be given) is a case of failed regulation. Regulation didn’t stop these horrible things that happened to you, your family, and your town. And adding regulations after the fact won’t either. Your logical response would be, well it will at least save those after me. Really? You think these companies will just go on doing bad things once the harmful effects of their actions come to light?

            The problem with regulations is that they’re usually trying to solve problems that no longer exist. They’re not very good at preventing first occurrences.Report

            • Avatar zic says:

              Yes it did. 100% stopped it.Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser says:

                I think you missed my point. Regulations were in place when all these bad things happened. They didn’t save you. So, then they add more regulations to make sure what just happened won’t happen anymore. But it probably wouldn’t happen anyway because by then everyone knows about it. But whatever, new regulations go into effect. They fail to prevent the next big problem. And so on and so on.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                The world does change and new stuff pops up all the time. But, as zic and I said, you only have to look at the air and water and it’s clear that yup, telling companies to stop dumping and polluting crap or we’ll drop the hammer on you did work.

                You act as if once one paper plant in one city does evil shit, everybody knows it automatically. Guess what, the people in Oregon have no idea about the paper plant in Rochester. But, the EPA sure as hell does. And the paper plant in Oregon knows the EPA knows.Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser says:

                Some regulations for pollution prevention is one area where I have a little trouble arguing against because it is something that can affect a wide area, and can be hidden more easily than many other things. We’ll have a better debate, I think, if we switch to something like labor laws, where I have a much harder time finding justification for government involvement.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                I’ll make this simple. Do you believe there’s a large power differential between management and the average worker by theirself?Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser says:

                “Do you believe there’s a large power differential between management and the average worker by theirself?”

                Power in what sense? Power in terms of their influence over the company’s activities? Then, yes, it’s probably safe to assume the manager has more. Not sure if it’s necessarily large.

                Is there more? If not, how did that make it simple?Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                Brian, you’re putting way too much stock in corporate regard for reputation.

                Do you seriously think Massey Energy cares that people think their a fucked up company, with little regard for worker safety?

                For the clean air and water acts specifically, they work because they regulate point-source pollution. If you are going to pollute, you must do it within their regulatory framework.

                And remember the vast amount of innovation spurred by regulation. Lightbulbs is my favorite recentReport

              • Avatar greginak says:

                BP just today agreed to pay over 4 billion for their little issue in the gulf. they didn’t seem to care much about how they would be viewed, at least not enough to put a major emphasis on safety. The 4 billion will mean a lot more to them, but that comes after the damage has been done.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                Also, human beings have short memories. I bet if you did a poll of people that asked the question, “what oil company was at fault for the Gulf Oil Spill?”, maybe one third of the population would say BP. The other two thirds would be random answers, including the gas station they last went too.Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                And it’s pretty crucial to point out that they’ve a history of these performances; the first act didn’t encourage them to better prepare for the second act, and then the third, etc.

                Instead, they paid the fine, said they’d do better, and continued with business as usual.

                Also important is that much of that 4 billion is for misleading investors; and that’s something I keep trying to stress: good regulation creates investor security; it creates economic security.Report

            • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

              Again, yes. I have no doubt BP is still skriming on safety regulations, BioAg/Food Conglomerate company X still doesn’t really care all that much about food safety, and almost every cell phone/cable company will continue to treat their customers like crap on their shoe. People still order things that don’t work off TV for three payments of $19.99. Why? Because people don’t have long memories and most of the time, these things don’t effect them in the long-term.

              To your second point, look at air pollution before and after the Clean Air Act was passed. Again, it’s not perfect, but it’s a lot better and part of that reason is companies decided the cost of having to deal with these new regulations was cheaper than getting into a war with the EPA.Report

      • Avatar Brian Houser says:

        “And this is precisely where you lose this liberal. Bad actors happen. And this puts the burden of catching them and holding them accountable on their victims. It requires an activist judicial.”

        But you’re still going have some bad actors slip through even with regulation. Now you’ll need/have two mechanisms to deal with them. Simpler is better.

        But I think the more important concern is that switching from a “buyer beware” model to a regulatory model removes much of the incentive for people to properly evaluate trust in their purchasing decisions. The new regulatory authority is not nearly as accountable as the person giving up his cash. Besides that, it flips the whole character of the market from one based on trust to one based on fear.Report

        • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

          Yes, people should have to make sure the paper plant 50 miles down the road isn’t dumping toxic chemicals into the local river before they move to a new home instead of depending on their elected officials to do so. That makes perfect sense.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley says:

            There you go again, assuming that we want corporations to be free to dump toxic chemicals in the water supply. Do you really wonder why we keep saying you don’t actually understand libertarianism?

            And as to local officials, they’re the least likely to want anyone to know about that dumping. They’re all about promoting economic development and hiding bad news to keep property values high. If your faith in gov’t extends to trusting local officials to warn you if their town’s dangers, or to mitigate those dangers if it would cost jobs, then I recommend you read up on the local gov’t response to Love Canal.Report

            • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

              I don’t think libertarians want that. I do think libertarians don’t realize that you make it more difficult for the average person to avoid living downriver from plants who dump toxic chemicals when you relax environmental regulations or depend on just torts.

              But, I am glad you finally agree local officials are the easiest to corrupt and thus, it’s very important that we have state and federal level environmental agencies that are harder to be captured by larger forces.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                it’s very important that we have state and federal level environmental agencies that are harder to be captured by larger forces.

                THIS IS WHAT LIBERALS ACTUALLY BELIEVEReport

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                Who’s easier to buy off? Your local county councilman who makes a $14,000/year in a part-time job and nobody pays attention too or an evil public sector worker with a good union pension and a decent middle class income?

                Because it you think it’s the latter, I get to respond, THIS IS WHAT LIBERTARIANS ACTUALLY BELIEVE.Report

              • Avatar b-psycho says:

                If you run that kind of company, it’s not a matter of who to buy off. They’ll buy off both, and throw in a few congressmen while they’re at it.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Who’s easier to buy off?

                It depends.

                Typically, the higher up you go the more it costs to buy the guy off but the more you get out of it.

                At the very least, though, if you buy off the local guy egregiously enough the local populace can vote him out when they find out why their tap water catches on fire. If you buy off a regional guy they can’t as easily vote him out.

                So it’s a trade-off. Like most things.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                This said what I was going to. It might be easier to buy off the local guy, but I’d like my odds of voting the local guy out of office better than the national guy. And I tend to believe local guys (and ladies) are going to have a better understanding of the area with which to implement policy.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                This is where I disagree. For instance, if you’re in favor of civil rights for gay people, but you happen to live in Oklahoma or think the health care mandate is an attack on employers, but live in Massachusetts, you aren’t going to be able to vote out the local guy.

                Even on more local issues. If the plant up the road is causing toxic health effects, but keeping the town from becoming another dead town when it comes to manufacturing, you’re going to have a much harder road to hoe in comparison if you instead lobbied your Congressperson, Senator, or even national regulatory agencies for assistance.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Gay people have more civil rights recognized in individual states than they do by the federal government. Without federalism, people on this site wouldn’t be able to legally marry anywhere in the US. It’s unfortunate that if they move to North Carolina, they’re suddenly unmarried. But they’re married in Massachusetts and an increasing number of states. Those states will then be able to more easily attract gay people and people that support gay rights. Before long, there’s a good chance the other states will have to come up with something in order to avoid being left behind. The existence of gay marriage here helps us move it to there.

                That said, civil rights in general is one area where I am less federalist in most. The tricky part is in defining civil rights. Environmental issues strike me as more states or national issues, depending on what specifically we’re talking about.

                Different things at different levels, but more at state and county levels than the current paradigm, is my view.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Aside: while I’m all for gay rights, we’re not really talking about gay rights on this thread, we’re talking about markets.

                Okay, now let’s take your hypothetical?

                We’ve got a town, not quite a company town but heavily dependent upon the coke plant up on the bluff. The coke plant is operating and dumping crap that’s polluting the aquifer.

                A couple of possible scenarios, but what you’re saying is:

                The coke plant can’t make a profit if it cleans up its act. If we force them to clean up, regardless of what level we’re doing it at, the coke plant goes under and the town takes it in the shorts. The town, in aggregate, doesn’t want that. You do. By enforcing your measure of safety (which is, after all, what we’re talking about here: managing risk levels), the plant goes away and the town’s economy craters, which may actually be a worse for a number of inhabitants… maybe even a majority of the inhabitants… than an increased cancer risk.

                I’m not really sure why I should be enamored of empowering you at any particular level to override the risk assessment of some/most/all of your peers, in a general case, granting your premises here. So you want to be empowered to kill the town? I mean, that’s how you put it, here.

                While I’ll grant that there are certainly cases where you ought to be able to override the collective risk assessment of your peers, I think this is going to be context-dependent. Like, say, if it won’t actually kill the town, but result in perhaps a reduction in employment but more gains in public health.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                I’m not really sure why I should be enamored of empowering you at any particular level to override the risk assessment of some/most/all of your peers, in a general case, granting your premises here.

                This is true. I had assumed that the toxic effects in the example were not limited to the specific town. Which is why I am more open to neighboring towns having a say, too (with it being more of a state issue rather than a town issue).Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                There’s a reason why I specifically said Oklahoma and Massachusetts in my examples, Will.

                As for Pat’s example, I’m sure there were factories and shops that went bankrupt because of basic child labor laws and the existence of safety regulations. That’s an acceptable loss to me. Building a better society and as a result, having a safety net to help the collateral damage (workers) get a new road to go down.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Jesse, yes, but you’re talking about how people in Massachusetts should be able to force people Oklahoma to allow for SSM. I’m saying that without federalism, Oklahoma would be able to force Massachusetts not to allow SSM. You are viewing federalism as an obstacle. I’m saying that without federalism, progress on SSM wouldn’t be as far along as it is.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                As for Pat’s example, I’m sure there were factories and shops that went bankrupt because of basic child labor laws and the existence of safety regulations. That’s an acceptable loss to me. Building a better society and as a result, having a safety net to help the collateral damage (workers) get a new road to go down.

                You realize that this is an iterative process, though, right? And that there are reasonable grounds to dispute the impact of some safety regulations?

                I mean, let’s say that the coke plant adds a statistically significant and yet still very small chance to your increased cancer risk. Like, you’re more likely to get cancer than someone who lives in a small town without the coke plant, but you’re still far more likely not to get cancer if you outlaw… oh… cars, for example.

                At what point does your “increased safety” – as a trade-off – become worthwhile as an acceptable loss? Is there no nuance there?

                If there is nuance, where is it?Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                Totally. And I believe the best way to get to that nuance is by having two nearly matched forces (regulatory agencies and corporations) negotating/suing/etc each other instead of two forces far apart from each other (corporations and persons) doing it.

                Just like I believe the best deal for workers is to organize in a union and collectively bargain instead of going up against management with few exceptions.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Jesse, you keep assuming the little guy has no chance in court. But I think you discount the attractiveness, to certain lawyers, of going after a deep pockets corporation.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Well, in my experience, the way it works out for the lawyers is that they get themselves a little class action action and they get monstrous fees (relatively speaking), and I get sixteen forms to fill out to get $13 in compensation for a few thousand dollars worth of memory purchases six years ago. Provided I can find the receipt. Which they didn’t need to find me, but apparently they need to cut me my $13.

                So the lawyer gets his fee, and the corp winds up paying back not even what they made in profit six years ago, which impacts their bottom line not too much at all. If it weren’t for the bad publicity, I’m not sure you’d even call that a loss, on their end. It’s certainly not a gain, on mine.Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser says:

                I don’t have any numbers, but I’m willing to bet (intuition) that corruption occurs at about the same rate across all levels of government. If anyone has statistics to prove otherwise (or confirm), please share.

                The risk/reward ratio scales just fine throughout all levels of government. The only real difference between the local and Federal official is the price you have to pay ’em. And in many cases, you’ll get a better bang for your bribery buck at the higher level.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                I think it’s time to point out that the local officials don’t actually have to be on the take. They’re legitimately concerned with not, as Pat puts it, killing their town. They’re not necessarily evil people who want to pollute the environment or corrupt political rent-seekers taking bribes. They’re fairly average people who love their town and want what’s best for it, within the framework of what they see as the town’s biggest needs.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                But, I am glad you finally agree local officials are the easiest to corrupt

                Finally agree? Show me where I’ve ever disputed that, young ‘un. I’ve known that since before you had your first erection, so don’t go trying to pretend you were there before me.Report

        • Avatar zic says:

          Paper is an industry I know well. I grew up on a paper-mill river; and I’ve researched and written about it extensively. It’s a great industry to discuss here, because it uses a lot of natural resources (trees), a lot of water, and a lot of energy. It generates air pollution, water pollution, and solid wastes. The head environmental engineer at the one mill put it to me this way, and I paraphrase: “When you make pollution, you’ve got to put it somewhere; take you pick: the ground, the water, or the air. Better not to generate it in the first place. Every single mill I’ve been in, most built long before the the clean water and air acts were ever dreamed of, I heard the same story: the regulation improved the efficiency of the mills a thousandfold over.

          Get that? Regulation ended up forcing the industry to innovate, update, and revamp. And you know what? I ended up saving them money. Really. More importantly, the result of the effort to meet regulation actually paid big results. I grew up between two mills; a farm stretching a mile along one of the most polluted rivers in the country; the Androscoggin River, in Maine. When I was a kid, if you fell in, they took you to the ER. I was, on two different occasions. You can swim where my farm is, now. But you can’t eat the fish. Mercury. But that’s from coal-burning plants in the midwest.

          These are mills that make high-quality papers, coated papers. The pages of National Geographic and Vogue, Harry Potter books. In each and every case I looked into, I saw regulators and mill workers working together to minimize environmental risk. When a mistake happens — and they do, particularly when machines are shut down or started — the mills notify the state regulator, and they work as a team to solve whatever problems happened. I saw little sense of a contentious regulatory environment; I saw a cooperative environment. Because the people who work in those mills live in the area; they hunt, fish, and grow their vegetables there. Their kids live there. And these mill workers are extremely proud of their work both in making high-quality paper and doing so in a way thats significantly improved the environment.

          The downside is that it takes a lot fewer workers to make more paper then ever before.

          I actually had more problem with the veracity of the environmentalists who worked to drum up funds. The frequently didn’t understand the permitting process, permitting levels, and misrepresented information to the public. And the press, of which I was a member, would bend over backwards to verify anything a representative of the mills said, but never, ever bothered to verify what the environmental groups said. I say this as someone who’s a pretty hard-core environmentalist. I refuse to join any of those groups because of their dishonesty, and I’ve been highly critical of them in my own work.Report

        • Avatar M.A. says:

          Quick, shoot the good because it’s the enemy of the perfect.Report

    • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

      eBay itself acts as a regulator; get caught cheating, and they’ll ban you. And they provide PayPal to insulate buyers from sellers, as well as to allow a third-party to enforce restitution by backing out fraudulent transactions.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        But, but, but….you know what’s missing here, don’t you?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        Actually, what I maybe should have said is, “Quit writing my next post for me!”Report

        • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

          And eBay is working good so far without outside action by the government. Unfortunately, when it comes to things like wages, labor law, enviromental protection, sexual harassment, and so on, the private sector failed.

          So, if in five years, it’s found out that eBay is colluding with big sellers, I would support the government stepping in.Report

          • Avatar greginak says:

            Now i have to give my up liberal desire to regulate the hell out of Ebay. I had my heart set on that just after we implant chips in every bodies arms and get moving on the Agenda 21 project.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley says:

            It doesn’t matter how good it’s working now. You liberals want to regulate it just because you hate free markets.Report

            • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

              Be fair. It made Christine Todd Whitman rich and we want to destroy it out of pure envy.Report

            • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

              Hey, I’m sorry the horrible slur that most libertarians don’t really care about the bad effects of deregulations is actually closer to the truth than the liberal slur that we want to nationalize and control everything via top down machinations.

              Sounds like you guys need better PR. Maybe get some people on TV who care more about corporate welfare and prison reform instead of food stamps/tax rates and manage to block dumbasses like Free Market Fonzie from appearing on Bill Maher every few months to spout libertarian idiocy.Report

            • Avatar greginak says:

              Come on….its freedom in general we hate, free markets are just a subset of that.Report

          • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

            Except in the case of environmental issues, where there are legitimate externalities, the market didn’t fail. It simply didn’t produce the outcomes that you, personally, would have preferred. One of the things I find most obnoxious about the left is your eagerness to elevate your own personal preferences over the aggregate preferences expressed through market prices. I get that you have your own preferences, and that’s fine. But you need to recognize that other people’s matter, too.Report

            • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

              If the market says the most efficient way to pay a worker isn’t enough for him to meet very basic needs (and before Jaybird comes in here, I’m not talking about XBoxes or even cable), then yes, the market is wrong and I’ll happily scream that.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Jesse,

                Our argument is that you are expecting the wrong thing from the market. Markets serve consumers, not producers. If you correct the market to accomplish your goal of above market wages, you make the market less effective at serving our needs.

                There is a role for safety nets. Pawning this role off on the market is not only lazy (lets ask employers to pay instead of us) it is long term counterproductive. It destroys the engine we are using to generate the wealth to fund the health care.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                Yes, I don’t think we should subsidize low wages to help the”market” any more than necessary. That’s ignoring the fact that the record is mixed, if I’m being really kind, at the connection of minimum wage increases to growth or lack thereof.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

                Market wages serve as signals and incentives. The wages for a particular job are roughly equal to the marginal productivity of one more person doing that job. When a job offers a low wage, that serves two functions. First, it signals to people considering such a job that there really isn’t any great need for more people to do that job, and that their labor would be better used in a higher-paying job. Second, it gives them a strong incentive to heed that signal.

                The fact that the market wages for jobs with low marginal product are low is the result of the market working exactly as it’s supposed to. If a job that any high school kid could do paid a solid middle-class wage, it would result in misallocation of labor as people capable of doing more productive work chose to do less productive work because it paid enough.

                Sometime in the future, when productivity is much higher across the board, low-end jobs will pay what we would now consider a solid middle-class wage, just as low-end jobs today pay what would once have been considered a solid middle-class wage. But the leftists of the future will simply revise upwards their definition of “basic needs” and make the very same complaints that you’re making now.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                And so it is WONDERFUL and in HIGH DEMAND… breaking the economy.
                Making new things?? not so much.
                Do you know how many physics majors get yanked into finance (sometimes unwillingly?) Nate Silver too, for that matter.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Brandon,

                Can you weigh in on the Walmart profit discussion?. Currently comment number 65.

                Jesse and TVD bring up some good points which my economic Spidey Senses tell me are wrong, but I will admit the issues are complex enough that I could be partly wrong.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

                The part about welfare being a subsidy to low-wage employers? That’s not how the labor market works. Suppose that you go out and buy a new car with a $500/month payment. Is this going to make your boss more likely to give you a raise? If you inherit a trust that pays you $500/month, are you going to let your boss cut your pay to compensate?

                Wages are based on supply and demand, not what the employee needs or wants. Walmart can’t arbitrarily decide to cut wages just because the government increases welfare payments, and it won’t give everyone a raise if the government cuts welfare payments.

                Now, in the long run, if welfare cutbacks resulted in the poor having fewer children, then that could conceivably result in a reduced supply of unskilled labor and require Walmart to raise wages. Conversely, if welfare has contributed to birth rates among the poor, it could result in a greater supply of labor for Walmart, allowing them to pay lower wages. I don’t think that this is a line of reasoning which Walmart’s left-wing critics would like to explore further, though. Likewise low-education immigrants.

                For a cutback in welfare to result in Walmart raising wages, it would have to reduce the supply of low-wage labor, or increase the demand for it. The only way it could reduce the supply of low-wage labor is if it resulted in potential employees actually starving to death. More likely, welfare cutbacks would lead to an increase in the supply of low-wage labor (and thus lower wages) by reducing the implicit marginal tax rates on welfare recipients.

                I do suspect that welfare might act as a subsidy of sorts to Walmart, but not through wages. Rather, redistributing money from the well-to-do (who tend not to shop at Walmart) to the poor (who do) likely leads to more spending at Walmart. But it’s not like this is a hand-out to Walmart. The government is trying to increase the consumption of the poor, and Walmart is handling the logistics by giving them things they can actually consume in exchange for the money they get from the government.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Thanks, BB

                Yeah, their argument is that because the government chips in on health care for the working poor, that it allows Walmart to get a form of CORPORATE WELFARE that increases profits by reducing wage rates.

                I do not buy their logic, though I agree a major shift in policy one way or another would send shock waves of profit and loss through the system..

                My view on profits as they are like prices. They are signals in the market. The effect of the signal of higher short term profits though is to cause the system to reorganize in such a way to eliminate the higher profits. Most likely through additional capital, stores, competitors, price changes etc.Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

              One of the important things to remember here is that the purpose of civil society, when you get right down to it, is to keep us all from killing each other to take the other guys’ stuff.

              You know, Locke and that whole “state of Nature” bit.

              Given that this is the case, the first power we all give up when we agree to live in civil society is the power of violence over each other, as individuals. This is a pretty major power to give up.

              If the aggregate preferences expressed through market prices is insufficient to preclude a lapse into violence for a significant number of participants, then in fact the market, itself, hasn’t failed.

              Society, generally, has however.

              Put another way, Brandon, you’re arguing that the market cannot fail, it can only be failed. But this assumes that we’re all required to always be operating in civil society. You and Jesse are talking past each other.Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser says:

                “If the aggregate preferences expressed through market prices is insufficient to preclude a lapse into violence for a significant number of participants, then in fact the market, itself, hasn’t failed. Society, generally, has however.”

                But you’ve ignored the market for a livable society. In other words, if the market leaves too many hungry people who then start getting violent, and that causes enough concern for the rest of us, a new market will spring up to solve that problem. It may be a charity or a protection service or an already existing company that sees the benefit of training and hiring these people. But if it’s important enough, the market will solve the problem.

                That’s the underlying contention here: libertarians trust the market to work itself out. Everyone else assumes it won’t or aren’t quite patient enough to let it prove itself.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                If private charity and private markets filled the hole, Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment insurance never would’ve existed. It wasn’t like liberals waited for six months, then passed all these programs. The private sector had decades to figure out a way to make sure elderly people didn’t go into endemic poverty, old and poor people got basic health care, and people who got fired or laid off didn’t starve.

                It failed…for decades. Then, the government had to step in for the well-being of its citizens.Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser says:

                No, that’s my point. Step away from the convenient justifications for our history for a moment and consider that perhaps the demand for those programs was not actually what conventional wisdom says it was. You have to ask, if there really was such a problem, why DIDN’T the market fill it? Consider that if the market didn’t solve the problem, maybe those programs are really solutions looking for a problem.

                One of the big problems with government-based solutions is that it’s considerably more difficult to know whether they have a justifiable cost-benefit ratio.

                Try to imagine if the government hadn’t stepped in. Do you really think markets wouldn’t have appeared to solve these problems?Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                There’s a reason why game theorists talk about Pareto efficiency.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Yeah, well, Brian… Jesse has a valid point here.

                There have been times, historically, when economic need to keep the bottom from falling out has vastly outpaced the ability for private actors to keep up. Typically those private actors petition the government to either give them additional resources, or take over the task entirely. This is the historical trend, not the other way around.

                Indeed, simple game theory makes this a pretty intuitive result, particularly during economic downturns.

                The whole tragedy of the commons again. Yes, we’re all better off if all the workers have enough that they don’t revolt, but I’m less better off if I help my workers and nobody else does. I have a high incentive to do nothing.

                You can’t make a commons into a market by really wanting it to be a market, there are too many perverse incentives there. It’s better (IMO) to use markets whenever you can, but they’re a tool that work for particular types of problems, and trying to use them when they’re not appropriate is falling for the old, “If the only tool in the toolbox is a hammer, pretty soon everything starts looking like a nail…” adage.Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser says:

                I guess I need some convincing. What you say is the typical liberal conventional wisdom. But is it really true?

                It seems to me the intuitive result is that absent a coercive mechanism, people would come together to solve the problem. We often choose government because it seems (to many) like an easier tool. But its use comes at the cost of being a blunter instrument that strongly resists ever going away.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                How did any problems ever exist before gov stepped in? In the market would take care of all problems then they should have all been solved before the modern social state developed.Report

              • Avatar LWA (Liberal With Attitude) says:

                Well this is not a difficult mystery to solve.
                We could argue about “what would happen if SS didn’t exist?”, but conveniently enough, there is plenty of data (AKA “history”) that describes how elderly people lived prior to 1936.

                Short version- a large percentage lived in miserable poverty.
                After 1936, many fewer.

                In the absense of a government program, would a private market rise up to solve the problem?

                Well, no. It didn’t.

                Maybe it should have.

                But it didn’t.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                Bingo. I’m being fair and giving the private market the entirety of human history up to the Industrial Revolution and saying, “not your fault. Totally different society”

                But, the fifty or seventy years after when large scale industralization came into place and changed society to a large degree? Sorry, free market, that’s at your feet.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                I guess I need some convincing

                Okay, that’s fair. So give me your standard of evidence to convince you. Plant some goalposts in the ground and I’ll try to kick it through the uprights, for you.

                I mean, there’s plenty of examples, historically, of the workers revolting and cutting peoples’ heads off, but the amount of “free” in those markets is probably less than what we have today, so one can of course make the counterargument that “real” free markets weren’t given the chance to do their thing. I could point to the Great Depression, but the counter could be that real free markets weren’t given the time to solve the problem.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                But the Industrial Revolution was, on the whole, a good thing.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                Nobody said it wasn’t. But it did result in new problems that the private sector made no real effort to fixing over a couple of generations.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Brian,

                As our local economist James K. Has said here, there is no market for charity, so why would we expect it to clear?Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser says:

                “A large percentage lived in miserable poverty. After 1936, many fewer. In the absense of a government program, would a private market rise up to solve the problem? Well, no. It didn’t.”

                First, I should clarify I’m not claiming government can’t solve the problem at all, just that it may have pre-empted a better solution and that now we’ll never know.

                So I guess here’s what I’m trying to get at with this line of reasoning: why did the market apparently fail? If this problem was such a concern, why weren’t people able to come together to create a solution cooperatively? Why did they need to resort to the force of government?

                I’m thinking the market is failing because of the existence of government. Government provides the path of least resistance. It’s the easy way out.

                Let’s go back to the 1930’s prior to Social Security. Ignore for the purpose of this exercise all the other political goings-on at the time and purely consider the issue that a fair amount of folks are retiring into poverty. Also imagine that at the time, it was still considered outside of the Federal government’s purview to solve problems like this. So, what to do?

                Well, someone who’s particularly concerned about this starts an organization to solve the problem. They put together a program that issues insurance/loans/grants to people in need. They advertise its existence and try to get people interested and to invest/contribute. Some people do. Some people don’t. They eventually manage to gain 100,000 contributors/investors. It works. The plight of the elderly improves dramatically. Not only does the problem get solved, but the investors are making money. But, geez, it took a lot of hard work to get there.

                But now return to the reality where a Federal government was at their disposal at the time. Those same person concerned about this problem looks around and says, hey, why would I go through all that work, if instead of convincing 100,000 people, I only have to convince a few congressmen? And, as a bonus, they’d be able to force everyone to participate, so we’ll have a lot more money to work with. That’s so much easier!

                You see my point?

                As a side note, this illustrates one of the primary moral conflicts between liberalism and libertarianism. Libertarians consider the rights of the non-investors in the first scenario to not participate: they apparently didn’t care enough to want to help out with this issue, and that’s fine; those who care are working to solve it. Liberals say, but they SHOULD care, and with government, we can make them.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                The issue of poor people retiring into poverty/destitution didn’t come into existence on Black Friday in 1929. It had existed for decades and again, no private solution came up.

                Is it possible a better idea could’ve come up? Sure. But it didn’t. So, we passed a law that destroyed endemic severe poverty in this country and helped create a whole new consumer class for the private sector to sell stuff too.Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser says:

                “As our local economist James K. Has said here, there is no market for charity, so why would we expect it to clear?”

                Would you please direct me to that quote (and its context) and any other stuff you know of that makes this claim?

                I’m not yet convinced.Report

              • Avatar Scott Fields says:

                Well, someone who’s particularly concerned about this starts an organization to solve the problem. They put together a program that issues insurance/loans/grants to people in need. They advertise its existence and try to get people interested and to invest/contribute. Some people do. Some people don’t. They eventually manage to gain 100,000 contributors/investors. It works. The plight of the elderly improves dramatically. Not only does the problem get solved, but the investors are making money.

                Brian, with all due respect, that’s a pretty fanciful thought experiment, isn’t it?

                Step 1 I understand – some entrepreneurial group is concerned about elderly poverty and wants to solve the problem.

                Step 2 is much dicier – what kind of insurance policies do you imagine would be sold to address elderly poverty? Who’s going to loan money to someone past working age with no prospects to repay? What kind of grant would go to a cohort past the age of productivity?

                Step 3 is even harder to grasp – What investor is going to see these products as an opportunity to make money?

                Step 4 has investors making money by improving the plight of the elderly – How is that possible?

                You’re claiming a convenient liberal justification for the flow of history, but you are just as conveniently seeing possible markets that are pretty incredible. I would say history demonstrates business tends to find a way – there’s a billion dollar market for drinking water in bottles, for crissakes – and government crowding out is rarer than you’d like to think.Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                Scott Field,

                There are markets for charity. Strange markets, too. Take evangelical churches and the market to claim souls in Central America. They are very charitable. Folks go down on missions, they set up churches. They compete for a local flock. They hand out all kinds of goodies to gain that flock.

                For the Mayans, who seem to have this amazing capacity to see that things, including people, are created over and over, it seems to be just another set of names to build into the structure of what is. There’s Jesus, and there’s Hunapu and Cheblanque, and they’re the same, just as there’s the Devil and Lord One Death and Lord Seven Death; and there is the Virgin Mary and Blood Woman and Grandmother.Report

              • Avatar Scott Fields says:

                They are very charitable.

                But, are they profitable? In Brian’s scenario, not only are the elderly now taken care of, but the investors are bringing in profits and not just securing a seat in heaven.

                FWIW, there is no doubt a market for seats in heaven. 😉Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                Scott, to my knowledge, nobody’s returned from heaven to report a profit in such enterprise, so it remains a mystery.Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser says:

                “Brian, with all due respect, that’s a pretty fanciful thought experiment, isn’t it?”

                What, you’re not going to blindly accept my fanciful hand waving past the specifics of my new Retirement Solutions, Inc.?!

                OK, I guess I’ll have to invest a little more effort into those details since they are somewhat fundamental to the premise. Hey James, you have a post planned on the free market alternatives to government-based social programs, right? Should I wait for that? 🙂Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser says:

                OK, so let’s think this through. How to build Retirement Solutions, Inc.

                Well, the obvious starting point is what we ended up with. Can we create a privately-run version of Social Security? Admittedly, it’s going to be a bit tricky and risky since it’s based on a Ponzi scheme. People will be buying “retirement insurance” from us. Workers will pay premiums and then when they retire, we provide them with supplemental income. Will you grant me that so far this could work as a business? We have companies doing this today (e.g., annuities).

                But we haven’t really solved the problem. Yes, a few more people are now retiring successfully. But a bunch still aren’t because they didn’t bother to buy our insurance (or a competitor’s), either because they couldn’t afford it or they didn’t think they’d need it.

                We could ask for donations and combine those with some of our profits to provide for those who don’t have policies and need assistance. But that creates a new problem: now fewer people are buying policies, figuring they can just get the free assistance. So that doesn’t work.

                For retirees that have assets (like a house or car), we’ll give them a loan against those items. We provide them a basic income, but when they die, we take ownership of their assets (unless their heirs pay off the loan).

                But what about retirees that have nothing? What we need is something those destitute retirees can exchange in return for our assistance. How about their blood and organs! Don’t laugh–this can work! If you can’t make ends meet after retirement, we’ll provide for you, but you owe us two pints of blood a month and your body after you die. We’ll resell it to science and hospitals.

                That’s just one option. Creativity can provide many others. There are probably ways we can put them to work for us. We’ll hire them out to generate WoW cash or to be shill callers on conservative radio shows or to post fake reviews on Amazon.com. We’ll have them make sales calls all day, bringing in new business.

                I’m just getting started. I’m still thinking this one over, and if anyone’s interested in getting in on the ground floor, let me know.Report

              • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

                Brian Houser:

                People will be buying “retirement insurance” from us. Workers will pay premiums and then when they retire, we provide them with supplemental income. Will you grant me that so far this could work as a business?

                Assuming that on average, every participant is able to put in enough money to pay for the retirement of one average individual and all the actuarial problems that entails, yes. But with optional participation and the resulting adverse selection, this seems unlikely.

                But what about retirees that have nothing? What we need is something those destitute retirees can exchange in return for our assistance. How about their blood and organs! Don’t laugh–this can work! If you can’t make ends meet after retirement, we’ll provide for you, but you owe us two pints of blood a month and your body after you die. We’ll resell it to science and hospitals.

                Now you’re in interesting territory. You seem to be assuming that these elderly will always have something worth giving. It looks to me like you can get blood for pretty cheaply. I don’t think a human being can generate enough blood to feed themselves at that price, much less pay the rent. And the body is a one-time thing. It would have to be worth a lot to cover a long retirement. I don’t know the exact value, but once you’ve flooded the market with dead old people, I’m also not optimistic.

                That’s not to say I don’t support being able to sell you organs after death. I think it would be fantastic. I just don’t think I’ll be investing in your particular business yet. Retirement for everybody too old to work still seems to me to be a macroeconomic problem.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Brian,

                I would offer another take on your retirement challenge.

                The dilemma with personal responsibility to set aside money voluntarily is that huge swaths of humanity have serious problems with short time horizons and are simply incapable of planning for their retirement. Thus they don’t plan for it, which then burdens everyone else with taking care of their own and everyone else’s too.

                Rather than fight this reality, I would suggest a mixed market solution. I would recommend that people be required to set aside money for their own retirement via automatic withdrawal. This would have an insurance element in it which would have a small redistribution effect to cover those making too little or suffering long bouts of unemployment.

                The money would be spread (by the individual) among independent insurance companies (meeting certain qualifications) with limitations controlling for risk. The libertarian angles on it are that I would allow people to opt out of the program with a signed and notarized annual statement which gets them to declare that they are assuming full and total control of their own retirement and expect zero subsidies later in life for their refusal to participate.

                The annuity amount would be theirs and congress would have no access to it. Anyone in congress trying to get access to it will be tarred and feathered and shipped to North Korea.

                Similar solutions could be used to fund long term catastrophic health care.

                On a private level, I once had THE KILLER idea on retirement planning. I ran new product development for one of the largest insurance companies in the US before retiring. The company I worked for never built it, but I have heard that one of my contractors took the idea to another company and they are building it.Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser says:

                RE: Roger’s mixed market solution:

                Interesting thoughts, but I’m not sure your idea really solves the problem. Won’t there be a lot of people who opt out and then end up on the streets? Perhaps it could be done using a provision that you can only opt out if you prove you are financially capable of supporting yourself in retirement, but I don’t know if I’m quite ready to give in to that level of government involvement.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                I think very few people would go to the trouble of getting the forms, taking them t a notary and signing the dotted line that tells them that unless they are funding their own retirement that they are basically committing financial suicide. Some would though. I am also fine with Kimmi and Mr Dancing Satan Monkey starting a charity to pay for these idiots.

                PS. Word of advice… Avoid any conversation with MA. He is incapable of rational discussion with people that don’t already agree with him. It ALWAYS ends badly.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                Word of advice… Avoid any conversation with Roger. He is incapable of rational discussion with people that don’t already agree with him. It ALWAYS ends badly.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                BRIAN,
                every frucking thing resists going away. the united way ought to burn in hell, it’s business model is fucking outmoded and it’s crowding out better fucking charities.
                but it resists going away.
                and it’s busy getting it’s hooks into everything and its cousin, just like the fracking government.Report

              • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

                Roger:
                Forced retirement savings is an interesting option, but this:

                The money would be spread (by the individual) among independent insurance companies (meeting certain qualifications) with limitations controlling for risk.

                seems to stray pretty far from any libertarian ideal. Who decides the qualifications? What are the insurance companies allowed to do with the money? Does it handle the worst case scenario of a major financial crisis? After all that is accounted for, how does that work out better than a simple pay-as-you-go system with the government as a borrower to smooth business cycles?

                This one seems to come the closest to being workable. It just doesn’t seem all that different from what we have. The rest of the “alternate Social Security” options seem to assume that every person produces enough surplus over the course of his life to guarantee that he won’t run out of money.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Frog,
                The libertarian angle is that it isn’t really forced as it allows exit options and provides choice and prevents capture by government entities.

                Of course we would need to work out details, this isn’t the forum to do so except in broad outlines. They aren’t hard questions to answer though. If you really want to start a thread on it, I will be glad to so so. Other nations have already solved this problem. They’ve solved health care too.

                The difference from today’s system is that social security was captured by politicians and used for their own advancement. Exit rights, choice, competition and personal ownership prevent this from occurring and prevent exploitation of some for others.

                There definitely does need to be an insurance element in the products though to correct for those never generating enough surplus to fund their own retirement. Let’s face it, Kimmi is right that it actually does require people to set aside a portion of current income aside to protect us in retirement. I have no problem with paying FICA or unemployment insurance. I have concerns with allowing politicians to raid our FICA.Report

              • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

                Roger,

                I guess my hangup is when you say that other countries have “solved” the problem while implying that we haven’t. If the problem is one of voluntary exit, would adding the exit provisions you described above solve the problem? I’d be OK with that, as long as it requires some effort to do so and very seriously informed consent. But is there something else?

                I’m just not seeing where our politicians have “captured” “raided” anything. Yes, they’re trying to do so right now by implying that we should repudiate the bonds in the trust fund, but that’s a problem I generally associate with people who are trying to turn SS into a private account.

                The simple model of today’s workers taking a piece of what they produce and giving it to the people who are too old to work is a very old one, and it works pretty well on a large scale. If the only change you’re proposing is the ability to opt out, I think that’s cool. If it’s something more than that, I’m not clear on what problem you’re really trying to solve.Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Frog,

                I meant solved it in a way which didn’t allow them to spend it short term on other things. There isn’t anything that radical in what I suggest, other than more options, and more personal ownership.

                I’m fine with an insurance pension model that allows us to prepare for old age. It in effect allows us to transfer wealth from our younger selves to our older.Report

              • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

                I meant solved it in a way which didn’t allow them to spend it short term on other things.

                This is what I’m not getting. Who is spending what short term on other things? How is it bad and why does it need to be addressed?

                Social Security looks to me like a run-of-the-mill pay-as-you-go pension plan that invests in US government bonds. That’s a pretty stable and workable system. I realize that individual choice is a good in and of itself, but we still have to ask ourselves what the value that extra choice is on the macro level, don’t we?Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Frog,

                I am a bit critical of a pay as you go system where payouts are clearly going to accelerate going forward.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

                I don’t see that Jesse was talking about revolt.

                I’m not at all arguing that markets can’t fail. The existence of market failures in dealing with externalities and commons that cannot feasibly be privatized, such as the atmosphere and large bodies of water, is well-established, and I acknowledged that in my comment. What I object to is Jesse’s claim that the the market has failed in areas where it is in fact working exactly as it’s supposed to.

                I don’t think concerns about revolt are realistic. Revolts seem to happen primarily in societies which are not meritocratic and which have a high level of absolute poverty, leading to a dangerous situation where people who are capable of staging an effective revolt have little to lose. In modern societies, the people who would be capable of that generally tend to do reasonably well, so they have a lot to lose and not much to gain from revolting.Report

  19. Avatar Scott Fields says:

    OK, so let’s think this through. How to build Retirement Solutions, Inc.

    Brian – I’m moving the thread over here to avoid the indent.

    Will you grant me that so far this could work as a business? We have companies doing this today (e.g., annuities).

    While I admire the effort, as Troublesome Frog has well noted above, I think you’re kind of making my points for me here. I have no problem conceding that what you propose as a “retirement insurance” business would work. But as you note, we have companies doing that today and these companies are highly profitable to boot. This example then sort of undermines your suggestion that government has crowded out private business from the entire retirement solutions market.

    As for the blood and body parts model for the truly destitute customer, I take from your tone that you know this suggestion is absurd on its face. Call Centers by Seniors (TM) isn’t exactly the life in retirement we’d wish for our parents or grandparents either.

    I think T. Frog is exactly right. I don’t see any venture capitalists returning your calls. You should be seeing by now that government hasn’t historically stepped on entrepreneurial toes as it’s established social programs. The market is a wonderful thing, but it just doesn’t offer a solution for every civic dilemma.Report

    • Avatar Brian Houser says:

      The government solution only addresses the low end of the problem: providing for those who don’t meet some standard of living, and that’s where it’s crowding out other solutions. The companies providing retirement solutions today do it for the higher end of the market.Report

      • Avatar M.A. says:

        In other words, the free market sucks at managing to find solutions for those who aren’t financially well off.

        Hell, even those “solutions” that were tried in the past decade more or less constituted a credit bubble that wound up bursting.

        You know what actually worked? When we had realistic and much higher tax brackets. Conservatives keep insisting they want to go back to the “morals” of the 1950s, but they don’t want to go back to that era’s tax brackets or that era’s social contract. I would find the whole thing hilarious if it wasn’t such a mark of the right wing’s utterly dishonest intellectual emptiness.Report

        • Avatar Murali says:

          You know, Singapore has about half your tax rates and a lot less spending per capita. Yet, it still manages to keep itself with a current account surplus. And comparing the QoL of your worst off and Singapore’s worst off, I think Singapore’s worst off are better than yours. At least in Singapore, there are few if any homeless. The same cannot be said for the US.Report

      • Avatar Patrick Bridges says:

        The government solution only addresses the low end of the problem: providing for those who don’t meet some standard of living, and that’s where it’s crowding out other solutions.

        But again, the government even being at the low end of the problem is precisely because the market *didn’t* solve the problem at the bottom end for several decades in the gilded age. Basically, it sounds like you’re trying to argue that if we simply waited a few more decades, the market would have solved the problem. (While a few million more seniors, widowed, and disabled live and died in abject poverty). But again, you’re assuming facts not in evidence.

        The government response was developed precisely to address this problem, and it doesn’t address the higher-end precisely to avoid crowding out solutions there. In other words, the government solved a problem that the market couldn’t, that solution is actually narrowly targeted to the portion of the populace where the market failed, and it *works*. Just galling, eh?Report

        • Avatar Roger says:

          Patrick,

          Just to clarify, the Market was the engine that solved the problem of poverty.

          Since the advent of agriculture the average human lived about 35 years in abject squalor as a serf or slave making the equivalent of two dollars a day. Starvation was everywhere, and luxury goods included utensils, shoes and buttons.

          Free enterprise, starting about 250 years ago, changed all that. It has led to ten times as many people living twice as long with 20 to 50 times better standards of living. Markets, science and technology (which are interconnected along with government and social institutions) created this prosperity. They created the surplus that we use to subsidize the less fortunate.

          I am all for subsidizing the less fortunate rationally. But let’s never lose sight of the source of this prosperity.Report

          • Avatar M.A. says:

            Free enterprise, starting about 250 years ago, changed all that.

            Unionization has a lot to do with it.

            Government regulation – safety regulations that stopped people from losing fingers, limbs, suffering other up-to-fatal injuries with regularity – in industry had a lot to do with it.

            Government regulation establishing the 40-hour workweek, requiring overtime pay above it and preventing the phenomenon of simply working people to death, had a lot to do with it.

            The “free market” had 1900 years since the bearded hippie from Nazareth was born where it could have fixed this stuff. If you want to count from the start of the Industrial Revolution it had from 1750 to 1930 to fix this stuff. Big surprise? IT DIDN’T manage to put those solutions into place because it was cheaper for “management” to kill workers and expect them to be replaceable, and your assertion otherwise is laughable.Report

          • Avatar Scott Fields says:

            “Markets, science and technology (which are interconnected along with government and social institutions) created this prosperity.

            Can’t argue with this at all, Roger. The question is how you weight the contributions of each of these interconnected contributors to prosperity. You call the Market “the” engine, so I guess I know where you see the oomph. But my take on history is that markets were around for a long, long time moving spices and tapestries around the world before democratic governments formed to broaden who could participate and science and technology made goods cheaper to make, so more widely available.Report

            • Avatar Roger says:

              Scott,

              Yeah, I really see them as interconnected. They also basically all involve the same basic process. In brief…

              1) SOLVE problems via a process of experimentation. Variation and competitive selection.
              2) SPREAD the solutions. Multiply them, replicate them and share or distribute them.
              3). BUILD upon them. Ratchet solutions, combine solutions and further improve them over time.

              The institutional details differ, but that is the recipe of progress in brief. Solve, spread and build.

              As for your point about market interactions being as old as mankind, you are totally correct. So are technology and the fundamentals of understanding nature. The breakthroughs were at establishing the institutional rules and protocols that allowed each to flourish. Details available if you are interested.

              I could discuss this topic for days. I believe it is the most fascinating and most important topic of all time. I can also recommend lots of great books — a couple of dozen probably.Report

              • Avatar Scott Fields says:

                I think we’re mostly in agreement, Roger.

                Progress does comes from Solve, Spread and Build. That’s a decent framing. And, as you say, markets, technology, social institutions and governments are all contributors to Solve, Spread and Build. I may think you oversell the market’s unique strength in SSB and you may think I oversell the government’s role in SSB, but we’re on the same page.

                I do appreciate that you’ve acknowledged that the breakthrough for progress, that point in history when the benefits of technology and markets were unleashed for faster and more widely shared progress, came when institutional rules were established that allowed for the unleashing to happen.
                (Establishing institutional rules is what governments do, don’t you think.)Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Scott,

                Yeah, agreed. Institutions are critical and some of these are best handled as government institutions. Yes.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Bridges says:

                +1 to this entire strand. Nice discussion.Report

          • Avatar Patrick Bridges says:

            Glad to know that poverty has been solved, so we can stop talking or worry about it.

            I guess I just don’t see the point of your post, Roger. I think everyone here agrees at least that markets and well-regulated free enterprise are great, and should be used whenever they can solve problems in an effective and timely fashion. If the point is just signalling, I’d suggest that “Markets, RAWR!” might be a more effective shorthand. 🙂Report

            • Avatar Roger says:

              Patrick,

              The point is that it is being “solved.” Really. And this runs counter to your initial assertion.

              Wealth has to be created to overcome the natural state of poverty, and due to the Malthusian curse, the more we solve it the more people we need to solve it for. Luckily markets seem up to the challenge.

              If you want to read this as “Three cheers for markets,” then so be it. I know it is fashionable in polite company to be all like dismissive of markets. I find this curious since we each owe our prosperity and probably our existence to it.

              Strange….Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                “Markets, RAWR.”

                The point is that it is being “solved.” Really.

                Funny, seems like since Reagan was elected we’ve been on a downward slope with income and societal inequalities increasing, not decreasing. I don’t call that “being solved.”Report

              • Avatar Patrick Bridges says:

                Ah, so it’s not solved, it’s *being* solved?

                This gets to one of my major concerns with market-only solutions to problems that I alluded to in my previous post – timeliness of solution. I see lots of people argue that “the market will solve that”, with an implied but never explicitly stated “eventually” or “in the long term”. And increasingly I’m coming to believe that the “in the long term” part is left of because people don’t want to confront timeliness of solution.

                How long do we wait for the market to solve a problem before we decide that the market can’t currently solve the problem and intervene? Should we have let rampant air and water pollution in the 60s and 70s snowball until the market finally solved it in the long run? The long run in which a lot of people were killed by it? Should we have let the market solve elderly destitution in the gilded age eventually, when those elderly were likely to die in abject poverty much sooner than “eventually”?

                How long should we wait for the market to solve anthropogenic climate change? Before or after we get frequent major inland droughts and the coastal cities start to flood regularly flood? Oh, wait…Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Patrick,

                Well, yeah… Entropy requires us to constantly solve problems. It never ends, and a major side effect of solving it today is more people to solve it for tomorrow.

                From the perspective of the average person of the 18th century, the poor of America have indeed solved the problem. This isn’t true of course for areas like Africa where free markets have no been allowed to reign.

                Yes, markets are decentralized problem solving systems, but I would probably strongly agree with you that they are not infinitely wide in problem solving scope. I would not recommend waiting for the market to solve global warming or pollution. Markets can be part of the solutions, but I would not wait for markets to solve all problems on their own.

                As we solve these problems, I only caution us to minimize any collateral damage to market’s in the process.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Bridges says:

                I’m in pretty much complete agreement.

                On a a bit of tangent, I’m on my way back home from the annual supercomputing technical conference (sc12.supercomputing.org). There was a paper presented there that has some interesting analogies to the problems we’re talking about: “Direction-optimizing Breadth-first search” (http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2389013).

                The basic technical problem is to search for all matches in a large, complicated, graph of connected elements (e.g. relationships in the facebook social network). Say facebook want to find out how many degrees of separation all the people in the facebook social network who “like” this blog are from TvD.

                The traditional top-down search technique starts from the base element of your search (e.g. TvD) and work your way through the the graph layer at a time; it works well at the start, but becomes inefficient part-way through the search. A pure bottom-up approach where you start only at the elements of the graph that haven’t been searched and see if they connect searched parts of the graph is incredibly inefficient by itself in all non-trivial graphs because most connections are to nodes that haven’t been searched yet.

                The technique the authors ended up researching was a hybrid of the two – you start with a top down search of the graph to develop a base search tree that to allow bottom-up searches to work effectively. They spent a lot of effort determining how to best alternate and trade-off between top-down growth of the base search tree and bottom-up work. The basic technique has been known for a few years, and is now the basis for lots of graph-based analysis algorithms.

                Though only tangentially related, the analogy to bottom-up versus top-down economic solutions to problems we’ve been discussing was too similar for me to not share. 🙂Report

              • Avatar Roger says:

                Cool, thanks Patrick

                It is odd how systems which seem so different can sometimes share so many similarities.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Bridges says:

                There are a surprising number of similarities between economic systems and computational systems, particularly large parallel and distributed computational systems. This is generally because both involve distributed actions, coordination and control, and signaling and communication with finite latency and bandwidth. The intellectual contributions and results are slowly flowing both ways between the fields in interesting ways, too.Report

      • Avatar Scott Fields says:

        The government solution only addresses the low end of the problem: providing for those who don’t meet some standard of living, and that’s where it’s crowding out other solutions.

        I gave you an opportunity to suggest other commercial solutions to the low end of the problem and your suggestions were laughable (in your own words – “Don’t Laugh”). So again, for those problems where there is a market solution, markets typically (though I’m sure not always) find their way in. For those problems where there is no profit to be made, businesses aren’t even going to want to get in. I don’t think this is controversial.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

        I think a lot of us would like to make Social Security a means-tested transfer program to reduce its overall impact, but it’s not politically feasible. If we did, it would become “welfare” and almost certainly harder to hold on to. You think people complain about having to put money into a system that returns some money to them later? Just wait until it’s just for other people. I don’t think it would become any more palatable to a lot of the people here either.

        And at the higher end, how much crowding out is really happening? The maximum benefit for a worker retiring this year at age 66 is $2,513 per month. That’s not chickenfeed, but it’s also not the type of thing that makes somebody with otherwise “high end” retirement capability stop saving to go on the dole.Report

    • Avatar Brian Houser says:

      I apologize for straying a bit much from the real topic of this article, but I want to explore something in the liberalism vs. libertariansim debate. This phrase prompted it:

      “[…] isn’t exactly the life in retirement we’d wish for our parents or grandparents either.”

      As a libertarian, the “we’d” part rubs me the wrong way. It’s collectivism. It assumes we all have similar sentiments about standards of living and that we all owe each other the ability to live at whatever that standard is.

      Don’t I first have an obligation to myself, and then my family, and then my community? Aren’t I best able to determine how much of my income to use to help me/us achieve whatever standard of living I think is appropriate and if any is left over after helping those close to me, then I can expand my scope of assistance? Why should I be forced to pay for the poor 5000 miles away when I know nothing about them? Shouldn’t they have to appeal to me personally (or a charity I donate to) if they want my hard-earned money?

      To tie this back to the discussion on markets, what these government programs are really doing is crowding out the market on responsibility. In the absence of these programs, people know they either have to provide for themselves or associate with people who are willing and able to help them. There is an important market force at work there. When the government program comes in, it decimates that market for responsibility, at least the lower end of it.

      The end result is predictable, and we see it today. There is a huge lack of personal responsibility. Government will be there to help me, so I don’t need to save for retirement, work, educate my kids, take care my health, etc.Report

      • Avatar Roger says:

        “To tie this back to the discussion on markets, what these government programs are really doing is crowding out the market on responsibility. In the absence of these programs, people know they either have to provide for themselves or associate with people who are willing and able to help them. There is an important market force at work there. When the government program comes in, it decimates that market for responsibility, at least the lower end of it. 

        The end result is predictable, and we see it today. There is a huge lack of personal responsibility. Government will be there to help me, so I don’t need to save for retirement, work, educate my kids, take care my health, etc.”

        Awesome quote. Collective action crowds out personal and family responsibility and encourages and rewards free riding. 

        If we really care about all people, we need to promote institutions which foster personal responsibility and family/community ties.  

        LWA talks about DUTY to others all the time. I think we need to use the concept of Division of Labor and specialization with our duty. Each person should be expected to fulfill thei duty to collective responsibility by specializing in personal responsibility and spreading out from there to family, friends, community and humanity.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Yes, everyone ought to go grovel to get money. I’m sorry, whatever happened to human dignity and decency?
        I’m glad you are all in favor of sending people unable to whine good enough to the scrap heap. Our veterans appreciate your (absence of) support.
        Government will not be there to support most people, at least not to the level of retirement most people want. I will vote to make sure of this. Most people are idiots, and I consider most of the people on this board to probably be in that boat. You ought to save 50% of your income per year for retirement. Bare minimum ought to be 25%. Does anyone around here, including mr. sanctimonious Brian do that?Report

        • Avatar Roger says:

          You misread us entirely, Kimmi. Personal responsibility starts close in and branches out. I will abandon nobody, but neither will I allow them to abandon themselves.

          And yeah, my wife and I did save close to 20% of our incomes for retirement and this excludes our FICA. That is why we are retired.Report

          • Avatar Kim says:

            Oh, I’m quite sure -if I was addressing you- I’d be misreading. You’re a decent shmoo. You saved close to 20% and managed to retire by the skin of your teeth, thanks in good measure to Clinton’s inflate the stock market economy. Nobody now ought to bet on getting another market like that.Report

        • Avatar Brian Houser says:

          “I’m sorry, whatever happened to human dignity and decency?”

          Dare I say it’s been crowded out by government?

          In my experience, as a society we seem to have less dignity and decency every year. We may have the illusion of those things, but do you honestly feel we have more dignity and decency than we did, say 50 or 80 years ago [remember, we’re talking economics here, not civil rights]? Your saying “most people are idiots” indicates otherwise.

          Can we be rational here? Calling me sanctimonious is the pot calling the kettle black, isn’t it? I say people should have to earn or ask for what they need/want. You say they (you) should be able to take it from others. What’s wrong with encouraging a society where people feel personally obligated to help those around them instead of having one where money is taken from them and redistributed?

          And your comment about needing to save 50% of a person’s income per year illustrates my point above. Who are you to say? How ’bout if you focus on your situation and try to trust me to take care of mine? If you run into trouble and can’t make ends meet, I’ll try to help you out (although in return I’ll probably want you to be a little nicer).

          And leave veterans out of this; they’re a different case. They performed a service for the government and so are owed some support from it in return.Report

          • Avatar M.A. says:

            Dare I say it’s been crowded out by government?

            You can, but it only proves you’re clueless.

            Calling me sanctimonious is the pot calling the kettle black, isn’t it? I say people should have to earn or ask for what they need/want. You say they (you) should be able to take it from others.

            Spoken as someone who’s never interacted with the safety net in any way.

            When people go to the safety net, they have to ask for help. They have to register and sign up. There are requirements for every single program, forms to fill out, a number of which you have to do under penalty of perjury.

            It’s demeaning and doesn’t make you feel good about yourself in any way.

            I’m getting completely tired of you representing anyone who’s ever been on social assistance as being someone who is unworthy of attention, unworthy of being treated with respect as a human being, and who should be forced through ever greater levels of demeaning treatment to “earn” assistance to get them back on their feet.

            What’s wrong with encouraging a society where people feel personally obligated to help those around them instead of having one where money is taken from them and redistributed?

            Let’s start with the number of people who played by the rules, saved for retirement, did what was supposed to be the right thing, then either got screwed by some corporate raider going after the pension fund that was their source of retirement income or the malfeasance of wall street destroying their retirement investments.

            We can easily move down from there.

            I completely reject your notion of some tribalist “me and my family against the world” arrangement being the best way to arrange a society.Report

            • Avatar Brian Houser says:

              “I’m getting completely tired of you representing anyone who’s ever been on social assistance as being someone who is unworthy of attention, unworthy of being treated with respect as a human being, and who should be forced through ever greater levels of demeaning treatment to “earn” assistance to get them back on their feet.”

              It’s entirely the other way around. I believe the majority of people needing assistance are worthy of attention and respect and that that’s why they’ll have no problem obtaining it from those of us willing to help voluntarily. You, on the other hand, seem to think they won’t get the attention and respect they “deserve” and so we have to force everyone to help them.

              “…then either got screwed by some corporate raider going after the pension fund that was their source of retirement income or the malfeasance of wall street destroying their retirement investments.”

              And there we have the root of your desire for a nanny state: a hatred and distrust of markets. “Capitalism has screwed up society so bad, society now owes me to make it right.”

              Now if you want to discuss a social security/welfare program that is supported by those corporate raiders and Wall Street shysters, that could get interesting.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                What you said above is that you think Ausbergers patients, and autistic patients, ought to go rot in hell. There do exist people incapable of quality begging. In fact they’re generally poor and destitute, because they’re incapable of quality begging.
                Know who’s not incapable of quality begging? Your fucking finance department. Why? Cause the whole thing runs on bullshit.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                It’s entirely the other way around. I believe the majority of people needing assistance are worthy of attention and respect and that that’s why they’ll have no problem obtaining it from those of us willing to help voluntarily.

                Again, proves nothing except that you’re clueless.

                And there we have the root of your desire for a nanny state: a hatred and distrust of markets.

                Step #1: stop calling it a “nanny state”, it’s evidence you’re just weaseling.

                Step #2: remove the word “hatred” from it. I don’t hate markets. I use them and participate in them all the time.

                Now, do I trust markets completely unregulated to be perfect? No. And therein lies our disagreement. You think that everything will magically fall into perfection if your pixie dust of free-marketism is sprinkled all over everything. The lessons of history mean nothing to you, the abuses that happen mean nothing to you.

                You are engaged in magical-thinking fallacies in every comment you make here, and you refuse to let go of them.

                Regulations come up in response to failings of the market and abuses by bad actors in the market. They are not “tyrannical”, they are REACTIONS to tyranny and unethical behavior.

                And damn right there are a lot of good people out there who, absent the social safety net, would have trouble finding the help they need. We saw it in the 1930s all too well, when the upper classes went into hoarding mode and refused to help those they considered “beneath” them while controlling almost all the wealth of the country.

                When you’re ready to get out of magical-thinking mode and start working logically and applying the lessons taught by history and reality, then maybe we can have an honest discussion. But every time I see the proposals from the “free marketers”, I cringe.

                Best example I can give you at present time is the “health savings accounts” scam. Works great if you’re middle-middle class, making $60-70k/year, and can predict reasonably well what you may need for health care access as well as being an insane gift to the elective-surgery market every year when the HSA’s enter “use it or lose it” expiration mode. But if you’re poor? Unemployed? Working part-time jobs trying to make ends meet, or working stretched thin putting a kid through college or with some other expense squeezing what you can put aside?

                HSA’s are a joke. They’re a “market solution” that doesn’t work for the people who need it most, the same as all the other crap you’re peddling.Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser says:

                I’m confused, weren’t HSA’s the result of a government program?

                Are you arguing for or against government involvement?Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                HSA’s were the Republican/Conservative “alternative” to a stronger system that approaches single-payer. They were and still today are touted as a “free market solution” that conservative politicians want to “incentivize” with tax breaks.

                And they’re still a fishing scam for the same reasons I pointed out.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                What part of “grovel for money” is respect? What part of “you gotta be a nicer person” is preserving someone’s ability to make free choices? what part of “you gotta kneel before MY god” is dignity? (that last one ain’t you. I’m aware. but it is the folks on your side, and until you disown them, you gotta live with ’em.)Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser says:

                So which is it? You claim it’s demeaning to ask me for money. M.A. claims it’s demeaning to ask the government for money. Yeah, seems a bit demeaning either way, to me. Is one worse than the other for the person doing the asking? In fact, using your “kneel before God” analogy, is it really better to have to kneel before the whole country than it is to kneel before me and my neighbors?

                Of course that’s all a bit silly and what the big government program really does is forces your congresspersons to do the kneeling for you. Only it’s not kneeling, it’s stealing.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                In this case, Brian, government is in fact better.

                The thing you forget is that these things didn’t generate from a vacuum. They generated because, despite all your protestations about “crowding out”, the free market did not do its fishing job. There were not enough of your vaunted “free market” charities and programs to take care of the real needs of society. There were, in fact, many elderly who were in destitute conditions and many poor, brought low by the unethical behavior of the upper classes who crashed the economic model, who were put in untenable situations with very little hope of getting out of it.

                You forget about all that, either through selective amnesia or simply a lack of education and a lack of appreciation for historical reality.

                We have the social safety net today. We ALSO have church-based charities, soup kitchens, and all sorts of other charities today. Homeless shelters run privately and publicly both. Crisis centers for abused spouses or those whose living situation is untenable and need a quick escape.

                The government programs have crowded out, near as I can tell, NONE of the private charities and your lies to the contrary I shall call lies as such.

                In many cases the government programs are better for this reason: the government programs can’t turn you away because you’re gay, or the “wrong” race, or too old. The government ones aren’t going to predicate your receiving help on your showing up for religious indoctrination or participating in religious ritual you don’t believe in.

                Of course that’s all a bit silly and what the big government program really does is forces your congresspersons to do the kneeling for you. Only it’s not kneeling, it’s stealing.

                Oh give it a fishing rest already.

                Taxation is not “stealing.” Taxation is, in the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes, “the price we pay for a civilized society.”Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                stealing’s a loaded word.
                You’ve never seen someone steal vegetables from the local supermarket, have you? Paying customers, to boot. Just didn’t have enough to get some bannannas for the kids that week.

                I’ll leave it at that.

                It demeans me not to ask for money. If you expect me to be a sweet little thang for it, then it’s truly demeaning. this is why I don’t eat out, after all. Waiting tables is entirely too demeaning and servile for my tastes. It bothers me.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                After rereading all this conversation I concur with Jim’s sentiment below. Brian’s the type of guy who would see a starving kid, offer them an apple, but hold it above their head and demand they jump higher and higher until either they finally surprised him by managing to jump high enough to grab it -or- until he decided he was bored enough to finally give in and just give it to them, his amusement at their expense fulfilled.Report

          • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

            In my experience, as a society we seem to have less dignity and decency every year. We may have the illusion of those things, but do you honestly feel we have more dignity and decency than we did, say 50 or 80 years ago [remember, we’re talking economics here, not civil rights]?

            I’m curious about how you’re measuring dignity and decency here. This statement sounds a lot like pining for the “good old days” that we all misremember. If you said that we had better manners on average, I’d probably agree with that. But what else?Report

            • Avatar M.A. says:

              Yes, that is what it seems like to me too. It also fits with Brian’s complete lack of experience of what it actually takes to get on, and stay on, most of the public assistance programs existing today.

              He imagines that the government just knows and poof, like that, checks magically appear in the mailbox that are sufficient for someone to never work again. The truth is a lot less rosy.Report

            • Avatar Brian Houser says:

              Lately I’ve been seeing a lot more entitlement mentality in people. Less connection to family and community. There’s a generalized sense that society owes us something. That doesn’t seem dignified or decent to me.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                So, nothing you can quantify then, just something you use to insult anyone you consider of lesser social status.

                Got it.Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser says:

                I know I shouldn’t take the bait, but you sure are making a lot of assumptions about me. Is it really that hard to imagine that I’m struggling to make ends meet but that I find more dignity in asking my family, friends, and neighbors for help rather than taking it from people who don’t know me? That I’d rather they give me a loan instead of handouts? That maybe I got laid off from my factory job two months ago and am taking a break from looking for jobs online to read this site? But I don’t blame my company or society for my situation. Yeah, it sucks, but I made my own choices and my company wasn’t trying to screw me over; they’re just trying to survive like I am. Between searching for a job and wasting time replying to your comments, I’m going to work on learning some new skills in hopes of increasing my opportunities.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                Is it really that hard to imagine that I’m struggling to make ends meet but that I find more dignity in asking my family, friends, and neighbors for help rather than taking it from people who don’t know me?

                The way you talk about anyone who takes public assistance: YES. I don’t believe one word of that to be true about you.

                I know many people who’ve gone through rough times recently. One is LIVING IN MY HOUSE right now because she had nowhere else to go and I could spare a room and a futon at least. Many others have gone back to living with friends and family, parents especially.

                Many of the people I know who’ve taken public assistance not only would but DID ask friends and family for help first – but guess what, friends and family are in the same situations. Looking for work too, money flow not what it was in better times, already helping out other friends who got hit in the first or second wave instead of the third or fourth.

                Society screwed up big time. The idea of letting wall street self-regulate – even after MCI, Worldcom, Enron, and all the other failures – led to worse troubles. Not overseeing the market and not keeping banking sectors separated was an amazingly boneheaded libertarian program.

                You have this magical-thinking faith in “markets” and think there is no such thing as a bad faith actor in them. I’ve seen the bad faith actors with my own eyes and there are plenty more than the minimum needed to screw up the market, even before accounting for all the other magical-thinking problems and “ideal actor” unobtainium that makes up Libertarian market theory.Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser says:

                “You have this magical-thinking faith in ‘markets’ and think there is no such thing as a bad faith actor in them.”

                No, I just think we should blame (and punish) the bad actors, not the whole system. Granted, the system is not without its faults, but I contend it’s better than one with more government involvement.

                And one other small point: until we actually get a sizable number of libertarians in office, it’s not fair to call these problems “amazingly boneheaded libertarian” things. The removal of regulations wouldn’t have been a problem if the pump hadn’t been primed with malinvestment due to government interference in the first place.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                No, I just think we should blame (and punish) the bad actors, not the whole system.

                And you see any regulation as a “punishment” rather than a preventative measure, which is the standard Libertarian insanity I’ve come to expect.

                Granted, the system is not without its faults, but I contend it’s better than one with more government involvement.

                Except that the system – as you envision it – has in fact been tried before. We left it behind because it didn’t work.

                The underlying faulty premise you have is that all harms can be remedied, and can be remedied in a timely manner.

                “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, and Libertarians rely only on the hope of cure, even in situations where a cure may not be possible.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Lately I’ve been seeing a lot more entitlement mentality in people.

                Me too. The way Romney thinks people owed him their vote and that there’s something wrong with the people who wouldn’t give it to him is kind of pathetic.Report

              • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

                That still seems like a pretty vague feeling to be making policy on. For the life of me, I could never figure out how politicians are able to make it as far as they do by saying things like, “I believe in family and personal responsibility.” Of course you do. We all do and we always have. We’re also all against crime and in favor of charity. People have been worrying about the impending destruction of the family and the laziness of today’s youths for centuries. Yet we still manage to hold on.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                we… are? using a gambling ring to pay your teacher a higher salary doesn’t seem to be the worst use of time. particularly if it helps you learn algebra.Report

      • Avatar Jim Beam says:

        Satanism is a religion of greed and selfishness too and espouses the same ideas you are talking about. Me first, my family and flunkies second, anyone else IF they are willing to debase themselves for my amusement.

        Your comments are the equivalent of shouting “dance monkey dance and maybe I’ll give you a copper piece” at a homeless person.

        And for what? Your amusement? Your show of power? The chance to wank off to your own ability to hold something over another’s head?

        Government programs aren’t “crowding out the market on responsibility.” They’re a response to the complete failure of the markets to provide better ways to try to get people out of poverty.

        We were doing real good too. Had unemployment down to very low numbers, had the middle class well. Then the USA elected George the Lesser, let the Rethugs start “deregulating” again, and it all collapsed. You crashed the market, put millions of people out of work who are desperately trying to find work while subsisting on the minimal help of those very government programs that you want to cut, and now you’re trying to put the blame on them.

        Blaming the victim is a sign you’re a psychotic loser.Report

        • Avatar Roger says:

          Well that was constructive, Jim. Well it was other than the part about being degenerate, psychotic, satanic losers that like to make people dance like monkeys.

          Could you please explain why a safety net that encourages,expects and rewards personal responsibility is satanic? My guess is you are importing zero sum expectations into the solution which are explicitly rejected by Brian and me.Report

          • Avatar M.A. says:

            The language is crude, and I think the assertion of satanism is invalid, though it’s decidedly less insulting than some things you’ve thrown at people Roger.

            The point is valid, however.

            The current safety net DOES encourage, expect, and especially reward personal responsibility. Those who use the leeway given by the safety net – in job training programs, to keep a roof over their head and food in their bellies – almost inevitably climb out of the safety net again.

            The fallacy is your and Brian’s assertion that the current safety net doesn’t do these things, or that there could ever be a safety net into which no freeloaders ever fall. You two make the perfect the enemy of the good, and quite dishonestly and transparently so every time.Report

          • Avatar Kim says:

            He’s not responding to you. He’s responding to someone else.
            Perhaps you might want to stay ought of the crossfire?
            Brian’s views != yours.Report

        • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

          Blaming the victim is a sign you’re a psychotic loser.

          The phrase “Blaming the victim” is just question-begging. If someone can legitimately be blamed for his situation, he’s not really a victim.Report

      • Avatar Scott Fields says:

        Geez, a guy goes to sleep on the West Coast and wakes up to find the debate has left without him.

        “[…] isn’t exactly the life in retirement we’d wish for our parents or grandparents either.”

        As a libertarian, the “we’d” part rubs me the wrong way. It’s collectivism. It assumes we all have similar sentiments about standards of living and that we all owe each other the ability to live at whatever that standard is.

        Based on this, Brian, I don’t see how we are ever going to see eye to eye. There is a GREAT deal of daylight between collectivism and a sense that all people, not just those in my family and those I know personally, deserve some level of basic dignity and security. How to achieve that end is debatable – that it should be the end we seek isn’t, at least not to me.Report

        • Avatar Chris says:

          That’s a really weird definition of collectivism, too.Report

        • Avatar Brian Houser says:

          I started a more long-winded reply but part way through realized it all boiled down to agreeing with you (with what you said, not with your viewpoint).

          Our biggest disagreement is over the “how to achieve” part, but yes, I admit I feel a stronger sense of allegiance to my family, friends, and community than I do for “society as a whole”. Not saying I don’t feel some strong sense of moral obligation to society, just that my peeps come first.Report

          • Avatar Brian Houser says:

            And after a little more thought, I am going to go ahead and say I don’t feel a strong sense of moral obligation to society. Maybe a little, but not a lot.

            Why should I? What have you done for me lately? I see whole lot of taking and not much giving.

            Do I feel compelled to give to those in need? Yes. But not out of obligation. I do it because it pains me to see them suffer and my pain is eased a bit by helping them with theirs. I do it because if they get too desperate they might harm me or steal from me. I do it because I hope they would help me in the same situation. Simply, I do it because I’m selfish. As we all are by nature. Yes, this is the point where Ayn Rand’s ugly-until-you-learn-to-appreciate-it head rears itself.

            We libertarians are tired of being included in this mystical social contract that we never signed and can’t get out of without leaving the planet or buying an island.Report

            • Avatar Kim says:

              Ayn Rand was crazy.
              I wonder what she would have done had someone thrown a pair of women’s underwear onto the stage while she was giving a speech…?
              (cookie if you get the reference)Report

            • Avatar Scott Fields says:

              I appreciate your honesty, Brian, but you should have stopped where your first inclination led you to…Report

            • Avatar Patrick Bridges says:

              I see whole lot of taking and not much giving.

              Many, indeed probably *most*, of the people benefiting from government spending now (e.g. SNAP, flood victims in the northeast, social security, veterans benefits, etc.) are people who gave a *lot* when the economy or environment was in better shape, Brian. That’s how counter-cyclical spending, be it governmental or private insurance works. When you make arguments that just sound like “filthy mooching veterans and blue collar workers!” to many of us (even if that’s not what you actually mean!), it doesn’t exactly encourage us to take your arguments seriously.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                and, don’t forget, filthy mooching non-taxpaying members of the underground economy.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                This is why I don’t believe a whit of Brian’s claiming to be an out-of-work anything “struggling to make ends meet.”

                We libertarians are tired of being included in this mystical social contract that we never signed and can’t get out of without leaving the planet or buying an island.

                You’re welcome to move to Somalia. Seriously.Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser says:

                Point taken. I try but don’t always succeed at avoiding inflammatory terms.

                I meant that when I look at how much I’ve paid in taxes over the years, I don’t see a commensurate amount of benefit coming back out. I would have expected get a lot more for my money. I think about how much better I probably could have put that money to use to improve the world (even if limited to a smaller scope).Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                I do, for what its worth. I would move someplace else if I did not.
                Only peasants sit around and whine about things that they don’t intend to change.
                I intend to change my local mayor (of a town of 300,000 people). It’s taking a while, but we’re about to launch phase 4…Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                The self-delusion of your own competence, in many senses.

                I hear the argument “I could spend my money far better than the government does”.

                The things often left off:
                – Only on those things I want to spend money on.
                – And everyone else could and would too.

                Statistically speaking? It’s BS.

                I don’t like the amount of my money going to the military. While I see the need for a military system, from my perspective a lot of our military is both anachronistic and a breeding ground for attitudes that aren’t very good for society (the crazy racist in Wisconsin who shot up a Sikh temple, who met and joined his white supremacist cell while inside the Army, is a good example). So I’d prefer not to be paying as much of the taxes that go to the military. At the same time, I’m rather obligated to understand that I’m not the only person in the nation and others feel differently on the matter.

                So, I don’t get that choice. There is no “I choose to save $2000 on my taxes by not paying for military funding” box on my tax returns.

                That’s the reality. Taxation nationwide can’t assume that the entirety of the nation is Brian Houser, because there are a lot of people with experiences, knowledge, and skillsets that aren’t a Brian Houser. We may even find, after doing concerted study, that Brian Houser’s ideas on how to spend tax money aren’t effective (and they aren’t). We may even find, after rigorous study, that Brian Houser’s idea of how to spend tax money is downright wasteful in many areas.

                And despite what you may think, government spends a LOT of time studying spending money effectively, as do a lot of researchers outside the government, as to the staff members of almost every congressman and staffers of each political party every year. The myth of government waste is something of a canard – government itself, for the purposes that agencies and policies and departments are created, is NOT inefficient. It can’t be, with hundreds of congressional representatives and newspaper muckrakers and local blowhards and radio blowhards rustling through every department’s couch cushions every year looking for spare change that they think could be “spent better.”Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Note James’ point: Government spends an awful lot of time getting people’s permission to do things. This takes a lot of money. Which we generally consider money well spent.

                MA,
                muckrakers can be shot too. PA’s a damn fine example of that (circa the sandusky affair, where an asst. da was shot and buried without a criminal investigation of any sort)Report

              • Avatar Patrick Bridges says:

                You still get to use the roads and bridges. You paid a *lot* for the U.S. military which still. You presumably paid a lot into social security and medicare at least some of which will presumably be around for you. You probably got a *lot* of public schooling if you’re like most americans. It’s easy to underestimate just how much those things cost, particularly schooling (which is financed primarily through property and state/local taxes) and the military. It’s also hard to estimate just how much benefit we all get from an educated workforce and voting populace, but my sense is that people dramatically underestimate the benefits.

                As someone more free-market oriented, perhaps it would help to think of the U.S. government as a venture capitalist for everyone. The government provides basic personal low-end startup and maintenance services to all residents; in return, we take a share of future income. In a number of cases, their investments don’t work out – the government ends up investing more than its get back. In many cases, it more or less breask even. In some (much rarer) cases, it get a *lot* more back than it invested.

                If I was a venture capitalist and someone I had invested in had done well, and then said “How dare you still have a 39.6% share in my company!”, I would laugh at them. I would probably respond similarly to a struggling company that I was still providing speculative lifeline support to if they said “We’re struggling now, but only because you took your share of our profits to reinvest when we were doing better.”Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser says:

                “As someone more free-market oriented, perhaps it would help to think of the U.S. government as a venture capitalist for everyone.”

                All that would all be fine if I had actually signed up for it. If I had entered into a business agreement for another company to help me develop healthy, educated, qualified workers; to build roads; to provide security; and so on, then of course I would expect to have to pay for these things.

                But with big government in the picture, in many cases, I don’t have any alternatives other than to be forced to go with their “solution”. And even if a good alternative exists, I still have to pay for one I’m not using.Report

            • Avatar greginak says:

              This is the point in these kind of conversations where someone points out that you can opt out of the American social contract. Each contract has there own version, some better, some worse, but we aren’t trapped here in the US.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Bridges says:

                See, I worked really hard not to snark “Somalia!” in my reply to Brian above . Should we count that as the local equivalent of Godwining the thread?Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                I prefer Russia, as it’s a more pure representation of relatively anarchic capitalism…Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                You should count it as a worthless ad hominem argument, and you should be embarrassed to make it.

                Why? Because anyone can make it. With no effort required. Look, I can do it too: Do you want single-payer health care? Then leave, you unpatriotic git. Seriously. Who do you think you are? There are other countries in the world. Perhaps you’d like it better there?

                That’s why it’s a worthless argument.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                It’s only a worthless argument when you aren’t dealing with people whose lives would seriously be in danger, and who do have plans to leave.

                I know people who have left this country because of health-care reasons (some bakers down in WV, in case you’re curious).Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                I don’t think any of us commies here have claimed we live in a tyrannical system that we feel we can never change to our desired outcome. Or even if we don’t think we can ever get to our ‘perfect’ society, we still think we can make it closer to our own idea of a better society.

                However, there are plenty of conservatives and libertarians who bitch and complain about how it’s impossible to create the perfect small government society because people want “stuff.”Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                I remember very well all the lefties who complained about living in a tyrannical system under George W. Bush.

                Putting aside your dishonesty — I called no one a communist — I’d ask you to please just try to remember that there is a difference between use and mention. I mentioned the bad argument, to point out that it was bad. I didn’t use it.

                Was that too much to ask? Probably, from someone who would tell such a cheap and transparent lie, evidently thinking he could get away with it.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                I remember those people, the ones who complained about the tyrannical system under Bush but are just fine under Obama. I find that interesting because the name at the top doesn’t change the system all that much. Sure, there are real changes in policy, but the system is pretty much the same, and if it was tyrannical then, it is now too.

                And it kind of is, ya know?

                Wait, does that make me a crazy lefty?Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                Those people were dumb, but I’d note they were complaining about actual civil rights/liberties being lost, not the horror of having to possibly offer health insurance to their employees. \

                But, it was a nice attempt at false equivalency. Solid seven out of ten on the Broder Scale.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Bridges says:

                Which is why I called it a snark and perhaps the local equivalent of Godwining the thread, Jason, not a serious argument, and why I didn’t say it in my serious response to Brian’s post.Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser says:

                That’s why I said the “without leaving the planet or buying an island” part, cuz the response you gave invariably appears a comment or two later.

                So my point is what if I’ve searched the world over, exploring the various so-called social contracts and realize hey, we do have the best system here. But it still sucks. Where can I go?Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                If you’ve searched the world over, explored the systems and decided the US has the best system here, and you chose to remain here – gues what, you just signed up for what you claim you didn’t sign up for, “genius.”Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                Suppose it’s the middle ages.

                Which repressive, misogynist, homophobic, superstitious tyranny would you like to sign up for and wholeheartedly endorse… um… genius?

                It’s possible to be the least bad option and still have a whole lot of problems. The fact that a given option is least bad doesn’t turn “least bad” into good.

                Genius.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                If I have to pick, I’m going with the Caliphate of Córdoba in Spain.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                The fact you compare a neoliberal-dominant country like the US as the equivalent for you as a libertarian to actual feudalistic countries for commies like me and Schilling says a lot more about you than us.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                Okay, fine. It’s 1900 1890. Which liberal democracy do you want to endorse? Keep in mind that none of them have women’s suffrage, and you will be endorsing denying women the vote no matter what.

                Sometimes there aren’t good choices. That’s all.

                [Oops. I see New Zealand had women’s suffrage in 1900. In 1890 the point stands. What’ll it be?]Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                New Zealand, because they’re within 10 years of giving women the vote. (Did I get that in before Randy Harris?)Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                Which repressive, misogynist, homophobic, superstitious tyranny would you like to sign up for and wholeheartedly endorse… um… genius?

                You mean I get a choice between the misogynist, homophobic, superstitious, repressive Libertarians like you and the misogynist, homophobic, superstitious, repressive Republicans like TVD?

                Why thanks. I think I’d just shoot myself at that point.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                What’s so difficult about buying an island? or living in international waters?
                Or are you against that much anarchism?Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Newsflash: the world ain’t perfect. There are plenty of places with less gov, places with more. If you choose to live here you are free to advocate for your point of view and the gov you want. But if you choose to live here you are not being oppressed just because you don’t get your way.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

                Putting aside the difficulty of legally immigrating to other countries, even relatively free ones, are you saying here that no one ever gets to complain about being oppressed as long as the government allows emigration?Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                I’m saying that in a democracy nobody gets everything, or even most things that they want. Just because we aren’t following the principles you or Brian wants doesn’t mean you are being oppressed. Of course oppression happens, but losing an election or belonging to a group that has minimal electoral power doesn’t equal oppression. People on all sides complain about being oppressed all the time, hell people i agree with on many things complain about being oppressed. that doesn’t make it true. If Brian feels this is the place he wants to live and chooses to live here he is accepting the social contract. So am i, even if Romney had won i would accepting that part of the social contract. That wouldn’t mean i would think Romney was a good prez or likely making a massive mistakes.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                Actual oppressed people would laugh at the idea of high tax rates being any form of oppression. Like greg said, if Romney had won, cut taxes, cut spending, and passed numerous dumb bills, I’d still feel the same way about the American society as I do now. Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Brandon,
                if you’re smart enoughyou generally have multiple job offers in mutliple countries.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Brandon,
                America isn’t shooting at you, or trying to put down an armed rebellion. unlike SOME countries we border (Canucks, we ain’t talking about you, mmmkay?)Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Jesse,
                if Romney had won, I’d have felt better about voting for him. 😉Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser says:

                “But if you choose to live here you are not being oppressed just because you don’t get your way.”

                Of course I am. That’s how democracy works.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                Low tax rates aren’t a civil right.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Okay, Mr. Houser.
                Go join a kibbutz. Then you needn’t be oppressed at all. yOu can have just as much as all the other commies.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                It’s weird to see white men complaining about the tyranny of the majority. Just sayin’.Report

              • Avatar M.A. says:

                I find it amusing how Libertarians always insist that taxation is “at the point of a gun” and other sorts of robbery, rather than the door fee you pay to participate in the system.

                Holmes called taxation the price we pay for a civilized society, and that’s about where it falls. Mr. Houser can bitch all he wants about how he feels he doesn’t “get his money back” every dime out of what he pays in taxes.

                So here’s a thought experiment:

                Pretend you live in a city where everyone pays a specific fee ($150) for police protection. The police guard the neighborhood, are on call, everything else.

                Finally, one of your neighbors complains the police are always answering calls from one end of the city, a part of the city where more calls come. That end of the city’s not as economically well off as his end, you see, so he feels he shouldn’t need to pay for police protection since the cops aren’t “paying as much attention” to his area.

                See the fallacy yet?

                That’s Brian in a nutshell. He’s whining about what he “gets back”, about what others are “taking” right now (in a down economy where countercyclical spending is to be expected) and not paying attention to half of what he gets, up to and including the benefits of living in a society where he gets a vote and freedom of speech and his full rights in court and all the other aspects.

                He’s both greedy AND clueless.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Holmes called taxation the price we pay for a civilized society, and that’s about where it falls.

                What did he say about imbeciles? What did he say about pamphleteering?Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser says:

                “It’s weird to see white men complaining about the tyranny of the majority. Just sayin’.”

                First they came for the…Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser says:

                “So here’s a thought experiment…he feels he shouldn’t need to pay for police protection since the cops aren’t ‘paying as much attention’ to his area.”

                Sounds like my homeowner’s association.

                To be honest, no, I don’t really see the problem with your scenario. If my neighbor wants to stop paying the police fee, fine. But he should expect them to take their good old time getting to his house when he reports a burglary (or even ignore him entirely).Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                What did he say about imbeciles?

                Finally, something I can point to and say “There’s an ad hominem argument”.Report

            • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

              Well, it’s good we finally have one of the mythical FYIGM libertarians around that certain people never seem to run into on the Internet.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

                I’m curious: What has Mr. Houser taken from you, or from the American poor, such that he’s morally obligated to give it back?Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Statistically speaking, quite a lot. But if you don’t want me to pull a background check on this shmoo… I’m not going to be able to do better than that.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                I’m not sure, but by living in America, unless he’s Amish and/or a hermit living in the mountains of Arkansas or the plains of Montana, he’s used services and as a result, he’s bound to pay whatever tax rate the US Congress passes and the President signs off on.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                Amish still ride in other people’s cars. they just don’t drive ’em.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Let’s say he’s done that. His obs are met, right?Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                Well, the Amish are largely exempt from taxation. If he’s a hermit in Montana or Arkansas, but has wi-fi, good luck to him. But, for the other 99% of libertarians who _do_ bitch about the invasive government as they go to their IT job on publically funded highways in a car built by labor paid according to federal regulations and OSHA laws, then enters an office filled with other office workers educated thanks to subsidized student loans, then closes his laptop and picks up his kids from public school, then fills out his 1040, making sure to take every deduction, then yeah, I can really shrug their talks of tyranny.Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser says:

                “…as they go to their IT job on publically funded highways in a car built by labor paid according to federal regulations and OSHA laws…”

                You know what I’m going to say, right? That I would gladly opt out of all of that if I could. I would prefer to go to a job using privately-built roads with workers who were privately educated and send my kids to free market schools. But there are already roads where I want to build them and I’m stuck paying for public education even if I don’t want it.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                Indeed. And you can try to convince your position on society is better. But realize that taxes aren’t tyranny and governments making policy decisions don’t mean you lost your freedom.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                How much, in addition to my taxes, need I pay to make “bitching” something that should have only about as much stigma as, say, a second abortion?Report

              • Avatar Scott Fields says:

                You’re right, Jason.

                I don’t think Mr. Houser is morally obligated to give Jesse or any poor person a single thing, anymore than Jesse is morally obligated to refrain from calling Mr. Houser any goram name he wants to. If all we’re striving for is to live our lives by satisfying our minimal moral obligations, everyone is on solid footing here. But, damn, what a miserably low bar to set for ourselves.

                On the other hand, if we aim as a people to build a more civilized society that all could be proud to be a part of, then the rules, of course, would be different.Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser says:

                “On the other hand, if we aim as a people to build a more civilized society that all could be proud to be a part of, then the rules, of course, would be different.”

                Believe it or not, we libertarians agree with you (well, most of us). What we don’t understand, though, is why you think using force to achieve it works better than voluntary cooperation.Report

  20. Avatar greginak says:

    How about this. If Brian or another libertarian is being oppressed by having to accept a social contract he doesn’t want then doesn’t that also imply that Christian Dominionists are also being oppressed since the gov isn’t being run exactly the way they want? Or how about Nazi’s or Communists who have to live in a US that isn’t run the way they want? Or how about Republican’s who now have to live in a country with a D pres who is going to do things they don’t want? Was i oppressed just because Shrub was prez? Isn’t everybody being oppressed then, which sort of makes the word useless.

    Or you can think of it this way. A lot of conservatives say liberals call Racism to often. I agree with that while also thinking racism is a problem. If you use a word to broadly it tends to lose much meaning.Report

    • Avatar Brian Houser says:

      In a word, yes.

      That’s why the Founders went with a constitutional republic rather than a pure democracy: to counteract the tyranny of the majority. Let the people have a voice, but put mechanisms in place to limit the growth and centralization of power because people in power will tend to overrun the minorities. So we have (well, had) a Federal government that’s limited in what it can do, and separation of powers within it. States are given lots of power, but then the people still have the freedom to move to a different state if they don’t like what theirs is doing. Certain rights were deemed so important, they got spelled out explicitly in the Bill of Rights.

      But yes, the idea is people should be free to live their lives as as they wish long as they don’t impinge on other peoples’ rights to do the same. You can go ahead and try to build your ideal liberal society in the state of your choice, and I can go try to build my libertarian state. I think we’ll get along just fine. The original colonies were pretty diverse and they managed to make it work. But when you have a central government that no longer respects the sovereignty of the states, the republic has been lost and all bets are off.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        WOOOT everybody is oppressed all the time. Or another way to put it is, everybody is ENTITLED to the gov they want, nothing more and nothing less.

        But less snarkily, you are correct about the republic thing but have taken it to a ridiculous extent. A constitution and limiting the power of the majority in no way says everybody gets what they want or are oppressed when something is done that they don’t like. In fact you have just branded the sainted founders as oppressors. Not just for that whole slavery thing, but they put in place laws and policies that not everybody liked.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          everybody is ENTITLED to the gov they want

          Remember when I asked about whether there was any limit to the amount of health care any given person was entitled to? And the answer was “no”?

          Good times.Report

          • Avatar greginak says:

            Good times indeed. I’m sure you thought you really had me and i sighed and thought you weren’t even in the ballpark. Nothings changed and i can’t see how we’ll communicate on that.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              I’m just trying to demonstrate how far apart we are from our starting points.

              I think that people are entitled to the government they want.

              You think that people are entitled to the time of others and goods produced by others WITHOUT LIMIT.

              We both think the other’s position is absurd on its face.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                ummm where did i ever say “without limits” or even “WITHOUT LIMITS”? That our starting points were far apart is pretty darn obvious. Is it okay if i think people are entitled to gov provided services paid by taxation if there are limits or even LIMITS?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Remember when I asked about whether there was any limit to the amount of health care any given person was entitled to? And the answer was “no”?Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

                Who answered “no”, when the answer is, of course, “That’s what we have death panels to figure out.”?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I know that Jesse was at least one person who said “no” to that question. I can find a link later, if you’d like. I want to say that Greg gave a hedgy “no” to that question as well. I’ll see if I can find that too.

                “Death Panels” is one hell of a way to frame the issue of whether anyone, anyone at all, can ever say “you know what, these limited resources would better be used elsewhere”. Hats off, gentlemen. Hats off.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Well then Jesse is dead to me…do you here…dead to me. But anyway if someone says each person has unlimited payments from their insurer for anything they want then i don’t think they know much about insurance. Jesse can speak for himself, if that is what he believes. But it still doesn’t address whether we should have uni HC or not. I certainly know i typed it roughly kijilllions of times during the “ahhggg death panels” debate that every forking insurer will have some panel deciding what treatments to pay for and i’m fine with that.

                In retrospect i should have said that i don’t think i have a right to have insurers pay for unlimited lifetime supplies of Twinkies for me. Just to be topical.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Who is talking about twinkies?

                Here is my question:
                Is there any limit to the amount of health care any given person is entitled to?

                And you’re talking about Juggs Magazine and Twinkies.

                I imagine it’s much easier to talk about Juggs than, say, Avastin.

                You start talking about Avastin and, suddenly, you’re talking about health care, trade-offs, and, yes, the limits of universal health care.

                But if you’d like to talk about whether the unions killed Twinkies, we can talk about that too.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Jay everybody is talking about Twinkies today.

                Yes, as i’ve said repeatedly Yes. there are limits. Those limits should start with what has been proven, scientifically, to actually work. Thus Twinkies should not be paid for by insurance companies. Uni HC does not imply no limits. There will always be limits on what insurers pay…hmmm i think i’ve said that recently. If someone, anyone, wants to argue that an insurer should have to pay for anything and everything a person wants i’ll happily discuss that with them and disagree with them.Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                Mike and Jaybird, just to point out this is a discussion of health-care rationing. We already have it, we just don’t use the word ‘rationing’ for it. If you don’t have insurance, your health care is rationed. If you have the wrong kind of insurance (high deductible plans), your health care is rationed.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                Honestly, it’s entirely possible I said yes to Jaybird’s question as a snark response because I didn’t want to get into a 55 comment discussion about why a government beaucrat making a choice about paying for something is better than an insurance one.

                But no, do I believe people should get all the health care they want in a UHC system? No. They should get all the health care they need that the state will pay for.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                As will it *ALWAYS* be, Zic.

                My issue is that it’s better to ration on price than ration on queue. If you ration on price, you will have an engine moving forward (that is, finding new things that will be proven scientifically to work) at all times: Greed.

                If you ration on queue, you will find that there are a lot more people dying in line than were dying from a lack of ability to pay under the old system… and, I posit, fewer new things will be showing up that will be proven to scientifically work.

                Greg, other than the limit of having been proven to work (by which, I presume, you mean “passed FDA muster” but if that’s wrong, I’d love to hear what you mean in practice when you say that), are there any financial limits?Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

                Honestly, zic, I’m rarely being serious when I channel Sarah Palin.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                So, in other words, Jaybird, it’s better for poor people to die at home because they never bother to go to the hospital than maybe, a middle-class person dying because he might be less important according to triage? Accepting of course, that people actually die in any large number due to waiting in line for care in UHC-based countries.

                I mean, I’d also point out despite our more greed-based system, we suck on cost and results. So, maybe greed doesn’t always work that great?Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                I don’t think there is any proof that rationing by price works better then gov provided HC. In fact all the evidence from the western euro countries/ medicaid/care/VA shows that gov provided HC works well. If price rationing worked so well we’d likely see that in life expectancy or infant mortality rates. but we don’t see that.

                One issue with price rationing is that for most people, not you though, don’t understand that they are rationing or admit up front who gets boned by it. People don’t seem to get that our current, well pre-aca, involved tons of rationing and left the gov to care for most of vulnerable or worst off. Price rationing, as we do it, hides the rationing under the guise of employment.

                FDA muster, partially but not completely. The FDA doesn’t give a go-no go to every procedure. Currently insurers want to see some science showing that a procedure or drug works before they will pay for it. In general i’m fine with that. If Dr. Bob comes up with a new type of surgery he needs to prove it works before anybody will pay. Thats fine. They show it works by being published in journals and such. In any price rationing system insurers will be doing that.

                One advantage of uni HC systems is they know they will have people for their entire lives, not just until that person is fired of the plan is dropped by the employer for a cheaper one. I’ve been told more then once by an insurer that they won’t pay for a vaccination because its preventative care. They actually had little benefit from supporting my long term health since they were unlikely to be the insurer for the mental health center i used to work at for a long time. In an uni HC system its in the plan interest to support long term health.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                So, in other words, Jaybird, it’s better for poor people to die at home because they never bother to go to the hospital than maybe, a middle-class person dying because he might be less important according to triage?

                Better for whom?

                What ruler are you using? What ruler are you wishing other people would use?Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Jesse-oy… This is non-productive. I really really really really don’t think Jay wants anybody poor to die. I know he proposed some system which he thinks will work. That i didn’t think it was remotely plausible or based on what has actually been shown to work isn’t relevant here. I’m sure you and i largely agree on having Uni HC and even what kind of uni HC is best. But these comments go nowhere, its just ramps up name calling and poo flinging. Half, well 99%, of what makes liberal/libertarian conversations go no where is the Stalin/Somalia, you want babies to die/you want gov to rule everything threads. Rarely, really rarely, does anybody ever really go far enough to tickle those stereotypes.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                I was just trying to point out, in stark terms, that’s the reality of the situation right now in our ‘greed’ based system. Middle class person has insurance, has mild problem X, he gets care quicker than poor person who has serious problem Y.

                Which is great for the middle class person, but not so great for our actual health care costs or results.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                Oh i have no problem with pointing out who gets screwed by our current system and why uni HC is better. But some things just lead to crappy discussions.Report

              • Avatar greginak says:

                I remember you asking that. I don’t remember saying each person was entitled to ever single bit of HC they might ever want. In fact i’ll assert people don’t have the right to have any insurance plan, whether gov or private, pay for anything they want. Any HC payer will have to have some list of things that they will pay for and things they wont’ typically based on what has been proven to work. If i ask for my insurer to pay for a lifelong subscription to Juggs Ahoy Monthly because i feel it reduces my stress they are in their rights to say no.

                Asserting that we should have uni HC does not imply everybody gets what they want. In fact i’m for fed level science funding…i love it, i wish we would do more. However i don’t think any scientist should get automatic funding for any experiment they want to run.Report

        • Avatar Brian Houser says:

          I guess I gave you too much credit in thinking you could grasp the concept without going to extremes. I didn’t claim we’re all going to get the government we want, and certainly not that we’re entitled to it.

          Yes, freedoms were lost starting from day one of the Republic. But not many, and there were already significantly more laws at the state and local levels than at the federal. And that’s the important part: in any democracy (except one that requires unanimous consent among its citizens) someone is bound to be disappointed. But the more localized the laws are, the less likely that is, and it provides more options for places to go to if you don’t like the laws. When laws are centralized, there can be a lot more people affected by them who don’t support them.

          So, admittedly, if we eliminated all the restrictive laws of the Federal government that I don’t like, I still may not find a state in which to live that matches my desires. But we increase my chances by 49 that I will.Report

          • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

            Unless, say, you happen to be a poor person who doesn’t have the ability or resources to move. But hey, they should build themselves up by their bootstraps and move out of the hellhole they happen to live in, right?Report

          • Avatar greginak says:

            Well yes, maximizing your freedom to pick the best place is of course a reasonable trade off for eliminating Fed level programs even if those are useful and the best solution to many problems. ( here is the point where we disagree on what level of gov is the best to solve problems. we’re not going to solve that disagreement here. However this more about you valuing your freedom over solutions that work for many people. Are Christian Dominionists oppressed? How about Nazi’s?Report

          • Avatar Patrick Bridges says:

            But the laws of the republic weren’t changed arbitrarily just to annoy you – in each and every case they were changed in response to a demand that at least some large portion of the people felt was necessary to meet. If you want to bemoaning the loss of your ideal governmental structure, it’s important to confronting *why* people felt it needed to be changed.

            So, in the interests of furthering this discussion, what was the or the small set of governmental changes that you think undermined federalism, what challenges were they were they made in response to, and what do you think should have been done instead?

            So take your pick. Marbury vs. Madison and other Marshall court decisions? 14th amendment? 16th amendment? The New Deal and related supreme court rulings? The upholding of Obamacare?Report

            • Avatar MFarmer says:

              Yes, I’ve read the history of riots in the streets which angry mobs across the nation demanding that their income be taxed. Many more demanded the creation of the Federal Reserve. They said we don’t know what it will be or do, but we have to have it.Report

            • Avatar Brian Houser says:

              “So, in the interests of furthering this discussion, what was the or the small set of governmental changes that you think undermined federalism, what challenges were they were they made in response to, and what do you think should have been done instead?”

              Oh boy. We’re getting a bit far from the original topic, but OK, I’ll play.

              As you guessed, it’s a long list. But let’s take Federal involvement in education. What was it done in response to? Well, it’s got a long an winding history, and you can probably educate me on some of that. But things like fear we were losing our competitiveness in the world, fear that some areas were getting left behind, worries about segregation, wanting to increase opportunities for everyone. Mostly valid concerns and noble goals.

              But Federal involvement does the opposite of what it intends: it reduces competitiveness. It’s really hard to make things better by dictating it; they need to evolve. Now instead of 50 states trying to figure out what works best, many of the parameters of the system are dictated by a single source. It’s lost much of its variability, and that’s a bad thing unless you’ve already achieved perfection (which we certainly hadn’t) and things never change (which they do).

              It creates a lot of market distortions. We end up where we are today with a large number of students graduating with student loans they’ll never be able to pay off and degrees they’ll never use. We get public schools that aren’t very good at catering to individuals’ needs and don’t reflect the community where they’re located. We turn prayer in the schools into a big debate.

              What would I have done instead? Probably nothing. Keep the feds out of it. Let states continue to compete for the best teachers and let schools better reflect the values and needs of the community where they’re located.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                You realize that we’ve been told the the American education system is “falling behind” since at least the 50’s, right? The truth is, the strength of public schools always largely depend on two factors – the underlying property tax base and the socioeconomic situation of the school district.

                Also, almost all of the countries we’re falling “behind” have heavily centralized education systems with strong unions that treat teacher’s well instead of assuming they’re dirty union leeches on society, marking time off ’til they get their pension and/or filling children’s head with leftist propaganda.Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                Yay Jesse!

                Not to mention the fact that the end product, our university system, is one of our biggest industries; it attracts the best and brightest from all over the world. Many of those folk decide to stay here, or would if they could get through a dysfunctional immigration system.

                Sometimes I wonder about the impact of all the talk about our failing schools on that market.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Also, almost all of the countries we’re falling “behind” have heavily centralized education systems with strong unions that treat teacher’s well instead of assuming they’re dirty union leeches on society, marking time off ’til they get their pension and/or filling children’s head with leftist propaganda.

                That sounds about right. If not for Howard Zinn and Jon Stewart, they wouldn’t know anything atall.

                http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2012/11/12/historian-david-mccullough-no-professional-teacher-should-major-in-education/Report

              • Avatar Patrick Bridges says:

                This example doesn’t help your case, because the states are not compelled to follow federal education regulations or take federal education money. They *choose* to take federal support in return for following federal education standards. If they thought the the federal funding wasn’t worth the regulations they had to comply with, they could opt to not take the money and completely do their own thing.

                This *is* federalism!Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser says:

                If only it were that simple. You have to ask yourself, if it was as simple as this, why hasn’t a state opted out? Has the result of the central government’s involvement really been that great that every state would want to continue using it?

                My state and its citizens still have to send in our money that goes toward all the various parts of Uncle Sam’s educational system. It’s the macro version of parents sending their kids to private schools and having to pay for the public ones as well.

                And if we do go ahead and “opt out”, we find we’re competing against a monopoly in the rest of the union. How will we compete against subsidized student loans and school lunches?

                Admittedly, the monopoly argument is important but not 100% solid; one could argue this could happen anyway if we did away with the federal education program: the other 49 states could still agree to band together and keep virtually the same policies. But it is a reality of the current marketplace that gives pause to any state wanting to establish their own independent program.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Bridges says:

                Ah, so a state doing what’s in their rational economic best interest is a problem in a federalist republic?Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser says:

                Assuming you’re talking about my final paragraph, no, not at all; states should certainly do what’s in their interest, economic and otherwise.

                My point was that since we already have the federal government involved in education, it creates the additional problem that it’s difficult to move away from that because of the monopoly it’s created. If all the states were to decide the best option is one in which they all operate under a central authority, fine. In fact, I would suspect the optimal solution would include at least a few shared services.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Bridges says:

                If all the states were to decide the best option is one in which they all operate under a central authority, fine. In fact, I would suspect the optimal solution would include at least a few shared services.

                So how would the states deciding to operate under a central educational authority that includes at least a few shared services look any different than what we have today? Is your objection that that central educational authority is called the U.S. Department of Education?Report

              • Avatar Brian Houser says:

                “So how would the states deciding to operate under a central educational authority that includes at least a few shared services look any different than what we have today?”

                It may not. The difference is that they each had the opportunity to choose it based on their own needs and evaluation. And the bonus would be that I’d stop complaining and you’d be able to fairly say, “see, we had the best system all along!”Report

              • Avatar Patrick Bridges says:

                Uh, and that’s what they *did* do, when the Congress which includes those states’ elected representatives funded the department of education, and each state agreed to take federal education funding in return for following federal education guidelines.

                See, we had the best system all along!Report

              • Avatar Patrick Bridges says:

                It seems we’re talking past each other here. I was mostly wondering what structural changes to the republic killed the federalism you desire, not programs after that change you dislike. (*)

                My point so far has been that the states *are* acting on their own and making their own decisions what to do; you (and perhaps I!) just don’t like the decisions they’ve made. You could rightfully argue they’ve walked themselves into an arrangement that is hard for them to get out of, but whose fault is that if not theirs?

                To get back to the point I was trying to get to, would you consider the problem here the 16th amendment? You could argue that it gave the federal government sufficient financial resources to exert substantial leverage on the states here.

                (*) For the record, the Obama administration has been giving the states some more leeway on running educational programs in the form of NCLB waivers, but there are pretty tight requirements for these waivers, too, and a lot of educators (my wife and I included) have a lot of concerns about them and would like more state and local educational autonomy.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Brian: here’s how it works in the real world of Illinois. State superintendents set a good deal of the curriculum requirements and policy. Take Bilingual Special Ed for example, a subject I know more about than is strictly good for anyone. So one year, the policy says “Inclusion”. That means these BSPED kids are shoved into the regular classroom, with their BSPED teacher and her aide. The Inclusion Kids are disruptive, too many adults milling around in the classroom, the mainline teacher and her aide are upset. So next year, it’s Segregation, where they put the BSPED kids in their own classroom. But the BSPED kids don’t get to go to the computer lab and the science lab when they need to because they have to work around the mainline kids’ schedules.

                You want to eliminate top down bureaucracy? Well, good on you. So do all the teachers. The problem isn’t the Feds. It’s the states.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Bridges says:

                It’s actually both, though the state, local, and sometimes even per-school problems are bigger than the federal ones, as you point out.

                At the federal level, NCLB waivers are important to states because NCLB’s adequate yearly progress evaluations and consequences are really poorly done. U.S. DoEd had been granting them, but in the process has been requiring testing and evaluation systems that are troubling, too. In New Mexico, the result has been state-wide grading, funding, and raise formulas that aren’t as bad as NCLB but still have their share of problems.

                And no, the problems, at least in New Mexico, *aren’t* teacher’s unions.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                True dat. Oh, while I’m ranting about BSPED, here’s something most folks don’t realise unless they’re part of it or a parent — these days SPED kids go through the IEP process, terribly time consuming, the end result is a statement of goals for an individual student. Good idea, so it would seem.

                But then the Bureaucrats try to stuff these IEP kids into the regular NCLB chute. Naturally, the SPED kids drag down the scores so there’s a good deal of incentive to screw with the data. This conflation also damages a school’s scores and that becomes a nightmare if the school has to go into the Remediation Process, a euphemism for what looks for all the world like a managed bankruptcy.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Bridges says:

                Blaise, my wife was a teacher at a dual language elementary school, she’s now an instructional coach at a public dual language elementary magnet school. You are spot on about the problems with mainlining, testing, its impact on (and the hassle of) the IEP process, and the catastrophe that is the NCLB remediation process. There *are* schools that are so bad that that process is needed, but mainlining and NCLB’s AYP requirements are set up to make every school eventually fail and go through remediation. That’s why states are so desperate for waivers.

                Here’s an interesting fact about the New Mexico school evaluation formula (which has plenty of problems) devised as part of NM’s NCLB waiver request: One component of it is how well schools improve the performance of bottom quartile students; this makes sense at first glance until you realize that in some schools (particularly poorer and larger schools), this includes a large number of SPED kids in the testing and formula that rates the school. This penalizes schools with non-trivial SPED populations.

                As a result, there is little correlation between school quality derived from the formula and the performance improvement of bottom quartile students on the exam. ‘B’ schools, for example, do better on average improving bottom quartile students than ‘A’ or ‘C’ schools. Let me say that again – despite *including* this metric in the formula, the formula doesn’t correlate well to this metric! And now the state wants to base raises and school funding on the results of this formula.

                And when the teacher’s unions complain that they’re doing something stupid, who gets blamed?Report

          • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

            Brian’s right in the zone here. Indeed, even the Amish find space to live under American law.* It speaks well of us.

            * Almost, anyway.

            http://www.naturalnews.com/035577_Amish_raw_milk_FDA.htmlReport

            • Avatar BlaiseP says:

              The Amish don’t get a pass by me. I’ve lived among them. They’re poachers and generally troublesome customers in this republic. I’m getting sick of the Amish getting a pass on this society. They ride the ambulances, take advantage of the ER in Eau Claire and generally make life miserable for their Mennonite neighbours.

              As far as I have anything to say about the Amish, they’re a cult and horribly divisive. As bad as any fundamentalist Muslim sect in existence.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP says:

              Might add in passing they feud terribly among themselves. So I had an oak table built by one Amish woodworker to the height of my girlfriend’s elbow, a lovely piece of work.

              But I’d gone to a previous Amish woodworker who had a catalogue all printed up with prices and suchlike who wouldn’t build what I’d asked for from both. The second woodworker built the piece for 325 USD and the previous guy wanted about 800 USD. Caused no end of trouble.

              In the UK, the separatist Muslims are tolerated, however grudgingly. Within their own Gemeinde, the Amish are brutal. They breed dogs in chicken pens, it’s fishing disgusting they way they run their puppy mills. They’re not stupid and they’re awfully canny about how much shit they can put over on this society. Them and their carriages, the senior Amish are vicious, inbred sons of Satan with no compunction as regards the lives and well-being of anyone beyond their own. The ordinary people of Augusta WI are disgusted with their pushing the limits on everything: property limits, freeloading on the system, their boneheaded ignorance about the education of children, especially girls. They cover up crimes, especially crimes against children.Report

  21. Avatar Major Zed says:

    On Vulgar L-ism

    In the following, “L” could be libertarian or liberal. Look inside your own soul. What might “vulgar L” mean? I see at least three possibilities.

    * fundamentalist L – States positions crudely in bumper sticker form (“Taxation is theft! Property is theft!”), typically in such a way as to maximize emotional reaction. Fun at in-group parties, quick to start flame wars elsewhere.

    * ignorant L – unable to articulate positions by following a chain of logic more than a few steps; unable to connect to specific policy issues under discussion; unable to marshal specific examples to support position.

    These two are related and probably overlap quite a bit. The L who came to his beliefs through osmosis or casual reading with little reflection is likely to be ignorant. In displaying his L-ish tendencies in public, he is likely to come off as a fundamentalist, especially when pushed to defend a position.

    * false L – claims to be an L, often talks like an L, but upon closer inspection can be seen to support positions that are clearly not L-ish. Whether intentionally or not, the false L is a tool of non-L interests, confuses would-be L’s about L-ism and gives other non-L’s ammunition to discredit L-ism.

    I think fundamentalist L and/or ignorant L is what Ramblin’ Rod and most people mean by “vulgar L.” I think false L is what Kevin Carson meant. It is quite different.

    I am a libertarian. I must confess that I am often fundamentalist and ignorant. I am not a professional philosopher or policy wonk and my spare time is taken up by more than just thinking about this stuff. I do not have an encyclopedic grasp of history. I try to lessen my ignorance and admit it when it comes to the fore, but I’m human after all. Fundamentalist outbreaks occur when emotions fuel the expression of principles and override the requirements of polite discourse. (Speaking of which, I am really impressed by this board and the half life of polite discussion. No, scratch that. I’m impressed that people keep trying to talk to each other, coming back again and again; the ad-hominem attack level is still pretty high.)

    I fear I may from time to time be a false libertarian as a result of ignorance, but certainly not willfully. My experiences and the perspectives derived from them may cause me to misperceive some situations and advocate positions that are in truth not what I would agree with if I understood them more fully. Thus I strive to be open to information and knowledge.

    How about you?Report